The organization analysis is the major final project in this Ethics course. For this project, you will volunteer with an organization whose mission appears to be aligned with your values, and you will analyze the values of that organization–both the values they claim to uphold, and the values that you see in practice through working with them–in relation to some of the articles from the course and in relation to your reflections on your personal moral philosophy.
This project will include all of the following:
- Identifying an organization that does work that you believe is morally good
- Volunteering with that organization for at least 10 hours
- Learning about the organization’s stated moral values (you will need to read mission statements, vision statements, and similar documents where the organization defines what it does and why it does it)
- Observing the moral values that the organization actually lives out (by volunteering with them and “excavating” the values that you observed in practice)
- Comparing the organization’s stated moral values to its lived moral values
- Situating the organization’s stated moral values and lived moral values in relation to other important concepts in moral philosophy, informed by at least three articles from the course (at least one of which must be an article you haven’t yet worked with)
- Reflecting on all of the above from your perspective, informed by your personal moral philosophy.
You can have experience working with the organization already, but you cannot use your memories of past experiences as a substitute for volunteering with the organization right now. This is important because you will use what you are learning about ethical reasoning as you observe the organization’s day-to-day work in relation to its values.
You will display your work in the “Organization Analysis” section of your e-portfolio. You will use Digication (bhcc.digication.com) to create your portfolio. It will be necessary for you to use the template for our course when you create your portfolio. (More detailed instructions about how to use the template will be provided.)
You should think carefully about how to communicate your work to your reader. You can organize this section of your portfolio using sub-pages if you like, with very short essays or other pieces of writing or media on each sub-page, or you can put it all on one page, perhaps as one long essay. Make the choice that you think will be best for you.
As you work on your “organization analysis” section of your e-portfolio, use the following list as a checklist. These items don’t need to appear in this exact order, but all of them should appear somewhere in the section on your organization analysis in your e-portfolio.
- Name and describe the organization you are working with
- Describe the exact work you did in your 10 hours (at least) as a volunteer with that organization
- Describe its mission/vision or similar statements of values
- Contextualize the organization’s mission in terms of moral philosophy
- Compare the organization’s stated values to your own personal moral philosophy, and explain how it is consistent with your own personal moral philosophy. If it has some differences with your own personal moral philosophy, explain those, too.
- Consider the values of the organization that you observed in practice during your time as a volunteer. How did the “lived values” of the organization’s day-to-day work that you observed reflect its stated values? Can you clearly see the links between the actual tasks that you did as a volunteer and the organization’s mission?*
- Contextualize the lived and stated values of the organization in relation to at least three articles from the course readings, at least one of which must be something you haven’t yet worked with in the course so far (for example, one of the articles from the book that you didn’t choose to post about).
- Analyze and make connections among your personal convictions, the stated mission/values of the organization, and your volunteer activity. For example: How do the values of the organization as stated in its mission/vision/values statements relate to what you did as a volunteer with the organization? How do your personal moral beliefs relate to the stated values of the organization? How do your personal moral beliefs relate to the activities you did as a volunteer with the organization?
*Just as individuals often declare moral beliefs and try to live by them in everything they do, and yet sometimes fall short, organizations sometimes fall short of living out their mission, vision, and values in everything they do. This is normal.
* Sometimes, when you observe that someone’s behavior indicates that they are living by values that don’t match the values that they have stated, that is a sign that they need to be more disciplined in living their our stated values. Other times, that is a sign that they need to revise their stated values in relation to their real, practical work. This is true for people and organizations alike.
* Remember that fundamentally, this is an analysis–similar to a research project. You’re not attacking the organization or judging that it is hypocritical if you find that your experience with the organization was out of alignment with their stated values. You’re just reporting on and analyzing your own experience.
* Since you worked with the organization for 10 hours, you have seen only a small part of everything that the organization does. However, you can still speak with confidence about the small part that you have seen.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Where do I begin?
Step 1: Figure out which organization you will work with for this project. You need to choose an organization that does something that you think is morally good–that is aligned, at least in part, with your values. You must spend a minimum of 10 hours volunteering with the organization. Most people do 10-15 hours, but some people choose to do more.
I recommend that you identify a few possible organizations to work with to start, because the current needs of an organization might not be a match for what you can offer as a volunteer, and sometimes organizations require you to do training or orientation before volunteering. It’s good to have a few backup plans in case your first choice doesn’t work out. You should start looking for an organization no later than week 5.
OK, how do I find an organization?
You must choose an organization that you believe is dedicated to doing good, as you define it. Probably, it is working to advance something that you believe is morally right, or to reduce something that you believe is morally wrong, or maybe even both.
Beyond that, the choice is yours. You need to identify an organization that you think would be a good fit, look on their website to see what their volunteer needs might be, and, if those needs match your schedule and skills, approach them to offer your service.
What do you mean, an “organization”?
This is a word that can include many things. Below, I have listed some categories of “organizations,” with a few examples of specific organizations that would belong to each category.
The organizations that are provided as examples on this list are not the only options! Some of them might not even need new volunteers right now! They are listed here to give you a clearer idea of what is meant by each category, not to limit or direct your choices. Boston has a lot of organizations that you could analyze. These are just the ones I happened to think of.
What kind of work can I do as a volunteer?
Sometimes, when people think of “volunteer work” they think of chopping vegetables for a soup kitchen, cleaning up trash in a public space, or sorting clothes for a clothing drive.
This is important work. But these are not the only options. There are many service opportunities that you might not be thinking of that might be a match for your skills and interests.
For instance, many small nonprofit organizations need help with various kinds of media work, like designing and updating their websites, or photography and video editing. Some organizations work with people who need to receive information in languages other than English, so if you can speak and write well in a language other than English, you might be able to help such an organization by translating their materials. Other organizations need IT help–setting up wireless routers, installing programs, fixing computers, etc. If you can get paid to do a specific kind of work professionally, you can probably find an organization that needs volunteers to do that work. That would be an especially valuable way to contribute. Volunteermatch.org has ads for volunteer barbers, tour guides, accountants, cooking instructors, drivers, healthcare advocates, interpreters, musicians, office managers, and many, many more kinds of skilled workers. Sometimes, this work can even be done remotely or virtually–in other words, you might be able to most or all of your service hours for this project online.
You might already be part of a community where you could volunteer, such as a neighborhood group or a religious congregation. Great! Or, perhaps you have received services from an organization in the past, or maybe you’re receiving services from an organization now. That organization might need volunteers. Many people find it affirming to do volunteer work to support an organization that has helped them, and often people who receive services from an organization can benefit from seeing current or past recipients of services volunteering with the organization.