Lazy Sunday Afternoon

Labour Day weekend in Canada is basically about football games, end of summer camping trip or last minute shopping for school supplies.  On the Island it is pretty laid back except for this year no last minute back to school rush.  No it’s more about last minute looking for daycare arrangements.  In fact I’m pretty sure there will be an increase in end of summer camping trips with many families hoping Sasquatch carries away little Johnny for a couple of weeks.  So that’s my take on Labour Day except to say, it is a long time between Christmas and Easter, so maybe we should have a national holiday in mid January, say Conception Day.

Anyway I’m screwing around on my computer and watching people walk by outside.  I have just recently moved into this suite so still getting use to the area.  I’m a corner suite with street level windows.  My computer is set up in the corner with a large window on each side looking in difference directions and one being the public sidewalk.

This building is only a year old and pretty solid.  I’m told it meets all of the earthquake standards but trust me in the event of an earthquake a guy in a wheelchair isn’t going anywhere anyways.  On the up side it is completing wired with fibre optics, no copper and has its own washer/dryer.  I do have some criteria that I like to look for in my living arrangements but when you rent sight unseen you sometimes have to adjust ones expectations.  One of the important ones is a sense of community.  I have been very lucky in the past ten years.

The neighbours I have met to date are very friendly and social.  It’s also a family building with kids of varying age around the building.  This is a good thing for the days my grandson comes over.  The building is also smoke free and part of our rental agreement is not only not smoking in the suite but smoking right off of the property.  And the little wooded area across the street is where the smokers in the building go.  

After about a week I was able to identify what appears to be a social circle of the smokers.  Different groups would accumulate on the corner across from me and have their smokes while conducting water cooler like discourse.  Having abandoned smoking almost twenty years ago I had very little reason to join them except for the occasional recreational purpose.  Plus it allowed me to get to know some of my neighbours.

Sorry had to get a drink of water. Just went across the street and my mouth was dry as a popcorn fart but better now.  I was chatting up the fellow who lives above me who also uses this opportunity to walk his dog.  Good guy, nice little dog.  Lots of dogs in this building as well and the overall community appears to like taking their relaxed strolls around the area.

So we are talking and I glance across the street, at the building I live in but can’t smoke on the property in, when two guys walk in front of the building both smoking. They’re not bothering anybody, just walking along casually having one of those pleasant sunny afternoon chat.  I realize they don’t live in the building so they can smoke where they want.  My neighbour, quite innocently, says something about it not being fair.  They can smoke there but we can’t.  To bad so many people confuse “fair” with “common sense” so I took that opportunity to give him, politely, my take. 

Nobody is really bothering anyone in this scenario so what the hell. That sidewalk, although maintained by the building, is municipal property so anyone can use it according to city by-laws, which have much more precedents than building policies.

When I run it through my head (which is much faster than me wheeling back up that hill) I realized that neither parties were really interfering with each others.  They were all attending to the regulations that affect them (awareness or not).  In fact, from my point of view, people who adhere to civilized behaviour by nature and not because of some regulatory system make better citizens.  They have common sense.

Anyway the smoking thing, no one was in the wrong so why make an issue of it.  Sometimes we just have to manage our piece of imagery on our own little square of the tapestry of life and this is one of those times.  

If someone doesn’t have enough common sense to recognize this isn’t worth getting into a battle with a bunch of bureaucratic nightmares then they are an idiot.  To decide to pursue “fairness” and use the “proper channels” would cost ridiculous amounts of regulatory staff time and resources. If we really want to see effective budget cuts then recognize where you can use common sense and not pursue a non-issue into a tax payer paid for exercise.  That’s called common sense and sometimes we have to accept responsibility (as in “personal responsibility”, to be devoid of the need for some redundant regulation because you don’t want to make a decision) in order to use common sense.

On the upside the local Timmy’s is an easy ten minute wheel (and that is now when I am out of shape) so getting out and exercised almost daily.  Need that but I am settled.

And now time for a snack. Got a tupperware container full of red, yellow and orange peppers all sliced up. Going to pretend I’m trying to lose weight and munch down on fibre full of water!  The life of a retired social activist, what a bitch 🙂

Just one man’s opinion!

Change – A Five Stages Process

I was just reading an article by by Tucker Max.  For those of you that don’t know who he is you can always check his website but in many ways he is the Hunter S. Thompson of the digital age.  That is all I will say except to mention he is also kind of a guru when it comes to social media.  The article I am referring to had to do with crowd sourcing so naturally I took a lot of interest in it.  Much of what he talked about was very similar to material in a book I read a number of years ago called Macrowikinomics, New Solutions for a Connected World.  The authors, Don Tapscott and Anthony Williams had written this well before crowd sourcing had taken hold however they still captured the nature of change happening in the world of business that is being driven by technology.

If you don't understand, say so!
If you don’t understand, say so!

Both of the above references are similar even though they were written years apart.  What they did for me was reenforce my own belief that change is an unchanging process.  Change is continual however the process that directs change is absolute.  What changes is the content of the process!  And that, my friends, is the nature of change.

Where Macrowikinomics is talking about change in the world of business and finance, Tucker Max is describing changing tool kits.  The similarity between the two was the advancements and change happening due to technology.  No longer are we tied to major financial institutes, stock exchanges or corporations to move a business forward.  And we no longer have to attach our business concept to a “hold on to me” product, in other words something concrete.  We have entered a world were intellectual property, an abstract product, is as marketable and profitable as anything, for example, Ford or GE has to offer.  And they used the same process to establish their market, they just changed their content.

I have used this same process for most of my life which has allowed me to enjoy a plethora of careers.  I’ve driven taxi in Toronto, worked as a mental health therapist in Calgary, owned my own restaurant, worked as a policy analyst for the provincial government but I have always maintain one form of private consulting or another.  I like diversity and I like change.

Over the years I have developed my own concept of a five stage process for change.  Five seems to be a popular number when it comes to change.  Kubler-Ross had the five stages of grief, there are also the five stages of recovery, there is a process called the five steps of risk assessment used in occupational health and safety, five stage of psychiatric assessment and the list goes on.  I have my own five stages of change.

  1. Identification – recognizing the issue that needs change
  2. Acknowledgement – accepting that change is needed
  3. Analyzing – understanding what needs to be done and why
  4. Adjustment – creating solutions to make the change
  5. Activation – implementing the change

I’ve used this process my entire life and it was only after I recognized it that I began to embrace change.  I no longer resisted it because I had identified a tool that allowed me to quantify it.  And when you can quantify something it makes it easier to adapt.  So when I compared the two articles I mentioned above I was able to quickly recognize the process in relation to the differing content.  Both of these articles were using the same type of process but with different content to come to the same conclusion.  Change is constant and technology has come to play a big role in that.

I think this is why I have also come to embrace the philosophy of OpenForChange.  They have taken an idea that use to be the exclusive domain of charitable non-profits or privately funded think tanks and turn it into a profit based venture capitalist provider for charitable purposes.  They are a warehouse of intellectual property as well as a resource centre for community manpower.  They are in their infancy and ready to grow.  They are on the road to becoming for the charitable marketplace what the Open Models Company has become for the world of finance.  And they are doing it all by using the five steps of change.

Are you OpenForChange?

Just one man’s opinion

Life is a Beach!

I am sure everyone has heard the saying “Life is a beach” which is really a derivative of a much negative saying.  But somewhere along the line someone took the negativity out of the “life is a bitch” originating statement and turned it into a more positive.  I think that is a good thing.  My belief is that personal growth based on change is dependent on taking potentially negative situations and turning them into positive learning experiences.  Healthy change and personal growth is about moving forward with positivity.  The “life is a beach” saying is one of those examples.

Life is a beach folks enjoy the sand
Life is a beach folks enjoy the sand

I speak to many people regularly about positivity.  It is one of the ways I promote change.  What saddens me is that so many need to have this explained to them.  I often wonder what jaded them in the first place.

Anyway I like the beach analogy in many ways.  There is a certain irony in comparing my life to a beach but I do.  After all beaches are never very wheelchair friendly but a good beach certainly does look good.  But then the world isn’t really designed for wheelchairs so now is not the time to start getting picky.  Besides the view nothing can compare to the scent of a faint breeze carrying the freshness of the water and wafting gently across you.  Nothing is more calming.  Like change calmness often belies the vibrancy and business of what is really going on under the gentle waters.

I do have some favourite beaches I have discovered over my life time.  Like a good memory, I revisit them whenever the opportunity arises.  In fact I am in the process of moving back to Vancouver Island and will be able to see one of my favourite beach, Rathtrevor.  I love checking out the sand and watching the water ripple over the shore, carrying some sand away while often bringing new particles closer to the shoreline.  That is how change happens on a beach and I enjoy returning to my favourite beaches to see what has changed.  It is the subtle changes I like to look for.

As a promoter of change I liken myself to a grain of sand.  As a single grain of sand one will never push much change until you surround yourself with other grains, then you have a beach.  And as the saying goes “life is a beach” and that beach can stand up to the water trying to wash it away.  If it wasn’t for all of those other grains of sand surrounding you you would simply become a rock cluttered water way.  Nothing pretty about that.

In my earlier days, I think it is fair to say, I was more like a grain of sand on a piece of sand paper.  Rough, abrasive and not use to the finer aspects of change.  I just wore away at things.  That also wore away at me until I began to surround myself with other grains of sand who were more refined.  I was able to take the idealism of my youth and polish it with the wisdom of my maturity.  I became part of the beach.

Now life is like a beach in so many ways.  The lapping water does take some of those grains away with each splash.  Many of the grains of sand were people on my beach thirty years ago.  A number of them have been washed out to sea to find a new beach but new grains have shown up to take their place which is why life, like a beach, is continual change.  Every time you revisit it something has changed and you need to be ready for it.  It may be subtle but a change has occurred, that is the way of life and nature.  You need to open up for it rather than resist it, as long as it is positive.

Don’t try to hold back those grains of sands that are being washed out with the tide.  Enjoy those grains that surround you and keep the beach looking good.  By opening yourself to the change happening around you you will discover that “life is a beach” which is so much more enjoyable than living your “life is a bitch” philosophy.  Are you open for change?

Changing the Way We Think of Charity!

Charities and goodwill are changing, not only in Canada, but worldwide.  And they are changing for a wide range of reasons, some good and some bad.  Canada is now experiencing what has been referred to as “charity chill“.  Charities who may have an ideology that is oppositional to our government are now being threatened through an audit process.  They run the risk of losing their non-profit status if they are found to be in non-compliance with their own mandate.  The chances of this happening are very slim but the resources and time required to adhere to the demands of these audits could effectively drain all of the limited resources of many small non-profits.  The benefits of being a non-profit charity are slowly being eroded.  When your message is threatened by ideology is it still worth it to be a non-profit organization?

Donations to non-profits have been on the decline for sometime as well in Canada.  No surprise when you start to look at the demographics.  Our parents gave to charities because it made them feel good and they believed they were doing right.  And they were in their day, however times have changed.  We now have a new generation of individuals who are more informed and want to have more involvement than simply writing a cheque.  The tax write off for a charitable donations has become so low (about 19% of the donation) it is hardly worth the paperwork.  That’s peanuts when you consider that 75% of a political donation can be used as a tax write off.

Is this what being "non-profit" is about?
Is this what being “non-profit” is about?

And when you see information like that to the right you really begin to question just how much charity is really happening in the world of non-profits.  When more than 60% of funds raised are being bled out before they even get close to being transfused into the bleeding then it is no longer charity, it’s exploitation.

Now I have worked for a number of non-profits and I can honestly say there are many non-profits out there who come nowhere near to these pay rolls but, like it or not, the business of non-profit is just that, BUSINESS.  That is why professional fund raising has become a multi million dollar industry in this country.  I have known a number of smaller non-profits who lost money on fund raising events because the fund raising company was guaranteed their money first.  The silver lining behind all of these black clouds is a new approach to the charitable industry. In fact I don’t even like to call it “charitable” so lets reframe it and use the word “empower”.

The idea of a for profit charitable business should not surprise anybody.  It should be seen as a move forward.  It is for Michael Lavigne and OpenForChange, a concept built on the foundations of social entrepreneurism.  A charitable company designed to engage their supporters (shareholders) by participating directly in the decision and delivery process.  It is more of a coop of goodwill but without the threats that so many non-profits have to deal with.

OpenForChange will never have to worry about protecting their charitable status, they don’t have one.  They will never have to worry about a threat over their ideology because their ideology is governed by their shareholders.  They will never have to worry about disgruntled members stacking an AGM to take over the organization and undermine the desires of the founders.  OpenForChange is run like a business because it is a business and their product is the betterment of their community.

Michael admits to having grown up in a privileged environment and enjoyed the affluence life style his parents offered him.  Only recently did he start to recognize a need to give back to the community.  Through his network of friends and acquaintances he began to realize he had more to offer his community than he originally thought.  However it did mean shedding thirty years of beliefs in order to make it work.  He had to shed what he had been to become the person he wants to be.  In a nutshell he wanted to define himself through his actions rather than what he felt other people thought he should be.

Now, with the assistance of a handful of dedicated individuals, Michael is launching a for profit business dedicated to charitable endeavours.  His product, goodwill, his currency, people power.  Every investor is responsible for it’s success.  They contribute in every way to the outcomes and the “bottom line”.

This is the new age and new approach to empowering our communities.  Michael is building a dream by using social conscience.  Do you want to share in that dream?  Watch for the launch of the website as we usher in a new generation of giving.  This is the next step from the pay it forward movement.  Are you open for change?

Just one man’s opinion



Who Says Charity Has to be Non-Profit?

Where is it written that organizations who want to provide charitable work have to be a non-profit?  It isn’t.  It was 1966 before charities were asked to file returns on their activities and to register with the Minister of National Revenue so that the receipts they issued could be verified.  That’s less than fifty years ago so the whole concept of taxable deductions is pretty new in the overall scheme of things.  Society in general uses the non-profit approach because “we always have”.  Times have changed and so has the nature of charity.  There was a time, not that long ago, when women couldn’t vote but that changed and so is the nature of charitable endeavours.

Technology and forward thinking is changing the world of the socially conscious.  We now recognize individuals and organizations called “social entrepreneurs“.  These types of business minded individuals are not here just to turn their capital into monetary profit (in the traditional sense) or even to necessarily sell a product as we currently understand that term.  Part of their existence is based on supporting their community and to assist community programs delivering charitable programs.  And they recognize that this can be accomplished outside of the non-profit model.  They have a desire and commitment to improve the well being of their community while accomplishing this using a for profit business model.

Now where is the profit in that?  Well it is an intangible profit, it is a sense of worth that is food for the soul.  It is based purely on the concept of obtaining a “feel good” return on investment.  Kevin (Show Me the Money) O’Leary would have a stroke where as Warren Buffett would be doing cartwheels.  It is the epitome of a corporate selfless act.  And it is being driven by a young entrepreneur using technology.

Enter Michael Lavigne, his partners and OpenForChange.  Michael is one of those 30 something individuals who want to make a difference but want a new and modern approach.  He’s an entrepreneur and as such represents a paradigm shift in the social conscience of the corporate sector.  He has taken his desire to better his community, and the world, by avoiding the pitfalls and threats that many non-profits are faced with by providing a charitable for profit business.  He has separated himself from the non-profit  forest to being a single point of shade on the open prairie.

That place of shade in a non-traditional market
That place of shade in a non-traditional market

Michael and his partners have made giving into a viable business model.  In return they get to go home everyday feeling like they have really accomplished something.  Their currency, good will.

OpenForChange (OFC) is a business model where investors decide and participate in local charitable events.  Their return on investment (ROI), an immeasurable sense of well being.  These investors are not interested in the $19 tax write-off they get for a $100 donation.  They want to be involved with the charitable needs of their community but in the busy world of today do not necessarily have the time available to commit to ten hours of committee meetings every month.  They deal with enough politics in their own work place to have to deal with it on a non-profit board or committee.

Through the philosophy of OpenForChange they can pick and chose when and where they want to be involved.  They can make a monetary or time investment (OFC doesn’t like to look at it as a donation because it is an investment) without worrying about being over committed.  This is becoming the new face of charitable involvement.

I am going to be watching their development with interest.  Until themnif this sounds interesting to you follow their Twitter feed to keep up on their events and I will be filling in more detail as they grow.

Just one man’s opinion!