In our increasingly individualistic and commodified world, from an assembly line education system to purchasable wedding speeches, there appears to be little emphasis on cultivating humane values such as cooperation and compassion. This seems to be especially true in the context of the corporate world. When I think of offices, an image of a cold and heartless gray tundra emerges. The scene usually includes robots working hunched over behind desks, typing furiously to crunch the numbers, motivated by the money. With that said, when I walked into the Partners in Health Boston office, I was happily surprised when greeted by colorful walls, vibrant photographs of PIH’s sites across the world, and humans!
The office-wide Tuesday Update meeting was illuminating as I began to get a sense of how things are done at PIH. I had expected the meeting to consist of setting timelines, doling out tasks, and reporting on progress—all characteristic of the robotic scene I had associated with corporate America. I certainly did not expect humane values to be the topic of a staff meeting in a paid work environment.
The meeting was run by PIH’s Executive Director Ophelia Dahl, who led a discussion on the organization’s core values: pragmatic solidarity, integrity, humility, commitment, and optimism. In addition, she stressed the importance of reflection—both on the work itself, but also on how they approach the work, and why they do it. Because the nature of PIH’s efforts involves life and death, time is always of the essence. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that despite this urgency, time taken for reflection was deemed worthwhile, and even necessary in order to meaningfully engage in the movement for global health equity.
By reflecting on humane values and the intentions behind them, we cultivate skills that prepare us to handle difficult situations and face complex problems (like the ones PIH staff work with every day) with focus, calm, and clarity. It is clear that people here are working for much more than a paycheck, and giving more of themselves than can be measured in an eight-hour workday.
As a Community Coordinator for Partners In Health | Engage, my community is constantly reflecting on what worked, what didn’t, and what we can do better. These moments of short-term concrete reflection are not only helpful for continued organizing, but also serve to unify my team in our larger purpose. Reflection on even broader topics, such as core values, can garner even deeper sense of shared purpose, motivation, and solidarity. While working in community organizing, reflection is critical in order to make values explicit and meaningful. This practice serves to cultivate a sense of shared humanity, bind people together, and motivate them to volunteer their time and energy for a cause they truly believe in.
By Victoria Leonard
Victoria is a junior at Brown University studying Political Science and Religious Studies. She has traveled to Senegal and Ghana to work on food security and clean water projects. She enjoys doing yoga, cooking, and swimming in the sea.