“The meaning of love is not to be confused with some sentimental outpouring. Love is something much deeper than emotional bosh.”
–Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Strength to Love, 1963
Building a corporate culture isn’t easy. It’s often a pacing exercise. Learning to pace yourself alongside the evolving story of your company and its mission. Keeping pace, so that you might capture those moments where you bring your company culture to life.
It requires a tremendous amount of effort to refine and set down these steadfast, guiding principles of your work.
Over the years, at Hurdle, we have pruned and sculpted our company culture. In each revision, we return to our core values, to our vision for what Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. called the beloved community. We have many, over 20 in fact. We realize this is not the norm. And that is precisely the point. Life-overcome for the Black, Indigenous and Communities of Color we serve has always required a collective agreement to a deep and broad set of core values. At Hurdle, we model ourselves after this legacy. It is a legacy of the African philosophy of Ubuntu: “I am because we are; and because we are, therefore I am.”
Hurdle’s deep and broad set of core values ranges from antiracist, to innovative, to empathetic, to social justice-minded, to... While we often say these values are equally weighted, there is one value that I believe is foundational to everything we do–– love.
I’m aware of the irony: a founder and CEO of a venture-backed company writing openly about love. Some might think it is incongruent. For me, love has always been the required starting point.
This central commitment to love for humanity was at the heart of Dr. Martin Luther King’s work. His work was deeply inspired by his faith, and he believed he served a greater call to live out his love for humanity in his work. He gave meaning to the term beloved community, a community in which everyone is cared for, absent of poverty, hunger, and hate. Today, in honor of Dr. King, we remember this legacy of the beloved community.
Love has kept me stubbornly in the space of mental health equity. Especially during times of uncertainty, my love for humanity and my belief that I serve a call bigger than myself has kept me tethered to Hurdle’s mission work.
In the words of Kenyan literary scholar James Ogude: “We have the ability, as people, to dig into our human values, to go for the best of them, in order to bring about healing and to bridge the gap.” At Hurdle, we go – and start, and end – with the best of them. A love for humanity.
This was what Dr. King hoped to inspire in his followers, and fellow American citizens. Love is what he hoped for the oppressed and suffering. And he knew that a lack of love was creating tears in the fabric of humanity. He understood, deeply, what it looked like and felt like to live in systems that had become misfigured and perverse over time because they were not designed with love.
"Love is the force that can cut through race, gender, ethnicity, class, and even generational trauma – all of the things that separate us. It is the force that will help us come correct."
- Kevin Dedner, MPH
I must admit, there is tension every day as a CEO of a venture-backed health equity company. Growing the company in a very competitive market while keeping our health moonshot firmly in view has required nothing short of 20 core values, each rooted in love.
We summarize our understanding of this woven identity as #TheHurdleWay. We carry our communal identity forward with us in our therapy, our patient billing models, decision-making, Slack interactions, team huddles, and virtual watercooler interactions. We aim to do this every day. Some days, we miss the mark. The next day, we start and try again from a place of love.
My commitment is to my team and investors, but most importantly, to my faith. I believe very deeply that I have a higher responsibility and am called to do something bigger than myself. Most of us who build companies like Hurdle understand that everything works together. I know the personal stories of each of my employees. We create intentional space to learn one another’s stories. I know why each of my team members is here. I understand why they are so committed. Love is the glue that binds us to each other and to our mission.
In his final days, Dr. King devoted his teachings to the idea of a beloved community. The idea was also a quiet, driving force throughout his short life. It is fitting that we think about the beloved community as we seek to transform unjust systems. It is the force that can cut through race, gender, ethnicity, class, and even generational trauma – all of the things that separate us. It is the force that will help us come correct.