CED , 2016
Matthew Smedley recently stepped into the role of Executive Director and CEO of Mission Possible, a non-profit organization providing meaningful work opportunities for people challenged by homelessness and poverty in Vancouver's downtown eastside.
Mission Possible has been around 25 years. A woman named Liz Wall who had a heart for the people in this community started it. She began by serving sandwiches out of the back of her station wagon.
In the first 15-20 years, Mission Possible served the felt needs of the community, providing basic street-level care in the downtown eastside, such as clothing, food, housing referrals, etc. while continuing to love the people in this neighbourhood.
Now Mission Possible has two entities, a charity which offers employment training and support to people facing employment barriers, and a social enterprise entity with two businesses: MP Maintenance and MP Neighbours.
Matthew started with Mission Possible nine years ago. He originally came on to work in operations. With time, he took on different levels of responsibility, first working in street-level care and then working on goal-setting groups. When the organization started its social enterprises, Matthew took over running those.
Two years ago, Mission Possible came to a crossroads as an organization and needed to transition its programs. In this transition, Matthew moved into the chief operating officer role, helping to reorganize staff, and implement and oversee changes.
A number of people from the organization, including the former CEO Brian Postlewait, have taken the program. As an organization, Matthew and his staff approach their work through a community economic development perspective.
The main reason why Matthew took the SFU CED program was to increase his knowledge of the practice of community economic development. Working in the DTES, a community facing huge social challenges, you can have a pretty myopic view of CED as a response to social issues.
There is so much to be gained from learning about what people are doing elsewhere in different communities; it really broadened his perspective of what is possible.
Matthew definitely found what he was looking for in the program. The diversity of people taking the program and the diversity of the course material was hugely beneficial in shaping his own perspectives and broadening his understanding of what is possible.
CED is so important for the future of the communities to be places that include all people. Community economic development strengthens communities by empowering and equipping people, building on the assets and abilities that are already there.
The only way Mission Possible has had success, Matthew says, is through the amazing team of individuals committed to CED. Change is never the work of one person. It is a community effort.
-Written by the SFU Certificate Program for Community Economic Development
Published July 2016