Moving an organization to a place where we can talk meaningfully about our mission and values

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Moving an organization to a place where we can talk meaningfully about our mission and values - Amanda


  • G: Consultant works on this and leads board retreats on defining missions to reflect what you do, and helping orgs re-define their misson to reflect the work they want to do.
  • P: On a personal level, rethinking design process to focus on issues over products and trying to navigate entering into politics as an org that doesn't usually.
  • B1: what is meaningful and how does it stick? How does this question exist in transitional moments? Felts like a forced structure but also feels important. Went through a process this summer to write personal mission/values and use that to asses projects
  • B2: At an organization providing tech support, born of urgency to help. Growing now and maturing and starting to think about looking forward and planning. We touch this once a year in a retreat but it should be an iterative conversation?
  • AH: part of a 30 yr old member org that's been through various iterations; moving from annual retreat to quarterly retreats where these conversations tended to happen; how being in leadership role can being reactive
  • AT: non profit work for the first time; internal group was reviewing a policy handbook and assessing organizatonal culture questions. NVC -- non violent communications ; what can we bring to the conversation to bring culture shift, bring content in line with our practices

1. how personal values/mission processes might connect to organizations/projects mi ssion/values

  • Public Narrative workshop; interesting virtual pedagogy. asking questions around building a story and then workshopping it in 1-on-1 peer review.
  • Story behind the values; story behind the mission as a tool to play with creating a values statement for yourself.
  • Parable of the Sower podcast "Octavia's Parables" nuance about who are your friends vs who are your people. Knowing the difference (your people are a lot closer to you)
  • Ordering statements/lists of values words-- establishing those as goals and guiding words.
  • Storytelling gives power.

Example of writing prompts:

  • What are the critical choice points of your life?
  • What decisions did you make at these points?
  • What do they say about your values?
  • What did you learn about yourself, your peers, your nation, your family – about what matters to you?

2: Tools we can use --

  • Look at impact (what have we already accomplished)
  • A good mission statement is always a little bit out of reach.
  • "In 2020 we had these constraints, and can we measure the efficacy of what we've done."
  • SWOT: Strength, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (Adding Needs and Challenges as nuance)

  • Capacity, funding might fit in S&W
  • Threats can be funding going away; power plays between or w/in orgs and on boards
  • Needs might be people/money/constituents
  • Challenges are harder to overcome.

3: Every year we have a conversation about mission and values and we always think we have to base that on our current capacity. But with new opportunity to expand that capacity aiming to grow intentionally.

4: Systems Thinking: when we look at how we want/need to move forward we look at the team we have now. Small teams can move on a dime. Larger teams can do more but communication becomes really important.

A mission that is too complex might need to be simplified to have more flexibility about how you function.

Sometimes a "values" statement needs to become a standards statement. If DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) is a value, what does that look like as a standard?

"What we believe" as an anchoring framework.

How do you use values in your work; what comes after a "code of conduct"?

  • How do you make sure your values are more than an astract metaphor?

Data Feminism: book rec. (And an interesting note: they say in that book we have a value of intersectional feminism and so we're doing a review of our citations and self-assessing in the appendix.) "Auditing Data Feminism, by Isabel Carter" //

Values and standards as a rudder: if we don't hold onto that rudder, why are we doing what we're doing?

Coaching speakers and speakers meeting our values as a piece that some of us are navigating.

Is what you're trying to do with a mission statement internal, external or transformative? That process can be cathartic, but it's often an internal process. What does that result mean externally?

Q: Do you know groups who have had that porous conversation to build shared values together (in collaboration with members / a community)? And have you ever witnessed a corporate branding process? Playing with how that's different.

  • do you hear from members (i lost my thought there)
  • are you moving the people you want to move?
  • accountability as values building for an organization?
  • orgs come together on shared wordsmithing of values statements: how do you make that meaningful?
  • There are always going to be some people doing the work and some people less so