A better way to manage dilemmas


Chapter 1


In Chapter 1, the Ethos team prepares your organization to listen, learn, and act in the face of a dilemma.

Welcome to Ethos! Ethos is a philosophy and decision-making framework designed to help platform leaders explore, act on, manage, and learn from dilemmas. It was developed collaboratively by platform leaders and their stakeholders in partnership with GlobalGiving. You will learn more about which problems constitute dilemmas as you move through the chapters in the Ethos Playbook. The Playbook itself is made up of five chapters. Each chapter contains the following:

  • An overview page that describes the purpose of the chapter, a step-by-step guide for how it works, tip and tricks, and clarity about who should be involved.
  • A toolbox that contains links to editable tools and templates in Google Drive, each with their own set of instructions.
Prepare illustration
Prepare: The Ethos Team prepares your organization to listen, learn, and act in the face of a dilemma.

While the process is designed to build the capability for both reactively and proactively managing dilemmas, it’s really about helping your organization learn, improve, and build on your integrity. Learning comes in the form of opportunities for change management and strategy development. The Ethos Playbook will help you act on these learnings by providing change management skills and tools.

In Chapter 1, you will get an overview of how the Ethos process works. You will learn key terms and roles that are central to the process. Ethos is a journey, and doing the prep work will help build your confidence to engage successfully—helping your organization not only address dilemmas but also get stronger along the way.

The GlobalGiving Ethos Team is also here to support you and we look forward to learning with you!

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The five steps of the Ethos process

Step 1: Terms

Familiarize yourself with key terms used in the process.

Start by scanning our full list of Ethos terms, job descriptions, and tools on the Glossary page. You’ll encounter each term or tool in its proper time; think of the Glossary as a foundation you can return to as needed.

Step 2: Team

Build your team(s).

Ethos involves many different people within your organization, and outside of it. It is important to name internal people at the beginning of the process, such that you can respectfully secure their time in advance and keep them informed. Record your decisions about the team(s) to the Ethos Case Progress Tracker. See the Glossary page for the complete list of people and groups involved in the Ethos process.

Chapter 1: Prepare

People Involved

Ethos Team
The Ethos Team are the primary point people who own and manage dilemmas. They may be part of your product or program team, legal team, strategy team, or learning team.

Step 3: Timeline

Define a flexible timeline.

We speak of Ethos as a patient process because it does require flexible expectations and timelines. We recognize that emerging issues can feel urgent, bearing potential immediate risks. We developed Ethos Lite as a pathway to help manage those immediate needs. The Complete Ethos Playbook can take anywhere from 1-6 months, and the driving factor is the ability to mobilize (schedule and coordinate) internal teams and external stakeholders. It can take more time to execute Resolution Plans complete with internal changes. Add your target deadline to the Ethos Case Progress Tracker.

Step 4: Transparency

Prepare for dilemma confidentiality and transparency early, and update often.

Confidentiality and transparency will change throughout the process, as demonstrated in the Ethos Confidentiality and Transparency Framework. In Chapters 1 and 2, it is important to set expectations that this is an internally confidential process. This means no external stakeholders are informed. The Ethos team instructs staff and external stakeholders to maintain the confidentiality of the case throughout and following their involvement. This means:

  • They may not discuss the case externally.
  • They may not share materials externally.
  • They must maintain the anonymity of any and all stakeholders involved.
Chapter 1: Prepare

Tips and Tricks

Consider incremental and transformation opportunities

This process will not only help you address a dilemma, it will incrementally improve existing processes and identify future opportunities. In preparing, it is important for all team members to be aware of this and prepared for it. While it is not necessary to take on every opportunity that emerges, it is important to have a large mix and diversity.

Trust different

Your job is to co-create solutions; the value of co-creation comes from diverse and different viewpoints merging into something new. This requires seeking out and trusting that which is different.

Take a beginner’s mindset

This is an opportunity for you to learn. All dilemmas should be approached in an open ended way—without jumping to solutions or being too discerning about who to involve.

Step 5: Documentation

Establish document storage and naming protocols.

Each time you access a template through the Ethos Google Drive, you should save the template to a file on your own computer or shared drive. Take some time before you begin to decide and communicate where those files will be stored, who should have access (according to your confidentiality / transparency decisions), and how you will name files consistently. You’ll also want to determine what channels you will use to update staff and stakeholders about progress, including sharing the Ethos Case Progress Tracker. How often will you update the spreadsheet and share your progress with whom?

Some key files you’ll be developing as you go include:

Once you’ve looked over this chapter and made some initial decisions with your team, you are ready to begin!

We're here to help.

Ethos was created and tested over two years by a collaborative team of platform leaders, nonprofit staff, and other social sector professionals led by GlobalGiving. We’ve made it free and easy to use so your team can benefit from our trials and errors.

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