Transforming Ourselves First: Ethos In Action

We want to make important decisions by considering people’s lived experiences. Ethos provides a plan to do that.


When we updated GlobalGiving’s mission statement in 2017, we committed to transforming aid and philanthropy to accelerate community-led change. We aim to ultimately help the entire social sector become more accountable to the people it serves, and we know that transformation must begin with ourselves. So when GlobalGiving staff encounter strategic challenges or ethical dilemmas, we need to develop a way to seek deeper input from our own communities in order to make better decisions. We need to become more community-led.

GlobalGiving is made up of many different stakeholders, including our staff and board, individual and corporate donors, and nonprofit leaders around the globe and the people they seek to serve. We may never agree on all the same values and visions for change, but we believe we can agree on the way we will treat one another when we operate in this community, especially when we’re asking the hard questions.

This agreement is what we’re calling “Ethos.” Ethos is centered on a set of grounding principles and shared behaviors that we believe can lead us to more effective and creative resolutions in a dilemma. Our Ethos guiding principles are:

  • Treat all participants with dignity, holding our relationships precious
  • Minimize harm while aiming to address all stakeholders’ specific needs
  • Hold space for uncomfortable topics and ideas different from our own
  • Seek healing, not judgment
  • Uncover creative resolutions among our tensions

We use the Ethos process to systematically seek perspectives from representatives of all key stakeholders in a dilemma. We don’t want to make important decisions without hearing from people who have lived experience. The Ethos principles and process lay out a plan to make that happen.

With just one look at today’s headlines in your favorite news outlet, it’s easy to pinpoint examples of how it’s become increasingly difficult for diverse groups to engage in difficult conversations. As tensions rise around the globe and in our own neighborhoods, we’re all struggling to listen to one another and to find creative resolutions to our differences. The Ethos process is designed to help people listen to one another and develop creative next steps for working together.

We don’t want to make important decisions without hearing from people who have lived experience. The Ethos principles and process lay out a plan to make that happen.

If you’re invited to participate in an Ethos interview, it’s simply an invitation to share your experiences with us on an important issue and help us understand the nature of the problem from your perspective. If you’re invited to serve on an Ethos Council, you’ll be asked to read the perspectives we’ve collected through interviews, surveys, and group discussions, to deliberate with other stakeholder peers, and to recommend a creative resolution to our CEO.

The Ethos process is a commitment to all our stakeholders to hear your perspectives, seek healing, and let you lead in deciding what to do next. Find out more about Ethos here.

Featured Photo: Nirim Youth Village Individual Treatment Program by Matan-Investing in the Community

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