Introducing 5DL: Core Values


If you’re thinking about working with us as a client, team member, partner, or vendor, it may be helpful to understand some of the values we live by. Most of them will be familiar, as they are the values needed to generate the environment of trustfulness and growth that’s essential for effective human development. Here are some of the most important:

Growth. Human development is what we do and it is also central to who we are as people and as an organization. At fiveDlearning, we are committed to leaving everyone we engage better-off than we found them. We mean everyone: our own people, our partners and vendors, our clients, their clients, and other stakeholders in our engagements. We believe that everyone is capable of growth, and we do our best to support anyone who wants to grow with or through us.   

Expanding Possibilities. We exist to grow possibilities for our clients and those they serve. We build only win:win engagements—and we prefer win:win:win, where the engagement grows possibilities for stakeholders beyond our clients as well. We see zero-sum, win:lose engagements as a violation of the values we hold, and we avoid them.

Integrity. We tell the truth (always constructively; see below), even when it’s hard. We do what we say. We honor the spirit as well as the letter of our word. We treat everyone, including competitors as well as team members, partners, clients, and other stakeholders, the way we would wish to be treated. We expect our partners and clients to do the same.

Humility. We’re honest about our limitations and about what we don’t know. We’re smart enough to learn from anyone who has something useful to teach. That absolutely includes our clients, from whom we learn tremendous amounts in each engagement. (The relentless, mandatory bragging on this website aside,) we try hard to listen more than talk. We give credit where credit is due.

Collaboration and Diversity. We believe that “all of us is smarter than any of us.” As applied researchers, we also know (this is a matter of empirical evidence, not belief) that diverse perspectives improve decision making and organizational outcomes. We work hard to maximize the diversity of our own team and to acquire through collaboration perspectives and resources that improve outcomes for our clients. We are good collaborative partners and inclusive, collaborative “good citizens” of our communities and the clients and nations we serve.

Transparency and Openness. We are candid about our motives and our incentives. When we have a conflict of interest, or even the appearance of one, we say so. We share all news, “the good, the bad, and the ugly.” We do not shy away from difficult conversations. We are committed to openness in another way, too: all educational materials we develop are licensed as Open Educational Resources (OER) so that they can deliver the greatest possible benefit to the greatest number of individuals, consistent with our mission.

Respectful Critique. Human development requires assessment and feedback, which can be uncomfortable. We are committed to giving honest feedback that supports people to improve. We distinguish between critique (well-intended and respectful feedback about something that can be improved, containing meaningful and useful suggestions for improvement), criticism (feedback on something that may or may not be improvable and that lacks constructive intent), and insult (disrespectful observations or assertions intended to injure). We tolerate only critique. We also try hard to “catch people doing something right.” We would like to acknowledge Anas ElJamal, an early 5DL team member, who taught us the distinctive power, importance, and value of these concepts for human development  in emerging economies.

In addition to these humanistic values, we also hold some important instrumental values that we have found to be essential to crafting high-quality, high-impact engagements for our clients. Another way to describe these might be “organizational capability building values.” They include:

Ruthless Pragmatism. We live in an imperfect world that expects and needs results. Our engagements honor those needs. We strive always for the highest quality and performance, and for the greatest possible amount and scope of human growth, but we do not let the best become the enemy of the good. When we must compromise to deliver results that matter, we do not conceal that compromise from our partners, clients, and other stakeholders (see Integrity and Transparency, below).

ROI. In every human organization—even schools!—human development competes for scarce resources with other important objectives. Our engagements maximize clients’ ROI, so they can conserve resources for other important priorities as well.

Quick Wins. The full fruits of human development can take years to arrive. Our engagements deliver results sooner than that—even if those early results are only a small subset of the full benefits of the engagement. Often, the achievement of “quick wins” is essential if a project is going to gain the support it needs to persist and deliver its long-term gains.

Mission. Every organization has a mission. At a minimum, our engagement will help a client organization to achieve its mission in some direct way. However, it should also go further—our engagement should expand the organization’s ability to achieve its mission going forward, as well.

Agility. The world changes fast, and the pace of change is accelerating. Organizations need to be able to collect and recognize potentially important new information from diverse sources early, assess its salience and importance quickly and accurately, and respond effectively: this is agility. Our engagements enhance our clients’ agility, improving one, two, or all three of these characteristics.

Sovereignty (Self-Determination, Autonomy). Every person and every organization want to control their own destinies. None of us achieve that perfectly: everyone’s path is contingent upon others in some way. Our engagements enhance the freedom of our clients (individuals and organizations) to act effectively in their environments going forward. Given that we work in emerging economies, where large amounts of human development work are often designed, led, and/or implemented by expats, this value includes a commitment to comprehensive, rapid indigenization. Every engagement prepares a client to assume full responsibility quickly for designing, leading, managing, operating, and staffing, and continuously improving its own human development activities going forward. We don’t accept “open-ended” engagements, only projects where we can include clear exit criteria turning full control over to the client quickly.

Sustainability. “In order to thrive, one must survive.” That’s true in many fields and especially in human development, where benefits can take years to mature. Every one of our engagements has a sustainment plan unless the client explicitly refuses one—and every plan includes Continuing Quality Imrprovement (CQI) and Continuing Impact Improvement (CII) plans, so that the client’s ROI continues to improve throughout the lifespan of the project.

We welcome your thoughts and comments below. Interested in learning more? Please drop us a note at