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: This evening, you’ll be going up to Bronxville, New York and to the offices of One Love Foundation. We will begin with their Chief Executive Officer, Katie Hood and then we’ll hear from some of the other members from the team.
Katie: So there’s a very can-do vibe in the office, and I think there’s also a sense that we want everyone to realize their own power to make a difference. And we realize our own power to make a difference.
Jalesa: But I was very surprised and really grateful that everyone was so welcoming and so nice when I started and are still today, of course. But the vibe here is very relaxed. Everyone’s working hard. Everyone’s trying to get everything they can get done. But still there’s just a level of chill productivity here, I would describe it as.
Greg: I would say something about One Love that no one would know unless they worked here was how few people do this mass amount of work. We’re relatively small operation. We have I think outsized brand recognition for the number of people that work here. I get that impression from people when I’m interviewing them or when I’m talking to people about One Love, they say, “Oh, you must have a network of thousands or something all over – they think we’re Salvation Army or something like that. It’s really just a few, very focused, hard-working, dedicated people.
Shera: Down from leadership, they seek everyone’s opinion. They keep everybody in the know of what’s going on. Letting everybody know the decisions that are being made and making them feel included and getting feedback. That’s how if feel they are being collaborative.
Erica: I think is because we are still quite a young organization and so when you’re young and you’re trying to grow quickly, initiative is rewarded, and that is something that even four, five years in, initiative is still very much rewarded. And when you think of where our big partnerships, breakthroughs have come from; really big initiatives like working with entire school districts, some of that just came from someone entry-level, picking up the phone and calling a top person at a school district, and you just see what happens.
Annie: I think we all feel this sense of urgency, and that’s something that Katie says again and again, we feel the pressure to really change this culture and in a positive way, and that’s what Sharon Love also said. We have to make this movement positive, and we have include people that have never been included before necessarily.
Manisha: There’s one thing that our CEO said in one of those calls. She basically said, when you walk into the door at One Love, just try to envision what you’re going to do for the day as if you’re in my shoes. Her just saying that was very impactful for me because it showed me that no matter where you are in the organization, everyone wants you to step it up a level and see things from the CEO’s perspective. It shows you how much of an impact you’re really making.
Annie: Even just this week and also thinking about how we’re allowed to have ideas and run with them, we are working with a woman to make sure that our trainings are accessible for the population that’s deaf or hard of hearing. We’re working with her so that we have trainings available for our content that are in American Sign Language. That’s something that we haven’t done before but that’s incredibly important.
Manisha: We get a week off in the month of July. Our leadership team actually brainstormed that idea, and I think it’s amazing because basically, the goal of it is, we should not be checking any – we can if we want to – but the goal is to not check any emails, to just really focus in on yourself and do things that really ignite that fire within you or if you just want to relax, you could relax. We have one week off just to unplug and just to do our thing. I think that’s amazing. Thank you for that.
Greg: It’s about who brings the best perspectives and I would say that our increase in our cultural competency as an organization did not happen by accident. It’s a concerted effort among many different people mostly led by Jen. It’s only going to happen if you make it happen.
Jennifer: I’d say on the flipside, in terms of when a position is open, another thing that is unique about One Love is that we don’t rush to just fill that position exactly the way it was before. I think we take the time whenever there’s an opening to really understand what the needs of the organization are. We’re growing rapidly. We’re still a young organization. We’ve been in this current form for note even quite four years. Things are growing and changing, so when there is an opening, taking that time to understand where the organizational needs and is it that same exact position or would there be a position that might be more beneficial; that might be a little bit of a change or a big change. But I think we use every opening as a chance to say, what’s the best thing for the organization
Erica: We not only are thinking always about our relationships within the workplace; how we’re working together, how we’re collaborating which everyone has touched on. But we think a lot about the people that we interact with every day whether it’s the first time someone’s reached out on our website. We really think about how quickly are we getting back to them? What resources are we giving them to be helpful?
Shera: I would say another thing that helps with that is our seating, our office space. We’re all in together. There is very few offices; where people have private offices, and we’re all seated together. When I first started, it was a little uncomfortable to pick up the phone and know that the person across the room from me was going, “It’s okay that you stumbled on that call.” I was like, “Oh God. Everybody can hear me.” But even Katie, our CEO will scream out from her office, “Hey, is anybody, did anybody tell [Kiki] about the phones being down…” We’re all… everybody can hear each other, everybody could talk. I don’t know. Sometimes it helps, sometimes it doesn’t but I feel like it does help with – like if you overhear something and you’ll turn and go, and it sparks conversation. It sparks collaboration because then you can talk to each other.
Erica: I think part of that is actually structure, physical structure. For example, we have a room in our office called the bullpen. There is no window. It’s not particularly bright. You wouldn’t think it’s the best spot to have a desk in an office necessarily or in one of our offices, I should say. There were a number of people, about eight or nine people who have desks in that space who do a lot of the same work or sort of on the same level. Especially when everyone is in there, it’s a little bit crazy but it’s very energetic and I think it flows between people shouting out questions, “How have you gone about this situation? How have you handled this when you’ve come across it?” all the way to, “Have you guys seen this article? I can’t believe this… This podcast is amazing or this show on healthy relationships, did you guys see that?
Annie: Like Erica mentioned, we have such a collaborative atmosphere especially in the bull pen, where you just turn around and you’re asking questions and are getting feedback from people. So, by the time, sometimes, I send one email; at least three other people have looked at it because we really care about what’s going into our work.
Greg: One thing that we do here that I’ve never done before is that we choose who we want to write about of our co-workers and then our co-workers choose who they want to write about, a 360, that’s what it’s called. At first, I was very overwhelmed by that the first time I had to do it, and I was very annoyed but once I saw it actually happened, some benefit arise that something that we should keep doing I think.
Annie: That same is happening across the organization, so that when we’re talking about the 10 signs of a healthy relationship, it would be hypocritical of us to now bring those into the workplace, and that’s something I truly appreciate about One Love. You’re not going to hear of people screaming at other people. You’re not going hear yelling. You’re not going to get a lot of passive aggression that you might at another sign. We really look at those 10 signs, and we say how are we going to apply those to not only our personal relationships and our relationships externally but also with one another?
Denver: I would like to extend my thanks to all those who participated in this piece: Jalesa Tucker, Manisha Sareen, Jennifer Lescott, Annie Forrest, Greg Clements, Erica Becker, and Shera Salgado Easter. To hear this again, read the transcript or see pictures of the participants and offices, come to denver-frederick.com where we’ll post the link to my full interview with Katie Hood, the Chief Executive Officer of One Love.
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