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6 fallacies and realities surrounding the purpose economy

The purpose economy is afoot. March 30, 2016 Category: FeaturedMediumPurpose

Disclosures

This is part of a series about Baltimore's social impact community via its Light City conference.
How we work, why we work and what we work for is perpetually shifting.

The agrarian economy influenced industry, industry gave way to the age of information, and, like clockwork, a new economy is waiting in the wings.

The “purpose economy” is rising, and it’s a direct reaction to its tech-savvy predecessor. It’s an economy fueled by real people who want to create real meaning by working to solve real problems. It’s about building real human relationships, not unicorns.

“Silicon Valley now is showing the same signs of decay — both morally and economically — that Detroit did,” said Aaron Hurst, founder of research and consulting social enterprise Imperative. “This is the fundamental problem with Silicon Valley. The hubris of success almost always leads to decay.”

Trying to alleviate urban homelessness with an app is so last economy.

Hurst spoke about the coming economic shift at the Light City social innovation conference in Baltimore. The social entrepreneur detailed the purpose economy like an evangelist might: by enthusiastically painting big, inspired ideas in broad strokes.

Still, the entrepreneur is a seasoned practitioner, having made a living helping entrepreneurs and organizations hone their mission. Purpose, he found, can never be fulfilled by acts of charity.

“That doesn’t mean pro-bono work isn’t important, but it can’t be the solution,” said Hurst. “The first thing I learned was that much of what I thought purpose was, was absolutely wrong.”

Here are three fallacies Hurst believes surround work and meaning in the purpose economy:

Fallacy #1: Cause.

Purpose and cause are not the same thing.

FALLACY #2: REVELATION.

Working for a social purpose will not trigger a moment of personal enlightenment.

Fallacy #3: Luxury.

Purpose isn’t something only the wealthy can afford.

Still confused? Hurst laid out three realities the purpose economy was built upon:

Reality #1: Relationships.

Authentic human connections are necessary in the workplace.  Professionalism, Hurst said, is an industrial mechanism that forces employees to perform the same action repeatedly in order to produce the same results. Be a human.

Reality #2: Do something greater than yourself.

Hurst advocated for making small, consistent impact instead of exhausting yourself by making one-off attempts at creating big impact.

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Reality #3: Personal Growth.

Fulfilling your social purpose has to be a challenge. Growth will only happen once you move out of your comfort zone.

Hurst’s purpose economy is ambitious and idealistic. Yet, at its core is an important human truth: Economies adapt in tandem with the needs and wants of the people who drive them. Given the near-constant assertion that young generations hold mission in high accord, the rise of an economy powered by social purpose isn’t improbable.

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