Organizational DNA

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Organizational DNA often gets cooked into the mix early – and then sometimes everything is affected by it. The way corners are cut or not. The degree to which constituents are consulted, the principles of the organization and its work can sometimes become the poles against which everything gets measured and… sometimes not.

For any observer of civil society, this month has been action-packed and sometimes disturbing, especially as regards disaster responses. Today, of course, ProPublica and NPR released the first article in an investigative series about the Red Cross, specifically about its performance during Superstorm Sandy and Hurricane Isaac. And this comes after a few weeks of watching the public sector’s confusion surrounding a cohesive response (or relative lack thereof) to the Ebola outbreak, culminating in New Jersey’s chaotic handling of the mandatory quarantine of an asymptomatic nurse who was returning from a stint of volunteering with Doctors Without Borders in Sierra Leone.

This last, of course, if it were to catch on, would be in no one’s best interest. Everyone is clear that the outbreak will only be slowed through stemming it at its source, and medical volunteers to do that work are badly needed.

In the midst of all of thisone thing has become clearDoctors Without Borders has developed into a pretty phenomenal, feet-on-the-ground, put-your-money-where-your-mouth-is kind of organization—the kind of organization that addresses pain directly while actively trying to address the systems producing the pain, whether political, environmental, or simply embedded in a set of wrong beliefs. This is in their DNA, apparently.

What’s in the DNA of your organization? The question is worth considering.