A Story of Gathering Around Purpose

This article was originally published on our Medium Platform Rethinking Organizations.

A wake-up alarm to turn the lights on!

As the HMD team, our purpose is helping organizations discover their human selves to survive the paradigm shifts and disruptive forces of today and build a better future for all. We believe purposeful transformation is the key to this survival. When done right it’s the guiding force for an organization to survive and thrive against all the current paradigm shifts and crises.

However, when it comes to the purposeful transformation of business, everyone seems to think it is about the future. We believe purpose is the business of NOW.

With this perspective, at the beginning of 2021, we aspired to take action to become advocates for purposeful transformation through an international gathering bringing thought leaders and practitioners together. During the spring of 2021, our paths crossed with Business of Purpose (BoP) and TrendWatching, within a few weeks of our initial conversations we were sketching up a Miro board full of ideas on how to collaborate for such a gathering with purposeful individuals.
And that’s how the PurposeNOW Gathering was born.

***

WHY PURPOSE, WHY NOW?

Our main purpose for this gathering was to strengthen the narrative around purposeful transformation. We specifically envisioned three main experiences:

1. Inspire individuals to discover, claim and put purpose into practice at work,
2. Challenge the current perception and understanding that takes purpose from a limited perspective,
3. Equip individuals with the right tools to activate purposeful transformation.

THE GATHERING


“We are in this together.”

– PurposeNOW Participant

PurposeNOW was a free 2-day international gathering that took place virtually on 6–7 December 2021. Throughout 15+ sessions, 7 workshops and networking opportunities, we hosted 35 speakers; thought leaders and purposeful individuals from leading organizations all over the world. We had over 900 registrations from around 60 countries.
During the 11 hours spread across two days, we dived deep into purpose; from strategy to civil society partnerships, from economics to innovation, from leadership to design.

Apart from live sessions, the gathering also gave the opportunity for the participants to schedule 1–1 meetings with other attendees as well as join networking meetings. In addition, we curated an open resource area “Explore” where participants could be inspired from various purpose-oriented resources such as books, stories, podcasts or organizations focusing on purpose.

Want to hit re-play?
Watch back some of the inspiring mainstage sessions of PurposeNOW through the playlist here!

We must confess, the turnout was truly beyond our expectations.
To our surprise, we had a very even distribution of participation from all experience years and working in a variety of sectors. We came together with entrepreneurs, managers and consultants as well as students/researchers.

“There’s more of us than I thought! And in many different fields :)”
– PurposeNOW Participant
***

OUR TAKEAWAYS


“And whenever I feel hopeless, I’ll think of all you people!
You’re an inspiration :)”

– PurposeNOW Participant

The fact that we had such a great turnout to the gathering from all over the world was a confirmation of what research suggested and what we had observed during our own work;

Purpose is universal.
There is a perception that purpose studies and main purposeful transformation cases drive from a western narrative. However, our gathering proved otherwise. The remarkable attention we got from all around the world (we had participation from India to Jordan, from Sweden to Australia, from Thailand to Egypt) was a significant indicator that when we need to redesign business for the 21st century through a universal mindset.

Purpose is sector-agnostic.
There is a tendency to attribute being purposeful to certain sectors as if some sectors cannot be purposeful by nature. During the gathering, we listened to stories from banking professionals, brand managers, social entrepreneurs, leaders, academics, designers, civil society representatives, all of whom worked in totally unrelated fields; agriculture, marketing, toy design, bathroom products, finance, fashion, consultancy. We discovered there is an overarching issue that binds them all: being purposeful no matter what they do.

Purpose has no age.
The understanding that Gen Z is looking for meaningful work and that organizations should adopt based on their expectations is widely recognized across all countries and sectors. The turnout for the PurposeNOW gathering clearly depicted that there must be a broader outlook. In essence, purpose relates to everyone from all ages and years of experience.

Purpose needs a clear-cut definition.
It is no coincidence that organizations are on the seek out for a higher truth; their reason for existence. And that is simply their purpose. However, during the gathering, we realized that this simplicity is jeopardized under the shadow of a myriad of definitions and perspectives. Some take this from a more narrow-angle; boiling it down to sustainability or social impact. We need a global consensus on what purpose universally means and what it specifically entails for organizations to do.

***
“Only together change is possible,you showed it’s possible.”
– PurposeNOW Participant

We knew that purpose is the now of business, we are now fully certain that there are so many of you out there that believe the same. It is imperative now for businesses to think about how they can align their organization’s purpose with their stakeholder’s purpose. We believe that is the starting point.

Overall, we were not only amazed by the turnout we had during the gathering but also by the impeccable kindness of amazing thought leaders and professionals caring to share their insights and stories with others. Through this gathering, we tapped into the power of being in a community. We know we can come together, we know we are not alone and we know we are much more courageous than we believe.

We would like to take this opportunity to thank our partners Business of Purpose and TrendWatching once again for believing in the power of purpose and as we had stated earlier in our social media channels, we will continue to be more vocal on purposeful transformation and connect through purpose in Turkey and beyond.

Yours truly,
HMD Team