Donna Thomson’s new blog

Donna Thomson, author of the new book, Four Walls of My Freedom has just started her own blog.  Here is the link: Donna's blog will cover the interplay among family, community connectedness, policy, ethics and culture.  Here is a … Read More

Rubber Duckies ‘Banned’ in Canada – Tips for Solution Based Advocacy (33)

Here's a great story of persistent advocacy and creative strategy.  Canada announced last week it has formally added BPA ( Bisphenol A) to the list of toxic substances.  BPA is found in clear hard plastic containers and toys, the lining … Read More

Lennon without McCartney: Tips for Solution Based advocacy (32)

Can you imagine a catcher without a pitcher? Lennon without McCartney?   A working functional democracy without a responsive, talented public service?  I can't. One of the many weaknesses of my early advocacy career was ignorance about  the individuals who make … Read More

Unknown Legend – the Women’s Institute – In the Water Supply (2)

One of the most successful social change movements in the world is a well kept secret in Canada – the place of its origins.  I am referring to the Women's Institute which began in Stoney Creek Ontario in the 1890's.  … Read More

The Keilburger Kids versus Justin Bieber – who’ll win? – Tips for Solution Based Advocacy (31)

When the Keilburger brothers, Craig and Marc, were born they probably fixed the broken cribs in the nursery, persuaded all the mothers to buy some rocking chairs and rallied all the babies into a cry against infant formula. All mere … Read More

What do you get when you cross Will Hunting with Wittgenstein?

It's exhilarating and eerie at the same time – to sit in front of a white board on a rainy Saturday in Toronto with a dozen other adults and master calculus in an hour.  Well at least master my fear … Read More

Roundup – NPR/Belonging/Leaking Toilets

Lots of updates on previous posts. Here are three: One:  A marvellous National Public Radio (NPR) profile of the ongoing work at PLAN (Planned Lifetime Advocacy Network) was aired Friday October 8th.  Journalist Wendy Kaufman has distilled the essence of … Read More

John Lennon’s Tips for Solution Based Advocacy (30)

 "You say you got a real solution.    Well, you know, we'd love to see the plan. You ask me for a contribution. Well, you know, we're all doing what we can. But if you want money for people with minds … Read More

Stand By Me! For the Belonging Journey

Thanksgiving is in the air in Canada.  And 'belonging' was in the air at the launch of the Vancouver Foundation's Vital Signs report.  I was pleased with the reaction to my speech.  Folks understand that belonging has to be taken … Read More

Why don’t public servants open their windows in the morning? – Tips for Solution Based Advocacy (29)

Ah bureaucracy – the institution we love to make fun of, to ridicule, to denounce.  Paradoxically it is attacked for its abuse of power and its bungling inefficiency.  Yes there is red tape,  yes there is insensitivity, yes there is … Read More

Vital Signs in our social garden

The Vancouver Foundation released it bi-annual, Vital Signs Report today. And guess what?  What really matters to Metro Vancouver residents is belonging and the strength of our connections to each other. Not our scenery, money, education, achievements, gender, age, or … Read More

Fingers crossed that Bob Dylan was right

You don't need a weather man to know which way the wind blows. On Friday October 1st the winds across Canada were blowing social innovation.  Relative to previous public references and announcements Friday's wind was a hurricane.  Three high profile … Read More

The un-incorporated ‘un’ organzation- Sports Matters Group – Tips for Solution Based Advocacy (28)

“Sometimes it takes a different kind of organization to make a difference,” writes Paul Jurbala athlete, coach and organizational development consultant.  One such entity is Sport Matters Group (SMG), an unincorporated, “un-organization.” SMG emerged from a series of brown bag … Read More

Which type of community organizer is Obama? – Tips for Solution Based Advocacy (27)

Chicago is to community organizing as New York is to apples. Big!  The birth of modern community organizing goes back to the days of Saul Alinsky and his Back of the Yards movement. His agressive strategies and tactics taught many … Read More

Stephen Hawking and ‘Abilities’ – still going strong

What does Stephen Hawking think of his disability?  Not much apparently.  The current issue of Abilities magazine offers two perspectives on Hawking – one from the man himself; the other from CBC journalist and Quirks and Quacks host Bob McDonald. … Read More

No survey without service – Tips for Solution Based Advocacy (26)

When Paul Pholeros or his HealthHabitat team visit indigenous Australian communities to survey improvements to their housing the first thing they do is offer to replace fuses, repair toilets or shower heads.  Paul understands one of the basic rules of … Read More

Under Stress – The Heart of Home Care

Thanks to Andre Picard, the Globe and Mail's Public Health reporter for his recent report on two new studies on natural caregivers by the CIHI – Canadian Institute for Health Information. CIHI just released, Supporting Informal Caregivers – The Heart … Read More

Obama says it best: Success comes from within

One of the great delights of writing this blog is the feedback I receive from young social entrepreneurs.  I wrote the following  for SEE Change, an on line journal started for social entrepreneurs.  I am reprinting here with the encouragement … Read More

The Girl With the Dragon Tatoo has a Rainforest Brain

Hands up if, like me, you spent the summer immersed in reading the Millennium Trilogy?  The first novel introduces us to Lisbeth Salander, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Lisbeth Salander is a most unusual lead character and heroine.  She … Read More

La Leche League – getting Mothers’ milk ‘into the water supply’ – Tips for Solution Based Advocacy (25)

The boldest, grandest and most desirable objective for people who want to change the world is to get their principles, ideas, approaches, solutions into the 'water supply.'  By that I mean their social or environmental innovation becomes so common place, … Read More

Not Dead Yet – more on the euthanasia debates (3)

My last post on Stephen Dawson outlined insights about euthanasia I have gained from over 30 years as a disability advocate.  Those reflections were triggered by the Dying with Dignity hearings which began in Quebec just after Labour Day.  These … Read More

The Four Walls of My Freedom

Borrowing her intriguing title from Thomas Merton, Donna Thomson's first book: The Four Walls of My Freedom will be available in book stores on Friday September 17th. Donna and her husband are dear friends.  We met in Ottawa where Donna … Read More

Miracle in Rwanda

Rwanda will forever be associated with the horrific massacre and genocide of nearly one million people in 1994.  And that is a double tragedy.  It should also be associated with what has happened since,  We have as much to learn … Read More

Not Again … Never Again

Not again!  The news from St Jude Quebec is  distressing.  Two middle aged brothers found dead in their family home.  The older brother, Jean-Guy died first. He took care of his younger brother Richard after their mother died a few … Read More

Stick out Your Tongue and Change the world – Tips for Solution Based Advocacy (24)

Social entrepreneurs and dear friends Richard and Shelli Steckel are doing it again.  Their Milestones Project is changing the world one tongue at a time. The Milestones project has the rather majestic goal of banishing hatred.  They want to tackle … Read More

Stephen Dawson – Living with Dignity (2)

In my previous post I referred to my direct role in the well publicized Stephen Dawson 'right to treatment' case in the mid-1980's.  My ethical position on euthanasia stems from this and over 30 years of close association with people … Read More

Quebec’s Dying With Dignity hearings attracting unprecedented particpation (1)

There is ferment brewing in Quebec that concerns the future of all Canadians. But it's not about separation or sovereignty association.  It is about euthanasia.  Based on involvement so far, more Quebecois will participate in the hearings of the Quebec … Read More

Sockeye slip through a ‘crack’ in the universe

As summer ends, British Columbia's shores are awash with sockeye salmon.  The most bountiful run in over a hundred years.  Last year's run was so dismal a federal judicial inquiry was created.  The collapse of the wild salmon fishery was … Read More

Ducks and Icebergs(Part Two) – Tips for Solution Based Advocacy (23)

In my last post, Part One of Ducks and Icebergs, I summarized some of the challenges public servants and of course, the rest of us are facing in the next 15 years.  Here are five trends public servants are exploring … Read More

Ducks, Icebergs and Public Servants (Part One) – Tips for Solution Based Advocacy (22)

Ducks and icebergs have a lot in common.  To get a complete picture you have to look beneath the surface.  Ducks, calmly gliding through the surface of the water, while busily paddling underneath.  Icebergs, massive enough as they float, revealing … Read More

The Fur Trade and Social Finance

The fur trade in Canada provides a distant mirror for Social Finance advocates and practitioners on the complex effects of any new technology.  It makes us mindful that every intervention has side effects, both positive and negative. Harold Innis was … Read More

Follow The Money – Tips for Solution Based Advocacy (21)

I was asked by a young parent recently, what is the most common mistake made by advocates. My reply was immediate.  Not following the money trail in Government. Or, as was the case in this circumstance (he was advocating for … Read More

Neglected Sources of Innovation – Individuals and Families

Social Innovation – is the 'catch phrase' most commonly used to describe  the imperative to unleash our collective creativity to respond to tough, deeply embedded social and environmental problems.  These existing and emerging challenges seem to be resistant to traditional … Read More

Innovate and Die?

There is a Buddhist parable that tells of a man swept into the waters of a raging river. In panic he grasps for something solid – a rock!  Holding on with terrified certainty he drowns, burdened by the extra weight.  … Read More

Le Tour du Momentum – Tips for Solution Based Advocacy (20)

Summertime and the living is easy.  Except for cyclists in the grandest sporting event of the summer, Le Tour de France.  And perhaps solution focused advocates.  It may be the perfect time to maintain momentum – the secret of successful … Read More

A Matter of Justice: Social Finance – Tips for Solution Based Advocacy (19)

Not sure why some non profit leaders, advocates and academics dismiss the growing social finance developments so readily and without serious consideration. This lack of curiosity is irresponsible. We can learn a lot from successful social, economic and environmental justice … Read More

Is Social Finance the ‘Next Big Thing’?

How do you spot the difference between a fad and a trend? When you've hung around the social sector for decades you learn to be discerning.  At the outset they appear the same, capturing interest, attracting pilot funding, developing constituencies, … Read More

Code Yellow

Ahh, the momentum of outmoded approaches.  The horn that still sounds a curfew even though the plant has closed down. Saving pennies. Ashtrays on bicycles. Encyclopedia sellers. Yellow pages delivered to your office or doorstep.  Yes, yellow pages.  While trolling … Read More

Next Up for What’s Next

Alice laughed, "There's no use trying," she said, "one can't believe impossible things."           "I daresay you haven't had much practice," said the Queen. "When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed … Read More


With the first long Canadian summer weekend upon us here is a collection of items which expand on recent postings. Abundant Community – Awakening the Power of Families and Neighborhoods. John McKnight and Peter Block's new book is now in … Read More

The World’s Older Profession – Tips for Solution Based Advocacy (18)

Imagine performing for extraordinary long hours every day of the week, in an arena full of people whose predisposition is to boo your every move.  Every weakness, every imperfection, every mistake is magnified. You can't hide.  Your friends are suspect.  … Read More

Eating Alone

Food is the common denominator.  It gives us life. It delights and satisfies the senses. It provides an opportunity to share and enjoy with others. It is both pleasurable and good for you.  At least it used to be.  There … Read More

The Future European Style – Reinventing Europe Through Innovation

In keeping with our interest and belief that Europe offers a great window and learning laboratory on how to tackle our social/economic and environmental challenges, I commend a refreshing European Union report: Reinventing Europe Thru Innovation. Download Reinvent Europe Thru … Read More

The Sacred Headwaters of Belonging

In Wade Davis' The Wayfinders – Why Ancient Wisdom Matters in the Modern World, he describes a wonder of British Columbia geography – the headwaters of Canada's most important salmon rivers, the Stikine, Skeena and Nass as well as the … Read More

Love and Power – a potent combination: Tips for Solution Based Advocacy (17)

My wife Vickie Cammack is clear – our work at PLAN and in social innovation generally cannot succumb to 'either – or' thinking.  Instead she has infused a practice of, 'both – and'.  A paradox to be sure but one … Read More

Ian Brown’s ‘The Boy in the Moon’ – A Book for Dads

Here's a book for Dad's – The Boy in the Moon – by award winning Globe and Mail journalist, Ian Brown. It's the story of a father who, while searching for the meaning of his 13 year old son's life, … Read More

The worth of a Smile – Reciprocity and Stefano Zamagni

A small group of us had dinner earlier this week with one of the world's greatest economists, Professor Stefano Zamagni.  I first met him several years ago when he proved, using economic graphs, that the smile of a person with … Read More

A Disturbing Repeat of the Residential School Nightmare

This Wednesday at The Forks in Winnipeg the Aboriginal Truth and Reconciliation Commission will begin its hearings into Canada's residential school system. That system saw 150,000 First Nation, Métis and Inuit children placed in 130 residential schools across Canada. These … Read More

Ingredients for Life

Here is the speech I gave in Vancouver at last night's first ever Public Salon presented by Sam Sullivan's Global Civic Policy Society.  Thanks to everyone for your suggestions about what I should say in my seven minutes – a … Read More

Cutting Your Issue – Tips for Solution Based Advocacy (16)

One of the first strategic decisions to make when advancing your cause is to 'cut your issue'.  Cutting an issue means being specific about what you will ask Government to do or what you want to see changed.  There are … Read More