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Walking the Talk and Talking the Walk: Our Updated Set of WomenStrong Values

Walking the Talk and Talking the Walk: Our Updated Set of WomenStrong Values

Mission-driven organizations typically know what we want to achieve and why. We know what we value, don’t we? But why should organizational values, those passion-filled words and phrases that guide our work, stay stagnant, when organizations themselves grow, adapt, and change?

As a learning organization, the WomenStrong International team regularly questions what’s working, what isn’t, what we might be overlooking, and where we can improve to maximize our impact. We recently asked ourselves these very questions, in order to redefine our “organizational values,” to better reflect how we approach our work holistically and to more accurately reflect our current reality.

Walking the Talk: Why We Revisited Our Values

WomenStrong has made strides in integrating equitable philanthropic practices into our work. A key way to achieve this is by maintaining a trusting and transparent relationship with our grantee partners and adapting to their needs. 

WomenStrong has made strides in integrating equitable philanthropic practices into our work over the last few years. Examples include:

  • Transitioning to multiyear, flexible funding
  • Removing grant reporting requirements 
  • Providing separate Partners Support Funds as part of our Capacity Strengthening Program for partners to use as they see fit
  • Developing a  Language Justice Policy, ensuring that English, French, and Spanish interpretation and translation are available for all activities
  • Addressing technology and time-zone issues proactively
  • Creating Learning Lab Principles on Partner Engagement, to foster equitable interactions 

WomenStrong made these programmatic changes over the last few years, operating with the unspoken assumption and expectation that they aligned with our values. Yet, when the team was asked about our organizational values during our 2023 strategic planning process, we realized that our values as stated needed to be updated. We wanted our values to better reflect the mission-based principles through which we approach our work, and to include aspirational goals, for WomenStrong to continue to improve into the future.

Recognizing the need for clear articulation of our values was just the beginning. To ensure that these principles were truly embedded in our organizational DNA, the WomenStrong team embarked on a comprehensive process of reflection and revision.

Talking the Walk: How We Went About Revising our Values

As a learning organization, we think it’s important to review and reflect on our approaches and activities. While we’ve engaged outside consultants to help with some of this, we have also assembled an internal team, drawing on staff of all levels, to meet regularly to think about ways to improve our internal policies and practices. Naturally, this team was eager to take on the task of redrafting WomenStrong’s values.

We revived and examined our existing set of values and sought out additional examples, such as those from the Trust-Based Philanthropy Project and Grantmakers for Effective Organizations. We then put together a list of potential values we might consider adopting, which we then discussed with the full team, engaging in several conversations to ensure buy-in and agreement on these important guideposts as to how we work. After a few rounds of revision and wordsmithing, we arrived at our current list of 10 values that we stand by and aspire to live by. These have been shared with WomenStrong’s Board of Directors and are now live on our website.

What Now? We want our values to stay true to who we are and to what we achieve. This means using them regularly, referencing them during team workplanning sessions and in conversations with our partners, and updating them, as we change and grow.   

Sharing the Walk to Honor the Talk 

At WomenStrong, our approach to learning is marked by curiosity and openness to being “wrong.” We may be in our 10th year of operation, but that doesn’t mean we can’t grow, change, and have greater ambition to move the needle forward on what we do and how we do it. It was only by returning to and defining values that we all used daily, yet with different meanings, that we could truly align our efforts. This is one way we can continue to live up to our identity as a learning organization. 

Are you a learning organization that is thinking of updating your values, as your work grows and evolves? We’d love to hear about your journey and together think of more ways to walk the talk and talk the walk!

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