One small group, one set of values, one ambitious purpose and vision…

By Cindy Vallance (@cdvallance)

Last week’s blog focused on the importance of values. But some wonder, wouldn’t they be pretty much the same for any organisation? The reality is that the subtleties count.

For instance, compare these: The UK army’s values are: courage, discipline, respect for others, integrity, loyalty and selfless commitment whereas the 2012 Olympic/Paralympic values are respect, excellence, friendship, courage, determination, inspiration, and equality. Yes there are some similarities (courage, respect), but some real differences too in the words as well as the intent behind the words. For instance, courage in the sports arena undoubtedly looks quite different from courage on the battlefield. However, both of these organisations have determined that choosing these values to inform their actions is useful. Many organisations today share this view.

To bring values closer to home, how can we make these real at the University of Kent? Well, here is one example. Back when the Social Sciences Change Academy group first gathered in September 2011, we decided at a grassroots level some values that were important to us – in fact, so many values we had difficulty remembering them all (after all, 11 values is a lot and we even added a 12th – learning – based on our collective experiences this past year).

LESSON 1 – most people can likely remember no more than seven key words; five or six values are much more manageable than twelve.

And how did we get from twelve values to our final five? It was quite simple really. Firstly, we refined our existing purpose and vision through a lively discussion with everyone taking part and working to ensure we didn’t get too precious about who came up with which idea. We ended up with some refinements to our working statements created this past year.

Our Purpose

To encourage a stronger community of learning through collaboration between students, academic staff and professional services staff.

Our Vision

We will be stronger by working together through times of complexity, ambiguity and uncertainty. We will inspire creative partnerships that deliver positive organisational change.

LESSON 2 – leaving egos at the door to allow for an open discussion is critical in obtaining consensus on purpose and vision.

Finally, with our purpose and vision in mind, we individually voted on our top 5 from the 12 values we had developed. We used post-it-notes to write these down, and then posted them up on the wall. We then counted them up and took stock. We found there was some repetition with wording when we considered values compared to our purpose and vision and after some further discussion, ended up with the following five values.






It is our goal to exemplify these values, both in our day-to-day behaviours as well as how we approach activities within the Social Sciences Change Academy initiative and with regular check ins against our purpose and vision.

LESSON 3 – take the time to set strong foundations and then use this as the basis to develop something the group believes in and can be proud of.

What kind of environment might we build if we all did our best to live these values at the University of Kent?


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