Collaboration, but only when necessary

Here at Voices of September 11th, the organizational culture is fairly laid back, yet there are certainly expectations that work will be done efficiently and productively. Given the small size of the organization, work is mostly individual with a few exceptions. For the most part, each staff member has a specific role with unique responsibility. For example, there is one communications director who handles all matters relating to communications, fundraising, event planning, and other responsibilities of a similar nature. There are two IT staff members who are in charge of updating and tending to the organization’s website and other technical affairs. There is a project director who heads all of the organization’s initiatives, and generally oversees the progression of work to ensure that each phase of a project proceeds as planned. My two bosses, the co-founders and directors of the organization, work together quite a bit, whether this be on conference calls or meetings or program planning. One, however, is a clinical social worker, so she deals with all counseling and outreach, while the other focuses more on the business and financial needs of the organization. As interns, we each have our own focuses, but generally just help out in anyway we are needed around the office. Each staff member has their own office room in which their individual tasks and responsibilities are completed. I do think that this allows for great productivity in specific domains, but more collaboration could perhaps lead to a wider breadth of ideas on certain topics.

While each staff member of Voices of September 11th has their own tasks, there are certainly times when the entire team comes together to accomplish a common goal. For example, in our weekly meetings, everyone shares their own opinions on relevant topics, and we all update each other on the work we are completing. If people have ideas for others in tasks that are unrelated to their own, the advice is always very welcome. These meetings are held at the beginning of each week, and also whenever there is an important project which needs group contribution and collaboration. That being said, the group dynamic is very informal, but very focused on the task at hand, and I would say that everyone feels comfortable voicing ideas in such group settings. The staff also comes together in our various outings to events, conferences, or offsite meetings, which happens quite frequently. One of my favorite parts of this internship is that we are invited to join the full time staff members in a variety of meetings and events outside of the office. We have been to the opening and dedication of the Memorial Glade at the 9/11 museum, we attended a conference in New Paltz, NY focused on resilience in children following traumatic events, we went to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in New York City to watch forensic biologists demonstrate updated DNA techniques and procedures, and most recently we went to a community meeting led by child psychologists. In such events, the majority of the staff goes together, and we are able to learn about a variety of relevant topics, and discuss our takeaways as a group. This is a very beneficial aspect of working at a nonprofit organization.

One thought on “Collaboration, but only when necessary

  • July 10, 2019 at 3:52 pm

    It is really wonderful that you’ve been able to participate in so many interesting and varied experiences outside of the office and that the members of the organization debrief and discuss such experiences together. As you noted in your ‘solving problems/improving leadership’ reflection, there does seem to be some communication challenges at the organization, which is somewhat surprising given the small size of the organization. As you continue, it would be good to think about whether the nature of the organization – its mission and the context for its existence – impact the things that the leaders prioritize and attend to (as compared to other organizations in different industries/fields).

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