The CEO Column: December 2021

The CEO Column: Structured to Grow 

Building Resilience into the Four Pillars of EmBe by Kerri Tietgen

As a pioneering organization founded on the heels of the women’s suffrage movement, EmBe has sustained itself through the most disruptive events in history. From the Great Depression to  World War II and from the Great Recession to our ongoing battle against COVID-19, EmBe leaders have prioritized women, children, and families above all else, anticipating and meeting their needs through every twist in history.

This is why it feels so darn odd to talk about building resilience into a century-old organization, particularly one that demonstrates an unwavering commitment to its community, and more often than not, is the first to fill a need of its kind.

It requires the highest degree of resilience to maintain that commitment despite the widespread and local challenges this community has faced together. And for the past 100 years, EmBe and its stakeholders have also demonstrated the self-awareness required to adapt new programs and services, and the leadership required to do it first.

This year, I’m most grateful to be one of nearly 250 people working to uphold that legacy. And as a leader of this organization, it’s my responsibility to ensure its structure is just as resilient as the clients we serve and the staff who meet them exactly where they are.

So why focus on resilience when EmBe has proven to be anything but fragile?

As we begin to live the next chapter of history, I can’t help but imagine what our founders would think of the vast array of programs, services, and events we conduct today. I also imagine their dismay at what the organization has survived, the rapid response it has provided throughout the century, and how our community thrives as a result of the impact we make on individual lives.

While the historical whiplash takes a great deal of imagination, the reaction to our response and realization of our impact does not. We live that every day in moments quiet and loud, on stage and behind the scenes.

And we have a tremendous opportunity to improve the way our community experiences and understands the impact we make.

Introducing the Four Pillars of EmBe

Last we checked, the average person involved with EmBe is aware of 1.5 of our services and programs. That means each parent who relies on us for childcare may know about the empowering youth development programs we facilitate such as Girls on the Run or FIRST Lego League. This could also mean that each client who utilizes Dress for Success to transition into the workforce may know about the Women’s Leadership Program, which promotes the advancement of women in leadership roles throughout the community.

But a growing segment of our community is not only aware of the number of EmBe programs and services, they know of EmBe’s holistic approach to empowerment, and their lives have intersected with our Circle of Empowerment throughout their ages and multiple life stages.

Whether it is the individual who first found empowerment in our pre-school classroom and went on to become a pre-school teacher, or an EMPOWERmentee who went on to start her own business and inspire others, these individuals are not only impacted by our mission, they respond to it.

This is a tremendous opportunity because people talk about, ask about, and support what they know. By growing our community’s understanding of our holistic approach to building, they’ll know us by our mission rather than the number of programs and services we provide. And most importantly, they’ll help us grow in the same spirit.

So how do we seize this opportunity to create better understanding and to better realize our impact?

I’m proud to say we’ve already begun the internal steps.

By re-structuring our complete span of programs, services, and events into the Four Pillars of EmBe, we’re building upon the internal resilience this organization requires to withstand the shocks the next century has in store. And by communicating our span of output with an easy-to-understand structure, we aim to improve our community’s response to our mission, strengthening our Circle of Empowerment for generations to come.

In 2022, I ask you to join me in celebrating the past 100 years of programming. As we welcome the next century of growth, I hope you see your stake in it.

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