Organizational Identity- More Than the Sum of Our Services

26 February 2015

Organizational Identity- More Than the Sum of Our Services

Organizational Identity- More Than the Sum of Our Services


This next blog is written by my guest blogger Mike Coxon from Mills Community Support Corporation (The Mills) in Ontario Canada.  In 2009, The Mills started learning about and using person-centred thinking and practices within their teams and in their supports to people.  Mike has agreed to be a regular blogger and share their journey and learning with others so stay tuned for follow-up blogs from Mike.

Over the past few months, the Mills has been “rethinking” its Mission, directions and organizational identity. One of the “traps” we’ve encountered and managed to make peace with, is that of identifying ourselves as solely as a service delivery agency.  The Mills’ new strategic directions put community development and capacity building first. The provision of “supportive environments” (e.g., support services and housing) is positioned as an important means but not an end in itself.  As it now stands, we are now looking at ourselves as community builders. We look at our service provider role and the services we provide as means to support individuals to move from presence (as clients) towards contribution (as citizens). The impact we are seeking isn’t “x” people supported. What we are hoping to be a part of is the development of welcoming, healthy communities.

We’re used to seeing organizations such as the Mills portrayed in brochures which list a menu of programs or in Organizational charts. These portrayals make it easier to understand what a combination of staff, volunteers, building and funding is supposed to do. It helps to understand “how” we work, not so much “”why”.

In this post, I want to take a somewhat different look at the Mills. I’d like to introduce several themes which I believe “weave through” the work that we do. I think that these themes might be a better portrayal of “who” we are and what we are truly about.  As good people who work in good organizations continue to experience diminishing support from funders, we need to think about ourselves not simply as part of this service system or that sector, we need to rethink who we are and what impact we want to have as “associations” of committed citizens.

The Mills’ “tag line” is “People Helping People” – Although I think there might be a couple of other organizations who use this line too, I’d hope that we are able to see ourselves not as a “vending machine” for services, but as a network of caring people who support each other. It’s a challenge, but I hope that peoples’ experience of the Mills is that we are compassionate; person centered/family centered and trustworthy.  Whether it’s through the provision of affordable housing, support services, activities and programs or public education there are some common themes in what we are hoping to accomplish and how we work together:

Connecting People – help people to be connected in their community (community presence) and support people to be active members of the community (participation). This ties in very closely with… Relationships – we help people to form and sustain relationships. We support families (e.g., to support loved ones and to stay together)

Inclusion – people of all ages and abilities to belong and to be accepted; we support people and families at various life stages.  We work with other organizations to remove barriers to a “welcoming community”.

Transitions – support people with transitions in life/lifestyle. Historically, this has focused on helping people to move from institutions (e.g. Rideau Regional Center) to community living.  It also takes the form of supporting older people to “age in place” and, in relation to housing that we provide, to support some people who have been victims of violence to re-establish themselves

Good Life and a Safe Life – regardless of the population /group that we are serving, two common threads are: Promoting healthy, active lifestyles (holistic health) and promoting a safe community and safe living environments

Community Capacity Builders – The Mills has a network of community resources and partnerships. We support/engage volunteers to contribute and to grow (community engagement). We also try to serve as a catalyst and supporter for projects which benefit the whole community. We believe that everyone has gifts. We see it as part of our work to help people identify their gifts and to share them in efforts to build community vitality.

The Mills “engages” with over 1000 people in Lanark County. What’s important about this number is that it reflects a caring community, characterized by “People Helping People”. The organization is a means by which people connect and a structure through which energy and resources get aligned. Our services, our relationships with funders, our affiliations with the “sectors”, the brands and movements and even the communities in which we work, combine differently for different people.  We care a lot about how people see us – it has a huge bearing on support and credibility. That said, we want to help create more welcoming communities … to be generative … to be more than the sum of our services


Mike Coxon, CEO Mills Community Support Corporation
67 Industrial Drive, Box 610 Almonte, ON K0A 1A0 613-256-1031 Ext

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