In mid-September, the Integrated Work team met in person for the first time in two years. While we haven’t had a single person leave our organization in that time (!) we have almost doubled in size so many people were meeting one another live and in person for the first time. The purpose for our time together was threefold: reconnect, deeply; live our Ideals in practice; and chart the course for our future.
As we continue to evolve our KOAN (Kind, Open, Adaptive, Network) model of leading and organizing, we are working to design experiences that help us iterate, refine, and improve our ways of working—optimizing them for a world of work that is guaranteed to continue looking different in the years ahead. WeE affectionally dubbed our retreat KOANKamp and expect it to be the first of many.
We asked the team to write brief “letters from Kamp” reflecting on their experiences…
Anna – The staff retreat was thoroughly enjoyed by all. I venture to guess this is even more true for remote staff such as myself who rarely see colleagues in-person. One of the biggest benefits, aside from aligning ourselves toward a common future, was the trust that was built during and between sessions. A number of our staff were meeting one another for the first time. The value of building relationships and trust is difficult to measure. I’m confident that staff members will assume the best in one another, work through challenges more easily, and continue creating an environment where team members feel valued and known.
Christi – KOAN Kamp 2021 was a week of learning, laughing, and looking ahead. Whether we were blindfolded as part of an exercise to deepen our empathy; smiling and laughing during a photo shoot that engaged our imaginations; working together to serve those in the Boulder community who are food insecure; or dreaming about what’s possible in the years to come, we prioritized being Human First. The variety of settings and experiences allowed us to see each other in new and insightful ways. As I headed back across the country to my remote office, I knew we had strengthened our foundation in a catalyzing way, paving our path to the future.
Roma – One of the things that stood out for me during our staff retreat is the connection that each team member has, between the Boulder-based members and remote members. The distance doesn’t really impact how we build and maintain relationships with each other. That connection also supports everyone’s commitment to our shared organizational goals. I think it’s quite rare to have a team composed of individuals who are guided and inspired by shared values and purpose. We’ve spent our time together planning, strategizing, and getting to know each other more, while sharing laughs and stories. That week I was overwhelmed with gratitude and confidence that we exemplify the “future of work”!
Dianne – For me it was all about the connection. These are the people I spend my days with, I love and count on them in big ways and small. Having time in-person allowed for conversations with friends I’ve missed and deeper connections with those I’d met only virtually in the last year. I felt at home with everyone, which is a testament to our regular connection routines – we make connection a priority and it showed.
The retreat was a delight. I know how privileged I am to work with these folks. Moments and conversations as we worked together to contribute, dreamed together about our future and connected over meals were pure gold. I left Boulder with a heart full of gratitude for this team and our work.
Nadia – KOAN Kamp was wonderful! We had such a great time connecting and having fun, while also engaging in deep discussions about the organization and thinking about our future together. The opportunities to participate in community service and engage in art and games were met with deep gratitude and gave me pause to reflect on my abilities and privilege.
Moira – It was wonderful to finally get to meet everyone in-person, have fun together, and also do some amazing thinking and work together. There was so much creativity, commitment, warmth, and joy shared. It made me feel grateful and fortunate to be part of our community. I was very moved by the KOAN induction ceremony and the warm welcome, since I recently joined the team. The walks, the hugs, the talks, the intimacy. I cried some happy tears as I left Boulder.
Asra – Joining Integrated Work both remotely and virtually mid-pandemic has truly been a remarkable journey. After months of Zoom meetings, it felt remarkable to see my colleagues for the first time at the retreat. We are all doing the best we can to adapt during a period of intense change. The retreat in many ways felt like a celebration of comradery that has been so cathartic. I left feeling inspired and motivated to continue doing excellent work with my team.
Mary – We’ve done a great job being connected throughout the pandemic with new staff being hired and everyone working remotely — but the chance to actually meet IN-PERSON was so appreciated. It gave us an opportunity to connect on a different level, just being together, doing fun things, being creative and HUGGING! I was especially excited to have the opportunity to see Mikayla and Darrie present. Thanks for the chance to continue to build the amazing community we have.
Mikayla – As someone who started working with IW remotely, I had a blast spending time in the physical presence of my brilliant colleagues after I got over my shock at how tall some of them are! There’s something about looking into one-another’s eyes, without a screen between, that allows for greater vulnerability, connection, and conversation. I particularly loved taking the time to incorporate justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion (JEDI) into our strategic plan, vision, and values. We did a great interactive activity that showed many of the ways we’ve already been living into this commitment. Beyond this, building a shared language and commitment to JEDI felt powerful to me as a driving force for the future.
Amy – It was so wonderful to be with everyone in real life!! Although we were able to connect and do lots of amazing work remotely the last year and a half, there is nothing better than being together!! I enjoyed connecting with colleagues I know well and getting to know colleagues that I don’t know as well on a deeper level.
I also really appreciated all the activities we did together. Service work is important to me, and I love volunteering and being able to volunteer with colleagues is a bonus! I also really appreciated the JEDI facilitation session, especially being able to dig deep into what skills and approaches we need as facilitators. It was helpful for personal growth and growth for us as an organization.
And, of course, you can’t forget the importance of thinking about our future with the strategic planning discussion.
Joli – I experienced many benefits at the September staff retreat and the main ones for me were connecting with the whole team, in-person, and spending quality time with each other as a group. In addition to enjoying meals, smiling and laughing with one another during the photo shoot and at the team dinner, being able to connect outside of our daily work stood out for me the most, and highlighted our human-first ideal. Also being able to collaborate and brainstorm together for what we’d like the future of Integrated Work to look like, while staying true to our ideals, was valuable.
Sean – We had our first in-person staff retreat this past September in our Boulder office thanks to the safety offered by the vaccines and wearing masks indoors. As the pandemic continues to put a spotlight on systemic inequities, we looked inward to see how we could amplify our impact on the local community and food security. With Heart of Service in mind, we organized our team into two cohorts. One group worked the land at McKenzie Farm and the other prepared food at the Community Food Share. I appreciated the generosity of the team and the contribution to a cause greater than ourselves. This experience will always serve as a reminder that I’ve never had to worry about my next meal.
As I reflect on our time together, the level of connection, laughter, and sense of community was overwhelming and welcomed with open arms. Meeting folks that I’ve worked with for over a year in-person warmed my heart and soul. Our time together was a rejuvenating experience as we designed and integrated our evolving values and culture into who we are and how we show up in conversation.
Using our KOAN compass as a guide and connecting with the next iteration of our KOAN home circles, I look forward to the continued growth of our community, connection, and communication that nurtures our culture as we grow our team.