Recent events have compelled nonprofit organizations to change the way they get work done, how they deliver their services, and what they do to achieve a more just and equitable society. So, The Business of Giving has connected with those organizations that are doing this exceptionally well in a segment we call: The Paths Forward. Because there is more than just one way.
Denver: In this edition of The Paths Forward we’ll speak with team members at Glasswing International. Their mission is to address the root causes and consequences of violence and poverty in Latin America through programs that empower youth, mobilize communities, and strengthen public systems
We’ll start with their CEO, Ken Baker, who will explain the significance of the organization’s name.
Ken Baker: And a glasswing is a butterfly from Central America and Mexico and Southern Mexico, and it has translucent wings. And so it represents obviously the regeneration an change, positive change, and to a butterfly, the trajectory that a butterfly has. And it also represents transparency and that you can see through the wings that you can see right through
Denver: A Hallmark of Glasswing is a culture of Loving and Giving as Tamara, Francheska and Sonia explain
Tamara: I want to talk about how we work from love. Like, I think I have been with Glasswing for five years now. I started with one project and now i’m the manager of health projects for Costa Rica. And for me, working from my heart and from love, it’s the more important thing that Glasswing do, like helping people. They are all having like this specific situations, vulnerable situations, socio-economical situations. And that’s like how grateful we are from being here, helping them. And also, like I always say to everyone, it’s more what we get from them than what we are giving them.
Fransheska: What is something unique about Glasswing? I can say the culture of giving. But not only giving to our, like the external audience, it’s that we give to our internal clients, if we can say it like that. We give to all of the departments, we’re not selfish. For example, if we learn something in Panama, we share our knowledge to the other countries, too.
And also, if we have a challenge in Panama and if we make a mistake, we share that knowledge too because we’re humans, we’re not perfect. And we are in constant evolution and in constant learning.
Sonia: I think this is really good in Glasswing because we believe that each person have the potential and the right to share their knowledge.
And I think this beginning in the workplace, in the workspace, and then we transmit this to the community because we work with the community. We adapt to the necessity in the community. And then I think this is really nice because it’s like Fransheska mentioned that we’re giving, and we have this positive energy. We can give or transmit this positive energy and the trust.
Denver: GlassWing also manifests a culture of Caring, the kind of caring that Sharon and Mercy describe
Sharon: And people here, the colleagues are always focusing on how are you? And we start the day with my supervisor, with my colleagues, like, how are you? Do you need something from me? Can I help you with something? And I think that’s very important because sometimes we’re just like, ah, I’m fine, or I’m okay, but when you actually go deep on that question and the people around ask you in a very, empathic way, you can receive the help or the support even though you didn’t ask for.
Mercy: But the quote is, “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better.”
And I think that one of the things that really describe our job as part of the Glasswing team, we really care about what we are doing. It doesn’t matter if you are doing a small thing. In my case, I work for the communication and it doesn’t matter if I’m doing like a mini story or like a big thing, like a big event. I have to care a lot because I know that with that thing, someone’s life, it’s getting better.
Denver: The tone of the organization is set by its Co-Founders, Ken and Celina. Horacio shares how they trust staff, Matty tells us how accessible they are, and Walter on the training they receive that allows them to assume responsibility
Horacio: Glasswing has this wow factor. We’re just human centered and people talk here like it’s not unusual to have like a brunch or something with the CEO or the VP of programs. They’re really accessible people.
And I was pleasantly surprised of how much they trust us. I remember this meeting I
had with Celina and some highly important donor. And she was so relaxed and she let me have all the conversation and that actually motivated me because this is my responsibility right now.
Matty: And this is very true and I think the core of Glasswing’s culture is that senior leadership is very accessible. And when that’s possible, I have found that you learn and you’re inspired by them, and you work more as a team and less of a hierarchy, right? We know, like Horacio mentioned, we can go out to eat with Celina and Ken, or they’ll include us in meetings with donors, but it’s really so we’d learn from them and it’s not so much, you know, I’m a senior so I’m going to be in this meeting and you’re not. It’s we’re all working towards the same mission, so let’s all compliment each other in getting there.
Walter: I think that Glasswing really allows its employees to understand how things work. We are always getting involved in training, in processes when you’re a new employee, you learn about everything so that you know what you have to do and how you have to do it. But also, there’s no one following you saying do this, do this, do this, and do it this way. You love your job so much and you’re so committed to it that you just do it naturally, I think.
Denver: Walter says the team at Glasswing is relaxed – which allows them to do their best work, and Fransheska remarks that people are unfailingly polite.
Walter: I think that one of the things that makes Glasswing a really great place to work, it is the fact that it’s a really relaxed organization. Everyone takes their job really seriously, and everyone is like super committed to what they do. But our day to day is pretty relaxed. We do have processes and we do have a structure and we work with donors, so there are rules and things that we have to comply. But when you talk to people from different departments, you don’t feel lIke that bureaucracy that you tend to feel in other more formal organizations. And I think that really makes the difference because our meetings are pretty much like this, like conversations where anyone can say whatever they want
Fransheska: No matter what we do, no matter our position, we are all respected. And I just want to close this, my intervention here saying something also particular about Glasswing is that we always say thank you or gracias in Spanish. Whatever, if someone brings us water, thank you. If someone brings us something, some admin form to sign, thank you.
Denver: The Lockdown has impacted every organization in a different way. In the case of Glasswing there were some real upsides as Horacio, Sharon, Matty and Tamara explain.
Horacio: Well, Denver, I was thinking, I think that the lockdown actually improved Glasswing a lot, like communication work. We’re just communicating much better with all the teams. We work in a lot of countries and I don’t feel that there’s a Glasswing for each country. There is no Glasswing Guatemala, no Glasswing Honduras. It’s like just one big Glasswing and people that are in Costa Rica, people that are in Panama, people that are in El Salvador, in Guatemala, in Honduras. So I feel that’s just one big office and virtuality and Zoom and Google Meets and all that stuff actually helps us a lot to coordinate. So I think it was a great boost we had on this technological approach in international management and project management.
So it’s been amazing. It’s been tough. It’s been quite some extra hours work because now virtuality just has no boundaries and it’s hard to manage, but it’s also so productive.
Sharon: And once I get here, when I started working, I had to start meeting people, getting to know people that were in their houses, were working remotely. So it was very difficult at the beginning, but I was very surprised that it was like in a couple of months, I get to know people in a really personal way, even though we were like in virtual, in the distance.
And I think it’s because distance is not a relevant issue now. And by that time, wasn’t an issue because we were constantly in communication, getting in touch with our teams, with the participants, the people we work for.
Matty: We weren’t really in the tech space before then and I think it fueled us to go into the tech space with virtual learnings and streaming platforms, and to expand our access to our students. We, I think, underestimated or feared what this virtual access would look like in Central America and with En Casa con Glasswing, we’ve been able to reach so many more families and students
Tamara: For me before the pandemic, I was implementing the projects at school, so I was on and off at the office all the time. So with the pandemic, I was at home, but I didn’t feel like that missing of the office. But the days that I go to the office are the days that I don’t do a thing. I go there to talk, to visit my friends. We’re having fun. That’s like a social space a lot.
Denver: Finally, Matty relates how proud team members are of another and Sonia on why people give 200%
Matty: And something that all my colleagues mentioned that I just want to continuously reiterate is that we’re not just proud of the organization, but we’re really proud of each other. We have this hashtag, orgulloglasswing, which it means Glasswing pride, or we say familiaglasswing, Glasswing family.
And we’re not just proud of our programs and our projects and our growth, but we’re so proud of each other. We have a few informal chats on WhatsApp, either per department or regionally. And yes, we share project and program updates. But what I love about these chats is how we support and cheer each other on.
People will say, oh, here’s this new project or this new mural that I built in school and everyone’s applauding them or saying like, way to go, this is such a great effort, what a great idea, I want to learn from you, let’s set up a call. And so there’s this motivation spillover that’s almost hard to put in words that comes from that. And I think when we lift each other up, you have this internal motivation to continue doing well for your .
Sonia: This too because yesterday I was trying to disclose why we’re motivated to do the best possible. And I think what makes us to do it and give the 200%, not a hundred percent, and I think this is vision for what we do. This is really impressing when I talk about Glasswing and how I like my job because I don’t feel that I am working. It’s like a part my life. I enjoy the clouds. I enjoy what I do.
And then I don’t feel that it is a job. But of course, I need to give the result and do stuff, but I think it’s nice to enjoy because you can meet people around the region or around the world because you have this opportunity when we have a volunteer from other countries and made this experience, the student have, too. It’s not only for me, it’s for the community or for the people, for what we work.
Denver: I want to thank the Glasswing team members who participated in this piece: Sonia Arteaga, Walter Leiva, Mercy Navarrete, Horacio Reyes, Fransheska Quijada, Tamara Zuñiga, Sharon Kababie, and Matty Siman. And to learn more about The organization go visit their website at Glasswing.org or visit denver-frederick.com and catch my earlier interview with Ken Baker the CEO of Glasswing.
Denver Frederick, Host of The Business of Giving serves as a Trusted Advisor and Executive Coach to Nonprofit Leaders. His Book, The Business of Giving: New Best Practices for Nonprofit and Philanthropic Leaders in an Ever-Changing World, will be released later this year.Listen to more The Business of Giving episodes here. Subscribe to our podcast channel on Spotify to get notified of new episodes. You can also follow us on Twitter, Instagram, and on Facebook.