“Why?” I often ask, at times carrying a challenging undertone. I’ve had many different reactions to this question from different people. The “why” is the core driver and purpose of your actions, and yes, I admit that asking and answering that question is a pretty intimate and intensive conversation that takes time to process.
And we had some time to think. As live performances got shut down indefinitely in March 2020, we were no exception. We cancelled all our scheduled events, pivoted first to offering livestream events, and pivoted second to offering porch concerts all over Toronto. We were thrown off our usual course, but it also gave us time to reflect and make sense of why we do what we do. Individually, both Rory (Founder and Co-Director of Pocket Concerts) and I went through a challenging and soul-searching year that was brought on in part thanks to the pandemic. Our personal values and priorities were shifting, and the shifts were reflected in Pocket Concerts’ activities as well. Somewhere in that process we came to a realization that we don’t want to go back to business as usual when the pandemic is over. We wanted to renew our commitment to our community as a small business and wanted to contribute toward a better world for all.
At the very beginning of our journey of redefining Pocket Concerts’ purpose, we looked outside of our comfort zone to see what was happening around us. We both listened to the news, talked to people in different sectors, life stages, and circumstances. We listened to podcasts and read books about white supremacy, climate change, global economy, technology, and science. Our days were often filled with discussions around what we had learned and what we had been reflecting on personally. It was an intellectually intensive and at times even identity-shaking time, but it really helped us to see beyond what we used to see.
This journey of expanding our horizons naturally led to following the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) closely. We were keen to find ways to join the global effort to challenge the status quo and find practical changes that we can make in our business to be more inclusive, life-centred, and environmentally sustainable. As part of this purpose-finding journey, we did a fun little exercise to align ourselves within the team but also with the SDGs, and we share it here with you.
Note: we did this exercise in a program called Miro, and the inserted images are screenshots of our process. If you are curious about the process and would like to take a closer look at the process, you can do so at: https://miro.com/app/board/o9J_lGcGoog=/
1. Starting point: Our mission, vision, and key values
We had just renewed our purpose as a business to “use music as a tool to create and sustain authentic human connections,” along with adding new initiatives to our offering and business model to be more inclusive and accessible.
2. Breakdown of the mission, vision, and values into the “whys” based on the business practices and service offering
For this step, we each wrote down the reasons why Pocket Concerts exists. What do we stand for? Why do we do business the way we do, and why do our offerings exist? We did this in a brainstorm style with a timer on to make sure we followed our instincts in answering the question without over-analyzing. Once finished, we compared and edited our answers to avoid overlapping and to include things we missed during the time slot.
3. How do we align with the UN's SDGs?
We then put the sticky notes directly onto the SDG board where they fit the best, to see which of the 17 goals Pocket Concerts is tracking and participating in. Some of them belonged in more than one, so we duplicated those and included them wherever we were contributing. This process helped us see how our business practices, services, and plans relate to the bigger movement.
(UN SDGs image source: https://www.un.org/development/desa/dspd/2030agenda-sdgs.html)
4. A quick summary and next steps
Through this fun exercise, we not only got to think beyond our immediate goals and interests, but also got to see how Pocket Concerts can contribute toward this global movement in a concrete way. This is by no means the only way to find your organization’s purpose! And I admit there are critics of the SDGs out there for various reasons that I won’t go into here. But what this process did for us is the renewed sense of purpose that is helping us to do better than how we used to operate before COVID provided us with a time of reflection. We also came out of it feeling energized, itching to get working, with the SDGs as the north star in this journey of collective flourishing.
I highly recommend doing this exercise with your organization or individually. The benefits of doing this go beyond your business. What we loved most about this was the feeling that we are not doing this alone, and we would love to have more people and organizations join this momentum!
Interested in finding your business’ purpose? I’m happy to show you how this exercise can be adapted for your organization or team. Just reach out to me at email@example.com!