Purpose is a hot topic these days. And for good reasons, says social entrepreneur and communicator Lasse Alfastsen. He believes that purpose is central for both an organization as well as for us as individuals. We all have to find and exercise our purpose, because it is the heart and soul of everything we do. Or at least it should be.
Read on to discover the full length of my inspiring chat with Lasse about his already impressive career as an entrepreneur with a social mindset.
Thomas: I have really looked forward to our discussion today. You have started so many great things and I’m curious to learn more about your journey and time we are in at the moment.
Lasse: Thanks. Yeah, I’ve always had that urge to create, and my entrepreneurial spirit was stimulated when I studied Business Administration and Organizational Communication at CBS. And from my upbringing I carry a social indignation and deep concern for the environment. So, it is obvious for me that I want to use my energy and skills to help other people and our society to be more sustainable.
Thomas: That’s an approach to admire! To be more concrete, how have you worked with this mindset?
Lasse: I’ve started a lot of things actually, from a think tank, to several communications network and different bridge building projects. And two years ago, I founded the first and only social economic communications agency in Denmark called SIVIL. We wanted to work exclusively with civil society, companies and organisations that were socially responsible and help them to get their message out and forge new partnerships through communication, branding and storytelling. In this way we help to implement social and sustainable changes in our society.
Thomas: Sounds like a great initiative indeed. To which degree did your own personal values and the notion of purpose and meaning have to do with your decision to start a new type of agency?
Lasse: It has a lot to do with my decision. First of all, let me point out that purpose and meaning are big and difficult questions that essentially are very personal and subjective things. For me, I find purpose in being part of something greater than myself and be part of creating a positive societal change. And I see purpose and responsibility as closely connected. I think purpose emerges when we do something for and together with other people, whether it is at the local, national or global level. We all have responsibility for the planet we inhabit, and I believe we will all find more purpose if we try to live up to this responsibility given the conditions and possibilities we have. It’s about finding a cause or some people that you care about and want to help.
Thomas: So, all this talk about purpose today is more than just a buzzword thing?
Lasse: The question of purpose is not a new one. It’s a concept that we always have and always will be focused on as human beings. Right now, we are in a moment of time where purpose is a very individual thing; If we do a quick tour de force back in time, purpose was given by our position in the societal hierarchy, or by religion. Later came the Age of Enlightenment, followed by a period of the big political ideologies, then the welfare state and modern time. The different periods gave us a sense of direction and purpose.
Today, many of us in Denmark have resources and a high standard of living and almost everything is possible. We have an enormous amount of opportunities but it’s also a big pressure because today it’s our own responsibility to find our own purpose. It is not the church or the great philosophers or political leaders. And that individual principle is a stress factor, which creates certain downfalls. Look at all the people dealing with stress and anxiety today. Especially young people.
Thomas: That’s really interesting Lasse. And I totally share your perspectives and diagnosis of where we are today. Perhaps the fight for sustainable development can give us some sort of common purpose?
Lasse: I certainly hope so. The potential is there, because the huge challenge we are facing regarding sustainable development captures the fact that we need to do something for other people. Action on an individual level is not enough. We must create more fundamental change at a societal level, and not stop when we succeed to change our personal habits, like eating less meat for example.
And the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) are certainly helping in this endeavour by creating a common language for the changes that we need to create. It is so much easier to establish a dialogue and common understanding between companies, organisations, local authorities, civil society etc. about sustainability.
Thomas: Could we allow ourselves to be optimistic about the future then?
Lasse: Yes, I think so. Things are certainly moving in the right direction. We should always be critical about greenwashing, redwashing, or whatever we call it. But change is inevitable in my view, not least because of the new generations emerging. I’m part of the millennial generation, and we are critical consumers and citizens, and we demand that we do things differently now and in the future. The financial crisis and the technological developments have underlined this for us; there is no going back to the old way of doing things. We create our own future. Together.
Thomas: You are still in the beginning of your career, but you have already made a lot of interesting experiences. Do you have some recommendations that you want to pass on?
Lasse: My first and most important advice is to be curious. Life is not about having all the answers, it’s about asking the right questions. This will allow you to be open for input and other perspectives. Secondly, think about what motivates you in life. What do you want to contribute with and why is it important to you?
Finally, don’t be afraid to try things out. Seek out purpose-driven companies that make a difference for other people and for our society. Or even start one yourself if you have an entrepreneur bubbling inside!
Thomas: Thanks a lot Lasse, that’s some very handy and concrete recommendations. What does 2019 have to offer for you then?
Lasse: Well, you have to practice what you preach, so actually I have decided to take my own advice very seriously and make a turn in my career to seek out meaning and purpose again. So, after two exiting, educational and hectic years as co-founder and director of Denmark’s first and only social economic communication agency, I feel it is the right time to take the next step. I’m very proud of what we have achieved in SIVIL so far, and now I hand over the ownership to my former partner. Now, I am looking forward to beginning a new adventure in 2019. You have to wait and see what that adventure is 😉
Thomas: I will certainly be following your next steps!
Wow, talking to Lasse is like being exposed to a whirlwind. So much energy, enthusiasm and great points about these very important topics! Perhaps we should indeed leave room for more optimism about the future, I tend to believe so after this discussion. Thanks a lot Lasse!!
You may have noticed, that the first three interview have featured superstars emerging from Copenhagen Business School (CBS). Of course, that’s not the only recipe for a change maker. The next interviews in the series will prove just that. See you soon.