This month’s featured Purppl Partner is Omar Yaqub, Servant of Servants (ED) at Islamic Family & Social Services Association. Take a quick 10 to get to know this social enterprise leader!

Islamic Family & Social Services Association is an Edmonton-based social service agency that provides a holistic approach to community well-being that is culturally and spiritually sensitive. IFSSA serves the Edmonton community through a halal food bank, family violence counselling, a youth program, refugee support, and much more.

Islamic Family started working with Purppl in 2021, collaborating on their Transform project. The work together focused on attracting early adopter customers, refining roles and responsibilities, hiring a product manager, and raising additional investment. The efforts continue in supporting the team to spin out the venture into a revenue generating, sector changer.

Omar Yaqub, Servant of Servants (ED), Islamic Family & Social Services Association

1. Where do you consider home?
The open end of a well prepared cup of proper chai, and a notebook – also amiskwaciwâskahikan aka Edmonton.

2. What is your favourite part of your role within your organization?
They allow me to put rose water in the coffee with impunity. I also really enjoy working with a team of people who are eager to challenge the status quo, experiment, and who exemplify beauty and devotion in service.

3. What drew you to social impact work like this?
A decade of failure trying to measure social impact and realizing that the challenges won’t be solved with better reports, but that the problem is foundational. Nonprofits are set up to fail. We ask people to retell the worst moments of their lives again and again, punt them from provider to provider, and measure our activities, not their success. Their well-being, their goals, and respect for their data isn’t part of how we’ve set up the sector to work.

If we want to truly get to social impact in the social services sector we need to think differently about the tools we use, how they’re developed, and for/by whom.

4. If you were a politician, which policy would you change tomorrow?
I’d mandate two things. 1. That there should be a common standard for reporting to government across departments. 2. That Canadians should be able to move their data freely between any agency funded by government.

5. Who in your community do you admire and why?
My ancestors are my wildest dream.

6. What one thing do you wish people NOT currently working in the social impact space knew about it, or would do differently?
I wish people would empathise more and think deeply about the experience they would like if they needed our services. I think we’d do things radically differently if we thought about how we’d like to be treated.

7. How do you measure the success of your social impact initiatives?
Haha! How do you measure the impact of a social impact measurement tool?

Our leading indicator is the quality of connection we can establish: are we able to stay engaged with someone on their preferred platform (SMS, FB Messenger, What’s App, etc). This indicator tells us that people want to stay in touch, that frontline workers are leveraging the tool, and more.

8. What systemic issue(s) are you working on? How are you getting to the root causes of those issues?
We are developing tech that disrupts systemic inequity by helping social service agencies shift their focus to clients achieving goals, not just reporting to funders. To do this we’ve created an intuitive & beautiful digital assistant for social workers that supports modern communication, relationship through design & data sovereignty.

9. How do you generate revenue to keep your efforts sustainable?
Ask me again a year from now, or better yet, invest. 😉

10. What are your top challenges right now as a leader?
Impatience – this is also my superpower.

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