Minerva Strategies’ Equity Journey—Part 2

The Minerva team poses in a brightly lit coworking space with windows behind them

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Minerva Strategies started as just me, at my kitchen table, with an idea.

It wasn’t revolutionary, but it felt right: Let’s build a special kind of agency that brings together great, smart people to do great, smart work for great, smart clients. And let’s make it all about creating positive impact in the world.

That’s about as far as I got in the fall of 2012. And that’s the way things stayed for years.

There was some progress. We took Minerva’s favorite client exercises and turned them on ourselves. We created a strong, distinctive brand. We formulated messaging and tweaked it and tweaked it again. We crystallized our unique value proposition and offerings.

But throughout these machinations, we never dug into the soul of Minerva Strategies. What inspires us? What makes us tick? What are the principles for how team members interact with each other and the outside world? Defining these things didn’t seem necessary because I always knew what Minerva was. Deep in my heart and my brain, I had a sense of the values and principles we live by.

The problem was that these values and principles weren’t explicit. We had become that team of great, smart people I originally envisioned. But with a team comes challenges, the greatest of which is creating a culture that ensures a diverse and geographically remote group of professionals feels welcome, included, and invested in Minerva’s work.

One key step of culture creation has been developing Minerva’s Principles—the values that define how we work with our clients and each other. Staying true to a set of principles is crucial for a mission-driven company like Minerva. Finding the right words for high-level values is difficult, but thankfully, our amazing culture consultants at CoCreate Work guided us through the process.

We started this exercise at our team retreat in September 2021. We worked in teams to hash out ideas for our principles. I had the rare communicator’s moment of looking at a blank piece of paper and thinking, “Oh shit. I have no idea what to say.”

The panic didn’t last long. I dug into my heart and my brain to find the right words. And it wasn’t just me. I was working alongside a half dozen of my favorite hearts and brains, and just like I’d envisioned at my dining room table all those years ago, we made each other’s ideas better. With CoCreate’s help and months of refining, we made magic happen.

I’m proud to share the Minerva Principles with you. These are ideas we live by: magnetism, kindness, real-world ambition, self-care, questioning, and of course, making the world a better place. This is who we are and what we stand for. I hope you’ll take a minute to read.

Line art icon of a torch in Minerva blue

The Minerva Principles

Be magnetic

We create a flywheel of magnetism. We work with joy, confidence, inclusivity, creativity, and passion. This attracts energy, stellar colleagues, and outstanding clients. Like a magnet, we trust that our principles, style, and uniqueness will repel organizations that do not appreciate our values. This magnetism is a daily practice and our most important work.

Communicate with kindness and inclusion

We are clear, concise, and transparent in how we communicate with each other and our clients. We strive for shared understanding and language. We use language that allows everyone to see themselves. When we make a mistake, we take ownership and action.

Move with real-life ambition

We push ourselves to be bold, ambitious, and creative while recognizing that capacity and fundamentals make ambitious work possible. We are realistic with our clients and ourselves about what is possible, what isn’t, and how we can get there. We have flexible boundaries. We adapt to changes and the unique needs of our clients, but never at the cost of our professional standards.

Value questions more than answers

We are open-minded and seek out new ideas, partners, and perspectives. We are confident in our ability to ask the right questions and learn. We know there’s not just one way to get it right. Even when we think we are right, we ask: What else could work? While we recognize this is a risk, we embrace the process of diving deeper to help clients get to the root causes of the issues they face.

Make time for yourself

Burnout is not a value. We do our best work when our minds, bodies, and spirits are well cared for and supported. We center learning and mentorship to bring out the best in ourselves and others. We expect Minerva team members to practice self care and we support them in this most important work. We take the time off we’ve earned. Our policies as a company reflect this understanding.

Build the world you want to live in

The issues we tackle make the world a better place for all of us. We are genuinely invested in the success of our team and clients. We freely offer and ask for support from our teammates and we assume positive intent.

About The Author

Joy Portella

Joy Portella

Founder and President

Joy leads the Minerva Strategies team, providing senior-level direction to every client. Her skills have been honed through more than two decades of experience helping organizations more effectively communicate with media, donors, policymakers and other key audiences.

Prior to establishing Minerva, Joy spent five years as director of communications at the international humanitarian organization Mercy Corps. She guided Mercy Corps’ messaging, media relations, and crisis communications, and traveled extensively to document work in global hotspots including the Horn of Africa, the Gaza Strip, and North Korea. Previously, Joy worked for a decade at leading communication firms – Burson-Marsteller, Ruder Finn and SS+K – in New York and Washington DC.