How understanding the Three E’s helps House of Friendship address the social determinants of health

Experience. Economics. Environment.

These are the “Three E’s” that John Neufeld, Executive Director at Kitchener not-for-profit, House of Friendship, said must be considered to truly understand and support the 42,000 vulnerable families and children they serve across Waterloo Region.

Athena Software was fortunate enough to have John speak at our company Town Hall in February. As we’re a company providing case management software for nonprofits around the world, we believe it’s very important for our staff to hear from the agencies we work with.

This helps us provide to all Athenians a better sense of the communities we serve, the challenges our customers face, and their realities on the ground. Also, importantly, this helps to situate our work within a broader context and underscore our mission of enabling our customers to achieve greater social impact.

John’s presentation of the “Three E’s” framework, illustrated with poignant real-life examples, was effective in breaking down any innate biases about a community member’s ‘worthiness’ of our empathy and compassion.

John presented a very compelling and easy-to-understand summary of the impact of our experiences, particularly early in life, as well as how the raw and indiscriminate forces of economics, and exposure to various environmental factors, can influence – negatively or positively – our mental health and overall wellbeing.

By speaking to the critical role of ‘buffers’ in our lives, John eloquently demonstrated the power and force of mitigating factors on the resiliency of individuals and families, and the important role that social service organizations like House of Friendship play in this regard.

In his presentation, John employed an engaging approach that was extremely effective in unlocking and unpacking a very complex and potentially fraught topic, namely how we understand the factors that contribute to vulnerable individuals and families, and how our assessment of their stories affects, often unconsciously, our sense of empathy or connection to the struggles of others.

Our staff were deeply moved by John’s powerful talk and responded with a rousing and sustained standing ovation. Beyond that immediate and energetic response, John has left a lasting impact on our staff with respect to how we view our fellow community members and the larger social determinants of health.

About House of Friendship

House of Friendship is a not-for-profit social services organization based in Kitchener, Ontario. Founded in 1939, the organization started as a storefront mission providing physical and spiritual nourishment to vulnerable residents. Today, House of Friendship honours that tradition by providing food, housing, addictions treatment, and neighbourhood supports, such as community centres and family outreach programs, to over 42,000 families and children across Waterloo Region.

Written by Greg Stanley-Horn

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