"Purpose" is one of those words that seems lifted from another era: from a more reflective time, a time before cellphones and jam-packed schedules. And it’s the word that Aaron Hurst has chosen to describe a series of shifts in the global economy.
In his new book, The Purpose Economy: How Your Desire for Impact, Personal Growth and Community is Changing the World, Hurst contends that the search for meaning and community in one’s work is driving a number of changes that, taken together, point to purpose as the new driver for the global economy. Farmers’ markets are appearing everywhere, and many millenials are eschewing traditional career paths to launch tech startups, or start small businesses rooted in local communities, or freelance their expertise. "We are sharing everything from bikes and cars to extra rooms in our homes. We now create, buy and sell handcrafted products in our local communities with ease," says a press release.
As the release explains, it’s the information economy that has been driving innovation and economic growth for some time now. But the purpose economy — fueled by technologies, social media and resource sharing — is about connecting people to their purpose. "In my book … I explain where markets meet individuals as they step out to create their own means of finding purpose through work," says Hurst.
Hurst explains that what we think we know about purpose is wrong. "It became clear that purpose isn’t a cause, revelation or luxury. Purpose is what we gain through relationships, personal growth and doing something greater than ourselves."
Startups such as Etsy, Zaarly, Tough Mudder, Kickstarter and Airbnb are finding new ways to create value by connecting us with our local communities, says the release. "At the same time, companies like Tesla and Whole Foods are making the march from just appealing to affluent buyers to becoming mainstream brands."
In a sense, Hurst himself has lived the shift he describes. In 2001, he left a well-paying tech job to launch the Taproot Foundation, a non-profit that engages professionals in pro-bono services. He is also the founder and CEO of Imperative.