October 09


The Give and Take of PULSE: Personal Reflections

A chart of the benefits I expected to give and take
before starting my assignment.

Why might you want the opportunity to work for a non-profit? Many of you may answer, “I want a chance to give back.”  Three months ago I began my PULSE assignment with the Philadelphia Education Fund (PEF), and all of my energy and anticipation focused on what benefit I could give to PEF.  I intended to give myself to the organization’s mission in a way that would “make an impact” or “move the needle.” My mind focused on how to help the Ed Fund change or progress or grow.  I hoped for the organization to receive greatest benefit. “Moving my own needle” and taking personal benefit came second. In this philanthropic mindset, taking any benefit seemed taboo.  My plan when I entered was to give not to take.

From Left to Right: Nancy, Ryan, and Cliff giving each other a laugh while talking about their experience with the Philadelphia Education Fund.

With my fellow GSK colleagues in tow, we designed our individual plans on what we would each give to PEF. Cliff would give guidance to create a new strategic plan; Nancy would give her experience in communications analysis and the non-profit sector. I would give my project management experience to identify improvement areas and implement them.  As we worked, our giving continued even beyond the boundaries of our initial assignments. Together as a team we gave each other ideas, inspiration, support, feedback, and perspective.

Aside from giving to one another, in only three months we have had the chance to give to PEF and to the community.  Embracing the PEF Mission, to be “Champions of Quality Public Education,” Cliff and Nancy listened to the Voice of the Customer including deans, teachers, and benefactors all across Philadelphia to develop blueprints for PEF’s future.  Specifically related to the improving the quality of math and science education, I incorporated improvements to their current offerings that inspire students to explore future science and math careers.  As a team, our PULSE assignments give benefit directly to the surrounding community and helped our NGO partner achieve its goals.

Facilitation session to engage volunteers on how to interact

One specific recent example of the impact to the community is the first ever “Explore STEM Philly Orientation”.   The “Explore STEM Philly” initiative is a set of activities that help enhance the education of science, technology, engineering, and math to inspire students to consider futures in those disciplines.  September 28 marked the first annual gathering of PEF’s corporate and individual partners that help make the Explore STEM initiatives possible.  The room filled with people who give to support PEF’s Math and Science Coalition in various ways. Individual volunteers from math and science professions give their personal story when speaking to students about their future.  Corporations give students an opportunity to visit their offices and visualize a potential career destination for their future.  Former teachers and subject experts give their personal knowledge and support to help tutor students directly in these subject areas.  Collectively, these classroom speakers, field trip hosts, and tutors give their time to learn tools to better impact students. It gives an opportunity to celebrate the 2012-2013 academic year as they set out to help students explore their life journeys, inspiring them to work at STEM Destinations in Philadelphia.
(For news from the event, including materials and photos visit: http://philaedfund.org/programs/advancing-education/philadelphia-math-science-coalition/the-latest)

Workshop for attendees to draw their visions of how to inspire students.

While the weather outside that day was gray and rainy, the energy inside was vibrant, bright, and exhilarating.The individuals evoked an unending desire to give inspiration to students and to give support to teachers with these supplemental learning experiences.  Attendees shared their personal accounts and ideas, while others took notice and learned how to improve their own encounters with students.

Sharing visions of how to inspire students.

Handshakes and hugs closed the session with the anticipation to return in the spring for an end-of-year session.  Although I won’t be here for the June event, I am confident that we gave PEF the ability to host these events in the future. Our extra resources gave them the help to pioneer this fall event and provided a roadmap to sustain this community event in years to come.

After this milestone event concluded, I paused to reflect on what my experience revealed.  I noticed that in the non-profit world giving is everywhere. GSK gives PEF valuable resources, and GSK gives its employees an opportunity. PULSE volunteers give knowledge and aid to PEF. PEF is giving to the community. The community gives to schools and students. No one speaks of taking. Taking is secondary. Taking feels taboo.  But yet, amidst all of this giving, I have been taking without even trying. By actively giving, I have been passively taking.

I have taken from Cliff his knowledge of change tools and the Accelerated Delivery Program. I have taken mindful notice of his approachable spirit and positive attitude.  I have taken interest in his constant search to learn and continuously improve.

I have taken from Nancy her powerful knowledge of mission, vision, priorities, and objectives. I have taken powerful appreciation for her way to think critically and with strategic intent.  I have taken an understanding of the benefits of her flexible thinking.

I have taken from my partners at PEF the ability to establish relationships and build trust. I have taken creative ideas on how to be innovative and execute on a vision.

Personal interaction hearing about a volunteer’s experience.

I have taken from the community members the power of positive thinking and attitude. I have taken inspiration to continue to give effort to causes I believe in.

I can only hope that I give as much to each person from the community, PEF, and GSK as they have allowed me to take from them.

A chart of the benefits I feel I am giving and taking from my assignment at the halfway point.

I wondered, “Could this be right? Could I have taken so much from this assignment?  I thought this was about giving not taking?”  I realized, giving in this case allowed me to take. And taking means that I will have new tools that I can continue to give. When I return to my role at GSK, this PULSE experience will give me more experiences and knowledge to bring back to my work and share with others. While I will be sad to end my PULSE assignment in three months, the experience of “having a chance to give back” doesn’t have to end. Even after working at my NGO, I can continue to give and help any organization achieve its goals.  I am one person of many in this PULSE program who can take from their experience and give to not only to their NGO, but also to GSK and their own community.

At the start of my assignment I would be embarrassed to boast about “taking” from a non-profit. Now, I’m proud at all that I have taken from this. I have learned if you take nothing from an experience, you have nothing to give when you leave it.  I challenge you to ask yourself as you go through your own life: What are you going to take from each experience, so that later you can give?

The Give and Take of PULSE: My perception when I started compared to the halfway point of my assignment.