Why are values important because they define you (and your social enterprise). They define the decisions you make. They are a means to communicate how and why you do the things you do.
When you take a journey, even a day trip, what do you usually equip yourself with? A map or in most cases today Google Maps on your phone. In addition, in the adventure stories of pre-technology, the adventurer was equipped with a compass. Our compass is our values. They are the basis upon we make decisions. They point us to the proverbial “true north”. Without a clearly defined set of values we will falter in our decision making process and ultimately, lead us off the track of our end destination, our mission. Our purpose is the fuel that keeps us going, never giving up on our journey. Our vision, well that’s your binoculars (smile), to see beyond the horizon to know what is coming and how to fine tune our steps on our path. And finally the map. As with any map, we have various choices of routes to take to get to the end destination, whether it be the scenic route or the bullet route where bathrooms stops aren’t an option. The ultimate route is the silver lining path, it’s the balance point, and it’s the path of least resistance.
Every day we are faced with decisions. As social entrepreneurs we will likely come across challenges that ‘test our metal’, decisions that other’s lives depend on and discussions that re-iterate your leadership abilities. Values are our friends, they are essential to understand and clearly define for ourselves. They set the culture of a company, as culture is defined as “how we do things around here”. For any partner, employee and customer, by clearly stating your values you’re demonstrating the core of the ‘how’ you operate your business. Statistics show that the highest ranking page on any business site is the ‘about us’ page. People want to know who you are, what your purpose is and how you do your business. So including a section or page on your values is truly, invaluable.
Common ground for change
Our world is changing and we’re seeing increasing collaboration in the fourth sector (social enterprise, social business, BCorps) with the public, private and voluntary sectors in finding collaborative solutions. But the question that remains in non-capitalist sentiments is how can a social changemaker bridge these differing views of ‘how we do things’ and actually come to an agreed upon set of principles that all collaborators base their decisions on. I see the answer to that is: values. We can agree to a common set of values in our collaborative efforts no matter from which sector the individual or organization stems from. With defined values we have a clear set of guidelines to enable effective decision making.
In Muhammad Yunas’ book “Building Social Business: The New Kind of Capitalism That Serves Humanity’s Most Pressing Needs” he sees crises as an opportunity to exercise change:
“Furthermore, the current crisis— or, more accurately, the intertwined economic, environmental, agricultural, energy, health, and social crises— provides an opportunity for bold experimentation with new solutions. Social business has a better chance of changing the world than some past ideas because the concept is so powerful yet so flexible and accommodating.”
Values challenge us; sometimes it may not be easy. But at the end of the day, if we remain true to our values we achieve “success beyond success”