Hamilton Changemakers

13 07 2013

park_kids

What if all children in Hamilton were thriving? What would that make possible? What conditions need to be in place for that to happen?

 

These were the central questions that brought together a room full of Hamiltonians this past week to think about creating the future we all want for our community. The afternoon gathering was hosted by the Community Child Abuse Council, Alternatives for Youth, and Hamilton Food Share. These three agencies have applied some of the thinking and approaches developed by Creating the Future, a “living laboratory” devoted to social progress co-founded by Hildy Gottlieb and Dimitri Petropolis. As local early adopters of this work, these agencies have been inspired to pursue vision-driven change in what many would see as very different areas of endeavour – child abuse, addiction, hunger. In fact, all share similar visions of a thriving community.

Seeing an opportunity to join together in this shared pursuit, these 3 organizations invited their key partners and supporters to gather for a conversation about what would be possible if we all aimed for the same goal: a thriving community. The resulting “Gathering of Changemakers” event brought together 40+ community leaders, thinkers, and visionaries from across a wide swath of the Hamilton community, including health, social services, policing, business, service clubs, funders, and others. Special guests, Hildy Gottlieb and Dimitri Petropolis of Creating the Future, engaged the gathering in a series of discussions focused on highest potential and the steps needed to realize our shared vision of a thriving Hamilton.

inspire

 

And what a conversation it was! We learned that while we may sometimes disagree on the “how”, we share the same aspirations and values – we want everyone in our community to thrive, knowing that our community overall will thrive as a result. And, despite some early doubts about whether this goal is actually achievable, we learned that we already know what is required to make our desired future happen. Just as we’re able to get to the airport on time when we leave on a trip, we are able to identify the steps we need to take in order to get to our shared goal. We work backwards to figure out what we need to do (e.g. what time to set our alarm so we don’t miss our flight). The starting point is our vision, and from there we simply need to identify the favourable conditions that will get us there. It’s something we do every day, in virtually every part of our lives, but we aren’t doing it in our efforts to achieve the future we want for our community.

It’s going to take practice. We’re going to have to ask different questions, and challenge some of the assumptions we’ve inherited about people, systems, and the impact each of us is having on the future of our world each and every day (whether we do so consciously or not). And we’re going to need more Hamiltonians to join us in this ongoing conversation. We’ll be working on these things, and talking to each other about next steps. And we know this isn’t going to result in overnight change. But imagining what would be possible if all children in our community were thriving has us excited enough to keep moving forward in this direction – finding our commonalities, working from our shared values, and aiming at the highest possible potential for the community we all care about so deeply.

Stay tuned!

 

 

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Theo, Victor, and a walk to Ottawa

12 05 2013

As we honour mothers today, one mother’s son is preparing for a journey that would make any parent proud.

On May 14, former NHL star Theo Fleury will begin a walk that will take him from Toronto to Ottawa. He plans to arrive in the capital on May 23rd, and will be heading to Parliament.

Why?

victor-the-frogTheo Fleury is a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. Actually, he’s a Victor over childhood sexual abuse. And that’s why his walk to Ottawa is being billed as The Victor Walk. You can check out his web site to learn more about this brave undertaking, and why it’s called the “Victor” walk (you’ll also meet Victor, a cool symbol for this project with a great story behind it): www.victorwalk.com

Canadians are encouraged to line his route, show their support, and lend their voices to his journey (or join a local walk if one is being held in your community). Those able to meet him in Ottawa can take part in the finish of his walk and help to deliver a message to Parliament in support of Theo’s quest to put these crimes against children on the national agenda – a message about healing and advocacy that is important for us all to embrace.

Here’s wishing Theo and his team the very best for their 10-day trek. And thanks, Theo, for standing as a leader in this vital conversation.





Happy International Women’s Day!

8 03 2013

Borrowing from another excellent message distributed today by Miss Representation (www.missrepresentation.org), here’s a reminder to think about change as we celebrate women and girls in all their potential…

toddlers and tiaras

Today is International Women’s Day, so let’s take this collective moment to pledge to end the oppression of women worldwide – in all its forms. Let’s pledge to end not only the overt violence directed at women daily, but the institutional sexism holding us back and the destructive representations of women in the media which contribute to that same culture of negating women and denying them their equal seat at the tables of power. After all, as long as the media hypersexualizes and objectifies women, they normalize treating women as second-class citizens and objects for the male gaze, which further contributes to violence against women.

Katy Couric

We encourage you to spend this special day not only supporting those organizations creating change in the treatment of women globally, but thinking personally about how you can make an impact on the lives of women and girls everywhere. Each of us can play a small part in transforming the way our culture views, values, and treats women and girls.





5 Days in Tucson

5 03 2013

After a few years of waiting and wanting, I finally got the opportunity to travel to Arizona last week to take in one of the amazing immersion courses offered by Hildy Gottlieb and the team at Creating The Future (www.creatingthefuture.org). It was worth the wait. Described as a course for “changemakers”, the week brought six of us together (the immersion courses are always limited to a maximum of 10 participants) with Hildy and with CTF co-founder Dimitri Petropolous for an up-close-and-personal exploration of the values, principles, approaches, and thinking that help to aim us (and others) towards our highest potential. Hard work, that. But when done in the company of awesome thinkers and community builders, it was both exhilarating and transformational. I came away feeling like I’d got my mojo back…inspired to reach higher and inspirebetter equipped to bring clarity and vision to my life, my profession, my community. How awesome is that!? The work Hildy and Dimitri are doing has resonated for me since I first stumbled upon The Polyanna Principles and began to explore the thought framework behind Creating The Future. What they’re doing is open and accessible – meant to walk the talk and act as a living laboratory so that we can all see what it looks and feels like to engage community and create an intentional future. Even their board meetings are completely open, online, and welcoming for anyone who cares to join them (just one of many examples of their efforts to show and model while they do). I think it’s the authenticity behind all of this work that first drew my attention and continues to engage me most.

Thanks Hildy and Dimitri. And thank you to the amazing changemakers I had the privilege of spending this wonderful week with. I can’t wait to apply my learning, to hear about your successes, and to build on what we started.





This Valentine’s Day, spread the love and spread the word

8 02 2013

www.missrepresentation.orgLast Sunday, during the biggest media event of the year, supporters of Miss Representation came together to put sexism in advertising in the spotlight and make it a topic of conversation. As a result, over 4 million people heard or saw their critiques of Super Bowl commercials and their message was picked up by numerous major news outlets, including CNN and National Public Radio (NPR). As a result, countless thousands have been inspired to be more aware of the representations of gender they consume daily. That’s what I love about Miss Representation – they’re continually bringing solid information to new audiences what are then able to decide for themselves about the values that are important to them.

Go Daddy alone received more than 7,500 tweets in just 5 hours concerning their stereotypical and demeaning Super Bowl ad. This was accomplished by thousands of individuals deciding to take a break from watching the big game to use their consumer voice to let advertisers know: when it comes to using sexism to sell, we’re #NotBuyingIt! (that’s the Miss Representation campaign, by the way).

And it works. After Teleflora’s highly offensive and degrading Super Bowl commercial, which implied that women would exchange sex with any man who could afford a few flowers, hundreds of folks took to Twitter to express their dismay and disgust. In a show of the increasing ability of social media to create real change, Harrod’s in London removed two children’s books from their children’s reading room after users on Twitter, with the help of the #NotBuyingIt hashtag, let the store know that the items promoted gender stereotypes.

Next Thursday, on Valentine’s Day, Miss Representation is helping to coordinate another effort aimed at showing what we’re capable of when we band together under a common cause. On February 14th, Eve Ensler’s V-Day organization is organizing one billion women, and those who love them, to rise up and demand an end to violence against women.obr_logo-web

“Today, on the planet, a billion women – one of every three women on the planet – will be raped or beaten in her lifetime. That’s ONE BILLION mothers, daughters, sisters, partners, and friends violated. V-Day REFUSES to stand by as more than a billion women experience violence.”

The worldwide event, One Billion Rising, is being held in cities and towns across the globe, and will feature performances, dances and women speaking out against violence in unity. To find out more, go to http://www.onebillionrising.org – and if you haven’t already become familiar with Miss Representation, visit their site at http://www.missrepresentation.org.

The Valentine’s Day, spread the love and spread the word – 1 billion women violated is an atrocity. 1 billion women dancing is a revolution.





Wielding Power & Influence

7 11 2011

People in power (and men, in particular) continue to make news headlines for their abuse not only of influence but of children. First we saw the horrific video of a Texas family law judge beating his daughter while spewing a venomous tirade of foul and hurtful language. Next it was former Penn State athletics official, Jerry Sandusky, charged with sexually assaulting eight boys between 1994-2009. In this latter case, other school officials have been charged with perjury and with failing to meet their duty to report suspected or known threats to children and an ongoing investigation continues.

Adding to the Penn State scandal, the accused continued to use the university’s facilities after his retirement in 1999 for his work with The Second Mile, a charity he founded in 1977 for at-risk kids. The organization’s web site lists a who’s who of sports icons and hall of famers on its honourary board (including golf great Arnold Palmer, Heisman Trophy winner John Cappelletti, former Steelers Jack Ham and Franco Harris, retired football coach Lou Holtz, current Penn State football coach Joe Paterno, baseball’s Cal Ripken Jr., actor Mark Wahlberg, and corporate notables from Hershey Foods, Quaker State, Ortho Pharmaceutical, and KMart). One wonders how their potential power and influence might be wielded given the circumstances.

“This is a case about a sexual predator who used his position within the university and community to repeatedly prey on young boys,” said state Attorney General Linda Kelly. Despite being arraigned on 40 criminal counts, Sandusky has been released on bail.

The Texas judge, meanwhile, will apparently not face charges due to the length of time that has elapsed since the (videotaped in 2004) beating took place.  Police in the Texas jurisdiction where Aransas County Court-at-Law Judge William Adams resides have announced that they “believe that there was a criminal offense involved and that there was substantial evidence to indicate that and under normal circumstances … a charge could have been made” but that the statute of limitations for such charges stands at five years (CBS News). An investigation by the state’s judicial conduct commission and the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services is still pending.

These are headlines that have crossed international date lines, but will soon simply become state, and then local, coverage as yet another round of high profile cases dims from the spotlight. Whether you live in Texas or Pennsylvania, or in Ontario, it’s ultimately up to us whether the conversation continues…what do we think about a statute of limitations on crimes like child abuse (that often don’t surface for many years)? How do we feel about sexual predators successfully using youth programs to connect with kids? And what do we imagine is the best we can do to help the children who fall prey to these criminals (or may)? What’s our potential influence here, and are we wielding it in the best interests of children?






A few bad apples…

14 03 2011

March is Fraud Prevention Month, prompting a quiz sponsored by CanadaHelps and Capital One concerning charitable giving. To take the online quiz and see how much you know about charitable fraud, click here: http://www.canadahelps.org/.

Charity fraud is rare in Canada despite media coverage that might suggest otherwise. In more than 20 years working in the charitable sector, with dozens and dozens of organizations, I have never once come across actual fraud. We have a reasonably strict system of monitoring and enforcement here in Canada, making it tough to scam donors or operate fraudulent charities. The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) pulls the plug on those who try, resulting in loss of charitable status or revoked registration.

Mark Blumberg’s Canadian Charity Law List for this month includes examples of this enforcement in action. “CRA has revoked the registration of The Organ Donation & Transplant Association of Canada for excessive fundraising and administrative fees and for involvement in an ‘international donation arrangement'”. Apparently this organization ran into trouble for gifts in kind whose real value didn’t match their reported value. Then there’s Pediatric AIDS Canada/USA, whose registration was also revoked by CRA for high fundraising costs and involvement in an “international donation arrangement that artificially inflated expenditures on charitable activities”.

Both these organizations were included in a recent Toronto Star article about charity fraud (“Plug pulled on charity after audit reveals money misspent”, March 7, 2011). The article essentially deals with six organizations where cases of charitable spending or reporting breaches led to CRA intervention. I point this out because six organizations out of thousands who conduct themselves legitimately is a very small number. Even if there are other, as yet undiscovered, fraudsters out there they remain a very small percentage of Canada’s overall charitable sector. The damage they inflict, however, can be devastating to all.

Donor diligence is the best defense against making contributions to fraudulent causes. But donors should not become alarmed and think that fraud is rampant in Canadian charities. It is not. A very few bad apples make it extremely challenging for legitimate charities to maintain goodwill and donor trust (and often add to the costs of operating a bona fide charity). Volunteers, too, can be skeptical about supporting the sector if they don’t feel their efforts are aligned with legitimate and legal purposes. So there’s much at stake (donors, volunteers, public opinion) for the good apples.

Updated charity laws, aggressive prosecution of lawbreakers, and accessible information for donors and volunteers are all helping to keep fraud to an absolute minimum in Canada. One bad apple is one too many, but it’s important that the entire sector not be branded criminals by a very few examples of cheating, fraudulent fundraising, or illegal scams.

For more information, check these resources:

http://www.canadiancharitylaw.ca

http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/charities