Purpose is not your edge,
it’s your heart
Purpose has been a business buzzword for a while now, almost to the point where I’m tempted to abandon it. As is often the case, something that works attracts attention, especially by people trying to find an edge. But here’s the thing about purpose. It isn’t an edge. An edge is hard and angular. It’s sharp and superficial.
Purpose on the other hand is substance. It’s deep and whole and forms the core of an organisation. It is the reason for being.
And sometimes that purpose can become a little fractured, splintered and diminished over time by trying to be too many things to too many people. When this happens, it reduces your impact and confusion sets in, both internally and with those you are trying to serve.
At that point, it’s time to reassess and ask the question – why? Why do we exist?
As a significant operator in the at-risk youth space, and with a twenty-year history of helping and mentoring some of Australia’s most underserved young people, Whitelion found itself in precisely this position. Over the years, the organisation has acquired numerous programs, initiatives and social enterprise schemes. The organisation found itself spread too thin and in danger of not being able to help those needing them the most.
To tackle this issue, new CEO Hang Vo, gathered the team and embarked on a project that allowed them to go back to why they existed in the first place.
Supported by the team and founding CEO Mark Watt, Hang and Whitelion divested all social enterprises and initiatives that didn’t align with their core mission: to provide vulnerable young people with positive connections and pathways to work.
They launched their new three-year strategic plan at the beginning of 2020, just before the global pandemic hit and caused a disastrous situation for the young people in their care, many of whom don’t have a stable home.
That strategic plan has kept the team focussed on their purpose and why they exist. It has enabled Whitelion to continue to support vulnerable young people to maintain positive connections and develop pathways to work. It has also helped to establish a stronger brand within the industry, develop new strategic government relationships, form new industry collaborations and secure significant new government and corporate funding through communicating a clear and hyper-focused mission and purpose.
And, they have been approached by government agencies to provide expertise and insight into future change. They now have the seat at the table they need to influence policy and have the significant impact they desire.
Purpose is not a buzz word. It is not a way to get an edge.
Clearly articulating and communicating your purpose is how you bring your tribe together and how you create real change in the world. It’s something that comes from within. Your stories share that purpose. They don’t create it.