Love, community, and investing without money

4 05 2015

Many years ago I was fascinated by an idea that described the different “currencies” people use (or invest) in their pursuit of personal relationships, love, and human connection. I don’t recall when or where I first encountered this concept, but I now understand it to be based at least in part on the work of Dr. Roderic Gorney, who posited that love, passion or sentiment, rather than being emotional in nature, were instead actions. His 1973 book, The Human Agenda, spoke of “the new abundance” and theorized about man’s “conscious control over his values and his future evolution”. No wonder the concept resonated with me! Gorney was a protégé of renowned anthropologist Dr. Ashley Montagu, who studied human love and its currency. He too saw love as an action, and wrote that it supports both the survival and the wellness of a beloved.

What I actually remember about my first exposure to the concept was that we each express our love and affection in different ways, and that it’s possible to observe someone and identify the currency they invest when they are expressing their love for another. My father, for example, spends time and gives of his workmanship with those he loves most – he may verbally express his love infrequently, but he’ll build a beautiful bookcase or come over and repair my plumbing as an expression of his love for me. Quality time, words of affirmation, gifts, acts of service, and physical touch were The Five Love Languages identified by Dr. Gary Chapman in 1992. Some individuals freely talk about their love (poems, words of affirmation), physically demonstrate their affection (a hug, a kiss), invest their attention (homework help, listening intently) or creative endeavours (handmade gifts, home-cooked meals). Still others will spend money on gifts or give of themselves through service (volunteering, teaching). Wilkinson and Grill (1996) identified sixteen relational currencies. Over the years, I’ve come to recognize that my currency is most often quality time, followed by gifts (often small tokens, just because).

Just recently, I was listening to Ideas (with host Paul Kennedy) on CBC Radio and heard Jeremy Rifkin, author of The Zero Marginal Cost Society: The Internet of Things, the Collaborative Commons, and the Eclipse of Capitalism (2014) talking about similar concepts – but with an unmistakably economic bent. Joined by a panel of respected guests, the conversation focused on things like the sustainability of a “sharing economy” and whether (if it lasts) it benefits business, society, or the state. Different in many ways from the concept of relational currency, it nonetheless sparked for me a reminder that we all invest in society and in community in our own ways, whether or not it’s money we spend. Yet, we seldom hear about currencies other than monetary ones when discussions turn to economic models or sustainability within communities.

Wendy Strgar (“Fairness is Love’s Currency”, HuffPost, 2013) points out that “most of the world’s most urgent crises can be traced back to unfairness both in the distribution of natural resources and the capital that serves as the accepted currency to make things happen”. And yet, she points out, “for all the buzz words on growing the good economy, like social return and triple bottom line — the investment community remains largely locked into fear-based models of investing, which requires financial returns and limited risk. The truth is that even among the wealthiest money is not experienced as a currency of freedom and love, but rather fear — of loss, of failure, of self”. This, for me, is akin to the work that Hildy Gottlieb and the team at Creating the Future have been doing over the past decade or so – concepts like “collective enoughness”, stone soup approaches, and “Pollyanna Principles” (the name of Hildy Gottlieb’s 2009 book). This notion of a limited “accepted currency” leaves out so much of what individuals (and collections of individuals) invest in their communities and society on a daily basis.

Frequently cited examples from the Internet-enabled sharing economy (aka the peer economy, P2P, or collaborative consumption) include Airbnb, RelayRides, and SnapGoods. The CBC Radio panel mentioned Uber – controversial for its oppositional impact on the taxi industry – and, interestingly, they talked about car owners in Europe who are taking their own independent approach to the ride matching model (thus eliminating the need for a central Uber structure at all). Still, even this progressive panel seemed dismissive about the economic influence of a model without money. Yes, it’s there, they seemed to be saying, but it’s not really worth much.

The sharing economy has been described as disruptive, and holds appeal for many who see it as a softer, gentler alternative to commercialism. So-called millennials are said to be distrustful of big brands and consumerism, drawn instead towards alternative models. Still others see potential for the collaborative consumption concept to transform economic ideals, pointing out that Ebay began Paperclipas a peer-to-peer model and has proved what scale and empowered ordinary people can do. I remember the young man who listed a paper clip for sale, and eventually traded his way into a house. It was suggested of his remarkable story that folks can and will find value in anything if the conditions and circumstances are right. Would you trade a golf club for a skipping rope if the incentive was right? Might the incentive be stronger or more powerful if it’s a human need rather than a simple transaction? A needed wheelchair for a child, for example, might prompt more generosity in an exchange than would otherwise be expected.

Harvard Business Review has suggested the sharing economy “is not about sharing at all”, that it remains a commercial exchange despite using cyber distribution in place of storefronts. “Most successful services associated with the sharing economy are essentially all about convenience, cost efficiency and ease of access rather than sharing and social interactions”, according to Christoffer O. Hernaes (writing for TechCrunch). He also suggests that these services often replace rather than encourage social interaction and are not premised on altruistic objectives. His notion conjures up images of lonely shoppers, short on time, perched in front of their screens looking for bargains. But isn’t the peer economy about sharing and trading, recycling within the marketplace, and a more conscious consumerism? Doesn’t it empower those whose currency might otherwise be insufficient – like an urban farmer bartering eggs for art lessons? Maybe the feel-good factor I thought was inherent in the sharing economy isn’t as significant as I imagined. It certainly doesn’t echo the notion of relational currencies that sees us each having different currencies and spending or investing those as a reflection of ourselves.

Wendy Strgar said “fairness is a measure of the heart. It comes when we trust that there is enough for everyone and when we really get that there is no other — no over there, but rather that we are all in this together”. She hopes for a day when we “measure our returns based on the vibrancy of the communities we create”. Hildy Gottlieb has been blogging about “inviting social change funders and investors to recreate how social change is resourced, to align the values of their means with their intended ends”. The converging ideas here are about shifting focus away from the transaction and instead considering what we have to contribute, and to what end. For me, it can be anything from swapping books with friends instead of buying them, or rescuing a pup from the local animal shelter. Anyone can barter, volunteer, or invest of themselves in countless other ways that are not necessarily monetary.

I’ll be continuing to follow these different concepts in an effort to better understand how communities and the individuals within those communities can benefit. For others interested in this topic, on June 5th Carolyn Sechler and Ellis Carter will join Hildy to talk about Benefit Corporations, or B Corps, a fascinating model of purpose-driven business – you can catch the Making Change Broadcast at www.creatingthefuture.org and participate via Twitter using #CTFuture.

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Talking about children…

17 04 2014

ngugi_wa_thiongo“Talking about the survival of children is not an act of charity. Children are the future of any society. If you want to know the future of any society look at the eyes of the children. If you want to maim the future of any society, you simply maim the children. Thus the struggle for the survival of our children is the struggle for the survival of our future. The quantity and quality of that survival is the measurement of the development of our society.”

Kenyan novelist Ngugi wa Thiong’o





A Win-Win-Win for Children, Families, Communities

30 09 2013

It’s about helping children after the trauma of abuse. The focus is supporting parents and caregivers. And we all benefit.

That’s the winning combination behind the Community Child Abuse Council’s entry in the AVIVA Community Fund competition this year.  It’s a simple concept that, with your support, could do a great deal of good.

The Community Parent Support Program

  • A series of facilitated group programs to support parents and caregivers whose children have been sexually victmized, or who have problem sexual behaviours (including sibling incest).
  • Developed by an experienced team of professionals and offered by the Community Child Abuse Council over the past several years – with solid results.
  • Parents (including foster parents) and caregivers (including grandparents) learn together and get the support they need to understand what their children are going through. In a safe and supportive environment, they strengthen their knowledge about sexual abuse and its impact on families, and enhance their ability to support their children. And, importantly, their involvement in these groups has been shown to have a positive impact on children’s treatment outcomes.

Now, the Council has an opportunity to share this proven model with others, supporting parents and caregivers in any community (even remote ones and those without specialized treatment options for children). The proposal will see the program published, packaged, and distributed widely, together with the materials and supports needed by facilitators to deliver these groups in any community. These innovative resources will be affordable, adaptable, and ready to implement in any community, anywhere. And, to make this a win-win-win scenario, any revenue from the project will be reinvested into the Council’s child abuse prevention, education, and treatment programs. That means more treatment for local kids in need, more prevention work, and more community-focused educational initiatives.

Voting begins today – September 30th – and it’s easy to vote. Just go to the AVIVA Community Fund web site, find the “register” button at the top right of the page (takes 30 seconds, and only required on your first visit), and once you’re registered, select the Community Parent Support Program and vote!

Here’s the link: http://www.avivacommunityfund.org/ideas/acf17152#.UkHqha-RE2Y.email

You can also search for the Council’s project on the AVIVA Community Fund web site using (idea) number is ACF17152.

Please tell your friends, use your social media connections, and help generate as much support as possible for this proposal – with your help, and enough votes, it will move on to the next rounds and one step closer to the funding that will make this important project possible.

In the first round, you can vote 15 times (but only once per day for the same project). So, please, use those votes to help put valuable and vital resources in the hands of caring communities where they can do the most good for families who need them.

Thank you so very much.





A wonderful evening…and a model for community building

19 11 2012

New to the Hamilton community, a businessman decides to join The Hamilton Club and a local service organization as a means to connect with locals and establish himself in civic-minded circles. Then he imports an event – previously organized with great success in Toronto – to bring some of his new connections together in support of local charities. He enlists the help of his new service club, Hamilton Rotary AM, and reaches out to a number of corporate sponsors for help. Add the generous support of The Hamilton Club, as host venue, and the talents

Artist Jeremy Bortz and his Flowers of Hope tiles

of artist Jeremy Bortz and some fine musicians and vocalists, and the event turns into a wonderful mix of socializing and fundraising. All because one man cared enough to bring together the needed ingredients – and best of all, to do so in support of vital community services.
The man behind this inspired effort was Tim Dickins. The event, An Evening with Jeremy Bortz & Friends, was held last week. The Community Child Abuse Council and Good Shepherd were the beneficiaries. Ticket sales, sponsorships, and a live auction generated proceeds split between these two local agencies, with additional funds raised for McMaster Children’s Hospital through the sale of Jeremy Bortz’s beautiful floral art tiles.
This is a wonderful example of how individuals, businesses, and community groups can come together on behalf of good causes and raise funds that make a big difference in the lives of Hamiltonians. Neither of the beneficiary agencies had to devote scarce resources to organizing an event, and guests were treated to something a little different – a welcome change in the busy landscape of fundraising functions. Warmest thanks to all who were involved in making this event possible, including the artists and musicians who provided the fabulous entertainment throughout the evening. Thanks also to MC Sunni Genesco, to The Hamilton Club, to Rotary Club of Hamilton AM, to Rogers Business Solutions and other sponsors, to auction donors, and to all who attended. And a very special thank you to Tim Dickins for bringing it all together and supporting his “new” community – one that  is already better because of him…thank you for being a Hamiltonian with heart.





LAST CHANCE – “inside the ropes” at the RBC Canadian Open!

15 07 2012

Time is running out for purchasing any of the following amazing experiences that offer insider vantage points at Canada’s national tournament July 23-29th…and each package generates a significant donation for the Community Child Abuse Council, the Local Charity Partner of the 2012 RBC Canadian Open.

Honorary Observer – you and a guest join one of the afternoon pairings on Thursday, July 26th for a rare opportunity to be right in the middle of the action alongside PGA Tour pros. Only one package, for two people, available.

Up Close & Personal – be part of a meet and greet opportunity with PGA Tour pros on July 25th at the Hamilton Golf & Country Club…pick up tips and pointers from the game’s best, get inside the ropes and have access only a few get to experience in a lifetime. Only a few spots left.

Caddy Experience – for the avid golf fan, this is your chance to walk the course and live the game alongside the best on the tour…only a few spots left.

For full details and pricing please contact Karen by Tuesday, July 17th at 12 noon – 905-523-1020 ext. 11 or karen.smith@childabusecouncil.on.ca

Come out and enjoy a unique experience at the 2012 RBC Canadian Open and help support vital child abuse prevention, education, and treatment programs…a win-win for all.

Thanks.





Leaders for Kids

4 04 2012

I had the pleasure of presiding at the induction of two new Leaders for Kids today at a breakfast event hosted by students at Mohawk College. Leaders for Kids is an initiative of the Community Child Abuse Council, bringing together community leaders from all walks of  life in support of the Council’s vision of a community free of child abuse. These are individuals who step up, speak out, and lend their support to the Council’s work with child and youth victims of sexual abuse and trauma. They go above and beyond, and are recognized as Leaders for Kids in appreciation of their commitment and contributions.

Today’s honourees were Laura Gainey and Vince Isber from RBC, who were both instrumental in the Council’s selection as Local Charity Partner for the 2012 RBC Canadian Open. They join a group of bighearted and generous friends to the Council, all tremendous partners who set an example for community involvement and leadership. Laura Gainey is the first Honourary Leader for Kids ever inducted into this group. In fact, the Council has never before included anyone from outside the Hamilton community. But Laura has embraced our work and supported our efforts in influential ways, and you would be hard-pressed to guess that she wasn’t a Hamiltonian if observing her commitment to local children. Vince Isber is an active and respected community booster, whose involvement with numerous community organizations and projects is admirable. Vince has stepped forward to support the Council in generous ways, and is coordinating the involvement of RBC employees from across this region in the Council’s Heart of the Open fundraising campaign.

These two Leaders for Kids exemplify what it means to get behind a cause and are demonstrating what is possible when leaders offer their talents and ideas to support an important community issue. Laura and Vince visited the Council several months ago, and showed a keen interest in its programs and services provided to abused children and youth. They asked thoughtful questions and followed up by taking action on the things they learned that were needed in order to meet the needs of more youngsters affected by the trauma of abuse. They deserve the honour they received today, and they join an impressive group of like-minded community members who are making a difference each and every day in the fight against child abuse. Congratulations Laura and Vince, and thank you to all our Leaders for Kids.





Chillin’ for Charity

5 01 2012

A shout out to all the brave souls who took part in any of the various “polar bear dip” events on

(Photo: Hamilton News)

January 1st to help raise funds for charitable causes. Not my own personal cup of iced tea, but an admirable feat nonetheless. From nearby Oakville’s big event to the smaller inaugural dip held this year to support the Community Child Abuse Council, these are social occasions as well as fundraising ventures. Costumes, props, and a beach full of supportive onlookers add to the festive atmosphere. A tip of the toque to all the volunteers, sponsors, participants, cheerleaders, and hot cocoa providers who make these chilly events happen. It takes a very warm heart to do such good from an icy dip in the lake. Happy New Year to all.