Charitable Words Scholars Represent Core Values Of A ‘Purpose Generation’

Charitable Words Scholars Represent Core Values Of A 'Purpose Generation'
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Pictured: Social innovation expert Aaron Hurst, Charitable Words Scholars Sarah Jernigan, Elissa Yancey and Tia Garcia. Hurst’s “The Purpose Economy’ outlines the need for colleges, companies and institutions to recognize changing core values to remain relevant in today’s workplace and economy.

By Tom Callinan

The good work being done each day by Charitable Words Scholars is ample evidence of the character and core values of their generation.

Today’s college students grew up with the images of wars, 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina. But they did not hide under their desks in fear. They went to work, with purpose. Volunteer rates for ages 16-24 doubled in the 90s through the 2000s, according to the Corporation for National and Community Service, the federal agency that oversees Americorps and other programs. Three in five 18-24 year olds surveyed by the Harvard University Institute of Politics said they were interested in public service.

They will lead what Aaron Hurst, a globally recognized  authority on social innovation,  calls “The Purpose Economy.” Hurst talked about what that means at the Social Ventures Partners annual meeting in Palo Alto. I believe in his message and bought the book, an innovative “by us, not me” experiment that is being released as a beta edition, inviting readers to participate in the final version to be released soon.

“Purpose is coming to supplant information as the core driver of our economy.  Consumers and employees are shifting their priorities. As information changed how we conduct business, this new focus on purpose is again forcing us to reexamine how we lead, manage and market organizations.”

Hurst’s uncle Marc Porat, as an economics student at Stanford in 1977 coined the term, “Information Economy.” Hurst builds on that saying, “The agrarian economy lasted 8,000 years. The industrial economy dominated for 150 years. The information economy emerged 50 years ago,” Hurst says.  “Today we are in the early years of the next economic era.”

Hurst is CEO of Imperative, which develops tools and strategies to “measure and increase employee and community well-being.”  That’s good business as the Purpose Generation gets to work, bringing values of human-centered sharing, feedback and team-first mindsets.

Colleges, companies and institutions – including nonprofits – will need to restructure their mindsets, management approaches and staffing to compete for talent and succeed in this new economy, Hurst says. “Looking at social media and how people have been building communities and expressing themselves is really less about technology and information. It’s more about the need for purpose in people’s lives.”

Here are a few points from his talk and passages yellow-marked from his writings:

  • A Purpose Economy is based on empowering people to have rich and fulfilling careers by creating meaningful values for themselves and others; it creates purpose for its employees and customers – through serving those in need, enabling self-expression, and building community.
  • He refers to ‘Maslow’s Heirarchy of Needs” in explaining a social shift, where once people have their basic needs met, they start looking towards actualization. “Before the 1800s, people were focused largely on survival needs and delivering food to the table. The Industrial Revolution brought greater prosperity and demanded a more educated workforce….The Information Economy put more emphasis on the life of the mind, creativity, problem solving and discovery.” “Many of us have now reached a level of fulfillment in that regard…We now need to transcend our own needs and prioritize the needs of all of society and future generations.”
  • Millennials want to do work that matters and makes an impact.  They want to be part of a community or team…as they came of age, the environmental movement was going mainstream; pioneering social entrepreneurs were popularizing the idea of “doing well by doing good,” with forerunners like Ben and Jerry’s popularizing a new ethic of corporate social responsibility. At the same time the excesses of Wall Street and the dot-com boom, the mentality of “greed is good,” turned many of them off. They observed their parents working harder and harder, spending less quality time at home with the family, in order to afford bigger houses, three cars and all the accoutrements of success.”
  • Golf-course memberships and expansive, isolated estates in gated communities won’t be incentives to a generation that grew up valuing togetherness and team goals, often in an urban environment. Another fast-moving innovation has been the business of sharing, which was given a huge boost into the market leader in car sharing Zipcar and Airnb, listing private residences for rent. The popularity of sharing is not only a matter of saving money; it also comes from the desire for community.
  • Hurst notes the outsourcing of traditional family functions with not both parents in families often working now. Childcare, once a cottage industry, is now a major growth market and incorporated into corporate models.  “As boomers age and require new senior care solutions, innovative new ventures are emerging.  The economic impact of this “household” work was never counted in the Gross Domestic Product, even though taking care of our families is about as purposeful as work can get, In The Purpose Economy, that work has considerable value and is central to how we think about the economy.
  • Advice for executives in this new economy:  If they don’t know what their own purpose is and what gives them purpose, they cannot lead their working teams or understand the purpose for audiences and customers.

If you were to label the generation joining the workforce and about to lead the world, the traditional X, Y, Z’s and Millennial labels don’t seem to fit well.  The “Purpose Generation” may best apply.

And we owe them something more than the average $25,000 in college debt they on average will incur.  Internships with meaningful work and understanding guidance would be a good first step.

Then, they will need jobs.  If we get it right, they will live a lifetime with purpose, and pass it on.

Charitable Words,

Tom Callinan

Please share your thoughts with Aaron Hurst, comment on this post on Charitable Words’ Facebook page. And share, please. Thank you.

About Aaron Hurst: A member of the Nonprofit Times Power and Influence Top 50, Aaron Hurst is widely known for his thought-leadership in civic engagement, nonprofit management and corporate social responsibility. He is a regular blogger at the Huffington Post and Stanford Social Innovation Review.

Twitter: @Aaron_Hurst @Purpose Economy

About Charitable Words: Charitable Words finds and funds internships to connect students with nonprofits, with an emphasis on cross-generational and multicultural engagement. The Charitable Words Scholars provide reports from the field about success stories, trends and best practices on CharitableWords.com.

Twitter: @tcallinan 

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