Exploring What Our Core Values Look Like In Action

Our Core Values at Skills Society

Skills Values in Action

Click here for descriptions of our core values

Embracing complexity

Post by Skills Society’s Ben Weinlick, Senior Leader of Research and Social Innovation

Values guide, inspire, inform and spark reflection, but really become powerful when people in an organization actively know how to put them into practice.  Living values at a personal and organizational level is tough work for anybody and any large organization.  It takes commitment to want to express them, regular reflection if one is living them, and people around you who inspire you to live your values when life throws out challenges. At Skills Society our core values have been woven through our work since we began in 1981. But it wasn’t until recently  that we re-articulated our values for the current times. As we set out on a values refresh over a year ago, we recognized it would take time and collective effort for people to understand them more deeply in their current form.

To help grow understanding of our core values we’ve started a few initiatives. The first initiative is that we have started a newsletter where we are gathering stories from the field of our values in action. The second thing we have begun is that over the last few months we’ve started to explore through Lego Serious Play sessions what our values mean in action and to imagine ways our values can continue to show up in our work in the future.

Below we’d like to share some of the knowledge we’ve started to build together around our values.

Deepening our understanding of our core values is on-going exciting work and in the future we will be doing more of these values explorations in our agency orientation course called “The Heart of Our Work” and through more workshops with people we support.

Using LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® To Explore Our Core Values

It may sound like something to do with child’s play when you hear the name, but there is  quite a bit more to LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® as a method to explore values and complex issues.  Businesses, government, banks and causes for social good use LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® to help people problem solve, plan, and ideate. We used this method in our values explorations to help foster story telling and knowledge building. Using Lego is actually not about building perfect lego structures, but more about the impactful stories, metaphors and ideas that the lego and questions help to foster among participants.

Two Values Exploration Sessions with Skills Society’s Core Leadership

Skills Leader Chris Bruce helping co-facilitate the Lego Serious Play Session

In the first round of our Lego Serious Play sessions, we brought together Skills Society Team Leaders, Managers and Senior Leaders in our Action Lab. We had a packed room with over 50 people from across the organization. After sharing some food and a warm welcome from Pat Conrad our Executive Director, I shared a presentation on our newly framed values and shared examples of how our values have been showing up in our work through our support of people with disabilities  in community and through our Project Citizenship stories. After the presentation we dove into LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY®.

In the second exploration we did pretty much the same thing as the first session but built what our values look like in action with all of our board members, senior leaders and managers of Skills Society. It was a great experience to connect our board and core leadership team through building and sharing knowledge together in a creative way.

Skills Values in Action

A peek into the process 

Skills Society ValuesFor each of our 5 values, teams built Lego models of what one of the values looks like in action to that group.  The process allowed the diverse teams to first share insights, stories and knowledge and then make their ideas come to life through building the models. We did 5 rounds of Lego building so that each team could dig into what each value meant to them and could build a model that represented their collective ideas. After each round we took pictures of the models and summary notes of what the team created together. The power in the Lego Serious Play process is in how it…

  • Strengthens relationships of participants
  • Fosters working together for a common goal
  • Helps people put complex concepts into their own words
  • Helps people empathize and deepen shared understanding

The strengths of this process is that later on participants can draw on their experience and remember what living the values means.

After the sessions we compiled sticky notes from each build, themed them and compiled what emerged into the insights and values in action list below. The lists below are a snapshot at present of what over 60 diverse leaders of Skills Society feel our values look like in action. What our values look like in action will continue to grow and expand over time as we live them, reflect, learn and share again.

Supporting Engaged Citizenship In Action Means… 

  • IMG_4363Making opportunities for people with disabilities to be part of community life
  • Making places and spaces inclusive and accessible to all
  • Helping people with disabilities find creative ways to offer their unique abilities and find employment
  • Getting out in community and building relationships with people
  • Getting involved with one of our many social change initiatives like the CommuniTEA Infusion Project, The Little Italy Community Garden, and sharing a story through Project Citizenship
  • Convening people to figure out how to make something better for community

Safeguarding Healthy Relationships In Action Means…

  • DSC_0106Supporting people with disabilities to find commonalities with people in community and help them do stuff together
  • Talking to people respectfully and supporting healthy communication
  • Helping people make new friends
  • Investing spending time with people to build relationships
  • Helping people strengthen connections with family and friends
  • Supporting people with disabilities in their right to love
  • Supporting people to learn about consent and healthy intimate relationships
  • Protecting a person’s safety, dignity, privacy and human rights
  • Being kind to others and looking out for people

Seeking Creative Collaborations in Action Means…

  • IMG_4269Connecting diverse groups of people to work on a social change project to make great things happen for community
  • Looking for solutions in unusual places that you are not always accustomed to. Thinking outside the box
  • Innovation happens when we look outside our silos for new ideas
  • Creating a safe space to explore new ideas that improves our work
  • Infusing dreaming big into our work
  • Using creative tools like Lego Serious Play and our Action Lab tools to explore with community how to find solutions to complex issues
  • Getting involved in our creative collaboration projects such as our part in the Tiny Home movement on housing, The CommuniTEA Infusion Project, The Citizen Action Lab and Project Citizenship

Building And Sharing Knowledge In Action Means…

  • IMG_4288Sharing what we are learning through our websites, newsletters and social media
  • Keeping our eyes open for new ideas
  • Acknowledging that good ideas to improve services and the lives of people we serve can come from anywhere in the organization
  • Hosting learning experiences for lots of different people
  • Supporting projects that promote our work in the greater community
  • Learning from diverse perspectives and bringing the knowledge we build back into our work
  • Making knowledge accessible to lots of different learning styles and abilities

Embracing Complexity In Action Means…

  • IMG_4378Remembering it’s about people first!
  • Recognizing everyone is different and has their own view of the world
  • Remembering that we can’t oversimplify people’s lives
  • Recognizing people’s lives are unique and a one size fits all model of support doesn’t work
  • Looking at challenges from many different perspectives
  • Navigating something difficult as a team or collective of people that care
  • Embracing innovative, creative approaches to solving challenges
  • Asking for help from others when things get tricky and complex
  • Getting comfortable with uncertainty and not jumping to conclusions or judgements too quickly
  • Helping people reflect on their assumptions and dig down to potential root causes of challenges
  • Not shying away from a big messy, uncertain challenge. Together we can make it!
  • Being flexible and open to new possibilities


Call To Action

Mayor Iveson, Board Chair Cindy Imppola and MLA David Shepherd at Action Lab Launch
Mayor Iveson, Board Chair Cindy Imppola and MLA David Shepherd at Action Lab Launch sharing the “building blocks” of  hope that Action Lab and Skills will do for the Edmonton Community.

Pick out some of the values in action listed above that intrigue you the most at present and try them out.  After you put the idea into action, reflect on it and share the story of what you learned. Contact Gavyn from Skills Society (gavyn@ualberta.ca) to help you document your learning experience.

If you are connected with Skills Society as a citizen with a disability we support, an ally of ours in community, a community support worker, team leader or manager and would like to share an insight, quote, or story on what one of our values looks like in action to you, contact our part time Media and Community Builder Gavyn Backus at gavyn@ualberta.ca. With your consent your story could be featured in our next newsletter and on social media to help inspire community.




Skills Values in Action

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