VolunTourism: "Working For Good"
One point that can be made about VolunTourism is the fact that it is opening wide the door of creativity for entrepreneurs who wish to integrate their business activities with the fulfillment of a social purpose. I have asked Jeff Klein, author of Working For Good, to respond to my 3Qs for this issue.
1) In your research and efforts leading up to the completion of Working For Good, what did you find most compelling about the shift of the entrepreneur's mindset to equate social purpose and revenue generation?
"In my ongoing work with Working for Good and Conscious Capitalism, I am inspired by the increasing convergence of deeper purpose and revenue generation. I am finding in my own business and in many businesses I encounter and work with, including large ones like The Container Store and Whole Foods Market, that social purpose is one of the underlying forces and principles that creates a sustainable, profitable company.
This is becoming increasingly true as the demands of citizens/consumers, the requirements of employees – people bringing their time, energy, creativity, etc., and the expectations of communities, are aligning with the aspirations and influencing the businesses of socially-oriented entrepreneurs.
While the perspective and orientation of Wall Street has not fundamentally changed – the pursuit of profit and return on investment clearly continue to rule – the zeitgeist seems to be shifting towards a more holistic or integrated perspective on the role of business in society. A company is essentially a group of people coming together for a purpose, and part of that purpose is to deliver value to themselves and others. People start, build, work for, buy from, and invest in businesses for many reasons, addressing material, emotional, psychological, social, and spiritual needs and aspirations.
The current shift is somewhat like an awakening to a more complete and realistic recognition of what is already going on, as well as an acceptance of the deeper purpose of business and, really, the deeper aspirations and motivations of human beings.
Our commitment with Working for Good is to bring our humanity to work and to create businesses as human as the people who embody them. As Ghandi state, “man cannot do right in one department of life whilst he is occupied in doing wrong in any other department. Life is one invisible whole.”
The VolunTourism Community, as you are doubtless aware, is swelling its ranks with those who are "Working For Good" (case in point is Play It Forward Adventures, featured in our Supply Chain column in this issue). What advice would you offer to these entrepreneurs as they navigate an ever-increasingly competitive market space?
"To succeed in any business requires many factors. Among the most potent are to:
- stand for something - have a compelling and inspiring purpose, that inspires and energizes everyone involved with it,
- create value for all of your stakeholders (i.e. customers or clients, employees, vendors, investors or donors, the communities you work in, etc) and recognize that they are all part of an interdependent system that IS your business,
- recognize that as mush as you are building a brand, you are building a culture, which reflects the values, principles, commitments, and practices that guide your business and your interactions within your business and with your stakeholders
- lead from a place of service - - to the purpose, the stakeholders, and the culture - - with a clear intention to bring out the best in others and to cultivate their capacity for leadership, creativity, and taking initiative.
The root of the word “Company” is companionship. The root of the word “Corporation” is people embodying an organization with purpose. If we recognize that at its essence a business or other organization is a group of people coming together to do something, to serve some purpose, then we can see that the better we are at the “coming together” part, the better we will be at “doing business.” The more aligned, purposeful, and energized, a team is the better they will serve their customers, the more creative they will be at solving problems and seizing opportunities, and the more resilient and unified they will be when facing significant challenges.
Coming together first requires that we take care of ourselves. We cannot care for others if we don’t start with ourselves. As they say on planes “put on your own oxygen mask first before you assist others.” And it requires that we take care of each other - by paying attention to how we are effecting each other and by recognizing how we can support each other in our ongoing process of growth and development, and in our daily efforts of working together. When we are truly working together, the whole is significantly more than the sum of the parts, and we have a substantial competitive advantage over other organizations, as this level of functioning is the exception.
3) Society has grown accustomed to aligning social purpose solely with nonprofit organizations & NGOs. What recommendations can you provide voluntourists, writers, journalists, and others in an effort to assist them in re-framing their perspectives to include voluntourism companies that are "Working For Good"?
About Jeff Klein
"Perhaps the first thing is to recognize that, in many ways, most companies serve a social purpose, or they wouldn’t exist. Think about the multitude of products and services we use every day, developed and delivered by companies. And think of the countless technological developments surrounding us, and those that have come before that, and how they have made our individual and collective lives safer, healthier, easier, more comfortable. As a simple example, we can see that toothpaste has a social purpose. It reduces dental disease, which can be a cause for other diseases and even early death. And, it reduces related pain and suffering.
Business and commerce, in general, play an important role in propagating and promoting peace. This is especially true in the travel and tourism industries. Economic development and opportunity are among the most significant factors for establishing and sustaining peace within and between communities and nations. The cross-cultural connections and understanding cultivated through travel and tourism play an important role in fostering peace and collaboration across borders.
Companies that focus on voluntourism add another dimension of value and social purpose, in that they are fostering generosity and service, which are powerful forces for bringing out the best in people and for bringing people together in life-changing ways with long-term implications.
Increasing numbers of companies are organized around deeper purpose and multiple bottom lines, recognizing that business is a form of human social organization in service to individuals, communities, and humanity. Profit is essential to the life of a business, as red blood cells are essential to the lives of our bodies, but just as producing red blood cells is not the sole or highest purpose of our bodies, producing profits is not the sole or highest purpose of our businesses. It is one, essential purpose and function. If we see business this way, then we recognize its inherent potential value. Then we can look at the specific value a particular company is providing through their products and services, and what the positive or negative impacts of its processes are – how they relate to and effect people and the environment.
If we take this bigger, systems view of voluntourism and of the ecosystem of travel and tourism in general, I think we can recognize how businesses and other organizations create value on many levels and truly serve a social purpose, and we can identify opportunities for coming together – with new companies and organizations, and through alliances between existing companies and other organizations – to serve the greater good.
In the context of voluntourism or any socially-oriented actions, it is essential to engage in conversation with the local communities whom they are intended to benefit, to ensure that the efforts are truly in service to those they are meant to serve.
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