Purpose is a Privilege
At BRINK, we “Design on Purpose,” using technology & design to elevate our clients, communities, and culture. For us and our clients, it’s not just about profit. It’s about changing hearts and minds around causes we believe in. How can we shape the culture in a way that is purposeful in achieving a better world for us all to live in?
The questions are lofty and the answers require creativity. They demand a vision as well as the time to curate and nurture it. But time is money, and not everybody has it. To understand purpose, we have to think back to Psychology 101 and Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.
The pyramid is a five-tier model of human needs with layers representing level of priority. Needs lower in the hierarchy must be satisfied before individuals can attend to needs higher up. If the foundation of your pyramid isn’t strong, there is no chance of building sustainably on top of it. Unfortunately, the foundation of our country is far weaker than it should be.
This year in the US, 567,715 members of the population are unhoused, with 9.2% of all Americans under the line of poverty. During the Coronavirus pandemic, we can only expect the problem to be exacerbated in the absence of robust government action and coordination under the Trump administration. The Implications of COVID-19 for mental health are also dire, adding stress on the middle layers of the hierarchy. This reality explains why conversations about striving for a “higher purpose” may sometimes fall on deaf ears.
Take veganism as an example. How can somebody consider the rights of animals if they lack fundamental rights of their own? Maybe they care deeply about animals and have had the privilege of learning the importance of sustainability, but their wallet and gas tank simply can’t stretch to buy a $15 meal from the vegan restaurant across town. The same thought experiment can be applied to various other “purpose-driven” brands and causes. Marginalized communities will always be hard to reach because they are forced to spend all of their resources struggling to meet their family’s basic needs.
All of this is not to say that living and working with purpose isn’t worthwhile for those in the privileged position to do so. I acknowledge that I and my colleagues are in a great position of privilege to have the space and resources to have these types of conversations. We have a responsibility to use that position to speak on behalf of everyone else and help ensure access to quality healthcare, clean water, healthy food, shelter, education, and a living wage. At least that’s a start, in order for us all to fulfill a higher purpose together.