By: Korie Marshall
You might have seen Peter Doukakis around MdBride and Valemount, but he won’t be here for long.
The board of the Robson Valley Support Society hired Doukakis as a transitional Executive Director for three and a half months. Jackie Edwards, chair of the board, says they’ve already hired a permanent executive director – Jill Craven is moving to Valemount from the Langley area with her partner and two children. She’ll be starting on Feb. 2, and will have a couple weeks working with Doukakis before he moves on.
Doukakis is a consultant based out of Vancouver Island, but he likes to find his own jobs.
“I find fulfilment in addressing challenges,” he says. He does a lot of contract work, often stuff he can do from home, like helping set up policies and frameworks, and helping organizations work better and more efficiently with other organizations that share some of the same goals.
But Doukakis also takes jobs as transitional executive directors or CEO’s, to help organizations through a transition or renewal. These jobs are temporary, maybe one to six months, and he often chooses to work for non-profits, First Nations, and tourism organizations. He usually finds the jobs himself – by looking for organizations that are transitioning between leaderships, or coming up on some milestone – like the 35 years the Robson Valley Support Society has been serving the valley.
But he also works with a network of consultants. In this case, the RVSS board had brought in a contractor to help build a human resources policy. She referred the board to Doukakis, said Edwards, because of what he does – helping non-profits get better organized, so they can concentrate more on the good work they do.
The Robson Valley Support Society has been around for 35 years, and is currently running 15 different programs with 18 staff members. Edwards says the board has started working on a strategic plan for the next few years, which will be finalized with the new Executive Director once she gets up to speed.
“We want to find the gaps and see how we can fill them,” says Edwards. “We know there are people falling through the cracks, but we have to prove the need in order to get funding for the programs.”
One example Edwards gives is with the need for assisted living in the Robson Valley. She says the government says there is no need for assisted living here, because there is no wait list. But there is no wait list here, because people have to move out of their communities when they need to go into assisted living. The issue is not in the Support Society’s mandate right now, but it is a good example of the things they see, and want to try to help with.
The Better At Home initiative is another example. Edwards says friendly visits to seniors help combat loneliness and depression, which can both result in a loss of will to live. That means seniors sometimes stop looking after themselves properly. Having someone stop by for a visit, and maybe to help with some household chores can make a big difference. It’s one of the things the Society used to do – providing non-medical home support, but through gradual and constant funding cuts since the 80’s, says Edwards, government funding has focused only on personal care.
Again, Better At Home is not in the Society’s mandate – Edwards says the new program from the United Way is intended to be driven by what the community wants, not what any one society wants. But Doukakis has been involved in the meetings. And one of his personal goals is to have some agreements set up between some of the organizations and levels of governments in the area before he goes.
Doukakis says marketing and communication strategies are always a big part of what he does – letting others know what you are doing, and collaborating when some of your goals overlap is the best way to get the most out of everyone’s resources. So he suggests setting up Memorandums of Understanding.
For example, organizations and governments in the Valley that share concerns for supporting seniors would sign an agreement to work collaboratively on issues involving seniors. Then each member of the agreement would submit their strategic plans, and where there is overlap, funding and resources can be pooled. Pooling resources means you can put them to better use, and often you can double your bang, by getting matching funding, says Doukakis. You are not taking any autonomy away from any one group, just taking better advantage of what you have.
Doukakis says he is also working on a communication plan for the Society, to make sure the community knows what is available.
“You know that phrase ‘set it and forget it’? Don’t ,” says Doukakis. He says you have to keep coming back to think about what you are doing and to make sure people know what you are doing.
Whether it is new staff, new board members, new members of the community, or just someone who newly needs the services you offer – you need to know what you’re doing and where you are going, and tell people about it.
Edwards says the Robson Valley Support Society wants to get back to its roots, be client centred and help the community where it can, and to do a better job of getting the word out. Part of their planning this spring will be around how to mark their 35th anniversary and how to let people know what they are doing and where they are going.
Doukakis says the board and staff of the Society are a great group to work with. “The community is lucky to have them.”