Better Than Most is a regular feature of The Business of Giving, examining the best places to work among social good businesses and nonprofit organizations.
Denver: Tonight, you’ll be transported to 2973 16th Street in San Francisco and to the offices of a very interesting and young nonprofit called One Degree. We’ll begin with their Founder and CEO, Rey Faustino and then hear from some of the other members of the staff.
Rey: One Degree is a nonprofit, technology-driven organization that makes it easy for low-income and at-risk families to find and access the vital social services out there in our communities to help them achieve social and economic mobility.
For me it’s like what I love about technology is really makes communication easy and efficient. It feels like our organization we’re having a continuous conversation all the time. That makes things very very easy and very an open and transparent communication stream
Emma: We really embody our values in all of our work both in the actual projects we do but also in the way that we work with each other. An example of that is something we do at our all-team meetings is something called Val. Val is this little blue plastic creature toy. Every month, someone who was awarded Val from the last month will give Val to another member of the team that they feel really exemplified one of our values from that month as a way to show appreciation for them embodying one of our values.
Guillermo: We’re very conscious of how we use our time. I noticed that, you can tell with One Degree, they really develop the use of their time, how to become more effective and how to leverage both human time, human interaction, and technology to drive the interaction between people to become much more effective.
Orlando: I would actually describe One Degree as people-first organization because I really feel like we always have our end-users in mind and are always making sure that in everything that we do, we’re always considering how this could benefit the families that are using our product. Also, on the other side, we’re always – community building is also a part of building community within the staff.
Anisha: So, in the interview process, one of the things that secured my desire to want to work for One Degree is Rey and I did a communication exercise where he asked me what my hobby was, and he asked me to communicate it as a dance, because I’m a dancer. He asked me to communicate with him through three different postures; as if he was himself, as if he was a dance leader – like famous teacher, and as if he was a child. What I appreciated about the opportunity is he gave me some parameters to work with, and then he gave me a box that he could see; what are you going to do with this. I was really impressed with that because instead of guiding me specifically, or ask me specific questions, he allowed me to be creative, allowed me to go deeper and discuss; some other fun things came up about who I am and who Rey is that allowed us to develop more of a relationship and learn more about each other. That process of interviewing was really crucial. Nothing like I had seen before. Plus, I hadn’t gotten a chance to dance in my interview, and I took that opportunity to do a little twirl. Here, we have something called a user manual. Each teammate has a user manual which is essentially a custom how-to for that person. Mine might say; which actually Emma’s said, and I read when I first got here, I’m not mad at you. I just need a snack. Things like that and sharing with our team; you don’t know me yet or my quirks or my likes and dislikes or my triggers but I’m going to share them with you because it’s going to help us work more efficiently, for you to know about them. Because the trust is facilitated, I don’t have to worry about you using it against me.
Lauren: One I really love is one that Anhel designed where he basically took our values. He designed a puzzle, a jigsaw puzzle, cut it all up into pieces, handed out the pieces to different people, and then we had to work together to put the puzzle together of our values. It was actually really fun. We were on the floor. We were crawling around. It was a great activity, and a great way for people to work together in a different way that really also reinforced our values because we were literally building that puzzle together. Everyone is on their own; we rotate in terms of team leadership. Orlando led our last team meeting, and he had a really fun activity as well that helped people to get to know each other. Emma designed a great one where she basically put – everyone had something on their back; I had peanut butter on my back, and I had to find the person who matched peanut butter by asking questions. It was great activity. Those kinds of things that are really fun but help each other talk to each other and get to know each other and think are really emblematic of One Degree.
Rey: I guess that describes our organization’s culture. We built our programs. We build our services. We build our tools not just for the community but with the community in mind and with their input and also by the community. We have a lot of folks in our team who had experiences that relate to folks who are using our services, and that’s very important to us. We don’t want to be an organization that’s sitting in an ivory tower, very disconnected from our community and we very much like want to build with our community in mind and build with experiences from our community directly. That’s very very important to us.
Orlando: And One Degree does that for everyone else, which is cool because when I joined One Degree, I actually found some of the resources that I had to use to get me to college on One Degree, and to me that was a really “wow” moment. I’m helping everyone else get those same resources that I got, and that was something that’s pretty special to me.
Rey: The secret aspiration behind that not just building a really good program but building the best organization that people would like to come back to and people would like to work in and feel like they’re actually making an impact and doing their best work. We’ve been able to take the very best of the nonprofit sector and also cherry pick from the technology sector as well because we’re both a nonprofit organization, and we’re a technology company as well. We think that we very much exemplify technology for good.
Emma: We’re all part of the Members Success Team but I work very closely in Members Success which means that everything that I’m working on is driving towards making sure not just that our members find resources but that they actually use and access and benefit from the resources. I in my experience and in research haven’t found any other nonprofit that is doing that in a way that we are. I think that that really exemplifies how we are always; we’re never on autopilot. We are always innovating. We’re always thinking about how we can actually help our members as real people, as whole people. I think that also is reflected in our work culture in that we treat each other as whole people, and we do same for our members as well.
Guillermo: I think here we are, One Degree, we really embody that all-inclusive American is in that democracy in the way we work, the way we treat each other and break down these walls. We’re all in and serving the community. I think that’s my final thought on One Degree.
Lauren: In terms of feedback, there is really every week an opportunity for two-way feedback. My manager might share some feedback with me, and I have an opportunity to share feedback with him. What I appreciate about that in the way that its handled is that the feedback is about the work. It’s not about the person. It’s really very clear that we are talking about the work. Here’s something that could have gone better. Why did you handle something this way? What’s the outcome of the work? Not – you didn’t do a good job but – how could the work itself be better? I appreciate that delineation which I think is quite important, so that people stay sharp as Anisha said, and feel accountable but also because I don’t take things personally.
Rey: It’s also important for us internally as a staff to be cognizant in understanding of our own trauma and our own baggage and what we’re bringing to the table. Instead of using that as a hindrance, we really believe that people can use that as a strength here at our organization. That experience, that understanding of where folks are coming from. We hire for that. We hire for self-awareness. We hire for folks who have that understanding of themselves, and we also help folks, we manage on that as well on that self-awareness. At the heart of things, I really believe One Degree is about community healing and is also healing our community.
Denver: I want to extend my thanks to all those who participated in this segment, Emma Craig, Orlando Pineda, Anisha Nash, Lauren Fogel, Guillermo Valdes, and Rey Faustino. If you should want to hear this again, read the transcript or see pictures of the participants and the One Degree offices, simply come to https://denver-frederick.com/.
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