For the last two days I’ve been immersed, overwhelmed, inspired, altered, repurposed, connected – actually, it’s really hard to find the right word for what it was like to be at Purpose 2015, a two-day conference held in Sydney’s Darlinghurst filled with exceptional people (many from Melbourne) all doing good business. The conference said: ‘Let’s do good business together. It’s 2015 and the future belongs to business with purpose.’ Aptly enough, it was run by the game-changing ‘meaningful experience agency’ Wildwon (founded by the super inspiring Sally Hill and Yvonne Lee), and their many extraordinary partners and supporters. Wildwon is exactly what it says it is: a meaningful experience agency. Everyone I talked to (and I talked to a lot of people, it was that kind of event) was having a meaningful experience. Wildwon is also a certified B Corporation, which are purpose-driven socially and environmentally aware corporations – the rock stars of the new economy.
I’ve been thinking of ways to describe the experience of this conference since yesterday morning when the best MC ever (yes, superlatives all round) Matt Wicking asked us to describe with a simile how we were feeling. Like an electrical storm, an atom bomb, immediately came to mind. I felt my brain was exploding with new ideas and people and connections. But storms and bombs are so destructive. So just as well I was sitting next to people who had gentler more receptive responses than mine. One said she felt like a sleepy pussycat, content but tired from taking so much in, just absorbing it all; another felt like an underground stream burbling away deeply.
Matt had a way of making rousing introductions, pithy summaries, witty asides, soulful insights. Oh, and he also wrote and sang a song. Unique in my wide experience of conferences and MCs. More about Matt’s song at the end. (Among his many talents he’s a musician.) In the meantime, here’s one of his asides that made us laugh. When thinking about the meaning of ‘purpose’, he said he sees purpose as a compass or guiding star. Abigail (Forsyth) sees it as an anchor. Someone else spoke of it as a rudder. Clearly we’re all at sea. (Which is after all pretty much what life is.)
Here’s Purpose 2015 in a few words and pics. With more to come in 2016. (Everyone mentioned below is inspiring and their work exemplary, good for the planet and everyone on it, so check them out.)
The opening plenary was ‘Reshaping capitalism and redefining success in business’, facilitated by Alicia Darvall of B Lab Australia (the home of the certified B Corporation), featuring Matt Perry of Conscious Capitalism Australia and Felicity Ford of the Future Business Council. I also spoke.
Then there were four talks run concurrently (here’s the program). I went to ‘Measures beyond money’ which featured Matt Bell, Climate Change & Sustainability at Ernst & Young Australia; Josi Heyerdahl of WWF Australia (who spoke a lot about natural capital); and Stuart Palmer from Australian Ethical Investment. It was facilitated by Matt Wicking.
Next I went to ‘More for less’. It was run by Candice Quartermain from Circular Economy Australia and featured Malcolm Rands from ecostore; Jason & Kim Graham-Nye from G Diapers; and Clinton Squires from Interface. (Yeah, not a great pic.)
The closing plenary of Day 1 was led by Karen James from On Purpose Hub and featured James Chin Moody from Sendle; Simon Griffiths from Shebeen and Who Gives a Crap; Mark Daniels from Social Traders; Suzanne Boccalatte from Boccalatte; and Ben Burge from Powershop.
Day 2 opened with ‘Stories that started with purpose’. Three pioneers in purpose-driven business told stories about their inspiring lives and the evolution of their successful businesses: Damien Walsh from Bank Australia, Audette Exel from Adara Group and Abigail Forsyth from KeepCup. It was moderated by Matt Wicking.
Here’s Audette in action. She set up Adara 18 years ago to ‘unleash the power of business and make money for the disadvantaged’ – which, as she said, is an ‘incredibly complex place to be in’. The people on the slide behind her are heavyweights of high finance who’ve just signed on to back Adara. As she said, she’s ‘changing the world one investment banker at a time’.
Next I went to ‘Values-led leadership’ facilitated by Sarah Fortuna from the Centre for Workplace Leadership at the University of Melbourne with Jason Clarke from the Minds at Work Centre & the Centre for Sustainability Leadership; Jirra Lulla Harvey from Kalinya Communications; and Stuart Palmer from Australian Ethical Investment. This talk was in The Commons and it was crowded and I was right up the back, so again, not the greatest pic, but you get the idea.
Next up with the excellent title ‘Shit, did we just interrupt the green conversation?’ were The Unfuckers Caroline Shields and Vanessa Morrish.
Then suddenly it was the closing plenary: ‘Meaningful work’ with Jason Fox from Making Clever Happen, Kyra Maya Phillips writer & author of The Misfit Economy, Sarah Fortuna (as above) and Michael Bradley from Marque Lawyers.
Here are Michael, Kyra and Jason in action. I’ll be blogging more about them and about all the talks and speakers mentioned here in 2016, so stay tuned.
And then Matt Wicking did his thing – which was to sing a song he’d written inspired by the sentences below. He said ‘I had another introduction in mind initially but wrote this one backstage just before coming out. Sometimes the right thing comes to you from the blue.’
1. We are not simply machines, computers, rational decision-makers.
2 We are human animals, part of and indivisible from the rest of nature.
3. We are emotional, intuitive embodied beings.
4. We make sense of the world through story, through metaphor.
5. Music is a form of magic. We have forgotten how important it is. And how powerful.
6. My purpose: to bring my whole self to everything I do – my head, my heart and my hands. And to help others doing good work in the world to do the same.
7. Given all of that, when Wildwon asked me to perform a song as part of my MC duties here at Purpose, I could hardly say no. (Song: Cape Grim by Matt Wicking)