Blog Post

Harnessing Empathy In My New Role

Today’s post was written by the Vice President of Policy & Communications, Elizabeth Krause.

In June, after the Connecticut Council for Philanthropy’s annual meeting exploring “widespread empathy” I offered three ideas for bringing empathy into system focused work.

A week into my tenure as VP of Policy and Communications (after spending seven years in the program department) I find myself ruminating on empathy again.  This time, what role can empathy play in integrating the foundation’s program, policy, and communications work?

This an internal question that I share externally because nonprofit and health care organizations of all stripes struggle with silos.  In other words, I suspect blog readers can empathize.

CT Health’s new strategic plan (to be unveiled in the new year, stay tuned) and staffing will together serve as the charter for integration.  In addition, I posit that collegial relationships built on empathy will help actualize a more integrated way of working.

Three Interconnected Ways I Pledge to Bring Empathy into the Integration of Program, Policy, and Communications:

  1. Cross train.  My expectation is that communications staff will grow even more knowledgeable about CT Health’s program and policy strategies because it will enhance their ability to communicate and act as change agents.  We will learn together.   For example, our state and federal budget consultant extraordinaire, Alison Johnson, will be training us in policy and budget analysis in the coming year.  And we just might invite program staff.
  2. Enable doing each other’s jobs.  What better way to develop real empathy than to dabble in each other’s’ roles and responsibilities, especially when it makes good sense for the success of a project?  For example, communications officers are beginning to serve as program officers for grants that have a communications focus.  VP of Program, Lina Paredes, is currently hiring a new program officer who we hope will have policy experience.  We are all committed to avoiding stepping on each other’s toes and when it happens, we will problem solve in the name of empathetic integration.
  3. Bridge the divide.  Attending the Communications Network’s annual meeting last month was a revelation for me. I blogged about how eye-opening it was for me to witness the frustration of communications professionals who struggle to work effectively with their program colleagues. It was somewhat of a relief to know hey it’s not just us. But I also saw opportunity. As someone who now speaks both languages, I can serve as an empathetic interpreter between both.

Integration is a non-linear process.  We will report back, but more importantly, we want our grantees and partners to begin experiencing the positive effects of integration.