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  • benjaminnewman01

Mod. 3.1 - Facilitating Care

When we work with others, we have the capacity to treat them with care, and also to cause them harm. Care and harm are exhibited and received through actions, not intentions. It doesn't matter what you feel about someone if you don't show it. It also doesn't matter what your intention was if it was received differently. As you conduct your Capstone Community Change project and reflect on it, consider what role care may play for the partners and communities involved.

Partnering With Care:

While the Capstone Community Change project is perhaps not the time to do a deep dive into the literature on community care, it is a good time to reflect on the ways that you can show up as a partner who is respectful, thoughtful, and invested in your community's success alongside your own. What does it mean to you to work with others from a basis of care? This is not a trivial or simple question.

Here are just a few of the complexities involved: Each of us has a different set of priorities in terms of how it feels to us when we are truly being cared for in a relationship (whether professional or personal). What feels like care to one person might feel like harm to another. When it comes to care at work, many of us may have been trained or encouraged to treat care dismissively or to see it as unprofessional. Sometimes we might feel care but behave in ways that are careless or harmful. Care and production can sometimes be in conflict, and without a clear, shared value system (i.e. "people over product" or "the project matters more than individual needs") many people feel ill-equipped when trying to resolve these conflicts. Sometimes false expressions of care can be cynically weaponized, used to accelerate trust without a foundation of real reciprocity or respect. Especially in an age of online listicles of "15 things you can do to show your employees you care," sometimes care goes sideways.

Take a few minutes to jot down answers to these five questions:

What actions has a partner or colleague taken that exhibited meaningful care to you? What are your own "go-to" behaviors you use to demonstrate care for partners or colleagues? Are there any triggers that often cause you to "shut down" your own expressions of care, i.e. behaviors from others that make you feel less generous or capable of directing care their way? Have you ever tried to demonstrate care and had it backfire on you? Have you ever held back from demonstrating care because of fear (that it would be poorly received, that you would look soft or silly, that it would conflict with other goals, etc.)?

With your Capstone Community Change project, I recommend that you challenge yourself to show just a little more care than you typically feel is available to you when working with partners. We all have triggers that cause us to shut down care, and the drive to "get the project done" is often a potent one. But the Capstone Community Change project is expressly about working with and in community. One possible indicator of success might be the formation or strengthening of a caring relationship with your partners.

When you are doing your project, I invite you to consider:

What personal value system around care am I employing in this project? Is there a simple credo or rule that I'm operating under? Is that value system shared with my partners? Are there actions I am taking to exhibit that value system? Are there further actions I could take? And when reflecting on your project (and perhaps while making your 5-8 minute video), I invite you to consider: What role, if any, did care play in the formation of your partnerships and the execution of your project? Are there any indicators of project success or failure that you see as related to care? Perhaps indicators of a more trusting, caring relationship among partners or community participants?

On Your Own...

We may not often talk about care at work, but it plays a role in all our projects. Before you go to the next assignment and reflect on harm, please share an example of one way you are demonstrating or receiving care in your Capstone Community Change project in the comments below. You can share an action you are taking with your partners, a specific experience of care you encountered, or perhaps a behavior you are noticing from a partner that feels like care to you. If care has not (yet) been a factor in your project, you can share an action you intend to take soon.


In BCO’s MD Search, the value of care is critical. Leading up to the search, I heard from several of the Orchestra’s musicians, who shared that the last MD Search was not handled with care, and as a result resentment built up in the Orchestra causing many players to leave. To help ensure this wouldn’t happen again, I impressed upon the Search Committee Chair the importance of having a group of BCO’s musicians participate in the search committee and giving each one the same level of influence in the decision making process as the rest of the members. Knowing BCO’s musicians are critical to the company’s ongoing success, the Chair agreed to my proposal. During the search process I have done my best to demonstrate that level of care by following up with each musician on the committee individually to answer their questions to ensure consistency in the process. Not just talking the talk, but walking the walk.

An example of care during the process occurred during the most recent search committee meeting. One of the musicians was unable to participate in the meeting due to an evening rehearsal that overlapped with the meeting time. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss which candidates would advance to the semifinal round of consideration. This musician informed me and the Search Committee Chair that she was concerned about missing the meeting, because she has had direct experience with some of the candidates and wanted to make sure her experience was represented in the meeting. While the Search Committee Chair ensured her that her perspective would be considered in line with everyone else’s through her candidate rankings, the musician was concerned that the discussion during the meeting would be the element that would finalize the candidates selected.

I encouraged the musician to send me an email before her rehearsal that represented her views on the candidates and I would share them with the search committee during the meeting that evening. She followed through and I ended up sharing her feedback with the Search Committee twice during the meeting as there were concerns and strong views about two candidates' advancement. After hearing the musician’s concerns as I shared them, the committee considered the musician’s direct experience with the candidates to be of immense value and selected other candidates to advance.

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