Dianna Schwartz

Research Friday: The gift

posted by
Dianna Schwartz
,
Public Allies Arizona Alumna
Executive Director
Military Assistance Project

Welcome to Research Friday! As part of a continuing series, we invite a nonprofit scholar, student, or professional to highlight current research reports or studies and discuss how they can inform and improve day-to-day nonprofit practice.

Note: This article will focus on international development from my perspective working in an African country, although the questions raised are pertinent to any “developed” country or continent’s relationship to a “developing” region.

Employee engagement: Keeping the right people

posted by
Dianna Schwartz
,
Public Allies Arizona Alumna
Executive Director
Military Assistance Project

Welcome to Research Friday! As part of a continuing series, we invite a nonprofit scholar, student, or professional to highlight current research reports or studies and discuss how they can inform and improve day-to-day nonprofit practice.

A few months ago, I was embroiled in a weeks-long interaction with one of the largest government agencies. As I sought to work out the kinks of my issue, my calls were shuttled from office to office and officer to officer. It seemed that my issue might linger indefinitely with this shall-go-unnamed agency, until one day, when a customer service representative took me off hold and turned out to be an especially attentive, thorough, and service-minded individual. She gathered my information, gauged where I was in the process, and assisted me through the close of the issue. At the end, I thanked her profusely for her assistance, and hung up mulling over the question of engagement. Why is it that some employees DO feel this commitment to their work, and others suffer from a sense of disengagement that cripples their effectiveness as employees?

Last year, Opportunity Knocks commissioned a report1 to evaluate this question of engagement across the nonprofit workforce. They sought to understand individual commitment to mission, management, and emotion in the workplace.

What they found was optimistic: nonprofit employees care. Their findings substantiate the belief that nonprofit employees believe in the organization’s mission and want to contribute to the advancement of that mission. 86% do extra work that isn’t expected of them, and 89% feel their work contributes to carrying out the mission of the organization. 84% of employees surveyed enjoy working for their organization because they believe in its mission and values.

Finding Pride in American Service

posted by
Dianna Schwartz,
Public Allies Arizona Alumna /
Program Associate,
New Global Citizens

About eighteen months ago, I was standing outside a Thai classroom in the open courtyard of an elementary school in Bangkok, watching from a second-story perch as Thai children "marched" in the center recreation area. As an American who had traveled extensively in Europe before, I often harbored the telltale sign of a Catholic — guilt — when representing my country on foreign turf.

The U.S., known for having a culture of excess, had often given me reasons to feel apologetic when interacting with foreign civilizations. I had learned to keep my head down, to speak quietly and thoughtfully, to keep my opinions to myself, and, when all else failed, to tell people that I was Canadian.

I was poised to enter a classroom and represent my country again, this time to forty third-graders who might never make it to the U.S. on their own. I had just been told that part of the value I brought as an English teacher was being Goodwill Ambassador, bringing U.S. culture to a generation of Thai youth. If they never travel abroad in their life, this will be all they know of the U.S. I watched the marching students below and mulled over that awesome responsibility, and, oddly enough, felt the dawning of a supremely foreign thought.

While we certainly have reasons to be reluctant to announce our U.S. heritage loudly, we also have reasons to be proud to call ourselves U.S. citizens. Not every country exports volunteers in the way our country does — the Peace Corps, AmeriCorps, Cross Cultural Solutions, Atlas Corps, Global Leadership Adventures... the list continues on ad infinitum.