Ideas & Insights / All Perspectives / Ideas & Insights

Building a More Resilient and Inclusive Organization to Increase Our Impact

Lulu Mickelson - Former Engagement Associate, The Rockefeller Foundation

Sarah Krauss - Former Associate Director, Engagement, The Rockefeller Foundation

At The Rockefeller Foundation, we believe in building strong connections between our work around the globe and how we work within our organization.

In 2016, we made big investments in the people and relationships that drive our impact, striving to build a more engaged and connected culture that exemplifies the values we promote through our grant-making and initiatives.

Building on the success of an all-staff retreat at the end of 2015, we have been rolling out a suite of staff engagement initiatives over the last year.  In June, we hosted a Resilience Academy for our New York Office, which challenged staff to apply resilience thinking in their work—not only in what they do, but also in how they do it. As part of our push to operationalize our goals internally, we also carved out time for The Rockefeller Foundation’s first-ever “No Fly Week” in November and asked staff across our offices to pause travel to create a designated time for cross-team relationship building, knowledge sharing, professional development, and team-building.

In developing “No Fly Week,” we had the benefit of learning from similar events hosted by a number of other foundations and peer organizations. We focused on our organizational priorities for 2016: each session built stronger staff connections, inspired critical thinking about our partner and grantee relationships, or provided supportive tools and techniques that can help us to execute on high-priority outcomes. Our Bangkok and Nairobi Offices held concurrent staff retreats that provided similar opportunities for discussion, connections, and relationship and team-building.

Designating these five days for “No Fly Week” allowed us to prioritize reflection at an organization-wide scale. We invited the Rockefeller Archives Center to help us engage with our century-plus legacy through a session on the Rockefeller Family and the rise of philanthropy. Our President Judith Rodin and COO Peter Madonia also modeled the behavior on a personal level by sharing learnings from their diverse careers in intimate roundtable settings. Additionally, we worked with the storytelling firm Narativ to offer a workshop on listening and storytelling strategies to open dialogue and spur personal reflections in our own work, celebrating the impact we have on others and ourselves.

Throughout “No Fly Week,” we sought to amplify a diversity of internal voices.

Programming was co-created with colleagues across departments, creating an experience that was inclusive and integrated. Our IT department hosted an interactive Agile game that introduced staff to the SCRUM process in one hour; our resilience team launched a reading group in partnership with grantee 100 Resilient Cites; and cross-team pairings of staff led daily lunchtime conversations on topics like the Future of Work.

We also introduced a “Roving Facilitator” program to tap internal talent to lead and support teams looking to use No Fly Week as a time to brainstorm ideas, reframe a challenge, conduct scenario planning, or discuss how to activate their networks. These internal facilitators were tasked with supporting a productive and inclusive session, while also adding their own fresh perspectives to team conversations.

To build stronger connections to our work, we invited staff from across our different organizational functions to collaborate on emerging efforts with our grantees. One example was the U.S. Yieldwise Team and our grantee IDEO  led a “Creative Tensions” movement-based dialogue, where we explored hunches around consumer behavior and food waste using the lens of human-centered design.

It was ultimately the Staff Scavenger Hunt that proved to be the hands down favorite activity from the week. It included over one hundred digital clues, pop-up activities, and office interactions aimed at sparking teamwork across departments and physical floors of our office. Beyond creating a fun, high-energy buzz in our hallways, the hunt connected staff to our mission and legacy, promote participation in existing programing, and surface inspiring stories and insights about our grantees and impact.

Building on the “No Fly Week” momentum, we will continue to explore ways to make space for reflection, integration, and inclusion within our organization—all core qualities of how we define resilience at The Rockefeller Foundation. Ultimately, we believe that living the values of our work and making investments in a more engaged and connected staff leads to more impact. This year, we are looking forward to continuing to not only promote resilience and inclusion in our work and in the world, but also in how our organization functions.

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