These are the values that guide our work.
1. Recipients first.
We prioritize recipient preferences over those of donors or ourselves.
We do not impose our preferences, or judgments, on the beneficiaries; instead we respect and empower them to make their own choices, elevating their voices in the global aid debate. This value is core to GiveDirectly’s identity as the first organization exclusively devoted to putting the poor in control of how aid money is spent. It comes at a potential cost, as it means that neither we nor donors get to set priorities (and we may even lose some “efficiency” in providing this option).
2. Team next.
We do what’s best for organizational – not individual – success.
This is a team sport, where we will succeed (or fail) together. The best players are not those with the best individual statistics, but those with biggest impact on our overall performance. We avoid territoriality, self-promotion, and I’m above this attitudes.
3. Be proactively candid.
We say what we believe, and are honest in sharing information.
Having confidence that other people are telling us what they truly believe, without gloss or omission, is critical to effective communication and to our ability to learn and grow from feedback. We owe it to each other – and our donors – to instill this confidence even though giving and receiving information candidly are unusual in both professional and social life, and can be very uncomfortable.
4. Create positive energy.
We strive to be a source – not drain – of energy for our colleagues.
Our work is hard, practically and emotionally, and we cannot overemphasize the importance of maintaining a positive attitude, enjoying the company of our colleagues, and not taking ourselves too seriously. In doing so, we aspire to generate energy and excitement amongst our colleagues in pursuing our mission. This should not preclude candor, and we aspire to achieve both.
5. Think rigorously; act quickly.
We are intellectually rigorous with a drive towards action – not debate.
We reason from first principles, grounding our decisions in objective claims about the world, rather than hard-to-disprove assertions or hierarchy. We aim to brainstorm inclusively and respectfully, but critically self-vet ideas we put forward, so as to ensure productive and prudent decision making.
Demanding this level of rigor forces us to think harder about decisions and our assumptions than we otherwise might. This is a real cost. It can be taken too far: it is possible to overthink decisions, and we avoid debate for the sake of debate. We are not here to philosophize or ensure consensus. We decide and act quickly, avoiding getting bogged down in debates.
6. Know yourself and grow.
We recognize and accept our imperfections with a focus on growth.
We are an organization of exceptional people and trust in each other’s abilities, yet we recognize that none of us is perfect. We strive to maintain an accurate understanding of our individual and institutional strengths and weaknesses, in order to position ourselves to maximize our chances of success.
At the same time, we seek personal growth for ourselves and our teammates. Feedback is given with a spirit of helpfulness; and sought out with a desire to learn.
7. Accept reality. Propose solutions.
We do not dwell on problems. We work actively to create solutions.
There will always be an endless list of things to improve. We focus on the things that can be changed; find the most important of those things, and propose actionable answers. We do not allow “problems” to weigh us down and be a source of negativity. We are forward looking, which we believe not only leads to better team outcomes, but also creates a more enjoyable, energizing environment for all.
8. Be productively ambitious.
We take the risks to pursue industry-changing success, not incremental progress.
We seek step-change improvements at all levels, and are willing to make big-bets; we do not accept complacency nor do we simply optimize existing processes. In doing so, we allow ourselves to dream big with a belief that perceived constraints are merely opportunities for creativity.
Such ambition not only requires hard work (i.e., this is not a 9-5 job), but also a willingness to accept and learn from temporary setbacks and failures. In accepting these failures, we’re conscious to not point fingers, nor obsess over “mistakes” made.