The Symbiotic Relationship of Company Culture and Community Connection

By Chris Vandall, associate principal, OZ Architecture

Since its inception more than 50 years ago, OZ Architecture has cultivated community outreach as a core value. We see it as our responsibility as a business to support our communities and the people in them through the design work that we do, as well as through additional outreach, giving and service.

Fast Company and The Denver Post have honored OZ with best business awards, and we attribute much of this to our culture. Community outreach and service are part of this culture, and a major factor in recruiting and retention.

To be effective, community stewardship must be part of a company’s core set of values, intrinsic to daily operations and decision-making. It’s a foundational pillar of corporate social responsibility, a concept that finds its way into stakeholder meetings, social events, happy hours, hiring and new business opportunities.

Community stewardship is one of the easier pillars to build for corporate social responsibility and can make one of the strongest impacts on company culture. Everyone has an interest or cause — whether it’s their child’s school, a local arts organization, feeding the hungry or providing housing for homeless. These service opportunities provide ways to connect with coworkers and develop stronger relationships, leadership skills and team building opportunities. In short, cultivating intentional values of giving back drives a strong and meaningful company culture.

At OZ Architecture, we have woven community stewardship tightly into our core values. Recently, we created OZ Gives as a grassroots steering committee which provides direction for partnering with community organizations, coordinating volunteer service days and organizing fundraising and donation efforts throughout the year. We focus our support on housing and health of the homeless, mentoring future professionals in our industry and supporting environmental causes that build strong communities. By identifying these specific missions, we can focus our efforts and drive strong impacts.

We are incredibly proud of how our staff has taken to the OZ Gives program.

“OZ Gives has been a great resource for me to become more immersed in the Denver community, particularly since I am still new to the city. I think programs like OZ Gives benefit both the company and the community, as it provides opportunities for
interpersonal connections for individuals and organizations in our area, as well as for our employees. It’s important for us to be able to get outside the office and engage in the community we design for.” says Lexi Gustafson, architectural associate (hired at OZ in 2019).

“As architects, we are charged with a unique and humbling task in being able to impact change through the communities and spaces that we create. Volunteering helps us to better fulfill this mission in interfacing directly with the people within these communities by helping to build someone’s home, advocating for at risk youth or improving our neighborhoods through planting trees for those otherwise unable. Volunteering opportunities like these provide an outlet for us to better fulfill our mission and contribute to the fantastic culture that sets OZ apart from other firms, making it a great place to work,” says Cameron Parker, architectural associate (hired at OZ in 2016).

The opportunities to work and interact with partnering organizations have a big impact on the effectiveness on the company culture. Some of our more successful opportunities are with Habitat for Humanity because of the connection with the architecture, design, and construction industries, and with Denver Digs Trees for their efforts to cultivate greener, healthier, and more vibrant communities.

“Habitat for Humanity is proud to partner with OZ Architecture to build and preserve affordable homes. The firm’s employees are eager to give back to their community and their enthusiasm is unparalleled. When OZ partners with a non-profit organization they fully commit and support the organization through a variety of avenues. For example, OZ employees volunteer on Habitat construction sites, consult on architectural plans and serve on our young professionals committee,” says Jeanne Fischetti, director of Sponsorships, Habitat for Humanity of Metro Denver, Partnering Organization since 1994

“OZ Architecture’s partnership has been a real gift for our Denver Digs Trees program. OZ’s sponsorship dollars help us provide free trees to residents. And the skilled hands and people power of OZ team members provide trees for residents who have physical
limitations.” — Kim Yuan-Farrell, executive director, The Park People, Partnering Organization since 2015

No matter what level of giving is right for your company, community outreach can make an impact on your companies’ culture as well as make a powerful impact on your communities.

Chris Vandall is an associate principal and project manager at  OZ Architecture who facilitates cultural and educational activities for the firm, including OZ Gives. He can be reached at

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