What’s in a name? Announcing a new job title for Alex Darling! You can skip ahead if you can’t wait to find out. But here’s the story that helps explain the change.
Whether it is the private or non-profit sector, catchy job titles and program or product names can be used to either signal a fresh approach or to make a traditional approach seem fresh.
As LiveWorkPlay approaches it’s 20th anniversary (which will be celebrated on June 4) we have a rich history of name changes. The first 10 years of our history were dominated by the search for catchy acronyms to describe our programs. These included such efforts as WOWEE (World of Work Experience and Exploration, a summer program for adults) and OOOT (On Our Own Together, a housing demonstration project) and SMILE (Skills and More for Independent Living and Employment).
Starting around 2006, our acronyms started disappearing as we adjusted our services and supports to become person-centred and community-focused, and we eliminated in-house programs. You will still hear some acronyms, but they are in reference to our community partners like YMCA-YWCA, CCOC, or OSSC. The change in language and the change in direction worked hand in hand. We moved from building programs that kept people out of the rest of the community to building social capital and interdependence as valued citizens in and of the community!
The organization has also changed names (keep this in mind for future trivia questions at our live events!) several times. We were briefly known as the Keen Learning Centre for Youth, then Special Needs Network, and for the past 15 years as LiveWorkPlay. Don’t worry, there are no plans to change it, although please note that “(LWP) Incorporated” was officially dropped from the name last year, so technically speaking, we’ve had FOUR different names (visit LiveWorkPlay 101 our guide to using our name and other language).
Job titles have also been changing to keep up with the times, but not always to everyone’s satisfaction. When Fran Childs became our first Volunteer Coordinator, it soon became clear that recruiting, training, and coordinating volunteers was just one part of the job.
Other important work is about building and managing relationships between LiveWorkPlay members, other citizens, and groups of individuals in the community.
Those citizens from the community get initially introduced to the organization as “volunteers” but their roles and relationships shift and evolve over time, for example, resulting in reciprocal friendships with our members. At that point, the person has multiple roles that can’t be described only as “volunteer” and likewise, the staff member that is most involved with supporting their roles goes beyond “volunteer coordination.”
This April 14-15 Fran’s successor Alex Darling (pictured above right) who has been the Volunteer Coordinator since 2012 will be presenting at the Learning Community for Person-Centred Practices Gathering along with Allison Moores, our Support Coordinator (her title needs work too, but we don’t have the answer yet).
LiveWorkPlay Co-Leader & Director of Communications Keenan Wellar (long title, but he’s OK with it) was thinking about Alex and Allison’s presentation and was cringing at the prospect of Alex announcing herself as the Volunteer Coordinator and having to spend 10 minutes explaining that most of the person-centred outcomes she supports are not really “volunteer coordination.”
“And so, in the middle of watching the late night news, it just popped into my head,” says Keenan.
“We already have three staff with the title of COMMUNITY CONNECTOR [George, Caitlin, and Grace] and so PEOPLE CONNECTOR just seemed to align with Alex’s role within the team,” adds Keenan.
Keeping the change on the down-low, Alex distributed new business cards to her peers at a staff meeting, and the new title was an instant hit. Everybody got it.
“I realize it won’t give people an instant picture of what I do, but the picture they were getting from “Volunteer Coordinator” wasn’t the right one anyway. This is going to be a great conversation-starter for orientations and presentations because it sends the right message. We do have all the necessary formal processes for volunteer intake, but this is just the first step along the way to the real journey we are supporting, which is building relationships between individuals, and helping people have a great life as included members of their own community,” said Alex.