Reviving a post-pandemic culture

The Covid-19 pandemic left NEO Philanthropy without the rituals and norms that held Staff together when they had opportunities to interact in person. As an intermediary, NEO Philanthropy provides financial services and expertise to build strong social justice movements. Leadership placed a high value on the health and safety of staff, however, as the organization moved to a virtual work environment, they noticed an almost deafening silence among the staff.

Staff were off-screen and mute during online meetings. New hires did not know people outside their own team or understand the “NEO way” of doing business. This was especially troublesome as staff involvement was key to the success of the multi-year strategic planning process and DEI initiative underway, and notable staff and leadership changes. We partnered with The Collective Good to help them increase feedback throughout the organization. 

From feedback to engagement

We led sessions with staff and senior leadership, analyzed an organization-wide survey, and observed team meetings in action. From there, we understood that staff would be more participatory if meetings were designed to be more interactive and collaborative. While our initial charge was to increase the level of staff feedback, the underlying question was, “What would it take to increase staff engagement?” To answer this question, NEO embarked on a journey of self-reflection and deep listening.

Productive conversations start with good listening. We designed and led a series of workshops for staff to become more intentional about how they listen and then have more fruitful discussions. Staff uncovered challenges within the organization that made listening hard, such as back-to-back meetings with little transition time and meetings with overly packed agendas. This left them needing more time to make meaning from the information and do creative problem-solving. In the workshops, participants practiced communication skills and experienced different ways of interacting with each other. They also offered ideas to improve the quality of meetings throughout the organization.

How we gather matters

Overall, staff had a tangible experience with co-creating their working environment that:

  • Elevated the need for to make time and space for connecting with peers and building trusting relationships
  • Piloted an organization-wide guide for designing meetings and norms for engaging in meetings
  • Made intentional room for differing options and allowing for iterative processes 

Towards the end of this project, NEO onboarded a new Chief of Staff, Alicia Wade, who was full of innovative ideas for managing people and operations. Our work set the stage for the more human-centered workplace she envisions.

What We Did
Strengthening organizational culture
Interactive workshops & facilitation
Coaching for leaders & staff