October 21, 2021

Values: a compass for working together on collective wellbeing

by Rachel Heydecker and Hannah Ormston, Carnegie UK

“Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision.” – Andrew Carnegie

This quote from our founder Andrew Carnegie seems fitting when reflecting on our work as a staff team to create a set of Carnegie UK values. In August, we launched our new Strategy for Change: Learning how to live well together. It places our organisational values at the centre of our approach, recognising the connection between how we individually and collectively work, and our mission of better wellbeing for people in the UK and Ireland. If collective wellbeing is a journey rather than a destination, our values are the compass to guide us throughout.

During the period of strategic and organisational review that Carnegie UK recently undertook, we sought to think more purposefully about the values that we associate with and aspire to achieve within our work together. Our work from previous strategic plans gave us strong foundations – allowing us to build on our pre-existing evidence base about the impact of embedding values like kindness for wellbeing, and working collaboratively with stakeholders to benefit from multiple perspectives.

As members of the Carnegie UK team who led this piece of work, World Values Day felt like an opportune time to reflect on this process, and to share our learning about what – at least for Carnegie UK –  being a ‘values based organisation’ really means in practice.

In keeping with other processes and decisions taken throughout the strategic review, conversations around values involved everyone at Carnegie UK, from small group discussions and informal lunchtime chats to full staff meetings. This enabled us to determine a set of values that were genuine, co-produced and which we all felt comfortable talking about and articulating. This was important if our values were to inform our ways of working,

Our discussions resulted in the four values set out in our new Strategic Plan: motivated by change, challenging, collaborative, and kind.

While we are still early in the process of applying values to our work,  we have learned:

Values are explicit: a values based organisation proactively identifies values; in practice, this means that all of the Carnegie UK team should know what those values are and what they mean, and there is a high degree of ‘buy in’ across the organisation.

Values are purposeful and active: values should be actively used to help make decisions, acting as a compass and ‘sense check’ pointing towards a course of action and informing ways of working.

Values mean alignment of what you say and what you do: there should not be a glaring disparity between stated values and the reality of how people interact, make choices and approach the delivery of our work. Values should not be ‘retrofitted’ to suit behaviour or decisions that are taken; they should inform them.

However, we don’t want our values to be simply ‘words on a page,’ we want them to be alive and inform our work and actions. When considering the development of our programmes under the new Strategic Plan, we constantly think about the change we would like to make as a result of our work, and the maximum impact our work can have. Our values also underpin the images we will choose to use to illustrate our work, and the way we use them, following our rebrand project. We are also committed to using our values to guide us when making difficult or complex decisions.

As a staff team, we are continuing to reflect on how we live our values – individually, in our teams and as an organisation. We are also keen to know how our partners are experiencing our values. Please do get in touch to let us know – and in keeping with our values we are open to challenge!