“Seattle’s Role in the Emerging Global Purpose Economy” – WAC 3/16/2016 Event

As part of the 2016 Annual Meeting, the World Affairs Council invited Aaron Hurst, CEO of Imperative, to discuss his book “The Purpose Economy: How Your Desire for Impact, Personal Growth and Community is Changing the World.” The meeting was held on March 16 at the Seattle offices of Russell Investments, who generously sponsored the event.

Impatient With Evolution

Hurst began the discussion by framing economic development in the context of human evolution. At a certain point we became impatient with how long evolution was taking and decided to take matters into our own hands. So we exchanged hunting and gathering with farming.  This was the beginning of the agrarian economy and with it came human civilization. Once we took control of our own advancement we found our lives improving dramatically. We were able to live longer, travel farther, and eventually communicate with any part of the planet instantaneously.

Hurst reasons, if the agrarian economy gave us a stable food supply, the industrial economy gave us airplanes, and the communication economy gave us the Internet, then what is the next economy and what will it bring us?

Work as Volunteering

The millennial generation, according to Hurst, is less worried about being able to afford basic necessities and more worried about how much of an impact their work will have and whether they will feel fulfilled by what they do. Many find that volunteering and pro bono work provides more purpose and fulfillment then what they do for a paycheck.

So how do we change what people do for a living to give them more purpose and meaning in their lives? To explore this, Hurst interviewed people who work in the nonprofit sector to see how their jobs gave them meaning. What he found was that even they were not necessarily finding meaning in their work. The truth is that working for a cause didn’t automatically translate to working with purpose.

Hurst concluded that purpose is about our relationships with each other, with how much of an impact we have on the world, and with personal growth.  He says that entrepreneurs who are succeeding in the emerging purpose economy are developing products and services that improve their relationships, give them more of an impact on the world, encourage personal growth, and provide those same benefits for their consumers.

The Capital City of the Purpose Economy

If Detroit was the capital of the industrial economy in the United States and Silicon Valley is the capital of the information economy, then where will the capital of the purpose economy be?  In this capital, Hurst believes it is necessary to have fluid and accessible transportation, a community of lifelong learners, and a larger investment in the humanities and the arts.

He says that Seattle is a good candidate for the capital of the purpose economy. By opening new light rail lines, Seattle is expanding access to public transportation. The greater Seattle area is one of the most well educated communities in the country. Lastly, Seattle has long been a major center of humanities and the arts.

Unfortunately, Hurst says there is a major obstacle for Seattle. The capital of the purpose driven economy will have to be well integrated and Seattle is relatively divided. If Seattle can become more integrated economically, ethnically, and generationally, it could become the center of the next major economic movement in the country.

027 018 019 022