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Connecting Vision with Values PDF Print E-mail

As individuals, we need to belong -- to be a part of a larger world. The need to belong drives us to community, a place where we know we belong, a place where our values are confirmed. And we select our communities where we feel "safe" -- where we gain some refuge from the world's relentless game of tag. It is a place where one feels valued for what one is as an individual. When finally we find our community, sometimes people there will seem to value us more than we value ourselves.

As we begin to build this "community nexus" for ourselves, we might ask about some basic assumptions, such as: (1) in this society one has to search for opportunities to find true community, (2) as in the past, organizations can be important sources of community, and (3) a major challenge to nonprofit organizations everywhere is to fulfill the world's need for community in which the individual can find meaning in relationships.

Former HEW Secretary John Gardner, founder of Common Cause and of IndependentSector, gives reasons why "community" is a bedrock of society:


Families and communities are the ground-level generators and preservers of values and ethical systems. No society can remain vital or even survive without a reasonable base of shared values -- and such values are not established by edict from the loftier levels of the society. They are generated chiefly in the family, school, and centers of worship where people deal with one another face to face. The ideals of justice and compassion are nurtured in communities.

“Where community exists it confers upon its members identity, a sense of belonging, a measure of security. Individuals acquire a sense of self partly from their continuous relationships to others, and from the culture of their native place.... A community has the power to motivate its members to exceptional performance. It can set standards of expectation for the individual and provide the climate in which great things happen."

(Gardner, John W. 1991. Building Community . Wash DC: Independent Sector. p.5).
This is a very rich statement. How many values can you identify in these two short paragraphs? How many special values can be added from your own perspective?

What sort of community is represented by your organization? Is it a group of people who welcome strangers? Is it a social club that reflects similar values of the larger society? What is distinctive about the values of your organization? How can you go about transforming the values that you seek and shape them into a vision for the organization as a whole?


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