In this neoliberal economy, there is a value associated on everything, from services to goods.  A significant emphasized has been paid to the “value” we bring to a negotiating table. How much seriously do we take into account the interpersonal values we possess?. I have heard both “value and values” are been used interchangeably in different circumstances. This question is often asked, at a negotiating table, a job interview or even when launching a product to the market. However, the meaning of “Value” & “Values” are two different sides of the same coin. When both these aspects are in harmony, the chances of prosperity is greater, may it be a person or even an organization bound to excel when administered with due diligence.

What compelled me to write this article is to share some of my recent insights, I have profoundly experience at Philanthropy University. This organization is a living embodiment of  “value” and “values”. What is fascinating about this experience is, I have come to experienced and internalized them unlike never before in my life. Allow me to give you a background to my first paragraph.

It all started at a startup in the silicon valley as I undertook my new job at Philanthropy University. A dedicated education (EdTech) initiative whose mission is to design free online courses for nonprofit leaders / organizations around the world to build their capacity. Under the leadership of Connor Diemand – Yauman (CEO,Co-founder) the organization is on a path to create a disruption in the online education space for working professionals. Connor had made sure, he found the right formula ( the team) to deliver this. Not only that, Connor has embedded to his vision, two guiding principles that his team routinely operates on. The Value added ( the product) and Values live by( the conduct).

By “value” Connor means business, what is the market value for our product. Even though this will be freely distributed to the public, still there is a significant value for the product in the niche market we are operating on. On the other hand, the “values” are a set of principles the staff uphold on their day to day conduct. Each meeting, each interaction and every living organ in the philanthropy university is an embodiment of these two terms.  The decisions are based on incremental value and values. Out of the two, I dedicate this blog to highlight the latter, the “values” that we have so often come to compromise in the business sphere.

Philanthropy University staff has embraced seven key values to its emblem. Interestingly, these are set of principles that are observed not by coercion but by appreciation and reward. They are “Do the difficult, Be vulnerable, Step up, See the whole person, Protect the town and Move with purpose.”

Do the difficult:

PhilU embraces difficulty. We associate difficulty with progress and growth and ease with settling and stagnation. We strive to be 100% honest and 100% respectful in every exchange. We invest in the growth and development of ourselves and teammates. It could be the team is coming together to design a logic model or a theory of change, to leading a project with the utmost abstract of an idea. Each week a plaque engrained “ you are doing a great fantastic job” will go around to the person who has contributed and cooperated with multiple work streams to make the weekly Key Performance Indicators( KPI)  achievable.

Be vulnerable:

PhilU, cultivate an environment that encourages vulnerability and trust. We celebrate the unique quirks, differences, and contributions of each teammate. The team members are encouraged to sign up to “Show and Tell” recurrent activity on every Wednesdays to share their life stories, experiences encapsulating both personal and professional spheres. There were so many instances to highlight where teammates have shared their vulnerabilities. As a mark of confidentiality, I would refrain from mentioning them here. What has made it so easy for one another to be this transparent in their vulnerabilities has helped a great deal with Myers – Briggs type indicator Briggs personality test each one has taken. This has allowed everyone to everyone in the team much more profoundly.

Step up:

We don’t sit on the sidelines. We take ownership on our work and mistakes. We don’t blame, and are relentlessly solutions-oriented.  This aspect can be manifested in different ways from replacing the water dispenser to doing something extremely hard or having a short deadline to deliver. When you are asked to step up no one look at the other person to see who would volunteer instead you see many hands going up at once.

See the whole person:

We see our users and teammates alike as the complex, multi-dimensional people they are, and allow this insight and understanding to permeate every facet of our work. We constantly invest in the growth and development of the whole person, both ourselves, our users, and teammates.

philu team

The team has given opportunities to sync with one another. A weekly gathering for shout outs while embracing little victories and the heroes behind them. While there are events such as “Pizza and PD (Professional Development)” sessions for the benefit of the staff. The goal of these sessions is to periodically set aside some time at the end of the day to discuss an article, watch a movie, listen to a podcast, etc relevant to our work and trajectories.

Protect the town:

The philanthropy university operates on the belief that it is a town instead of a family. We prioritize the town over individual interests. We cater to the collective whole, not individual egos.  We strive for ambitious, long-term visions that transcend role or tenure.  Hence, the doors of philanthropy university can be compared to swinging doors,  where any employee can walk in and out if it is not a good fit. This goes both ways for the employer and employee.

Seek joy:

We relish the work and journey of our team and teammates. We do serious work and produce serious results, but never take ourselves too seriously. We cultivate mindfulness, presence, and gratitude for our work and one another.  It does not have to be Halloween to dress up your quirky dress or you don’t have to wait for the perfect moment to crack that joke instead the team members have a good all the time. May it be Fridays where you wear shorts and boots to any other day you get to wear a T- shirt that came out of an internal pun “ Gas up your hormones”

Move with purpose:

We move swiftly and decisively toward clearly-defined goals. We think deeply and strategically about the “what” “why” “how” and “when” of our work, optimizing for a long term efficiency and impact. We hold ourselves and one another accountable and are egoless and transparent in our reporting of progress. Not only that bi- weekly the team reflect their progress both professionally and personally through the “Start, Stop Continue”. This has allowed the teammates to be vocal about the things the leadership needs to start or things that do not go well which should terminate or the things that are going well with an emphasis to continue. Some great results such as redefining the recruitment process, to office improvements to staff benefits have come to effect as a result of this exercise.

Even Though, Philanthropy University is still in its early stages of development, it has laid a strong foundation that could last for years to come. With the motto is to help us to help you,

The team, move forward with a profound sense of humility towards its clientele with a stern belief that we don’t know it all. What has made us stay grounded in this journey is the value and values we have embodied into our practice.

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