State of the Sector: Our Reflections On Year One
A lot has happened since Evenings & Weekends Consulting launched back on April 27, 2022.
We’ve outgrown our name, for one thing. While our co-founders Paul Taylor and Laëtitia Eyssartel first envisioned E&W as a part-time practice for their evenings and weekends outside of their day jobs, we've since expanded into a full-time enterprise.
Our team has also grown exponentially—we now have 8 full-time consultants, along with an extended network of over 40 talented freelancers.
Over the past year, we’ve had the privilege to work with nonprofits, unions, educational institutions, and advocacy groups across Canada and the United States who are re-imagining their practices in service of making good change happen.
So what have we learned in our first year of operations? We surveyed our team for their thoughts on the state of the sector:
1. Resource challenges are creating a new paradigm.
Nonprofit organizations have always existed in a state of pressure and evolution, but the last decade has ushered in a challenging new landscape for many.
The interlocking crises of the pandemic, racism, colonialism, climate change, and skyrocketing inflation and costs of living are deeply felt by our clients, their teams, and the communities that they serve.
As a result, many organizations have been struggling in a posture of scarcity: whether it's staff retention (particularly among frontline workers) or financial pressures—weighing the urgency of external crises alongside the internal aspirations of their missions, visions, and values can create deep uncertainty among teams.
Our clients want to operate in a way that serves their communities, but they understand that their current capabilities are being tapped to their limits. This makes it difficult for them to take on any more work, or often to even meet their current workloads. Many are also undergoing dramatic change, and they're trying to wrap their heads around how to approach it from a holistic and caring lens. While working with our team, clients have the opportunity to dream of a future where their staff and their communities experience dignity and fairness—they also have the opportunity to pair those dreams with tangible action to make them a reality.
2. Identifying power dynamics can lead to new ways of being.
Clients often come to Evenings & Weekends with ambitions to rethink how they engage with staff and community members, and with the desire to make space for uncomfortable conversations. Through working with us, clients can access a supportive space to unpack and acknowledge challenging dynamics and receive coaching on how to move forward in a meaningful way.
As an example, our team uses listening campaigns as a tool to guide strategic planning, organizational reviews, and governance restructuring in order to understand underlying dynamics that may not otherwise be stated or named in the day-to-day work.
The spaces that we support—the nonprofit sector, public service, and labour—are spaces that continue to be steeped in white supremacy culture and the paternalism of charity-based or top-down responses. When clients reach out to us, their values are often in alignment with equity and justice, but their practices can be skewed by the impact of scarcity, urgency, and crisis which create the conditions for conflict, burnout, and the perpetuation of systemic inequities. In order to build towards practices that center joy and solidarity, clients have worked with us to map out power dynamics and strategies that can shift organizational culture and build practices that lead to transformative change.
3. Deepening relationships is key to moving forward with trust.
Our work is grounded in collaboration, and in the knowledge that those most closely connected to an issue must be centred in its solutions. As a result, establishing deep relationships of trust is key to all of our consultations. We connect our team’s experience and expertise with the leadership that already exists within the community, so that we can work together to identify a collaborative and trust-based path forward.
[Our work] has demonstrated how imperative it is to have a space in the consulting world that is centred on building relationships, trust, and long-term support—as opposed to parachuting in, checking a box, or creating a report that goes unused. We're still a young organization that is learning, and we're committed to building out transformative practices to dynamically respond to the forces that are impacting our communities.
We'd like to thank the dozens of non-profits, charities, activists, local leaders, community groups, academics and policymakers who've worked with Evenings & Weekends Consulting to advance progressive change and drive social impact in our first year.
Here's just a sample!