Our 20th Year!

9 02 2011

EnMark Associates officially opened its doors as a consulting firm in May, 1991. That makes this our twentieth year in operation. It’s a milestone I’m proud of, and one I plan to mark in several different ways. We’ll celebrate, of course, but also look for “pay it forward” opportunities. I will find ways to acknowledge those whose help and contributions have strengthened the firm over the years, as well as those whose personal support and mentorship have meant so much to my career.

Oddly enough, the landscape of our “not-for-profit” sector (I’ve decided I much prefer the term community benefit sector), for the most part, hasn’t changed all that much during the past two decades. Agencies still call on us for the same types of support and counsel that were needed back in the nineties, and the community as a whole still struggles with many of the same challenges that existed in 1991. That’s largely disappointing. While I can look back at specific successes – innovative projects, effective programs, even considerable change initiatives – the sector as a whole remains burdened and overwhelmed. Ironically, it’s this very sector that houses so many of the organizations on which we hang the future of our community…those that will eradicate violence, end poverty, inspire young people and turn our diverse challenges into shared accomplishments. A pessimist might say this does not bode well for our collective futures.

But an optimist, like myself, sees that there are some fairly clear causes for the stagnation (and, yes, sees the successes that are shining examples of what happens when it does all come together) and sees that there is great potential in targeting these causes. And that is where I hope to focus my practice in the years to come. I am inspired by the countless volunteers who continue to drive the engines of our community benefit sector despite its shortcomings. I am heartened by the occasional glimpse of visionary thinking that emerges around community planning tables. And I am challenged by the work to be done in harnessing the knowledge that’s out there and applying it towards action that will achieve results.

Some of my current interests in this regard will begin appearing more often in this blog and on EnMark Associates’ web site. These include new approaches for funders, shifts in community thinking, and governance basics that realign effort with desired impact. I’ll be looking for new opportunities to apply what I’ve learned about this community in ways that will significantly better this community…not just as a consultant, but as a concerned and engaged citizen (more and more these two are inextricably linked). As the anniversary of my consulting practice draws nearer, I am reminded that I have been a fortunate observer inside the gritty workings of this community, where an up-close and unobstructed view has afforded me some unique and very valuable experiences. Some of these were awe-inspiring. Others were heartbreaking. But all have given me insight and taught me in one way or another.

The talented individuals whose work has been utilized by EnMark Associates over the past 20 years have helped organizations in virtually every corner of the community benefit sector – health, social services, culture, housing, education, municipal services, community services, volunteerism, advocacy, planning, funding, policymaking…the list goes on. We have worked with front line staff and with board members, with seasoned CEOs and energetic youth. Our services have been directed towards student hunger, poverty, substance abuse, mental health, sexual health, child abuse, teen pregnancy, homelessness, supported housing for seniors, accessibility, transit, emergency food, children’s development, public health, residential services, violence prevention, trauma services, crime, community development…and others.

That’s an incredible array of experiences from which to draw, and an abundance of inspiration for what comes next.

Karen Smith



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