Empower Simcoe: What’s in a name?

By Sonya Anderson

It’s not very often that an organization that’s been around for 65 years decides to change its name and rebrand itself, but that’s exactly what Empower Simcoe, formerly known as Simcoe Community Services, has undertaken over the past year.

“People in the broader community, including our clients, partners and stakeholders, confused us with the County of Simcoe, and would call to ask us about trash pick up, or other services that the County provides,” explained Empower Simcoe CEO Claudine Cousins.  This confusion was a clear message that the organization had an identity issue.

They could choose to promote their existing name and the services they provide, or rebrand.  Cousins explains that the organization opted for, “revolutionary change over evolutionary change.”  And that revolution began when the organization hired her 18 months ago and shifted their focus from promoting their services under the old name to shining a light on the outcomes and impact on the community that their services provide under the new brand.

Empower Simcoe strives to empower people to lead a meaningful life through inclusive programming that improves the quality of ALL lives.  And while, as an organization, they were always seen as a support network for individuals with disabilities, the general community weren’t as aware of the fact that they offered services and programming for them too.

“We are no wrong door.  We will not turn you away from any question that you have.  We will connect you to the right services that you need,” says Cousins.  It’s this focus on promoting themselves as the “Community Agency” — part of the tapestry of the community to help solve some of the issues of the community — that represents a shift in their new messaging.

At the core of their re-brand is a new mindset to continually innovate to improve how they meet the community’s needs.  And one of those innovations is the decision-making process which has shifted from organization-centric to client-centric.  “Now it’s the client that makes the decisions about the life they want to live and we help them achieve that through our support services.”

For example, in the past, the organization would say, “These are the housing accommodations that we have,” and would place people in whatever inventory they had.  Now, they start with the client first, asking where, how, and with whom they would like to live, and then search for a housing solution that best meets their client’s choices.

They are also listening to their client’s requests for service hours that better suit their needs.  Instead of offering exclusively Monday to Friday, 9-5 programming, they are trying to expand their services to cover evenings, mornings and weekends.

Empower Simcoe offers a range of services to support everyone in the community from Living Options, Employment Support Services, Retirement Living, Family Support and Relief, to Infant Development, and Youth Programs, just to name a few.  The goal of all of their services and programming is always Be, Belong, and Thrive.

With approximately 600 staff committed to the vision of empowering people to lead a meaningful life, Empower Simcoe is improving the very fabric of our community through every client interaction.

If you would like to learn more about how Empower Simcoe can positively impact your life, or if you’re looking for a rewarding opportunity to volunteer with them, visit their website at: www.empowersimcoe.ca.

Cover photo: Empower Simcoe CEO Claudine Cousins cuts the ribbon at their official rebrand launch.  Inset photo: Robin Tobin has a new independent outlook on life thanks to Empower Simcoe.

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