How can one transform his business into a valuable one? And what does ‘valuable’ mean? Your Public Value often asks external experts what public value means to them. Leah Black is an expert in coaching and training young people, particularly in Zambia, Kenya, and Uganda, engaging hard-to-reach young people. Leah believes that enabling is more powerful than just giving. Her vision is to one day bring world class mentors & coaches together, to share their knowledge, skills, expertise and resources in Africa. She shares with us what public value means to her.

Business with public value is valuable business

Ever wonder why changes don’t happen on the scale you’d imagine? You see devastating weather events, disease, conflict, crisis and starvation. At that very moment when you hear of –or witness– them, they hit you deep in the chest. But, once they have disappeared from the news maybe they don’t bother you like they did before! The issue is not that we’re all heartless people, but if something negative doesn’t happen directly to us, impacting our lives and the people and things we love, we’ll simply be empathetic, but not proactive. Think of the people who have set up charities in direct response to a tragic loss of a loved one! When it hits home we react with much more passion and rapid response. So, how do you make a genuine difference to the world and get noticed for your company’s public value? The answer starts with YOU.

Public Value is YOU

Your personal values are the building blocks, the core of who you are and more than likely, your business too. You live by, swear by, and protect your values with sheer determination. So first ask yourself: who am I? Explore the beliefs that make you who you are, and the principles most important to you. If you value freedom, love and nature or education, equality and food security, then focus your public value efforts on those specific areas that you rate closest to your heart. When you explore your core values, the bigger picture of public value emerges.

Not sure where to start? Well firstly, you don’t have to do everything; just do what you truly believe in. You could ask yourself what kind of legacy you’d like to leave.

For example, the next generation is the most youthful ever in the existence of our planet; 1.8 billion young people to be precise. Imagine what you can do with that sheer human resource to create a legacy, improve global economies and develop widespread public value. The beauty of inspiring, empowering and educating is its ripple effect.

And with the internet you can go global and inspire young citizens across the world; think TED Talks, Twitter and YouTube to name but a few. Even some of the most rural people living in the savannah of Africa, have internet access, immersing themselves in social media, hashtag (#) movements, and online training.

Don’t forget your immediate community too. If every business across the globe did something for their neighbours and natural surroundings, imagine what a different world we’d live in.

The value of giving

The proverb: “Feed a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day, teach a man to fish and he’ll eat forever” is a saying I hold close to my heart. This is because, just giving doesn’t benefit anyone, or anything, in the long-term. Make what you do ripple across ponds, lakes and oceans. And one of the simplest, easiest and most effective things we can do is to share our skills and knowledge.

Mentor, guide, teach and inspire others to achieve and overcome hurdles like you have. Attend a careers day at a local school, offer local youth a kickstart through business set-up support or make a YouTube video for young people to access from any country in the world. Or if you prefer practical action:

  • donate a bore hole to help people in Africa produce crops all year round so that they may eat regular meals,
  • provide small interest-free business loans to help people break out of poverty and send their children to school (such as,
  • plant trees to help tackle climate change and to clean the air,
  • welcome and teach refugees in your community, or
  • fill a library of books to inspire budding CEO’s and entrepreneurs of the future (have you seen the film The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind?).

You can even align your values and actions to your corporate image through online platforms such as the Lion’s Share Fund. The options are endless, but, and it’s a big BUT, you must only do what you love; what you value. After all, public value is love shown in the most creative and wonderful ways.

You must only do what you love, what you value, as public value is love shown in the most creative and wonderful ways.

One thing that never ceases to amaze me is companies travelling abroad on some sort of corporate community action holiday to make an “impact”. I’ve seen staff from the Western world sent to rural Africa for a week of volunteering, even for just one day. Think of the air miles & carbon emissions; all for that corporate photo and feeling of (false) satisfaction! They paint a school or build houses that the poor locals could have been employed to do. Or they teach a secondary school class when there is a local, highly-skilled, teacher in the background observing and probably wondering: “imagine if I went to Europe and did the same!” How disempowering!

The ripple effect

Instead, in this scenario, recruit the help of a trusted local charity and enable the builders and decorators to be trained and employed. They could then build a new school or extension, which would attract more teachers and create education access for generations to come.

Once again, when you take this approach the ripple effect is enormous, this time in a positive way. These trained builders can employ local young people, employees will inspire their peers, the taught will become teachers, the uneducated become educated and so on; you get the picture!

Youth and community organisations continuously seek local expert support to inspire their service users, which gives you and your staff an excellent opportunity to share job-related skills in your own community as well. Always observe your contributions to public value as what you think is valuable might be the opposite. Look at both sides of the story and ensure your actions are needed, helpful and sustainable.

By revealing a piece of your personality through your core values, you will also motivate and uplift the spirit of your staff, who spend most of their lives at work, by involving them in identifying their shared core values. Welcome new employees with similar values and whilst we’re on this point, it always fails if you try to impose your values on others!

A value-based work life

Powerful values-based interview questions and group activities work wonders to get the right team. By creating a strong company culture around values, it will align your employees towards the same ethical goals; coming together to serve a greater good. Once you can evidence your actions and behaviour towards public value, your stakeholders will believe in you more. Your values-based culture may even attract more customers, contractors and supporters.

Public value will become so deeply integrated into what you do, since it’s part of who you are; your blood, your drive, your purpose, your reason for being. It will thus become as important as making a profit, even increasing revenue if you get your tactic right. Consequently, a business with public value at its heart is a valuable business.

You do hold the solutions to global problems, through your personal passions. When you approach business through your values, massive impact awaits that benefits both your company and the world. This is what public value means to me.

You can follow Leah Black on Twitter at @LeahMentorCoach – Please be in touch and let us know what public value means to you.

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