What is Value?

It’s time.  We need to have this conversation. I’m not the first, and I need to  research the scholars and activists already engaged.

What determines the value of a thing, an hour, a person?

I have become slightly obsessed with concern over the inequity of how we value labor, and humans in our modern world.  I think this has arisen in part from my work as a nonprofit fundraiser.   In the most blatant fashion, fundraisers are trained to spend more time, energy and strategic thinking on those donors who have capacity to give the most dollars.  It’s truly and utterly that simple.

This does not work for me.  I love, and want to focus on leadership development.  I am far more passionate about the conversations with a board member who has basically zero capacity for individual giving, but who wants to truly become a powerful advocate, and who shows up every single time our doors are open.  I’d rather spend hours coaching the enthusiastic board member with great concern for quality, than fifteen minutes pretending to care about the perfection (or not) of the aesthetic value of the table settings at the fundraiser, or why having an awkward speaker who happened to be a former client and a great person was “embarrassing.”


Because it’s never embarrassing when a person whose life is focused on raising her daughter, remaining healthy why living with HIV, and being a passionate advocate for women of color living with HIV does not have the polish of a Hollywood speaker.  These are valuable human beings.

So, what is value? Why do we permit this system to stand which gives some people too much, and others far too little?

What makes strategic thinking inherently more useful than cleaning toilets?

Why do we assume/believe that in order to wield power or responsibility, a person should be compensated better?  The truth is, that we can not justify that position if we question it.  For, the reality of the situation is we are paying people based on who is powerful – the person who demands the most, and is willing to do the worst things  to get it, wins the most booty.

For this reason I pretty much hate negotiating.  It is fundamentally weird and basically dehumanizing.  Rather than setting prices based on costs, we set them based on what we can demand for our items.

It’s all a false system of “value” based on who is stronger, louder, worse.


CAN WE PLEASE Start deconstruction of this system?   Of dehumanizing others by a system of power and bullying? of treating some as great and others as terrible, based not on their compassion or empathy or artistic capability, but their connection to and wielding of power?

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