Giving Thought: New leadership values for a new era

Allison Alexander
Giving Thought
Allison Alexander is the Director Strategic Partnerships and Communication at Aspen Community Foundation. ACF with the support of its donors works with a number of nonprofits in the Roaring Fork and Colorado River valleys. Throughout the year, we will work to highlight nonprofits in the region.
Allison Alexander/Courtesy photo

Headlines continue to outline “We are living in unprecedented times,” and “Cultural division is at an all-time high.” In 2022, the World Economic Forum noted that the wealth gap is more profound than we have ever experienced. It seems as if the list of “unimaginable” and “never before seen or experienced” descriptors for this moment in time are endless. When they are layered onto the unique realities of our particular geography, they multiply and are intensified.

We are in fact living in unprecedented times with unimaginable challenges. Adding fuel to this narrative is our unlimited and seemingly perpetual access to information about all of the differences between us as well as the countless struggles faced by our society. Advances in technology today can mean having something constantly alerting your attention toward problems and struggles. This barrage of information, if allowed to go unfiltered, might lead to a feeling of hopelessness. It can seem like a foregone conclusion that there is nothing that can be done and things will only get worse.

With an over forty-year history of supporting children and families in this region, Aspen Community Foundation (ACF) has heard from our community in the non-profit, education, health and human services, government, and other fields that our region is struggling. They have shared that old ways of working in the community no longer have the same impact. Evolving our thinking and ways of doing work is essential.

ACF, as a community foundation, has a responsibility to listen and learn from our community partners and to use our community platform to share their perspectives and ideas for change

As a leader and an essential part of our regional support system, ACF has spent over a year re-examining our role in helping to shift the trajectory of our community in the “post-pandemic” world. At an organizational level, the foundation got curious about what our community had to say about their needs, hopes, and challenges by engaging in countless community conversations with stakeholders from Aspen to Parachute.

Out of those conversations, a list of six new values and principles emerged to help guide our work in the community. As we continue to embody these values, we hope to inspire the broader community, creating new opportunities, collaborations, and possibilities.

Belonging: We believe that including individuals’ unique perspectives is critical to achieving our mission. By bringing humility, cultural sensitivity, and respect into our relationships we strive to ensure that everyone feels they belong and are valued for who they are and what they contribute.

Curiosity: We believe that the community holds the solutions. ACF values the ongoing practice of asking questions and actively listening. We take a genuine interest in the why, the root causes, and in the understanding the experiences of others.

Equity: We are committed to leveraging resources to elevate and advance opportunities that are out of reach for individuals within our region. ACF recognizes that people need different types of support to eliminate barriers that stand in the way of their overall well-being.

Learning: We continually strive to learn, grow, and improve as an organization. Active learning requires us to be not only curious, but also apply what we learn to make positive changes in service to the community. We believe with learning comes growth and opportunity.

Innovative: We embrace change, welcome creativity, and seek out new ideas. We understand that with taking risks comes adaptation and improvement.

Integrity: As community stewards, we act ethically, honestly, and with accountability.

While it is arguably true that we have never lived in a time with as much division and reason for alarm as our current historical moment, it is also equally true that we have never had access to the technologies and capital available now. As a community leader, ACF often serves as a bridge between need and resources, by embodying these values we believe the creation of innovative solutions and exciting collaborations are possible.

We live in a resource-rich region. While there are undoubtedly disparities here, the reality is that the potential for possibility is as of yet not close to being fully realized or explored.

Allison Alexander is the Director of Strategic Partnerships and Communication at Aspen Community Foundation. ACF, with the support of its donors, works with a number of non-profits in the Roaring Fork and Colorado River valleys. Throughout the year, we will work to highlight non-profits in the region.