When Children’s Hospice UK and ACT merged to become Together for Short Lives five years ago, one of the first things we did was to think about our culture and our values – what kind of organisation did we need to be and how did we want to work with our members to deliver change for children and families? It was challenging to bring together two organisations, to manage expectations and to settle on a set of values that brought unity and coherence to our work.
The concept of organisational values can be alienating– full of buzz words, jargon and, some would say, it’s just the business of PR teams and creatives. And, and this is the big and, I wanted to make sure we ended up with values that we could live and breathe, not a tick-box set that sits on a dusty shelf.
So when we recently revisited our values I was keen that they reflected what we had learned in the past five years and what we had heard from our members and the families and young people we support and want to deliver change for.
They needed to be ambitious but real. They needed to be something we aspire to but also something we can be held accountable to.
We had some help.
I loved the values analogy our facilitator used to make it real. She got us to think about brand as a trifle. She said values are like that lovely flavour of vanilla in the custard that permeates – the flavour that, with all its competing ingredients, brings the trifle together and makes it unique.
And so it’s no surprise to me that our final recipe, our values, are full of words like listening, passion, creativity, family, collaboration, compassion, catalysts for change and determination. I feel them every time I arrive at the office, when I’m meeting with members, hearing stories from families or when I’m out and about hearing Together for Short Lives’ colleagues speaking at events.
If you walked into our office (the door is always open), you will not only feel our values in action, but also see them clearly on our walls. I’m committed to ensuring that they remain at the heart of everything we do. But I also want you to use them to challenge us – if we’re not delivering against these values in our work then we’re doing something wrong.
Looking ahead, our values should underpin everything we do – from finding new ways of collaborating and engaging with members, influencing our stakeholders, building and sharing best practice or reflecting on our values at every staff, senior management and trustee meeting. And importantly, putting families at the centre of our work, and working with passion and determination to ensure every family gets the care and support they need.
I’d welcome feedback on this work – we need to be more than words; we also need to deliver our values in our actions