Archive | January, 2023

CEF Staff Highlight: Emily Simpson-Keyes

Meet Emily! Member Assistance Funds Manager

Emily Simpson-Keyes, Member Assistance Funds Manager

Your Role: In your own words, how would you describe the work you do at the CEF and why is it important? 

While providing direct financial assistance is not CEF’s primary mission, we do have a pool of resources dedicated to supporting Members as they work towards their goals. This pool is growing to include a homebuyers savings program and eviction debt assistance fund. As the Member Assistance Funds Manager, I will be responsible for developing an equitable and transparent process for distributing these funds as well as working with Members and Advocates to ensure that they know these resources are available. 

Your Background: What experiences, strengths and skills do you bring to this work at CEF?

As a social worker, I have been trained to approach my work through a lens of systems thinking, and I feel I naturally bring a level of empathy and vulnerability to this role. However, I am most grateful for my previous experience as an Advocate. The role required me to “take off my professional hat,” decenter myself, and learn from the wisdom and experience of Members. I plan to approach my Staff role in much the same way. I’m excited to continue building on the relationships that I established as an Advocate!

Connecting to CEF: What led you to working with CEF generally, and also to this particular role?

I’ve spent the past several years working in social impact consulting and nonprofit operations. While I enjoyed the complex problem solving that came with those roles, I found myself questioning my complicity in philanthrocapitalism and craving community. This is what first led me to begin volunteering as an Advocate in the fall of 2020. It was the height of the pandemic, and though I was grateful for the security of a remote job, I was disconnected from my neighbors and feeling too comfortable. When so much of the world is broken, community care built on authentic person-centered relationships in the way CEF strives for is radical. I’ve wanted to join the CEF team for quite some time and the Member Assistance Funds Manager role, which requires both my operational and interpersonal skill sets, was worth the wait. 

Energy: When you think about your work in this role at CEF (and/or in general at CEF) where do you find energy and renewal?

I’ve always felt a deep responsibility to use my one wild and precious life to repair harm and further social justice so I find a great deal of purpose and energy in the work itself. It’s a privilege to be trusted by Members and to share in the moments of pain, frustration, hope, and joy experienced in the office. I also rely on the support of my loving partner, trusted therapist, and snuggly dog.

Challenge: When you think about your work in this role at CEF (and/or in general at CEF)  where do you find challenges and how do you seek to find the best way forward?

While financial literacy and asset-building tools are most certainly impactful and necessary for changing individual circumstances, the racial wealth gap is a systemic issue, rather than an individual one. These tools are a part of a broader economic system designed to systematically disenfranchise people of the global majority. This reality can be overwhelming but I think it’s one we must acknowledge in this work. I remind myself that there are opportunities to share power and disrupt oppressive systems at every level, so how we are engaging with Members and moving as an organization is just as important as the number of goals achieved or financial coaching sessions completed. 

CEF: Community Empowerment Fund

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