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Recovering backpacker, Cornwallite at heart, political enthusiast, catalyst, writer, husband, father, community volunteer, unabashedly proud Canadian. Every hyperlink connects to something related directly or thematically to that which is highlighted.

Friday, 11 July 2014

The Problem with Blood Sport Politics

Our political system is highly competitive, frequently dangerous (less actual assassination, but still tons of character assassination) and tends to reward those bombastic types who thump their fists on desks and shout to get what they want.  How many people still love Rob Ford's approach without making the direct link between his "leadership style" and his personal problems? 
Conversely, these are the types of selfish bosses who think nothing of throwing their colleagues, public servants and even direct employees under the bus without batting an eyelash.  They are not prone to step up and offer support to a besieged group or individual unless they see direct benefit from doing so or loss from staying silent. 
This goes for both genders - it's the personality that dominates.  That's how the system functions.
Of course, our political system doesn't work.  Not only are we landing with ideological policy that is poorly constructed and not as reflective of social need as it should be, but we have a populace that is tuning out entirely, so fed up with the "blood sport" and entitlement we all associate with politics.
Of course, things are changing; Tim Hudak isn't the only aggressive, attack-centric bombast who's found themselves marginalized in the recent past.  We also have a crop of leaders emerging who do the sociology thing - and aren't all men.
Just something to think about.


Thursday, 10 July 2014

Democracy Puts the Citizen First

Not the Party, not the Leader, not the Prime Minister - the people. 
When we put ideology first, we fail.  When insiders design the programs they want to see, we fail. 
We've been failing a lot lately in our system - which is why apathy has become so rampant. 
It's time we get our priorities straight.  We have to stop expecting someone else to do it for us.
The “User” is the Citizen, Not the Federal Agency

The Quality of Their Character

Posted by a friend of mine who works in a job where she would, traditionally, be expected to dress in stark suits, play a lot of golf and spend time networking the cocktail circuit.
She does none of these things.  It doesn't matter; she is a unique personality, challenging because of the intensity of her intelligence but she gets a job done that needs done and few others have the cognitive bandwidth to handle.
Not dissimilar; there's a guy named Richard Pietro - worked until recently as a server at Swiss Chalet or some such, tends to dress in jeans and t-shirts and rarely shaves.  Richard has led the organization of several inter-governmental events around Open Data, is a go-to consultant (for free) on various initiatives and is currently on a road trip across Canada discussing Open Government courtesy of the no-strings attached funding support of Microsoft.
This isn't how it used to be.  Clothes and pastimes used to define "tribes", which was the definition that mattered most.  I can remember the recent Ontario Liberal Leadership election where you could literally tell what team someone was on by how they were dressed - suits, hipster, scallywag, etc.
Of course, most people are still being judged on their appearance, their past times and their vocabulary, which is a tragedy. 
It's all well and good to say "them folk, they need to conform if they expect to get on in society" but the truth is it's always the outliers, the people who think different and therefore, live differently that bring in the unthought-of solutions to problems no one mainstream can fix.
We're making progress in getting past judgment, but we still have a long way to go.


My Big Vision for Youth Employment, Poverty/Crime Reduction + Community Engagement

I just did a Prezie - my first attempt - but it's not the entirety of what I want.  So I write.
First, a bit about my methodology.  I am one of those "expansive thinker" types - what that means is I retain large segments of every bit of information to which I'm exposed.  My little noggin is always beavering away at making connections between the agencies, individuals, problems, solutions, resources and whimsy that aggregates there.
Throw a problem my way, I automatically start mulling solutions and who/what would be part of that solution.  Throw several problems my way, I look for how and if they connect so that any solution generated is a shared solution - more efficient that way, though it does tend to involve keeping a lot of balls in the air.
This is no problem for me - the challenge lies in communicating these myriad, cross-jurisdictional challenges and solutions in sound-bites and framing complex solutions as "low-hanging fruit."  There's a real reticence to do (or fund) complexity these days, even in the most complex of institutions.
The reason I started this blog, though, was so that I could be as convoluted, wordy and expansive as I wanted.  Nobody's forcing you to read it, though writing big helps me frame small to an enormous degree.
If you want simple answers to simple problems, stop reading.  If you want a complex business case as to why one product or service should be paid for, move along.  I don't do transactions - I think systems.
So, here are a couple problems that are emerging out there:
- employment, especially for youth and folk suffering from postal code stigma ("I can't hire you, you're from a priority neighbourhood")
- community engagement - everything from voter turnout to participation in consultations is down.  I'd love to see volunteerism numbers, or how many communities have things like active neighbourhood watches or committees for events and such.  From what I've seen over the past few years, people are becoming more insular, perhaps because much of their social world is moving online/their work is taking up more of their time
- Emerging Cognitive Labour Revolution - quite frankly, most bosses suck at management, have no clue how to motivate their labour and are more interested in being in charge than being successful or sustainable.  A "get rich quick" mentality has evolved into a "spend less now" one, meaning investment in resources, especially people, is far below where it should be.  Add to that the changing nature (and pressures) of work and the mounting number of health consequences emerging (that people are told to suck it up and deal with on their own), something's gotta give.
- Poverty and Crime - especially by postal code.  There are marginalized communities in Toronto that have been marginalized for ages.  More interesting, there are some pretty interesting graphs that demonstrate how wealth and power is increasingly being concentrated in narrow conduits running north/south from downtown up to places like Vaughn.  This means that there are more neighbourhoods slipping through the cracks than before, which is problematic.
- Innovation.  Our economy is kinda chugging along, if you look at natural resource wealth, but all of our other baskets are starting to fall.  We need new work, new ideas, new products and services that meet the changing needs of the global market. 
Lots of centres and innovation labs exist out there, but they all tend to be focused on nurturing the next Google or Facebook - if you can't readily demonstrate that your idea is a multi-million dollar enterprise waiting to explode, nobody cares and wallets remain closed.
We're not hitting many home runs, yet the rest of the world keeps circling.  This isn't a sustainable model.
On the other hand, there are some good things happening, too.
Open Gov and Open Data - a Peaceable Revolution, as it were, seeking to modernize the operation and corporate culture of both government and society at large.  Go big or go home, etc.
A big proponent of All Things Open is Make Web Not War, a CSR bit of Microsoft that seeks to build communities and open government, but also drive traffic to their cloud.  I have no issues with this - there's no reason companies can't be successful by doing what's right for society.  If they open up public data sets in user-friendly ways, allowing for better government accountability on the one hand, but on the other, resources for citizens to develop solutions and even entrepreneurial possibilities, that's a good thing.
MWNW isn't the only player online looking to build communities and provide people with resource and tool access.  My SoJo is a brilliant new platform that seeks to connect people and their ideas with the processes, tools and resources they need to turn concepts into action.  When you look at MWNW next to SoJo, you can see how complementary they are in what they do.
Another portal that I like is WalkAlong, a mental health resource centre; there format is decent, their tools are helpful and I really like the peer video content.  Hopefully, somewere down the road SoJo will have content like that, except more oriented towards how to succeed, like those Epicomm produces.
That's all online.  There's good stuff happening in person, too.
Why Should I Care is a civic engagement group that holds monthly chats about issues of interest featuring big-name speakers.  These events are free, though - anyone can come in and ask senior bureaucrats questions about policy or get clarification from politicians.  It's Canadian Club without the exclusivity, or price tag.
If you want to talk about entrepreneurship or innovation, everyone loves CSI - co-working space, animators, facilitators, resources, fun parties and opportunities, meeting space, community.
Not everyone can get to or afford CSI, though.  Which is why I love the fact that enterprising folk like Andrew Cox are trying to develop their own brand of CSI or entrepreneurship centres in communities like Lawrence Heights.
These would be peer-run centres that are safe spaces for youth/residents to attend where they'd have access to computers, printers, forms for things like incorporation or whatnot and resource libraries.  If you walk around communities like Lawrence Heights, you'd be surprised how many folk are reading business-related books.  You shouldn't be, though.
Centres like this would be great places where entrepreneurs like Jabullah Murray and his PUSH Elite basketball/leadership/community volunteerism program could flesh out business plans, work on marketing and the rest of it.
Places like CSI occasionally have speakers (often in paid sessions) on different business tips and tricks; communities like Lawrence Heights already have Friday Night Cafes where local issues of concern ranging from planning healthy meal plans on tight budgets or what to do about local security concerns get raised.
To bring us back to the beginning, the nascent Open Gov community is trying to find ways to get out into communities and tell them about what Open Gov means, while also answering questions and gathering feedback - like Richard Pietro is doing with his #OGT14 Open Gov on the Open Road Tour.
At some point, both Make Web Not War and SoJo are going to want to build brand in individual communities, in much the same way WSIC is looking to host more events in more locations.
Now, let's tie all of this together.
We'll start with a pilot and build from there.  Imagine space was found in communities like Lawrence Heights or Dixon Heights (Toronto Community Housing has some)  where Centres of Entrepreneurship could be set up.  These centres would have a dedicated admin staff, a resource library, some meeting rooms, internet access, stationary, forms, all the rest of it.  Admin would be hired locally, but trained by the best facilitators, managers and the like in the city - I'm looking at Exhibit Change and Swerhun as partners on that front.
Membership would be free, though it would involve signing a Statement of Ethics and include a commitment to offer some kind of support to the centre; a few hours volunteering, willingness to be included in promotional videos or whatnot.  The point of the Statement is to create a tactile sense of belonging to and having some ownership/responsibility for a community.
These centres would be wired in to SoJo, so that they and their partners/member start-ups could be part of a broader community.  SoJo would help add value and refinement to the ideas and inspirations of community members, help connect communities (geographic, demographic, issue-related) together and promote relationships.  SoJo would also list and promote events, facilitating further engagement and coordination between communities.  Add to this a toolkit of resources that are downloadable, editable and easy-to-use so that new businesses or NFPs could have access to the sorts of media templates, business plan or comms plan formats that are generally accessible only to those with significant coin.
These Centres of Community Engagement would host regular WSIC-like chats, with topics ranging from how to communicate effectively with funders to tips and tricks on marketing to things like emergency preparedness and, of course, why Open Government is good for you.  Local members would be able to decide on desired topics themselves; their admin/SoJo could help line up speakers.  At all times, residents would be in the driver's seat.
Meanwhile, SoJo would be plugged in to Make Web Not War and their government/corporate connections and data sets.  This interoperability would do two things - allow community groups, NFPs and start-ups access to useful data and the tools they need to do stuff with it, but also allow for government and corporations to see what and how their data is being used.  This is good for planning, but who knows, maybe a company would find a nascent idea they liked and want to fund/hire/buy the organization behind it.  It'd be a bit like outsourcing R&D

Meanwhile, members at Centres of Entrepreneurship could get the raw material, training and support they need to turn this data into marketable, profitable Aps. 
If you can't think outside the box, why not work with others who can do it for you?  Why not empower them to make some coin of their own through the process? 
Some of these corporate participants might want to be speakers in these communities - because, if they're smart, they'll realize the value of building brand loyalty, integrating themselves into new market and empowering future customers.  Altruism is just selfishness that plans a couple steps ahead, after all.
What does all this have to do with engagement, poverty, crime, etc?
It's a Maslow thing.  By focusing on how to mitigate a negative, we've been perpetually seeking the wrong solutions.  Marginalized communities don't need programs plopped down on top of them - they need resources, encouragement and support that never waivers as they build their own.  The biggest gap, apart from trust, has been communication (which is, of course, tied very closely to communication).  When the people "in charge" feel like they can't communicate with communities and vice versa, nothing happens.
By building communities of engagement that see the selfish win in structural changes, we can flip all that.  The question isn't "how might we solve poverty in these isolated neighbourhoods" - it's "how might we empower a dynamic society that achieves greater heights in collaboration?"
We don't need to individually reinvent the wheel - we simply need to link the best of what exists now together.
Voila.  It's all doable - the pieces are out there, right now.  What's needed is time and money to bring these things together.  But that takes will and that tantalizingly nebulous commodity, leadership.
Whoever is clever enough to see their own ROI in being part of a shared solution will have the satisfaction of being the one(s) to catalyze system change on a massive scale, gaining reputationaly and monetarily in the process.
They just have to think big enough.

Be Prepared: The Severe Weather Events Keep Coming

Canadians, we are told, fundamentally don't care about the complex choices and budget allocations that go into severe weather event preparedness, which includes infrastructure upgrades, service coordination and of course, community consultation and training.
All we care about are consumer priorities - low taxes, cheaper services, so on and so forth.  It's all very Galt's Gulch.
The problem is, this ain't an approach that's going to work.  The truth is that it's borderline impossible for governments to plan effectively for multiple sustained severe weather events, largely due to cost.  We have ancient infrastructure, too little social housing stock, people that don't maintain their trees or clear the sewage from their street's sewer drain, etc, etc. that impact our structural viability.  
Then, there's the money that needs to be put aside for bad weather that may or may not come, which is money not addressing local infrastructure.  There is coordination between services - when an ice storm shuts down a city for a week plus, not days, there simply aren't enough emergency workers to get everywhere they need to be in short time frames. 
For governments or agencies to say that only they can address the problem is madness.  For communities to say that they pay taxes, consume services and that's the extent of their responsibility is folly.
We will never be 100% ready, but we can do a much better job if we do our part to prepare individually, to collaborate with our communities, get informed about procedures and get involved in the emergency preparedness process - including training on what to do when crises strike and how to hand-off local management to authorities if/when they come.
We have a lot of work to do, people - a lot.  The only way we can get it done is by working at it together.  Which means having each of us as our best.
That's the frame of mind we need to be getting into - not go as fast as you can alone, but to go the distance together.

This Should Explain a Few Things

Every play chicken?  The winner isn't the better driver, but the one convinced the other guy will budge first.
The same holds true for crime both blue and white collar - essentially, the confident people know they can take what they want because they expect nobody has the sack to stop them or the awareness to even know they're being swindled.
If you doubt that, play the stock market - or better yet, hire a pollster.

This is the whole "people are sheep" perspective common to many delusionally confident, aggressive, dismissive and highly successful people.  They make a ton of money selling books and offering training seminars essentially trying to tell people how to be like them.
Genetics isn't the be-all of our behaviour; we can change it, when we put our minds to it.  It pays, however, to accept what our starting point is.
Why on earth would we have people genetically predisposed to feel they are better than others and more than a match for anyone they face off against?
This makes evolutionary sense and can be witnessed throughout the animal kingdom.  Leaders of the pack are aggressive, full of bluster and ready to scare off or pick fights with potential opponents or shout down potential predators.  In return, they get the pick of the food, the best mate or mates, etc.
Nature has designed societies that have tough confident folk who play the role of security, while other people play differing roles - like food gathering and prep, innovation, etc. 
What nature didn't do was design complex societies where people have diverse roles and confidence (as well as our inclination to defer to it) simply isn't enough to tackle the challenges at hand.
You can't, for instance, beat your chest and scare off a severe weather event.  Nor shout and motivate an organization to be more innovative.  Yet, because of hard-wiring, it's these aggressive boss-types who get ahead.
Helps explain why our democracy is crumbling and our social model is failing, doesn't it?
Maybe it's time we pull ourselves away from the cockfight and start heeding Chicken Little a bit.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Oh, I hear ya, Steve

What forecasters are focused on monetization?  Could you even touch the depths of the future if you're so focused on your own personal surface?
Not that I'm a science-fiction writer, of course.  My craft is somewhat different.


Rob Ford and Lawrence Heights

One dead, Toronto's 23rd murder this year, with two other lives still hanging in the balance.  A recovering community that has legitimately been doing a great deal to take ownership and strengthen their community, rocked by gun violence once again.
This happened in a community in Toronto, a stone's throw from the incredibly busy intersection of Lawrence and the Allen. 
Yet what's everyone talking about today?
Toronto's Mayor has broken the law, broken public trust, been abusive to staff, competitors and even people he was in rehab with.  He's a walking disaster, a parody of what's worst about politics, a circus side-show in a city facing a whole host of serious, structural issues, among which is postal-code stigma, poverty and related, crime and gun violence.
We love him for it.  We are addicted to Rob Ford.  Like true addicts, we are so focused on our next Ford fix that we ignore the destruction he leaves behind as much as we tune out the issues that mayors should be drawing attention to.
It's not just the general public that's rushing for their Ford fix, seeking spin-off celebrity.  The big-name mayoral candidates are quick to rush out press releases commenting on the latest Ford gaffes, like it somehow matters what they have to say about Ford's antics.
Where, pray tell, are statements from Oliva Chow or John Tory or Karen Stintz on the murder of Abshir Hassan?  Where is the empathy for a devastated community, the resolve to work with community leaders to solve the issues that lead to crimes like this?
Whether they know it's happened at all or whether their political staffers have told them there's no votes in Lawrence Heights, so don't bother, or the risk of speaking out outweighs the gains for some reason, I don't know.  What I do know is that this silence is exactly why communities like Lawrence Heights have good reason to be skeptical about the commitment their government has for their well-being.
Maybe they should take up golf, or maybe they should en-masse become crack-addicts that make homophobic slurs in public places.  That seems to be what it takes to get people's attention in this City.
For anyone who does care - one mayoral candidate who's expressed interest in sitting down with youth in Lawrence Heights and talking about community engagement is Morgan Baskin.  Hopefully, that happens. 
At the same time there are young leaders in Lawrence Heights itself working hard to develop leadership programs, entrepreneurship centres and the like - places that seek to empower residents to be masters of their own fate rather than passive recipients of programs.  These folk are reaching out to whoever can help them achieve their goals - including organizations like My SoJo.
There is so much potential in Lawrence Heights, as there is in "priority neighbourhoods" throughout the City.  With a bit if empowering help and peer support, there's no limit to what they can achieve.
But we live in a world where voices like these are expected to come all the way to decision-makers while buffoons like Rob Ford get international coverage for what they're doing wrong.  Even the criminals get off easy, so long as they can hide in Rob Ford's shadow.
It's a screwy, irrational, self-destructive paradigm we live in, folks. 
And it ain't going to change on its own.
Until we start saying no to the sideshow, roll up our sleeves and start leading from the front, we will continue to be stuck with leadership that focuses on sizzle more than steak.
It's a show we've been before, and it wasn't funny the first time.  It's time to change the channel, folks.


Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Tragedy in Lawrence Heights

Flemington Road shooting

I know that building.  In fact, I've stood at that doorstep many times.  It's TCH property - inside is any empty room that some young community leaders are hoping to turn into an entrepreneurship centre, kind of a mini, rent-free Centre For Social Innovation.  There are some great people who live here; people who care about their community, who work hard at what they do and aspire to a better life for themselves and their families.
What I don't know is the story behind this shooting.  There are regular concerns about crime in the community and there have been shootings in the past, but it's been relatively quiet for a while now.  I can only hope that residents come forward and share whatever they know about the murder with the authorities, even if it's just a description of the car taken from people poking their noses out windows.
The sad truth, though, is that many people in the community don't trust police, don't have faith in the City and aren't convinced that anyone beyond their borders care what happens to them.  They feel abandoned and, more than they should, afraid.
If common ground could be found between the police, the public service and the community, all kinds of solutions are possible.  The problem is, so many community workers get cycled through, with commitments made and not followed up on that there's precious little reason for residents to trust the process. 
There are some great police officers who care about the community - some of them get cycled through, too, but there are also those more focused on traditional practices of law enforcement and omerta-keeping that simply aren't effective in communities like this.
The big tragedy of Lawrence Heights isn't that it lacks potential (there's a ton of it) or that there is a lack of good will (there's a ton of that, too) but that the good people in the schools, the police force, city agencies and most importantly, the grassroots leaders in the community don't have the communications, organizational resource, training, etc. tools they need to succeed.
But they could. 
Communities like Lawrence Heights lie on all of our doorsteps; we pass by them every day, not paying attention until something bad happens. 
It's time we stop reacting with scorn or fear and start fixing these problems proactively, collaboratively.
It shouldn't take dead bodies for us to engage.

Lawrence Heights is a community like any

Why We Should Worry that Warren Is Right

It's an absolute truth, this; Question Period is viewed as a sporting event that few people are into.  It's like cricket, that way - at least to Canadians.
At the same time, average Canadians don't think much of Parliament, either.  Whatever the truth is (and it's not far off the assumption) Canadians assume that it's an echo chamber, lots of sound and fury that matters not to their daily lives.
What happens in Parliament expect partisans taking partisan shots at each other in ways scripted by partisan operatives?  Parliament rarely expresses the views of every-day Canadians, seldom talks about the accomplishments of every-day Canadians and even less frequently has anything to do with the creation of solutions for every-day Canadians.
That stuff doesn't even happen in Committee.  Solutions (such as they are) get hashed out in backrooms by unelected staff, who feed messages to elected officials to spout for the camera.  It's a closed loop.
On those rare occasions where a community does get raised, or a specific constituent issue is brought up, then you might get people tuning in to see themselves (or friends, or family) mentioned in the House - but that's an increasingly rare occurrence. 
There is no room for actual constituents in the House of Commons. 
Countless studies have been written about the atrophying of Canadian democracy; they all collect dust.  MPs have been interviewed and books have been written about our Tragedy of the Commons - yet who is reading, and who is trying to implement?
We are hearing, more and more, about how even our own elected officials feel like they are hamstrung by a system that favours Parties and leaders over individual MPs, with the balance of power once again in the hands of unelected, unaccountable advisors.
Parties have become the new Privy Council.
Senior staff have become the new Cabinet.
And the PM with a majority has become the new Monarch.
Should we worry when we're told we fundamentally don't care about what happens in Parliament?  Should we be concerned when we're told only one leader can maintain a strong, stable, secure society?
When we choose not to see, not to listen, not to care because we aren't interested in being responsible, we are abandoning our democracy all together.
Guaranteed, if you don't like the messy, time-consuming nature of civic engagement, you'll like the opposite even worse.
That's something we should all be very worried about.

Political Kung Fu in #topoli

There's an election on in Toronto - a legendary battle between legendary campaign teams whose spinning skills are the stuff of legend.

At least, that seems to be how the campaign teams feel.  For the average bear on the street, they don't know and don't care.  Chow, Tory, whoever - they're all the same, except Rob Ford.  Ford is the outlier, Dean Moriarty made Mayor - people are transfixed by the car-wreck that is his mayoralty and his life.  His appeal is that he puts the FU into politics, sticking it to the system and the rules in ways many, many citizens wish they could.
Citizens are increasingly apathetic about politics and democracy as a whole - they don't believe in the former and don't believe the latter really exists any more, but don't feel as if there's anything they can do about it.

Like a Kung Fu epic, there are tough-talking warriors fighting with media acrobatics on a hill, occasionally touching down like tornadoes to wreak havoc on the lives and communities of the villagers.  When the credits role, it doesn't really matter if Superman has flattened Metropolis - he's the hero, because he won, and that's what matters.

That's the big secret - political operatives who style themselves as partisan James Bonds don't really connect what they do with the failing of democracy.  They associate themselves, their candidate and/or their cause as holy; they need to win, because only they can save us from the other guy, or from ourselves.

It may good for one's ego, this epic framing of partisan demi-gods battling for the hearts and minds of the mere mortals, but it's not true.

First - a mayoralty race is not epic, nor legendary.  Especially in a city like Toronto with a weak-mayor system; our mayor, whoever it is, may get to set the agenda, but they only have one vote.  This has been Rob Ford's greatest challenge - by acting as a parody of tough political leaders and with a staff that's acted as a parody of manipulative political staff, Ford has been his own worst enemy when it comes to implementing his agenda.

Second - Mayoralty isn't about tough leaders with massively comprehensive plans that can be foisted on equally-elected Councilors.    Toronto's Mayor is supposed to be cheer leader for the city, conduit for ideas and morale officer in times of difficulty.  The Mayor isn't supposed to be a demi-god; they're supposed to be a reflection of us.

This is why Rob Ford continues to appeal to many people in Toronto, especially on the margins of society; they don't feel that City Hall reflects them, understands them or even cares about their issues.  The System, be it the police, service providers or even transit doesn't have their interests at heart, but sees them as a virus that plagues the city and needs to be managed down.

Nobody likes to feel like part of the problem.  People want to be part of the solution, always.

This is why I'm not backing any of the big names on the Mayoralty ballot - I don't believe in their approach, I'm disenfranchised with the politics-as-usual games being played by their teams an have yet to feel that any one of them has real empathy for the people of this City.

They're in competition with each other for power, which is a far cry from being advocates for bringing power to the people.
We don't want to be witness to destructive battles between egos - we want to be co-designers of our shared future.  We want to build Toronto together.
I don't want a Mayor who seems themselves as the light and the way - I want a leader who understands the value of dialogue, facilitation and building consensus.

Show me leadership that inspires, motivates and reminds us that only we, as a community, can make Toronto better, and you'll have both my vote and my support. 

I know many, many others who feel the same way.


Monday, 7 July 2014

Control Comes From Within

First control, then everything else.
This is the mentality of The Boss - and it's one too common in the corporate world, in government, in schools, hospitals and yes, between uniformed law-enforcers and citizens. 
First, they say, comes control - then comes accountability.  It's a myth, this - there is never unquestionable control; therefore, accountability worsens, not improves the closer to total control one becomes.  It's as true for individuals (bullying, threats) as it is for government (totalitarianism).
Leadership isn't about control - its about facilitation.  Leaders know themselves, seek to understand others and are constantly mindful of the landscape. 
Leadership isn't about oppressing the others to gain control, but about discipline; when one has self-control, everything else becomes clear.

On the witness stand, one of the officers explained his modus operandi: “First I get control, then I answer questions.” Says Rosenthal, who represented Christopher-Reid’s family, “In my view, it’s astonishing that they wouldn’t answer the question first. It seems to me, in that case, that if they just answered his question it might be a whole different ball game. He had no criminal history. He was just a guy in a state.”

Left Hand, Right Hand: Why We Need Systems, Not Silos in Ontario Health Care

This kind of thing happens all the time in government, at all levels.  I've seen municipal agencies uncertain who is responsible for who is responsible for keep city property clean, meaning it doesn't get done.  And that's just for starters.  How can there be so much duplication, gaps and overlaps and so little clarity over who is responsible for what?  Isn't this government?
There are myriad reasons as to why - the only way any of them can be addressed is by changing the corporate culture and opening up the silos of service delivery and data.  This will, invariably, lead to a lot of egg on a lot of faces - which is one of the main excuses as to why change isn't happening.
We need to get past finger-pointing and partisan gamesmanship on massive structural issues like this; it's wasted energy that impedes solution-finding.  What we need is broad recognition that the system has to change and it will be an uncomfortable process - but one we all need to get behind if it's to work.
Systems, not silos. 
Solutions, not blame. 
Leadership, not bosses.
It's the only way forward.

A Place To Belong

Every person needs a home - that's a basic necessity.  You can't maintain a family, get a job or add value to society without one.
Every one needs a community; people that accept you for who you are as one of their own.  It's community connections that empower us to work together, to help a neighbour, to work on shared solutions or advocate with a voice that resonates.
And society needs each and everyone of us at our best.  We can't change who we are to make better an economy that is designed to cull the weak, but we can co-design the system to empower strong individuals for a strong society.
The only way forward is to grow together on common ground.  It has always been thus.


False Efficiency: Are Human Services Losing Their Huamanity

It is absolutely true that our current model of public service delivery is unsustainable.  Too much money is being spent to help too few.  While many who need help are falling through the cracks.
The general solution being provided these days is reduce the amount of service being provided.  This comes as more claims being denied and less services being funded.  We're in this crazy place where "efficiency experts" who are good at cutting, not catalyzing shared solutions, are being paid ridiculous sums of money to cut back on the number of days a patient can stay in a bed or whether an individual with complex needs fits the narrow parameters of existing programs.
It's crazy.
Refugees are being denied healthcare if they aren't seen as "legitimate", being left to rot in institutional abysses.  Seniors without pension plans are being told to fend for themselves.  Youth are being told to become sales experts, on top of everything else, and somehow force employers to hire them.  Employers love their contract positions and interns, because they're less expensive.
It's just business, they say, cribbing mob movies of the 80s.
What we have is a system that is bleeding itself of humanity in a poor attempt to right the ship, but in reality, what's happening is those already marginalized are becoming even more marginalized as those who already have can use new excuses not to spend.  The bean counters (or economists) are looking at people strictly as consumers and taking a Randian, laissez-faire approach to service provision.  Unless you're paying, the message goes, we're not here for you, so smarten up.
They may think they're being clever, but they're actually fueling a structural weakening that will, if nothing changes, bring society crashing down around us as happened once upon a time in Russia.
It's very unlikely we'll come to that, though, for the same reason society has always grown forward - not thanks to the salesmen or power-hungry, but due to the selfless dedication of people at all levels who really believe that we're stronger when we work together.
People like Richard Pietro aren't making money, bringing the word to every corner of Canada any more than community advocates are turning down opportunities to make a difference because nobody is paying them to do so.  These people aren't keeping the free market from functioning; they're filling in the gaps that the free market has never had cause to fill in.  It just so happens that smart marketers are starting to twig in to how they can benefit their clients by supporting these social catalysts.
There is hope out there, folk, no matter how bleak, desensitized and money-driven our world seems to be these days.  If there is anything on this good earth worth fighting for, that's it.

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Packing for #OGT14

If you're touring across Canada discussing Open Data, here's what you bring with.
Richard's Canadian Adventures: Open Data On the Open Road is teaching us all kinds of cool things!

Warren Wants Some Open Data


It's an interesting thing, this Open Business.  As raised by the City of Toronto's Harvey Low at the launch of Richard Pietro's #OGT14 Open Gov on the Open Road tour, people can pull all kinds of stats out of Open Data - ethnicity and postal code, for instance, or religiosity and postal code.
There are obvious privacy concerns that come along with all things Open Data, as well as no small part of responsibility.  Of course, if/when everyone's living out in the open, it gets harder to do what you know is socially irresponsible.  If anything, the Open Movement is an opportunity for the supports, but also check and balances of community living to adapt to urban environments.  Putting some human statistics around poverty, as an example, makes it harder to write off without considering social context.
Funny enough, I heard an interesting rumour about where Open Government may be headed.
Does it all connect?  It always has.