After decades of community organizing I've learned that extraordinary acts are not reserved for the special few and that everyone’s actions are necessary to transform our world. The vast majority of people want to make the world a better place. Magnificence occurs when we sprinkle our work with beauty and love. I am optimistic about what we can do together. ~ Al

Impact: Six Patterns to Spread Your Social Innovation

book-cover-mockupImpact explores the difference between short term success and lasting impact.

Buy Now

Also available on

Ready to Improve Your Impact?

Between them Vickie Cammack and Al Etmanski have successfully launched numerous social enterprises, organizations, social purpose businesses, coalitions, advocacy and funding initiatives.
There is no mistake they haven’t made and few scenarios they haven’t experienced.

Along the way they have observed six deep patterns of change-making which are described in Al’s book, Impact. They are keen to share their experience with groups ready to think and act like a movement.

Get in touch

30th Anniversary of the Other ‘Persons’ Case

Here’s a story about cultural impact that too few people know about. The “Eve” Supreme Court ruling which is on a par with the original, “Persons” case. Imagine being a young woman who society moves swiftly by. A society, if it … Read More

Featured Post

Tale of Two Cities

I moved to Halifax lured by its legendary bluenose charm. I expected to spend my evenings with Haligonians from every walk of life singing and dancing to live fiddle music at my local pub. I visited Portland because everybody knows … Read More

Featured Post

Pilot Infatuation

Former Canadian Minister of Health, Monique Bégin once lamented that Canada is a country of perpetual pilot projects. She was referring to the fact that we can’t seem to get off the pilot project treadmill. Perhaps we are perfectionists. Maybe we … Read More

Featured Post

The Force That Bounces the World

This may be the easiest assignment Vickie and I have ever had. The good folks at the Plan and Tamarack Institutes have asked us to host a webinar series on the ingenuity of people with disabilities and their families. Easy, because innovation is … Read More

Featured Post

Political Boldness Requires Strong Movements

Q. What do you do when a government you didn’t vote for, or don’t like, lives up to its promises? A. Nurture and strengthen the movement(s) you are part of. Q. What do you do when a government you voted … Read More

Featured Post

Transforming Capitalism versus Democratizing the Economy

There is a hardy breed of activists who have set themselves the rather lofty goal of civilizing capitalism. This renaissance of capitalism will be achieved by reinventing businesses and corporations, transforming markets, recreating Wall Street, and humanizing investments. Capitalism’s purpose, … Read More

Featured Post

The Plot Thickens

Ever heard of a wicked problem? It’s a challenge that has no borders and attracts as many unanswerable questions as solutions. There are a lot of wicked problems out there. They are tough, stubborn, deep. And their roots are intertwined … Read More

Featured Post

Goosebumps Never Lie

The Guess Who had it right. Unless people are shakin’ all over, your issue, campaign or movement will sputter. If you want to rally more than the usual suspects get spines tingling. That means having a bold vision that cuts … Read More

Featured Post

Words Matter – Theirs and Ours

“The beautiful word begets the beautiful deed,” wrote Thomas Mann. This is a lesson I, along with many others, struggle with. Our advocacy words don’t always live up to our advocacy ideals. Somehow we think we can denigrate, ridicule, shame … Read More

Featured Post

Indigenous Wisdom and Peacemaking

The following piece is adapted from a blog essay I wrote for Social Innovation Exchange (SIX). SIX is a global curator of social innovation. They are issuing a series of blogs on peacemaking in advance of their annual Summit which … Read More

Featured Post

A Marriage of Playground and Podium

On the surface it wasn’t a match made in heaven, a Quebec ethicist and a former Olympic athlete. One committed to participation in sport for the sheer joy of it. The other focused on athletic competition with a laser focus … Read More

Featured Post

Enterprising Slums and Favelas

One of my more embarrassing gaffes occurred while walking through the Nairobi neighbourhood of Kibera. Kibera is home to two and a half million people and is often described as the biggest slum in Africa. My escort was a woman … Read More

Featured Post

Breathing Love into Zika

As the world’s gaze is fixated on Brazil’s Olympic and Paralympic games I’m struck by another gaze. The look of love by parents as they fuss over their babies infected by the Zika virus. This is in contrast to the … Read More

Featured Post

Reading Brazil

The glass is also half full in Brazil. Ingenuity and insight in the face of adversity abound. So don’t be dismayed or overwhelmed by the proliferation of tales from the half empty glass. Of course, serious, longstanding challenges exist. But … Read More

Featured Post

Beyond the Olympics/Paralympics – 5 World Class Brazilian Social Movements

There is a lot to learn from Brazil’s social movements. Its citizens have been largely left to their own devices to deal with 500 years of pillaging and the resultant inequity and disparity. Brazil is so much more than the … Read More

Featured Post

The Long Now of Impact

Impact can be assessed programmatically or culturally. It can be measured with statistics and numbers or by chronicling shifts in habits, beliefs and values. It can also be gauged using the clock of the long now. That’s what the former … Read More

Featured Post

Many are cold… but few are frozen

Those words by the exquisite writer Anne Michaels provide a glimpse into the source of Canada’s ingenuity. You can’t understand Canada without understanding that you are never very far from winter here. Our  ingenuity comes from snow, ice and a harsh … Read More

Featured Post

It’s Not Easy Being Seen

As a cyclist I have come to realize that community organizers, social entrepreneurs and innovators share a common fear with bike riders – NOT BEING SEEN. The result of not being seen are derailments, detours and other disasters. They undermine … Read More

Featured Post

I Shall Not Hate

This is a good time to remember how much we can learn from the peacemakers among us. Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish In 2008 during an Israeli air strike, two rockets smashed into the bedroom of Dr. Abuelaish’s daughters at their Gaza … Read More

Featured Post

ABCD is the new E=mc2

I’ve been a community organizer for most of my life. I only began to understand what I could be doing after hearing John McKnight speak about Asset Based Community Development. (ABCD) This led to a lifelong friendship with John and … Read More

Featured Post

Drive a stake through it

As satisfying as your new project or initiative is, there is no rule that states it has to continue. In its current form at least. Not everything is useful forever. Including organizations and coalitions. At some point, you will reach … Read More

Featured Post

You Don’t Need a Weatherman…

You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the winds are blowing. Including the cultural winds. (A nod to Bob Dylan for this tip.) A shift in the cultural winds can affect your outlook and sense of possibility as … Read More

Featured Post

Loving Strangers – A Vital Source of Social Innovation

65,000 Vietnamese boat people were welcomed to Canada in 1979. More than half of them were privately sponsored by community groups.In fact, so strong was the outpouring of caring that the Canadian government had to invent a system for private … Read More

Featured Post

The Loneliness of the Long Distance Advocate

I was asked to present at two different events recently which were organized to discuss major policy reform. Ironically the individuals responsible for ‘encouraging’ the discussion were not in attendance. In answer to ‘why?’ the response was, “They would be too … Read More

Featured Post

Never Again

“Making sure it never happens again” is such a potent source of social innovation. This combination of necessity and love is a force of nature. Particularly when it emerges from the hands and hearts of Moms. I see it all … Read More

Featured Post

Angers I Have Known

There are plenty of good reasons to be angry at the social and environmental state of the world. Here are six types of anger I’m acquainted with. Wounded bird – Anger is camouflaged as weakness. Expects others to play along. … Read More

Featured Post

Never Underestimate the Power of Air Miles in the Hands of an Accidental Activist

Particularly if that person is Donald MacPherson. In the late 1990’s a neighbourhood in Vancouver was known as the Killing Fields because of its high overdose death rate (nearly 200 in 1998 alone.) Starting today (April 19th, 2016) the UN … Read More

Featured Post
"Impact - Six Patterns to Spread Your Social Innovation"

Recipe for ‘Unlaunches’ and other Unlikely Gatherings

In answer to the question, “What’s an unlaunch?” here’s a favourite recipe. Find a local sponsor willing to become an alchemist – sharing, blending, experimenting… Choose a room that will enlarge people’s spirits Decorate the room with flowers, branches, boughs, … Read More

Featured Post

Imagine a Country Where No One Is Poor

Imagine a country where kids don’t have to go to school hungry. Imagine there are no homeless people. Imagine working for a living and not having to rely on food banks. More than one hundred Canadian Mayors and Councilors do. … Read More

Featured Post

Bricks and Mortar

It’s been almost a year since I released my third book, Impact. It has sold well and I’m having lots of fun travelling around and meeting social innovators. There have been many surprises. One was a recent call from google … Read More

Featured Post

The Journey to Transformation Starts with a Resurrection of the Ordinary

There is a great deal of caring, conserving, creating, innovating, entrepreneuring, protecting, advocating for all life on earth (human, plant and animal) that is done by so-called ordinary people. A quick scan of my friends and neighbours reveals C. who … Read More

Featured Post

Story Money Impact

So much going on. Each of the following deserves more attention. Ever wonder about the health of documentary filmmaking? Its financing? Its commitment to social justice? Its ‘competitors amidst Youtube, Vimeo and other emerging social platforms?  Tracey Friesen has done … Read More

Featured Post

Fear and Loathing and Social Change

Perpetuating fear, shame or loathing can backfire on you. They beget more of the same. They give people a chance to avoid changing. Why? Because change means risk and risk evokes fear. This pretty much guarantees your message and hard work … Read More

Featured Post

A Robust Society is a Feminist Society

Feminist as in women and men making the world a better place together. As in honouring all life. As in being able to do more than one thing at the same time such as taking care of our children, families, … Read More

Featured Post

When Einstein’s Scared I’m Scared

That line from the anti-nuclear bomb folksong “Atomic Talking Blues” has been swirling around my brain since the release of recommendations by the joint Parliamentary Committee on physician-assisted dying. The song refers to Einstein’s sober conclusion that we are not … Read More

Featured Post

Unleashing the Okanagan – Ten Noteworthy Social Innovations

Few would deny the importance of geography, soil composition, climate, sunlight and other growing conditions to produce memorable wine. In wine making this is, of course, referred to as ‘terroir’.  The Okanagan Valley of British Columbia has a fine grasp … Read More

Featured Post

Social innovation isn’t a matter of choice for many people

It’s a matter of survival. A major source of social innovation is rooted in the challenges of ordinary life. Our creativity when faced with a predicament, defines us as a species. It’s not a specialty reserved for a few. People’s … Read More

Featured Post

Beware of the Status Quo Values of Social Technologies

I’ve heard Nora Young the smart host of CBC’s Spark end her radio show with the wish that her listeners understand that all technologies come embedded with values and assumptions. Furthermore, she emphasizes, those values are those of the dominant culture. … Read More

Featured Post

Eight Questions for Thinking and Acting Like a Movement

Profound social change requires movements. Movements open our hearts and minds. They create the favourable political conditions for legislative change, resource allocation and policy shifts. The recent Paris Climate Agreement would not have happened without a global, grassroots climate movement … Read More

Featured Post

Mother D’Youville – A Woman of Note

Canada’s Finance Minister says he wants to feature more women on Canadian banknotes. Seizing the opportunity, CBC’s radio show DNTO asked listeners to nominate women they would like to see on the $20.00 bill. I doubt anyone would disagree with the … Read More

Featured Post

I Had to be Hurt into Becoming Better…

I’m lucky that the fractures, failures and cracks of my life have been good for me. Good for my character, good for my relationships, good for my change-making. However, I had to be hurt into becoming a better person and … Read More

Featured Post

Box(ed) Thinking

By my calculation I’ve used the phrase ‘thinking outside the box’ 963 times. I’m not alone. Thinking outside the box has become synonymous with the creativity required to solve society’s tough challenges. For the number of us thinking outside the … Read More

Featured Post

Piece of My Heart – Songs in the Key of Change (2)

Watching the video of Melissa Etheridge’s 2005 Grammy tribute to Janis Joplin always starts me shimmering. She performs Piece of My Heart mere days after her last chemo treatment for breast cancer. Melissa is bald. Too tired to move around, … Read More

Featured Post

Songs in the Key of Change (1)

I can’t imagine a world without rhythm and harmony. CS Lewis went so far as to imagine the world of Narnia sung into creation. In The Magician’s Nephew, Polly and Digory find themselves in a darkness so cold and dry … Read More

Featured Post

Compulsive Novelty Hyperactivity Disorder

I have a condition I’ve been struggling with over a lifetime. I’ve noticed that I am not alone. Symptoms include: Faith that novelty and innovation are enough to surmount every social and environmental challenge Head down focus on perfecting the … Read More

Featured Post

The Art of Disruption

“I am certain of nothing but the holiness of the heart’s affections and the truth of the imagination” The truth of the above assertion by poet John Keats shone brightly for me in 2015. By far the most enjoyable and … Read More

Featured Post


Grace comes, but not often, and you don’t get to say when or how. – Helen Macdonald author H is for Hawk I didn’t recognize her at first. The ceremony was over and people were milling about. She appeared to be … Read More

Featured Post

Economic Citizenship – Setting the post-RDSP agenda

The Registered Disability Savings Plan (RDSP) enables Canadians with disabilities to do something most of us take for granted, save money. Already the accumulated amount in registered plans across Canada exceeds $2 billion. By itself, this is not enough to … Read More

Featured Post

A New Media Cocktail – 10 Alternatives to Mainstream Media

I severed my connections to mainstream media because: It does not cover the indispensable and abundant happenings of civil society. Civil society is where problem-solving to make the world a better place takes place every day, everywhere and by just … Read More

Featured Post

Impact – Ability (in honour of International Day of Persons with Disabilities)

Not surprisingly, folks with a disability, their families, friends and supporters are determined to make the world a better place for all people with disability. We also understand that in doing so we are making the world a better place … Read More

Featured Post