Growing communities with love and Lean

March 6, 2015
in Community

First West Lean experts help Big Brothers Big Sisters of Victoria streamline match-making process

A lot can change in a week, particularly when the work at hand is a labour of love.

Rita Cooper, a Lean greenbelt from First West's Island Savings region, and Ryan Visscher, a Lean blackbelt from First West’s Langley office, spent a week with Big Brothers Big Sisters’ Victoria chapter in January to help staff reduce the time it currently takes to match a child with a volunteer mentor—a back-end issue that the non-profit has tangled with for nearly five years.

“It took us some time to determine that—lucky for us—volunteer recruitment is not our issue,” says Rhonda Brown, executive director with Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) Victoria. “It’s process that’s our challenge.”

“Trying to balance customer service with child safety meant that most children are waiting to be paired with a Big for more than a year.”

Keeping the goal of safe and quick matching in mind, the partners held a week-long Lean Kaizen to unravel the organization’s current volunteer intake method and uncover the truly important parts of the process—including a realistic look at what the chapter’s staff could impact.

“We sorted habits out from practices that really make sense, laughing at the ‘no-brainers’ to create a number of quick-win solutions,” says Brown.

And the result of this heartfelt work? A local team that feels empowered to ask critical questions and improve their processes; a streamlined intake method that may ripple out to Big Brothers Big Sisters chapters across the country; and an even stronger bond between First West, Island Savings and a dynamic community partner that our regions have been learning from for years.

On the Islands, Big Brothers Big Sisters’ partnership with Island Savings has funded the organization’s In-School Mentoring Program, which helps children develop positive relationships, self-esteem and academic success. In the Fraser Valley, First West's Envision Financial division has partnered with BBBS to bring Between Generations into the community, an innovative mentoring program that connects children with caring seniors.

But what Big Brothers Big Sisters has taught us in return about love and service mentorship and acting local is truly irreplaceable.

Love is at the heart of every little/Big match. It’s the foundation of every program that BBBS coordinates based on the belief that a little time (and advice) between people who trust each other will make a real difference in the lives of children in the neighbourhoods each chapter serves. Our relationship with BBBS has also taught us that skills and expertise should always be paid forward—and that continuous improvement is really all about love for the work we do, the people we serve and the communities we live in.

We’ve learned all of that from just five years working together with open hearts and minds.

So if one week can change a process and one little/Big relationship can change a community, imagine what’s possible in another year of partnership between two organizations who keep their love for their community at the heart of everything they do.