What is an organizational culture? Further, what is this culture of sustainability we speak so much about and all aspire to be a part of here at Sustainable Waterloo Region? To me, it’s an environment that is open, flexible, motivational, and downright inspiring that also provides critical extracurricular opportunities for social interaction, professional development, and education.

Now in my second stint as a Sustainable Waterloo Region co-op student (with a volunteer position lodged in the middle), I have witnessed a striking evolution in our workplace. As Sustainable Waterloo Region grew, and we launched the Regional Carbon Initiative, there was a sudden change in our organizational culture. To quote our humble leader, it was “really happening.” The organization had become inherently transformational, innovative, and unique, while still boasting an entrepreneurial-community vibe. We now had an office, a sporadic growth of volunteers, the development of lasting friendships, and the solidification of a true organizational identity and philosophy. The office had become a unique amalgamation of a university library, a community center, a corporate office, and, to many, a second home.

Today our culture is one that is open to discussion and critical thought at all levels of the organization, which is why we make time for team breakouts to discuss things like “what would we do if we had $1,000,000.” Our culture is one that values relationships and community, which is why we continue to hold monthly socials like game night, evening hikes, and of course a weekly book club or discussion club (last week’s topic: Fear and Social Change). We continue to value volunteer development, which is why volunteers are encouraged to create and pursue projects and roles they are passionate about so as to ensure their work is of mutual benefit to both the volunteer and the organization.

These are things that have jumped out for me in just over a year of working with Sustainable Waterloo Region, and these are certainly the things that keep me interested, and motivated to contribute. Motivation in a workplace is an interesting thing, and in my little experience with companies of varying sizes, it has become evident that motivation is not a function of compensation, monetary reward, or even self-advancement, but rather it is a function of autonomy, mastery, and purpose – a point that is brilliantly illustrated in this video. A culture that is able to cultivate employee motivation in this way is certainly one that is going to flourish and find success along the way.