The First Phase Of An Ethical Framework

Being part of something new has always felt like a gift. As part of the first proper ethic’s class at AC4D I knew I would be able to reflect on some of the things I’ve learned through experience that have helped me through an ethically challenging place. Four values I want to remain in my ethical framework are empathy, openness, humility, and self-awareness. In no particular order…

I viewed this assignment as something that I wanted to carry with me well past the program. I hope to continue doing research into areas unfamiliar to me. I thought about things that have served me well in hindsight of experiencing hardship in job’s I’ve had.

I believe that ethics are something you carry with you, they’re inherent. They are based in values that were instilled in you as a child. Others come from experiences you have that forcibly change how you have to view your current situation. I think that they should be adapted and improved upon, at times forgotten, and then put into practice again. I shared four values I feel that are integral pieces of my framework. To be improved upon and practiced whenever possible. After discussion with one of the teachers of this class I was encouraged to have more questions than answers, I hope that you’ll read them and know that this is not prescriptive. Just things I want to carry forward in my life and work.

Values
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Empathy
I feel it can pave a path for emotive conversation. Through empathy we can gain informational results of higher quality. Through empathy grows trustworthiness and through trust is a better relationship. This is something I’ve learned through loss groups. I have lost close loved ones to suicide. In turn, I have been a part of many loss groups and conversations with other survivors of suicide. When meeting in these groups a primary rule is to listen. It’s through listening where I feel we can begin to put empathy the most.

Self-awareness
It’s important to be cognizant of where you’re coming from in a project. What has your pathway provided to you in your current position? Are you aware of privilege? Are you familiar with bias? Are you aware of privilege to even consider these factors? I believe being able to recognize yourself as an individual separately from others you are working alongside is a benefit to the environment and others.

Humility
Remembering that you’re a part of something bigger is integral to a project. No matter what title you wear, pay-grade you possess, or school you went to, the ability to speak with everyone on the same plane is of utmost importance. Whatever you bring to a project is important, but it’s also important to recognize you’re trying to identify and bring to light is not for you. It’s for the user you’re designing for. No passing judgement for the persons you aim to benefit

Openness
Exposure to new things can benefit a human being. Experiencing a lifestyle different than your own, interacting in a language you’re not familiar with can force you to view a situation differently. Openness and attentiveness to your inner feelings, ability to adapt and curiosity into things outside your norm can all help you identify.

Challenging My Framework
I gained and have challenged these values through some of my own experiences. In 2015 I worked for a now defunct English language school in Shanghai, China. It was a charade of sorts. Daily I was asked to sing and dance in front of random families who were pulled in off the street for the sale of english classes. The curriculum felt very sales oriented, and ultimately the most effort was put into the showcases for the parents of the students, not on actual learning. I felt humiliated at times, literally singing and dancing in front of 2 and 3 year olds and sometimes their parents. However, I had to do this job. My visa was attached to this, and I was in over my head with student debt. I found myself practicing humility. What made me think I was above this job? Why did I feel this type of way? I was forcibly challenging myself to readjust my personal view on what this organization was doing.

The second situation I found myself challenged in was the job I worked after Happy Goal Kids, as a contractor for the Department of Defense, in the Pentagon. I was working on contracts and papers to have military uniforms changed in Afghanistan. It felt strange to be contributing to the development of something that I couldn’t fully grasp. I felt I was exercising self-awareness. It took a moment (months) to realize how strange and out of place I felt. I learned through self assessment that I wanted to benefit people, not support divide.

Through our current research with JUST – our capstone partner I have had to exercise all of these values. My team-mate Ana and I have had to speak with quite a number of parents to understand their additional responsibilities that come along with having a child. I felt so scared, uncomfortable, and unsure as to what to ask this group of humans. I had bias, I had ideas of what the conversations would be like, and I had to check them at the door. Throughout some of our interviews Ana and I were referred to as “us” or equals to these parents. Realizing that my own distorted views of parents vs not parents brought me right back to assessing these values I shared with you here. Alongside a very, very simple graphic of my values on ‘pillars’.

Below I share a visual from one of our participants in the JUST capstone research project. We asked our participant to write down a paycheck timeline for us, and then write where their major bills were due. Screen Shot 2019-12-13 at 4.07.46 PM

It was through this participants explanation of their timeline where they explained that despite their hardships, and overall feelings toward their grim financial situations that their family was the most important thing to them. They valued love, giving, and gratefulness over any monetary value they did or didn’t have. It was here where I remembered that these values or ethical nuggets are far more important than many other things.