- The experience of purchasing over the last two and a half years has demonstrated what might be possible. What seems clear is that the future agenda is massive, complicated and feels different both quantitatively and qualitatively. It is not just that people are busy, but they are addressing new dilemmas which are stretching and extending their capacity. The agenda might be challenging, but it is also unpredictable and ambiguous. It seems therefore the appropriate time to provide this collection of essays, thoughts and ideas. These have emerged from a group of purchasers who have been meeting, reflecting, working and learning since January 1990. The essays attempt to describe what has been learnt, to be honest about the difficulties and blocks, but do not purport to provide any `quick-fix' solutions. They do not attempt to be comprehensive, but the ideas generated point to some important messages for managers on the purchasing role: purchasing is about managing; having explicit values is fundamental; there are no simple answers, only better ways of purchasing; a learning network is an alternative model to help notice and review what is happening and tackle problems.