by GoPhilanthropic Co-Founder, Lydia Dean
In mid-February the GoPhil team relished in a glorious, self-indulgent luxury that centered around a simple, everyday beauty — a three day weekend together, face to face, shoulder to shoulder, in the same time zone.
This is a kind of luxury we have never given ourselves to date.
Before you get carried away imagining a seaside resort and margaritas, remember this is GoPhil and we are a humble and practical sort doing meaningful work in the world. Picture downtown Denver, in the dead of winter, in an AirBnb.
GoPhil Director of Operations, Jill Roeder, assessing the chocolate options.
As our team has grown, like many, we are faced with the challenges of functioning as a virtual team. We still had members of our team, now a blend of thirteen part-time paid and unpaid staff and volunteers, who believe it or not, had never met in person. For us, there are always opportunities throughout the year to be together — at events, in the field, and on GoPhil journeys, but all require a division of time and focus on others. The need to BE together also revolved around a desire to take a moment to stop the clock and celebrate our successes, to close the door and give to ourselves. In the non-profit landscape, we are always encouraged to spend our time capturing impact and results out in the world. This inward self-care is a relatively new thing for us at GoPhil but no worries — we are fast learners and are quickly getting the hang of it!
After stocking the fridge and cupboards with essentials and unloading our bags with various goodies from our respective homes around the globe (which included an embarrassing amount of chocolate from France and the UK), we huddled around the fire and set out on what would be a deeply introspective few days for our little organization — a period in time that will help us create the framework needed for a strong and long future and redefine a culture that better reflects our collective potential.
MIXING THE COLORS
We have been humbled and excited by the influx of creative ideas and people circulating through and around us and we are more devoted than ever to growing in a way that has us working in the best flow possible. Most of the team had been fortunate enough to have been offered “Personalysis” coaching by one of our very talented community and Founder’s Circle members, Ronald Reneau. This unique assessment tool is intended to provide insight into how people think, feel, deal with others and cope under stress. Having Ron share his time and experience with our team is just one of many examples of how GoPhil has become a living and breathing base of shared skills and resources. A few weeks before our gathering in Denver, Ron collected and analyzed data on our core operational staff, resulting in colorful displays of red, blue, green and yellow, giving us a powerful window into how we operate as a whole – both the positive areas, as well as those which could use some attention and improvement.
Our first few hours in Denver found us revisiting these results and making important adjustments to both our roles and organizational chart in order to make room for new talent and to maximize how we function together. With clarification surrounding roles for the Co-Founders and each team member, we were able to start sketching out key processes and handoffs which will reduce that ‘overwhelmed’ feeling that comes up a lot at GoPhil. With this new structure in place, at least two of the Co-Founders will be out and about more on the philanthropic field, spreading the word about the importance of support for grassroots initiatives.
A CULTURE THAT PROMOTES OUR BEST SELVES
The work at GoPhil is a strange one, as the powerful undertones and aspirations that draw us to humanitarian work also seem to bleed into every part of our beings.
How do our work related goals overlap with our personal ones?
As with any profession, the lines quickly become blurred.
We had recently been introduced to a thought-provoking book by Vishen Lakhiani, Founder of “MindValley — A School for Humanity,” which explores the promotion of personal growth as well as changing the world for the better. The book offered some transformative and timely ideas for teams to grow based around the concept that when we are each achieving our greatest potential personally, the companies, non-profits, families or any “greater whole” we belong to will also benefit.
GoPhil donor, traveler and ambassador, Jeanie Mamula, with GoPhil Co-Founder, Linda DeWolf.
As suggested by Vishen, we spent a fascinating couple of hours sharing what we were each aspiring to when it came to the individual experiences and growth we each hoped for, as well as what we wanted to contribute to the world in our lifetimes. We then captured these dreams on individual sheets of paper that we placed on the walls of our AirBnb — mini soul blue prints, per se — so that we could see this come to life in written words, doodles, pictures, and images. Sound a little hokey?
We tempt you to try it… In a short few minutes you might be reminded to honor some of the subtle forces that drive what you do each and every day. You might revisit plans you laid out very early in your life that still pop onto the radar when you are least expecting. For us, the experience was more than moving, more than important — both for ourselves and for the way we can help each other bring our best to our work here on this planet. Do we doubt that the world would be a better place if each and every person achieved their very best?
GoPhil Board Chair, Anne Elgerd, with GoPhil Co-Founder, Lydia Dean.
We learned, in these brief moments of total honesty and vulnerability, private thoughts that we had never known about each other, despite several of us having worked closely together for many years. We heard about dreams to play the trumpet, be a more present mother, have a passionate relationship, start a bike business in Bhutan, get a pet, start swimming again, create a vegetable garden and meditate more deeply. We listened to desires to live an incredibly long life, move into an airstream, reconnect with past relationships and break free of how society says we need to define marriage and family. We laughed, cried, dreamed and rallied for each other.
For a brief moment it all made sense. The connection between this (maybe not so hokey after all) team-building activity and what GoPhil is about. What we aspire to encourage in small villages and communities around the world, is to seek their potential and thrive, to run with the opportunities they deserve. If we are truly to understand and authentically share this in our work, it might also benefit us to embody this within our own working, virtual walls. In listening to each other, as we do all throughout the year to our bold and fearless partner programs, we walked away devoted to creating a redefined culture at GoPhil that rooted in everyone being the best they can be — in reminding each other to do that whenever we see the opportunity to do so. We want to be a strong GoPhil. A place where potential is lived to its fullest, both inside and out.
New tools are needed for new times. GoPhil’s work spans a crazy distance of time zones, differing schedules that revolve around children and aging parents, complex travel schedules and other life responsibilities. When you combine an expanding virtual team together with all of the above, you can potentially encounter complex patterns – aka, a communications poop show.
We have been relying on a growing number of tools to help us communicate daily — Skype, Zoom, WhatsApp, phone, text, messenger, Facebook. Email chains are sometimes so long we lose track of the original topic. Some of us work on weekends, others do not. Some like to be copied on everything and others only on the essentials. You get the picture.
While the work will always get done, it has become clear to us that there must be a more efficient way to distribute the appropriate information to the appropriate people, within a predictable and reasonable time frame. In Denver, the decision was made to find an easy and affordable, yet very dynamic platform for our virtual team to communicate, manage important discussions, set work projects, share documents, chat, and announce happenings. And lo and behold, it is no surprise that the millennials on our team (Travis, Kevin and Corinne) will lead this process and we have no doubt that we will love each other much more when we have acquired this much needed system.
GoPhil Board Chair, Anne Elgerd, sharing thoughtful conversation with the GoPhil team over dinner.
FACING DIFFICULT TRUTHS
Anne Elgerd, Chair of GoPhil’s Board of Directors, brought forth some sensitive, yet incredibly thoughtful discussions surrounding the realities of how ‘Power and Privilege’ show up in the philanthropic world. We discussed subtle undercurrents that play – consciously and unconsciously – in many aspects of our work from vetting to grant making, and engaging with our partner programs onsite. These conversations will involve what could be potentially uncomfortable dialogues about the make-up and diversity of our working tables and the voices being heard, or not heard from enough, within our community.
Anne introduced a very useful tool called “Power Moves” (from National Center of Responsible Philanthropy) which provides the assessment toolkits needed to evaluate our readiness to take a hard look at how our power and privilege quietly affects the fundamentals of what we hope to achieve. We are very much looking forward to beginning this important process.
NEW STAFF TUCKED INTO THE FOLD
We are so fortunate to have Kevin Rhodes and Corrine Yank join the communications team at GoPhil. They had their first formal days with us during our meetings in Denver, giving everyone an opportunity for some valuable quality time with them before diving into their new roles. (And of course they were asked about their life aspirations in the first few hours on the job. We sure do like to keep things interesting!)
Kevin Rhodes and Corinne Yank, new additions to the GoPhil communications team, with GoPhil Co-Founder, Tracey Morrell.
Both Kevin and Corinne spent the last 18 months working with our GoPhil partner Free to Shine in Siem Reap, Cambodia, an NGO program making amazing strides towards preventing human trafficking in the region through education. Bringing valuable experience to GoPhil is a a huge plus for us as this has been an area of focus for us for some time. Based in Portland, Oregon, Kevin and Corinne are going to help us continue to offer our donors the personal and intimate connection they enjoy with our partner programs. Many of you will be hearing from them soon!
On our last evening we were incredibly lucky to have Christina Bruce (GoPhil Program Manager for Guatemala), cook a sumptuous Cuban dinner that we will remember forever.
ENDING ON A HIGH
As if the first 3 days hand’t been filled with enough goodness, we ended our time with Amy Leonard and Jeanie Mamula of our Denver Hub facilitating a brunch and fundraiser generously hosted by Kimberly and Garry Byers. We are always incredibly moved by the generosity and the profound care for the world we can feel from the folks who live in this amazing city. Conversations ranged from human trafficking in Nepal to corporate social responsibility to philanthropic travel rooted in “Listening & Learning.”
Thank you to everyone for helping GoPhil make great headway in reaching our goal to fund a transit home for children who have been rescued in Nepal through our partner, Child Rescue Nepal.
LAST BUT NOT LEAST: Stay Tuned GoPhil Travelers!
Oaxaca, Mexico, topping the list of the world’s cultural destinations, is on the 2020 GoPhil horizon! We will keep you posted as we explore this exciting possibility.
We sign off by saying that our time together reinforces a FIERCE belief in what we can achieve for the greater good when we come TOGETHER.
We look forward to living this out in every way across and within all of our connections and partnerships around the world.