A Social Mission for a Blogging Consultant?

I’ve been wanting to develop a social mission statement for my consulting practice for some time now. It’s in development, and I’ve asked a few people to collaborate, via Google Docs of course. Not ready for prime-time yet, but on its way.

What has been driving this is my experience of the last year blogging and consulting. My work is not value-neutral. It is analytical, but my work is framed by my worldview, as is anyone’s. Blogging forces me to articulate myself more precisely, to hone my arguments in the face of criticism and respond to other very different worldviews. It exposes me to a fantastic collision of perspectives that inform my work.

I am inspired by the Cluetrain idea that markets are conversations, Shel and Scoble’s book Naked Conversations and by Chris and Tara’s work behind BarCamp and Citizen Agency. Making meaning is an important creative act in a market characterized by conversation. Who are you? What do you stand for? Do I want to know you? Do I want to do business with you?

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So why a social mission for a consultant? Aren’t consultants all guns for hire, who swear to objectivity? Isn’t a consultant supposed to be neutral? Doesn’t a social mission belong to the world of nonprofits? Isn’t the exercise dangerously and inherently political?

My point is that so-called consultant objectivity and neutrality is a myth. Consultants are motivated by many things that affect their work: worldviews, past experiences, the hope to get more work, to give the client what they want to hear not what they need to hear. I don’t like these aspects of my adopted profession. The problem with consulting in my opinion is that values are artificially removed when they should actually be central, articulated and transparent.

I can’t help but have a need to place myself in a larger, meaningful context. I am an independent. I am Citizen Wonk. I am an agent of my values. My values infuse my work and help me decide what work I wish to do.

I’m interested to know other consultants who have gone through this exercise themselves, whether in a formal or informal way. What’s your mission and how do you incorporate it into your work? How do you balance your desire to live your values with your need to make a living and get the next gig? Leave a comment or email me.

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3 thoughts on “A Social Mission for a Blogging Consultant?”

  1. It all comes down to the level of pickiness you can get away with. Some people will only do work that they see as improving the world (in addition to improving their own lives!), but few consultants can find enough such work to pay the bills.

    My approach has always been that I’ll accept any client and do whatever is best for them (how “best” is defined is for another discussion!), provided that neither the work nor the overall nature of the client conflicts with my own values. So I wouldn’t work for an arms manufacturer, but if a company manufactured a thousand products and three of them were for arms I’d still help create their accounting system — if only because I probably wouldn’t even know about the three products: I’m not going to be able to vet all of a company’s activities before signing the contract.

    I suppose that a conflict might appear after I’ve started on the job, but that has yet to happen for me.

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