Every non-profit must review its Vision and Mission once in a while to confirm they reflect its activities (outputs) as well as its intended social impact (outcomes). I recall sitting with my Director of Internal Operations, a glorified title for a recent Rotman MBA graduate, in 2006, and reviewing the Vision and Mission that MCIS Language Solutions’ (MCIS) founding members had crafted way back in 1995.There was nothing wrong with them. They were not even outdated since they did reflect MCIS’ work removing language barriers for victims of domestic violence and other vulnerable persons.
However, they were not aspirational. They did not take into account that by 2006 we had grand ambitions to grow out of our dependence on government funding and become a model social enterprise; one that would earn revenue to sustain itself, and reinvest in projects that served the public good, by facilitating linguistic access. We did not know then where to begin. So, we took the utilitarian perspective. We said we wanted to serve the most number of people that we could, in the best possible way. The Board finally settled on the following:
Vision Statement – We are committed to creating a world where people can interact as if there were no language barriers.
Mission Statement – We will ensure, by removing language barriers that people of diverse ethnic and linguistic backgrounds are able to communicate effectively.
By 2015, we had grown and achieved what we had set out to do in that tiny crowded boardroom all those years ago. We were almost self–sustaining. Our dependence on grants had gone down to 10% of our overall revenue. As a true social enterprise, we had stayed the course creating a thriving and ethical business operation and were serving a lot of people whom we wanted to help. We had expanded our boundaries beyond Canada and now had a different problem. Our Vision and Mission were too broad and did not really guide us with respect to where and how we wished to create social impact. At the back of my mind, I kept thinking that we sounded a bit like Walmart (Spend Less, Live Better), except we were clearly at the other end of the spectrum. We had no owners and shareholders who would get rich off MCIS. We existed primarily for our beneficiaries with respect to the services we provided and the projects we invested in. So we really needed to get explicit about our intended impact and who would benefit.
In October 2015, MCIS’ group of nine managers under the auspices of a coach and with funding support from the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation began a six-month project surveying stakeholders, conducting research and debating these existential profundities and finally, with input from the rest of the staff and Board, concluded that we would build sector capacity and ensure appropriate referrals to language solutions for our PRIMARY BENEFICIARIES, people with language barriers in need of professional language services, to help them access critical information and services that support their rights, safety and well-being. At the same time, our advocacy efforts and sector leadership would promote such access as a human right.
At the culmination of this process in June 2016, we had much more clarity around what we would do and who we would benefit. Above all, we would be a solutions company. Our new Vision and Mission is a reflection of this aspiration:
New Vision Statement – To connect people globally through languages
New Mission Statement – To improve access to critical information and services through high-quality language solutions
How wonderful is it that a social enterprise based in Ontario has access to local talent which makes it a multilingual hub – in other words “Your Global Voice” – which, by the way, also happens to be our tagline!
Check us out at www.mcislanguages.com
-Latha Sukumar, Executive Director