Turning words into values: how we're developing new values for NCVO

As part of our strategy process, we’re exploring our organisational values. Values should drive our actions and behaviours as an organisation and be more than buzz words on the wall. They need to be authentic to who we are, and yet describe the kind of organisation we want to be in the future.

Values are a crucial part of our strategy process: while the big strategy questions will help us figure out what we need to be doing in the future, our values will frame and shape how we do that.

What we've done so far

As Megan said in our first blog post about values, we started this conversation with staff, trustees and our members through workshops, collages and Mentimeter. With the long list of 17 words that emerged, we facilitated workshops with all our teams (as well as our Women’s network and BAME network) to prioritise using a diamond ranking system and to understand the words better.

Staff told us that they wanted NCVO to be bold, inclusive and grounded, that we needed to have integrity, be evidence-based and forward-thinking. Being hopeful and passionate came bottom – not because we have no hope (!), but rather because they weren’t words that would help us make decisions.

This is something we noticed along the way: the words that describe how we want the organisation to feel aren’t the same as the words that describe how we should make decisions and run our organisation. We were conscious of this as we went through the workshops.

An emerging list of values

Using the shortlist, we facilitated a session with our trustees and SMT. We then drafted a more refined set of values. Here’s our first attempt:

  • We'll be courageous
  • We'll be inclusive
  • We'll be collaborative
  • We'll act with integrity
  • We'll be open
  • We'll think and act for the future.

Some of you may spot that there is some overlap with our current values, notably inclusive, collaborative and integrity. We think this is a good thing: we’re not chucking everything out, but we're wanting to see these better embedded in the way we do things at NCVO.

Thinking of the values as high-level behaviours helped us draft short descriptions (50 words max) about what we think these statements mean. They aren’t perfect nor finished! We’ve put these on an open document and shared with all our staff for comments. We’ll be exploring these with our members too at our upcoming members’ assemblies.

Once we’ve got some more feedback, we’ll create a behaviour framework to explain what these values will mean across different parts of the organisation. We want this to be simple, clear and easily recognisable to help us celebrate what we do, work better, and improve as a charity.

Facilitating through mirroring

At each stage, we're reflecting back what we’ve heard, sense checking words and meanings, and ensuring that they truly capture what’s important. At each point, we're saying 'this is what we've heard. Is this right?' One of our major assumptions with this work is that the process of development is crucial to embedding the final values later on. Ultimately, charities – like all organisations – are people and it’s people that create a culture, normalise behaviours and live (or ignore) the values. It’s vital that everyone feels ownership over them.

Got some thoughts on what are values should be? Use this online form to send us your comments!