Research Output
Developing Your ‘North Star’ to Clarify Purpose
  There is widespread acceptance that business “can do well, by doing good” leading to the rise in organisations defining themselves as ‘purpose-driven’. In the context of Scotland, there appears to be a fertile environment for growth in this area, with examples of the Scottish Government Economic Strategy (March, 2015) focused on ‘inclusive capitalism’ and emerging initiatives such as the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals in policy-making, engagement activities with businesses including the Scottish Business Pledge and the Scotland CAN-B programme (launched in May, 2018). This mantra presents a WIN-WIN situation, emphasising business growth and a fairer and more inclusive Scotland but such a position cannot always be realised. There is inherent complexity, issues and challenges, different perspectives and competing priorities at play when clarifying ‘purpose’. One issue that came out of Rich Picture workshops with representatives from the Scottish Government highlighted the desire to follow a ‘North Star’. Later discussions with critical friends and further analysis of over 20 Rich Pictures from workshops that represented different sectors showed that there simply cannot be one “North Star” – business must clarify their own. This study argues that OR, particularly recent developments in COR can play a significant role in helping organisations to build a meaningful engagement with communities when values can be aligned. Many of these ideas and techniques are incorporated in Weaver, Crossan, Tan and Paxton (2018) ‘shared spaced’ concept. This includes the need for strong facilitation skills to structure the issues and challenges an organisation wishes to address, in making value and boundary judgements (i.e. the groundwork before a meaningful engagement can be pursued between matched parties), the co-creation of solutions and evaluating impact. Practical applications and further thoughts on embedding the process in practice are also outlined.

  • Type:


  • Date:

    10 September 2018

  • Publication Status:


  • Funders:

    Edinburgh Napier Funded


Weaver, M., Crossan, K., & Tan, H. (2018, September). Developing Your ‘North Star’ to Clarify Purpose. Presented at OR60: Annual Conference of the Operational Research Society




systems thinking; purpose; strategy formulation; Community Operational Research

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