Executive Director Reflections: Walking the Walk

By Melissa Spear, Executive Director

Photo by Mel Morales

Photo by Mel Morales

Wow! What a winter. Despite the fact that spring is 14 days away I am at home (another school closing!) looking out onto a Winter Wonderland. My blueberries are straining under the weight of a crushed arbor. An ice dam has caused my kitchen roof to leak. Ice has built up so deep on my front porch that I am ready to hang yellow warning tape to keep people away. The icicles hanging off my eaves are longer than I am tall. Early on I enjoyed some great snow-shoeing and cross-country skiing but…enough is enough! We are all ready to stop shoveling and get back to a schedule un-interrupted by snow, ice and freezing temperatures. Spring is around the corner (I think)!

This fall and winter, lots of groundwork was laid in anticipation of a fruitful spring and summer here at Common Ground. Seeds have been ordered and seedlings will soon be started for this summer’s food crop. New baby chicks will be arriving later this month to augment our population of laying hens. Our seniors at Common Ground High School have defended the portfolios they prepared to demonstrate that they are ready to graduate and use the academic and leadership skills they honed at Common Ground in the next phases of their lives. Final site-work has been completed, allowing us to begin excavating the foundation of our new building as soon as things begin to thaw. By June we should see a structure begin to rise from the ground!

Common Ground staff and board have also been working on articulating, for the first time, the values that underlie the work of our organization. Common Ground has always worked according to an assumed, implicit set of values. But as our community grows and our programs expand it seems important to have an explicit set of values that help explain who we are and why we do what we do, and that can be used to guide not only our strategic direction but also our everyday work. Last spring and again this winter, we asked for your voices and input. Drawing on what you shared, staff and board worked together to draft and revise. Now, Common Ground has officially adopted the following set of values:

Common Ground Values

Our Place & People

We are rooted in our place—a farm, in a forest, in the City of New Haven. The people and ecology of our place are the foundation of all we do. Our work starts here, and ripples outward.

Learning & Growth

Learning and leadership take many different forms—and everyone can be a powerful learner and leader in their own, authentic way. We are dedicated to providing many different opportunities for people to learn, grow, and take action to improve the world, including through direct, authentic exploration and discovery of nature, our food sources, and the local community.

Commitment & Joy

Commitment, passion, and creativity inspire everything we do. We endeavor to balance our hard work with joyful adventure.

Diverse, Connected Community

Diversity is essential to healthy, resilient ecological and human communities. Just as we are committed to conserving and supporting biological diversity, we are committed to cultivating a diverse human community that thrives within an environment of trust, equity, dignity, and interconnectedness.

Sustainable Change

Future generations have a right to share equitably in our human, environmental, and economic resources. We recognize that change is inevitable, and embrace change that is sustainable—positive, measurable, just, and lasting.

Now that we have made explicit the values that we believe will guide our actions, we can begin to evaluate how well our work is aligned with them. This process of evaluation will highlight those areas of our work that we can celebrate, and those areas where we need to make adjustments in order to ensure we are living the values we espouse. This does not mean we expect, or even desire, absolute, rigid adherence to our set of values. The risk of “strict adherence” is that the values begin to resemble dogma, and adherents to them become ideologues. Our goal is to use our values as guideposts, while at the same time ensuring that our work continues to meet the needs and reflect the hopes of our diverse community.

Feb Vacation Camp Snowshoe kids

Joyful adventure!

We know that as committed and passionate as we are about the work we do here at Common Ground, we do not always succeed in “walking the walk”. It is hard work, and there are many challenges for anyone who strives to live according to a set of values. But the first, very important step is to articulate and adopt them, and that we have done. Now, as we approach the close of a very cold and snowy winter, we are anticipating a fruitful and productive spring where we will begin to examine how we can best use our values to ensure our work is having the impact for which we all hope and dream.

I would love to hear what you think of our value statement. Please feel free to comment!


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