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Program Design, Development, and Quality / Staff Leadership and Management

What’s Driving Your Work?


I recently had the honor of participating in an executive transition for the California School-Age Consortium (CalSAC). It was my first executive transition, so admittedly I don’t have anything to compare it to, however, I was inspired by how we, both board and staff, continued to keep values at the center of the process. Every step of the way we asked ourselves, does this align with the values of the organization? In the end, that resulted in an authentic interview process and a new executive director who clearly embodies the values of CalSAC. (If you’re interested, you can read the official announcement here). Because of this process, I feel compelled to ask myself, 20 years after starting my career in youth development, what are my professional values and how do I want them to show up in my work? I’ve begun to answer the first part of that question and here’s what I’ve come up with:

  • Equity – I went to graduate school because I noticed that the organization I worked for offered high-quality afterschool programming that I knew other youth did not have access to and I wanted to figure out how to change that. Today, I still feel the same desire to ensure that underserved and under-resourced youth and families get what they need in order to be successful.

  • Connection – I am most motivated when I feel connected to the people that I’m working with and those who will benefit from the project at hand. For me, this means learning about how those individuals experience the world.

  • Utility – I’m a trained researcher and, often (though not always), we are taught to investigate with little thought to how what we learn can be applied to practice or policy. Nor are we always charged with ensuring that the knowledge we’ve gained is translated so that those outside of the research community can gain from it. I feel more committed to my work when I can envision how it can be used in practice.

  • Balance – Quite simply, I need to recharge. This means balancing my work with some play; hanging out with my family, creating space for girl time, and having quality alone time.

I’m slightly embarrassed to say that I can’t remember the last time that I thought deeply about my professional values and reflected on how my work embodies them. Yet, pausing to do so has reinvigorated me, helped me to begin shifting away from projects that do not align with my values, and celebrate those that do. I see these initial four values as a place to start, values that I can add to, refine, and evolve as my career grows. If you are like me and have not spent time articulating what drives you, I encourage you to do so.

I wrote this while enjoying eggs with a sprinkle of cheese and a side of chicken sausage.

Author: @fvance

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