In other reflections I have talked about how there are two sections of Virginia Supportive Housing, the development and management side. Within the management side the organization is very casual and laid back, because they are working with the residents, and often have close relationships with the people who once were homeless. As a result of their close interactions with at risk populations the group interactions are more laid back.
On the development side of Virginia Supportive Housing, things are more formal, especially when they are interacting with the donor base, or grant foundations. The Missions Advancement Team in particular emphasizes this because they prioritize the long standing relationships they have with those groups. Within the individual team interactions Mission Advancements are informal, because the work environment within Virginia Supportive Housing is generally based on individual responsibilities and tasks. Since everyone mostly works independently, there is not as strong of a power dynamic, or a structure of direct reports. Individuals work on their own, and bring that back to the team, which makes everyone feel equal within the community.
As I was acclimating to Virginia Supportive Housing it was often difficult to figure out how I should be incorporated into the individual based culture. Since everyone was largely self-sufficient, it was not quite clear where I fit into the power dynamics. As the summer went on, people began to adjust to the reality of having an intern, and as I learned more about the organization it became easier to wrap me into various processes within the company.
Even outside of my own personal experience, there are certain weaknesses to this power dynamic, because it means that when someone steps away from a position, there is suddenly a large part of the organization that is without support. There is minimal overlap between the work that each individual does, so training an incoming staff person could be potentially problematic. However, this was a problem that Virginia Supportive Housing had already diagnosed, and they were beginning to standardize their processes so that the transition between an incoming and outgoing staff person would go more smoothly. During the first half of the summer they worked with a consultant to do this diagnosis, and reworking of the system.