Far too many people have been forced to operate in survival mode for the past two years, finding ways to make ends meet and stay healthy in a global pandemic. For people working in philanthropy, this period has been starkly defined by an urgency to respond to emergency after crises.
As we begin to recalibrate, many would agree that we cannot think or contribute creatively while still in survival mode, which is why Sierra Leonean-German social entrepreneur, Mallence Bart-Williams’ address on the importance of reconnecting with our purpose brought such welcome and poetic perspective to the 2022 Trialogue Business in Society Conference.
What does it mean to reconnect with our purpose?
Simply put, “it is a feeling so gratifying that no amount of money can buy it,” said Bart-Williams. When we succeed in our purpose-driven mission, “we change the fabric of this multiverse forever,” she said, explaining that this is how legacy is created.
“Legacy is timeless, legacy is disruptive, legacy outlives its creator. Legacy lives on to inspire new creators, in the future that it shapes and impacts,” she explained.
Modern legends like Albert Einstein, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Bob Marley, Nikola Tesla, Muhammad Ali, Nelson and Winnie Mandela were all visionaries who imagined a future that was brighter than the ones that they were born into, which they committed to illuminate.
Of these visionaries, Bart-Williams reminds us that we don’t know how much money they had at the moment of their death, but what does resound is that they all stretched the status quo and, as a result, co-created the future and shifted the paradigm of their time. Bart-Williams said that this is why we are here – “to create, not to go to waste”.
“We are here to shape the future and to create legacy that is aligned with our divine destiny,” she pointed out.
Your passion is your compass at all times
Speaking to our interconnectedness, and describing us as “pieces of the greater puzzle”, Bart-Williams said that “when we realign our purpose in the common directive to serve humanity and make the world a better place, we become a unit – a team, a company, a society – of legends creating legacy. Aligning our purpose to serve a common goal empowers us on a path to victory”.
Speaking about her personal passion, Bart-Williams said that she is fuelled to change the world by impacting communities, minds, societies and, eventually, entire generations, when realising the fabric of her imagination.
Sharity: Reimagining charity into the concept of giving and receiving in a symbiotic exchange
As the founder of the Freetown-based creative collective Folorunsho – which reimagines luxury and creates fashion works of art for entertainment icons like Lenny Kravitz – Bart-Williams described how this sustainable for-profit initiative or ‘sharity’, started with street children in Sierra Leone, takes homeless children off the streets and into school by harnessing their creativity without a single cent in donations. Some have thrived as young entrepreneurs and have gone on to run the social enterprise Ethical Minerals, alongside Bart-Williams, which is committed to changing the landscape of the artisanal mining sector and its communities.
Corporate responsibility, Bart-Williams said, has the ability to create legacy once it moves beyond ‘giving’ into the space of ‘creating new visions’. Bart-Williams extended an invitation to conference delegates to create a legacy through conscious corporate responsibility.
“People in positions to make decisions about corporate social responsibility – which I call ‘conscious responsibility as corporations’ – I would like us to collectively reimagine what this could look like,” she said.
“The mining industry, for example – creating artisanal mining projects that are small but can be scaled up – developing blueprints that can be replicated. Spending time with communities and understanding how they can be benefitted. There is no country in which stakeholders benefit adequately across the world. The most precious minerals are mined by the poorest people. Once balance is installed there, it can have a greater effect.”
The various social projects that Bart-Williams referenced in her talk are for-profit, and create community jobs, rather than charity. “In the short and intermediate term, it may seem arduous to create, but in the long term, they are sustainable because they are productive,” she said.
When probed about how she has been able to bring these projects to profitability and secure buy-in for them, Bart-Williams explained that she has been required to extend herself entirely, and to immerse herself into the communities that she serves, in order to understand how change and lasting impact can be realised from the inside out.
- Mallence Bart-Williams’ keynote address formed part of the ‘Equitable philanthropy’ theme, which was presented in partnership with Vodacom at the Trialogue Business in Society Conference 2022.
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