It is not a shocking observation that our current economic model sees profit as the end of the means. It’s also not a revelation to say this model all to often pressures the players to go to any and all means possible to make a profit. 

So . . .

What if we embraced an economic model where profit isn’t the end? What if profit wasn’t a means to an end, but a fuel for achieving a noble purpose? What if this model is built upon products and services created in work environments that are healthy and just, and that the products and services created actually improve the environment and the communities businesses call home? What if we moved from the profit economy to the purpose economy?

The movement to the purpose economy has already begun. As I write this, there are many means at work contributing and collaborating not toward an ‘end’ or bottom-line, but to advancing the health of the planet and those who inhabit it. Elements of this movement were revealed and explored at the recent ‘Demystifying the Purpose Economy’ telesummit.

‘Demystifying the Purpose Economy’ was centered around a dozen conversations with leaders and experts from a range of sectors and disciplines increasingly focused on the positive impact of a purpose economy. 

Ralph Thurm, from the Netherlands and Co-founder of the TriveAbility Consortium, talked about the principles of thrive ability and how it offers an elegantly simple way of ensuring the survival of our species by finding new ways of integrating sustainable breakthroughs into thriving lifestyles, organizations and communities.

Michael Townsend, from the UK and CEO & Founder of Earthshine Solutions & the Sustainable Economy Project, addressed the fact that we don’t have to be constrained by the dysfunctional system of capitalism. Michael shared examples of already implemented and attractive alternatives and how a quiet revolution is now under way.

Wendy Addison, also of the UK and Creator of SpeakOut SpeakUp talked about how the current economic system doesn't empower people to question or challenge anything even though things could be going horribly wrong.  She discussed ‘administrative evil'– in which systems adopt legal-political ideologies that enable any means necessary to achieve the desired end goals of profit, success and ‘better, faster, cheaper’.  Wendy shared insights on how moral courage and ethical capitalism can help save the day.

Aaron Hurst, of the US and founder of the Taproot Foundation and CEO of Imperative, laid out the case that the next evolution of the American economy is emerging, this time based on the creation of purpose. Aaron talked about how this new economy is changing work, organizations and markets to better serve people and the world. He also focused on the power of purpose on the personal and everyday levels of life.

Dr. Wayne Visser of the UK and Transet Chair of GIBS, Director of Kaleidoscope Futures and Founder of CSR International, talked about the mega-trends shaping our world and what futures-thinking tools we will need to be more resilient and successful in the 21st century.  Wayne discussed being ‘fit for the future’ and how products, organizations, communities and countries can survive and thrive 10 and 100 years from now by making the purpose economy safe, smart, shared, sustainable and satisfying.

The telesummit, originating from South Africa, featured several speakers from that country.

Nicola Robins, Co-founder and Director of Incite, talked about purpose being a driver of value, innovation and competitiveness. Nicola discussed how profit is a useful mechanism, but short-term profit at any cost is dysfunctional. She illustrated how when purpose and profit operate together, they create a vortex of change that reshapes the world. Opportunities are created that deliver social innovation at scale as a business proposition. For disruptive innovators, this is nothing new. What’s new is that companies that fail to engage in this space are starting to wonder where they went wrong.

Tracey Webster is Executive Director of the African Leadership Institute. This organization exists to build the capacity and capability of visionary, innovative and strategic leaders access across the African Continent. Desmond Tutu is the patron of the institute and the The Archbishop Tutu Leadership Fellowship is the flagship program of the Institute. Twenty Tutu Fellows representing the brightest and most innovative leaders spanning all sectors and under 40 years of age are selected each year. By the end of this year, 200 fellows will be playing their role in the transformation of Africa. Tracey talked about what the values underpinning a new network of young leaders are and what is the moral compass they are trying to nurture in their actions as leaders.

Deon Robbertze, Founder and Director of Change Agent and Sustain Our Africa and Creator of The Good Report talked about the importance of the digital revolution as a change driver and why it is high time to leverage the digital revolution to accelerate the pace of sustainability innovation, to unleash the network effect and to enable new models of collaboration in order to better enable people outside of companies to engage and collaborate with them. Deon thinks we are only scratching the surface in using big data to make money, save money and be more sustainable.  Deon sees big data as a key to unlocking the ability to understand and act on what are the biggest environmental impacts of their business as well as the ones outside their control.

Cedric Scheepers, Founding CEO of Quainted, talked about human capital growth and innovative ways to weave it into the DNA of a business. He noted that more the $300 billion is annually lost due to disengaged employees, stress and low productivity. The wellness of employees, their productivity, engagement, energy levels, and emotions – all impact profitability and customer satisfaction. Cedric talked about how to solve today’s human capital issues through the use of the latest ideas in enterprise social media, gamification as well as proven, age-old methodologies.

Allon Raiz is Chief Excitement Officer of Raizcorp, Africa’s premier business incubator. Raizcorp is driven by one purpose – grow profitable entrepreneurial businesses. Allon's topic, A Purpose Driven Properator: The Journey, focused on what inspires entrepreneurs and what characteristics make them successful.  He discussed Raizcorp’s rigorous selection process in finding and empowering those with the highest potential to succeed. 

Peter Hayward, CEO and Founder of Hayward’s Grand African Safari, concluded the telesummit. The title of Peter’s conversation was Conscious Leadership Rooted in Ubuntu: Africa’s role in the Renaissance of Business Ethics and Purpose Driven Economics. Ubuntu is the African’s ancient look at what is presented and how it is appreciated so that the social order benefits and therefor the individual survives well into the future in a sustainable way. Peter said that before production, profit, technology and administration comes the subject of ethics and the viewpoint that everything is interconnected and creates the universe we see around us.


I also had the honor of being one of the twelve telesummit presenters. My conversation focused on the topic of How to Unearth, Capture and Communicate Your Noble Purpose. I talked about how our MAP process helps provide purpose-led businesses a guide to planning and communicating.  I also provided an overview of the B-Corp movement. Magna Rautenback, founder of Proudly for Purpose, and organizer of the Summit, moderated my conversation as well as the eleven others. 

Presenting twelve distinct voices and viewpoints from around the world, there was a powerful collective spirit at the telesummit. I was humbled by the passion and intelligence of the presenters. I learned much and my belief in purpose being a powerful means of addressing issues and discovering solutions has never been stronger. It’s not a question of what if we moved from the profit economy to the purpose economy. The movement has begun. The question now is what will be the impact for all?