Guiding principle – Orientation of the initiative and “marketing”

A guiding principle is important to provide orientation and encourages identification with the organisation for all members of an initiative. A good guiding principle orientates, motivates and advertises for the initiative. A guiding principle contains a mission, a vision and values. It is formulated convincing. Here you can find out why it is useful to create a guiding principle for your initiative collectively and which methods are useful. And very important: How to live your guiding principle!

Functions of a guiding principle

The guiding principle represents a system for orientation to guide actions of all members. Together with its goal system, it is a “realistic utopia” (Bleicher 2004: 274) and represents the self-concept of the initiative. It contains the fundamental and therefore universal beliefs which are simultaneously abstract about targeted goals and behaviour patterns of activities (Bleicher 2004: 274).

A good guiding principle operates inside and outside the initiative. Internally, the guiding principle gives orientation and motivation, externally it advertises for the initiative. Hence, it is also directed to the interested public.


The guiding principle provides overarching orientation for the management and the daily routine of the initiative. Although goals are formulated abstractly, they can be deduced and proved for their achievement which bonds all activities of the members. It is convenient to create the guiding principle at the foundation of the initiative to clarify fundamental questions and normative beliefs so that they can encourage further development.


The guiding principle motivates, because it arranges all activities within a broader context of meaning in this way it becomes clear why it is worth engaging in a certain challenge (such as climate change). A successful guiding principle a good reason for a party and all members can be proud of it.


While a guiding principle orientates and motivates all members internally, it “advertises” externally through illustrating the initiative’s commitment for society. Externally, it demonstrates its goal and normative values.

Content of a guiding principle


“To which social assignment is the initiative devoted? What does the initiative achieve and for whom?”

KlimaKom eG has developed a guiding principle together with the colleagues of the expert group working on recognition of foreign qualifications in Bavaria (see To following is part of the citation of that guiding principle:

We compose a neutral, independent expert service which is dedicated to the occupational recognition of qualifications which have been acquired in foreign countries. Our services are determined to foreign people with qualifications, multipliers and actors of the labour market” (MigraNet – IQ Landesnetzwerk Bayern 2014: 6).


“Where do we want to be in five / eight / ten years?” The vision provides the strategic alignment for the upcoming years. The vision positions the initiative within the landscape of other sustainability initiatives and their social actors.

The vision of the Bavarian recognition expert services is as follows:

“The expert information centres in Augsburg, Munich and Nuremberg are established as regular offers and represent an important pillar for the practice of foreign qualification recognition. Our expert knowledge is regarded in political decision-making processes for policy of recognition procedures, daily routines in recognition offices, entrepreneurial personal policy, and societal discourses of migration. The recognition procedures are standardised, transparent and comprehensible. The implementation corresponds to legal intentions. Companies appreciate and use foreign qualifications. Seeking people can turn they available competences into benefit. They situation on the labour market has been permanently improved. An active welcoming- and recognition culture is lived reality.” (MigraNet – IQ Landesnetzwerk Bayern 2014: 10).

What does a good vision contain?

  • A few comprised key-statements
  • The vision is easily understandable for everybody internally and externally
  • It can be formulated on half a page
  • The vision can be demonstrated in a minute
  • It is realistic and simultaneously inspiring


“How do we do it? How do we interact together and with others? How do we do what with our social responsibility?” The fundamental orientation to implement the mission and vision is made out of your answers of the above questions.

The fundamental values of the Bavarian recognition services are in a nutshell:

“The goal and foundation of our work are equal opportunities, equality and a diverse society, particularity on the labour market” (MigraNet – IQ Landesnetzwerk Bayern 2014: 8).

Developing a guiding principle

The development of a guiding principle is a collective, participatory and dialogical process. Success and “liveability” of a guiding principle emerges through its involving character during the development. All members of the initiative must get transparently and dynamically involved. Obviously, it is insufficient when the chairman alone develops the guiding principle. Rather all (active) members must be involved in its generation. Especially in sustainability initiatives collaboration, participation and team work are very important. Therefore it is conspicuous, that the broad and open involvement of the members is of high concern. A simple enunciated guiding principle on behalf of the chairman will consequently not be accepted by all members.

It is reasonable to develop a guiding principle during a series of workshops. Here you find an exemplarily procedure comprising the crucial content:

Workshop I Starting Situation:

  • Assessment and discussion about starting situation and strengths and weaknesses of initiative


  • Which social responsibility does the initiative undertake? What are the effects and for whom?


  • What is important to us: which are our fundamental values: collect them and mark crucial values, register consent and dissent
The results should be documented in a photographic report.
Workshop II Draft of a desirable and realistic future

The development of a desirable and realistic imagination of the future should motivate all members.

Methodology: “Visiongame” – the goal is to simulate a future desired condition of the initiative. To do that, the workshop participants meet each other in a previously appointed “meeting in the future”.

  • Future vision: How do you imagine the concrete desirable future situation? How do you imagine the daily routine of the initiative? (members, occupation of members, facilities, cooperation with other initiatives, cooperation with the local council…)
  • Review from the future to today: Which concrete arrangements are necessary to achieve desirable goals?
Editorial-team The further detailed vision gets elaborated on the basis of the results generated during workshop ll. This is best achieved through an editorial team. The elaborated visions are summarized in few concrete goals. Working with the results of workshop l, a text about mission and values can be composed. The prototype of the guiding principle comprises the mission, values and the vision. This prototype serves as preparation for the participants of workshop III.
Workshop III It is useful that all active members of the initiative participate in workshop III.

  • Presentation of the preliminary guiding principle
  • Discussion of the results and further refinements
  • Reconciliation of the guiding principle and its manifestation for further working attitudes

For the workshops you will need the following materials: Pin board, flipchart, paper for flipchart, moderation kit.

When the guiding principle is “completed” ….

…. You should celebrate! Because you have contributed significantly for the “functioning” of your organisation. Congratulations!

The guiding principle must not end as a simple framed expression within the facilities of the initiative. It is very important that all members are aware of the guiding principle and understand it as a foundation of all activities.

Hence, all members and particularly the managers of the initiative must keep on working with the guiding principle:

  • It should get concretised for each working group
  • Activities necessary to implement the guiding principle should be permanently negotiated
  • New members need to get introduced to the guiding principle. Are they able to work within the values and norms of the guiding principle?
  • After some time, it is necessary to question the actuality of the guiding principle. Is an update necessary? An evaluation workshop is useful to answer this question.


Bleicher, K. (2004): Das Konzept Integriertes Management. Visionen – Missionen – Programme. Frankfurt, New York.

MigraNet – IQ Landesnetzwerk Bayern (2014) (Hrsg.): Leitbild Anerkennungsberatung. Fachberatung zur beruflichen Anerkennung ausländischer Qualifikationen in Bayern. Augsburg. Online verfügbar unter, Zugriff am 3.3.2017.