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PurposeFest 2023: Three Takeaways For A Better Future

Updated: Mar 30, 2023

Purpose. It's a loaded - and some would argue highly overused - term in today's world.


Purpose is two-fold; it's either defined by motivation [the reason for which something is done or created, or why something exists] or by determination [a person's sense of resolve].


Purpose matters, whether it's living life with purpose, being part of a community that is driven by purpose, or doing business on purpose. In a post-pandemic world, we need our vocations to be meaningful, our organisations to be transparent and our lives to have focus.



It's against this macro backdrop that the inaugural Purposefest was held in Bristol in 2023 as part of B Corp Month.


Hundreds of curious communicators, founders, teams, agencies, change-makers, decision-makers - all united by a desire to make a difference - gathered together to connect, share and look towards a brighter future collectively; an inspiring event, to say the least.


Our world is defined by separation


Creative strategist and activist Dan Burgess of Becoming Crew spoke with great honesty about the separated world in which we find ourselves today - a world that currently finds itself at crisis point, defined by the story of separation.


"We are separated from the natural world around us," said Burgess in his keynote Purposefest speech. "Nature is there to be controlled and manipulated [in today's fast-paced capitalist society] ... we are becoming more and more separated from one another."


We witnessed, during the first Covid lockdown in particular - what separation, real, painful separation - can do to us as individuals and as communities. Locked into our homes, many of us globally yearned deeply for human connection and to be physically together with one another once again.


Yet, three years on, have we actually learnt anything from that time?


Real, positive change only becomes possible when we are defined not by separation, but by togetherness. When we fully recognise that each and every one of us has a role to play in alleviating the strain on nature for both our generation and for those to come. When we acknowledge that the choices we make as individuals have an impact on all of those around us. And when we look to live and work in a way that firstly benefits others, over ourselves.


A NEW COMPASS FOR HUMAN PROSPERITY


'Crisis' emerged as a key theme from PurposeFest 2023; for Doughnut Economics Action Lab's Erinch Sahan, the first two decades of the 21st century have been defined by crisis after crisis, calling for the need for "a new compass for human and social prosperity."


As humanity lives dangerously out of balance - both in our interactions with one another and with the natural world - we find ourselves at a time where entire economies and societies are built around imbalance; according to Sahan, "we need to move beyond reducing harm and repairing damage ... to change the future, we must change the dynamics."


A lofty statement, but one that is grounded in re-evaluating the deep design of current business models, to move from a focus on profit generation to profit maximisation. A move away from "business as usual" to "business redesigned." A transition from a 20th century business mindset of 'how much value can we extract through this enterprise' towards a purpose-driven 21st century outlook, asking 'how many benefits can we generate through this enterprise?'


Deep reflection at a C-Suite level, in terms of what purpose your business serves in the world and how it manifests itself in society, are sorely needed - now - to create new, future-focused enterprise models that challenge the outdated, inward-looking business models of the past.


SHIFTING FROM A "PASSENGER MINDSET"


"We're all entangled in this mess of modernity, yet we are all carriers of stories" added Burgess, who spoke with passion about the vital role that stories and harnessing our imagination can play in our understanding and interactions with the world today.


For Burgess, and many other purpose-driven business leaders attending and speaking at PurposeFest, there is a distinct need to move forward with clear intent: "We need to shift from a passenger mindset and step into a life of service, crossing a threshold into a new reality."


Burgess' call to action resonated deeply with those in attendance on the day: "Let's imagine our ancestors in the future - a future that is no longer defined by separation. A more than human world, when we are planning our communications and culture today."


The positive journey towards a more purpose-driven way of working and living begins with businesses and individuals coming together - much like they did at PurposeFest - with a desire and passion to do things differently. To work differently. To live differently. To experience the world and all of its natural wonders differently.


As Helena Hills, CEO of B Corp certified TrueStart Coffee passionately stated to kick off PurposeFest: "By being organised with our energies as businesses, we can do so much more."


The future remains largely unwritten. It's time to begin writing the next chapter.

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