How social entrepreneurs must communicate the purpose of their organization to generate greater impact.
Greg Deeds, a prominent university professor and recognized for developing the topic of social entrepreneurship as an academic field, argues in an article for the Harvard Business Review that social entrepreneurs often seem to be possessed by their ideas, committing their lives to change the direction of their field. They are visionaries, but also realists, and they are ultimately concerned with the practical implementation of their vision above all else. This description of a social entrepreneur seems very accurate because what it reflects is that a well-defined purpose moves social entrepreneurs and this motivates them to fight against any obstacle in order to see that purpose accomplished.
Social entrepreneurs create organizations, companies, and projects around their purpose. The problem is that in many occasions, the purpose is not transmitted correctly to employees, partners, customers, and any other actor that could contribute to the achievement of that purpose, so the potential impact that the organization could be generated is limited.
Communicating the purpose correctly to all the stakeholders of the organization generates:
- Greater commitment on the part of employees, who feel more motivated to achieve the organization’s purpose.
- Improve the processes of income generation, such as fundraising, sales, and even makes the organization more attractive to potential investors.
- The attraction of potential allies, such as other organizations, governments, international cooperation agencies, among other actors that can contribute to scale and enhance the impact of the organization.
How can social entrepreneurs then correctly communicate their purpose?
Unlike the traditional business world, the trend of social entrepreneurship is relatively recent, so there is not much literature that provides social entrepreneurs with tools and knowledge that are actionable mainly in the fields of marketing and communication. Faced with this gap in knowledge, I took on the task of collecting concepts and theories from different sources, such as the Center for Social Impact Communication at Georgetown University, the blog of Hollister Creative, and the experiences of social entrepreneurs of the VIVA Idea network, in order to establish a logical framework that helps social entrepreneurs to better communicate their purpose.
The result of this investigation is the following scheme:
Purpose / Driver of the organization: In this section, the organization’s reason should be detailed as simply and clearly as possible. The declaration of purpose should not occupy more than 300 characters.
Audiences and their contribution: Here, we must describe the audiences that the organization wants to address, what the organization expects to obtain from them, and what the audiences are willing to give to support the purpose of the organization, be it time, money, or influence (recommend the organization to others, sign petitions or perform digital actions). This section will clarify the organization to determine if the statement of purpose is convincing enough to motivate the public to take the expected action.
The value offered by the product or service: Being clear about the value proposition of the organization using the theory of the 2-way value proposition will help reinforce the purpose statement, giving a broader view of its contribution and impact to the public of interest and the world.
Social ventures must place the purpose at the center of the organization and use it as a northern star to guide each of their decisions on how employees are hired, how they collaborate with other organizations and, above all, how they communicate to all stakeholders. An organization where the purpose is internalized by all its internal and external stakeholders transcends the figure of its founder, which allows it to continue generating a positive impact and scaling up its work even when the founder has to leave the organization for some reason.
Simon Sinek in his book Find Your Why: A Practical Guide for Discovering Purpose for You and Your Team states that: If we want to feel an undying passion for our work or if we want to contribute to something bigger than ourselves, we all need to know our WHY. So if social entrepreneurs want to have an organization formed by a committed and passionate team, the purpose must be communicated correctly.