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Building a purpose-driven company the Facebook way

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AFP PHOTO / LEON NEAL

When Facebook Founder Mark Zuckerberg, hit the stage in June to announce the company’s new mission to a hall filled with community group heads in Chicago, Illinois, it was obvious that something revolutionary – or at least, profound – was about to happen.

The tech-entrepreneur told Facebook users across the world – all 2 billion of them – that the company is doing what it has not done in 10 years – it is changing its policy direction from its mission to develop a platform to ‘make the world more open and connected’ to one that has a broader value proposition: ‘Give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together.’

In a 3,000 word treatise that followed, Zuckerberg took time to explain the rationale behind the company’s move stating that rather than moving away from its mission of connecting friends and family, Facebook is simply embarking on a social mission broadening its focus to enable people connect with ‘meaningful communities’. He said communities help users find common ground, which helps people engage with new perspectives and become aware of different issues. Groups also offer individuals personal support, which gives them bandwidth to look outward and address the biggest human problems, like climate change, global health issues, domestic violence, substance abuse, and more.

Essentially Facebook is on a mission to help people across the world gain perspective by providing them a platform to engage in groups.
“We’ve been thinking about what our responsibility is in the world,” Zuckerberg said in an interview. “Connecting friends and family has been pretty positive, but I think there is just this collective feeling that we have a responsibility to do more than that and also help build communities and help people get exposed to new perspectives and meet new people — not just give people a voice, but also help build common ground so people can actually move forward together.”

Many private organizations across the world are increasingly seeing the need to engage in activities that are traditionally the sole prerogative of public institutions and governments. We are increasingly seeing brands who consider impacting the lives of citizens and communities as a mission that must be accomplished with or without the collaboration of government or its institutions.

Like Facebook, other companies like Chivas Regal which organizes ‘The Venture’ – an international contest open to social entrepreneurs using business as a force for good – and the Union Bank Centenary Innovation Challenge – an initiative set to impact Nigeria by unearthing and supporting innovative ideas for addressing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in entrepreneurial ways – are taking Corporate Social Responsibility a notch higher by taking on far bigger national and global challenges.

RED, the media company which I co-founded with my partner, Chude Jideonwo perhaps takes it a bit further by placing its core-growth ideology around inspiring and enabling young people to engage towards inclusive growth and active nation-building.

With this shift in approach, it is increasingly apparent that companies are realising the need to step beyond the laser focus on profits, eschew the tokenism that has hitherto been regarded as CSR, and invest resources in directly impacting the lives of people and communities around them for the greater good. It is hard to argue against this business philosophy as the way to go moving into the future.

Here are some benefits derived by companies who dare to exhibit some humanity while taking care of business.

Brand differentiation: Brands with a focus on innovation and impact tend to, on the medium and long term, build a reputation among potential customers, consumers and stakeholders as the go-to entity when they need practical solutions to their problems.

For example, brands with established initiatives towards enrolling children displaced by insurgency in the North-west of Nigeria or that which invests massively in providing entrepreneurial training for start-ups across the country would have succeeded in not only building top-of-mind awareness in solving nagging societal challenges, but also gathering a groundswell of goodwill with which they can draw from in the future.

Heightened brand appeal: We only do business with brands we like. And if the brand in question appeals to your emotions by offering quality services while taking care of collective challenges – even better. It’s therefore little wonder why financial institutions such as GTBank and its likes invest resources in lifestyle engagements. This is clearly to position itself as 360-degree brand with a focus on satisfying the daily needs of the rapidly increasing, highly dynamic, attention challenged, digitally-active customers.

Good old trust: Looking closely at the Facebook’s example, it is clear that the global company has chosen the path of trust. With its new mission, the brand has taken another important step in deepening its relationship with users who interact and share information on the platform daily.
Positioning your business as a purpose-driven entity with the sole objective of building a better future etches its essence on the minds of customers and stakeholders alike as a partner, rather than a faceless entity with no soul.

Regardless of the size of your brand, it is becoming a growing imperative to adopt ideals that reach beyond profitmaking. The real path to growth is exploiting the values that lie in caring for the holistic wellbeing of the next person. As Zuckerberg maintained in his address: “We have to build a world where everyone has a sense of purpose and community. That’s how we’ll bring the world closer together. We have to build a world where we care about a person in India or China or Nigeria or Mexico as much as a person here. That’s how we’ll achieve our greatest opportunities and build the world we want for generations to come.”

The future starts now.


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