SecondMuse's eight action-oriented Imperatives ground our work and daily actions.
When new hires join SecondMuse, they meet with our co-CEOs who welcome them to the team and introduce them to the company’s imperatives — eight mandates or commitments that guide everything we do, from the way we design programs to the way we approach day-to-day challenges. Fine-tuned over the years, the SecondMuse Imperatives now include commitments to collaboration, relentless learning, advancing truth, and striving for justice.
CEO Carrie Freeman explains that leadership chose imperatives, rather than values or principles, to serve as the company’s guiding light because imperatives, by nature, are more action-oriented. “The imperatives are not as much a call to action as they are mandates about action itself — how we want people to approach their work. It’s a subtle but important distinction.”
For the last six years, the Imperatives below have addressed in detail what it means to, for example, “cultivate our strengths” and to “make awesome happen” — one of the more quirky ones that pertains to the pursuit of excellence and ownership of both successes and failures.
Driving Our Program Design
They are apparent in everything at SecondMuse, from the way programs are designed to the types of positions in our organization. Consider the role of our researchers whose mandate directly ties to our Imperative to “understand, then act.”
“We do really well in our communities because of our researchers who work to understand the humans in the system and the system itself before we begin designing programs,” Freeman says. “We are unique in this way.”
Operating around the world and across cultures, SecondMuse also leans heavily on our imperatives to “learn relentlessly,” foster collaboration rather than competition, and promote justice by building diversity, equity, and environmental sustainability into everything we do. Examples include the whopping nine months of research our Headstream colleagues conducted before launching their program, which creates inclusive digital economies that promote youth engagement and wellness. They also include the bespoke curriculum — available in multiple languages — that The Incubation Network recently created in partnership with Value for Women, to teach entrepreneurs about how to take a gender-inclusive approach to business. The imperatives are also apparent in SecondMuse Capital‘s systems approach to investing, which considers not only what to invest in (like climate technology) but also how to invest and manage money in a way that fosters environmental and social justice.
Lighting The Way in Our Response to COVID
Beyond our programming, our Imperatives guide the way we operate as a company through good times, and as we navigate the unexpected. When COVID arrived and threatened to disrupt every aspect of our deeply collaborative work, it was our foundational commitments that enabled us to thrive.
“Rather than waiting it out, we pivoted as soon as COVID hit,” Freeman says. “Those first few weeks we planned really large virtual sessions and I think they gave people hope and showed them that we can still organize amazing events virtually. We made awesome happen.”
As the realities of the pandemic settled in, SecondMuse planned virtual events and offered resources to our team members and the communities we work with around the world. We organized the “SecondMuse Goes Virtual” Learning Series to help the team facilitate leadership in a virtual setting, reimagine remote working and adapt our programs to virtual spaces. In 2020 — as the pandemic raged — The Incubation Network‘s Circular Innovation Jam, a design sprint focused on developing solutions to ocean plastic pollution in South and Southeast Asia, shifted online and drew over 500 participants, including 75 mentors and 30 facilitators representing “country tracks” across India, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines. The experience of reimagining how we implement events during this time led to our development of “Humanizing the Virtual Space,” an inclusive facilitation guide that we believe can be valuable to facilitators everywhere who want to make the virtual spaces where they lead more inclusive – and therefore transformative.
In the meantime, NASA Space Apps Challenge (led by NASA’s Earth Science Division and implemented by SecondMuse, Booz Allen Hamilton and Mindgrub) pivoted to virtual space too and gathered over 45,000 participants across more than 220 locations in 150 countries and created the NASA Space Apps COVID-19 Challenge, which generated over 1,400 solutions to pandemic related challenges.
“We had never done a fully virtual global hackathon,” Freeman says. “But in a matter of weeks, the whole thing was online.”
The format had changed, but the imperatives remain the same.
This is the third article in our ongoing Common Threads series, which casts a spotlight on the “common threads” that run through all our work across sectors and geographies. Read previous articles below: