Purpose-Driven Economy

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Aaron Hurst:

"From new companies, such as Etsy, Lenddo and Good Eggs, the pattern of reported changes today points to the likelihood that we are in the early stages of social evolution that is creating a new economy, one based on the creation of purpose for people.

With 20 million members and $1bn in sales last year, Etsy, an online marketplace for handcrafted products, has a commitment to employees, communities and the planet. Its Employee Happiness Survey, developed with researchers from the University of Pennsylvania, found that overall employee engagement is 80% positive, compared to the national average of 60%.

Another online marketplace, Zaarly, connects consumers to local products, wellness programs and services provided by their neighbours. Success for the company is when one of its sellers is able to quit their day job because of business generated by their Zaarly storefront. It works by building deep loyalty and a community of employees and customers, in other words connecting people through purpose.

And Good Eggs, an online farmers' market, claims that financial profit is a byproduct and an enabler of its overall mission: to ensure local food leads to a better world.

This is a shift from the era of Walmart and Amazon, which created tremendous profits for a few, but eroded opportunities for the many, including local communities, small businesses and artisans. Online marketplaces such as Etsy and Zaarly are aiming to help small businesses flourish again.

When the agrarian economy evolved into the industrial economy, we saw similar small changes grow into patterns, which precipitated a radical transformation of society and the economy over the period of around 100 years. About 75 years ago it happened again with the evolution from the industrial economy to the information economy. This took far less time to evolve – closer to 25 years. We are now seeing the rise of the fourth economy in our history.

It is too early to know the exact nature of this new era but looking at all the reported changes from the field, one common pattern emerges. They are about an increased need for purpose. We live in an era where purpose is becoming the driver of innovation and growth.

Purpose is a critical human need and one that in the industrial and information economies was sacrificed to maximise efficiency and scale. We lived longer and got faster, bigger and smarter but lost connection to our humanity. We became a society organised and optimised around systems and institutions, not around people.

According to workplace researchers, Justin Berg, Jane Dutton, Amy Wrzesniewski at the University of Michigan, we now understand that people generate purpose through relationships, personal growth and doing something greater than themselves. They are also finding that it is vital to our wellbeing, as well as productivity." (http://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/etsy-economy-biological-event-purpose)



"A new report puts numbers to the motives driving our daily toil. Twenty-eight percent of the U.S. workforce—42 million out of 150 million people—is purpose-oriented, while the rest, well, they're just going to work every day.

"Some people see work in their lives as solely a source of income or status. Others are oriented to see work as primarily about purpose: personal fulfillment and helping other people," say the authors, Aaron Hurst, CEO of Imperative, a group that promotes the "purpose economy," and Anna Tavis, an adjunct professor at NYU’s School of Professional Studies

The numbers are based on a 36-question online survey given to 6,332 U.S. adults this August. The study found that women and people aged 55+ are more likely to be purposeful than men or those in middle-age.

Education and nonprofit workers have the highest levels of purpose (more than just under 50% of each field fit the profile) followed by agriculture, forestry, fishing, entertainment, and health care. At the bottom are retail and utility jobs. Among job types, artists and professionals report most purpose, while "operators" and laborers are least likely to be purpose-filled.

The report argues that purpose-oriented employees do better work, have higher well-being, stay in their jobs for longer and are better ambassadors for their employers. Organizations should therefore look to identify purposeful people and promote and retain them.

Despite a greater prevalence of "purpose-oriented" people in certain professions, the report argues that anyone can be purposeful. Purpose "is a trait not a state"—something people carry with them from job to job and "the core of who they are," say the authors. But the report doesn’t offer any real evidence to say purpose isn’t just circumstantial or that purpose isn't just the product of a purposeful activity. Surely, purposeful people will gravitate towards situations where they can carry out purpose? Otherwise they’re not very purposeful, are they?

But Imperative and Tavis offer some advice to workers, employers, parents, managers, and educators about pursuing purpose. They call on workers to understand "their purpose drivers" and for managers to "understand what brings daily fulfillment to everyone on your team." That sounds useful." (http://www.fastcoexist.com/3052823/the-purpose-driven-workforce-is-42-million-strong)