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


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

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

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

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

“Encyclopedia House”

The house pictured here stands amidst a grove of trees in the Newton community of Surrey, British Columbia, my hometown. The ‘bricks’ are mainly encyclopedias, textbooks and reference books. All were discarded, unwanted and destined for the dump until celebrated … Read More

The restaurant where I work is right around the corner from the Bataclan…

Dear family and friends, I wanted to let you know I am fine and that I am thinking of you all. The events of Friday night have left me weary. My heart is broken.  Pas de Loup, the restaurant where I … Read More

My Challenge with Introducing Social Innovation to Indigenous Communities

A remarkable event is taking place in Winnipeg next week – Canada’s first ever Indigenous Innovation Summit. I wasn’t certain whether I should accept the offer to participate. What could I say that would make a difference? Everything I’ve ever … Read More

The Vitality of Despair

I came upon a fiddler on a Halifax pier just after dusk recently. He was playing a lament. The moon was already bright and sparkly yet the music transported me into a sorrowful state as it always does. Laments are … Read More

Happy Without Heroes?

It’s sad but perhaps fitting that few Canadians know of Women’s Institute. Even fewer remember Adelaide Hoodless who got it started. Sad because not too long ago Women’s Institute was selected as one of the top ten social innovations in … Read More

Top Ten New Brunswick & Nova Scotia Social Innovations

My soul is Maritime infused. My earliest memory is of tap dancing as a toddler to Don Messer’s Jubilee on the radio. My Mother was a Prince Edward Islander. I cut my community and political organizing teeth in Halifax. Scents, … Read More

Peace Is Our Time

Canada is a country with deep peacemaking roots. We were welcomed in peace by First Nations and aboriginal people, although we seriously betrayed their hospitality and trust. Many of the early French explorers were humanists who sought a land where … Read More

Wanted: Social Entrepreneur Book Publisher

It’s been a busy book-publishing year for me. My new book, Impact: Six Patterns to Spread Your Social Innovation was published in April. In addition, two expanded versions of my first book, Safe and Secure were published – one in British … Read More

Take Us to the Limit

A new breed of social change activists has emerged that wants us to become comfortable with complexity, chaos, uncertainty and ambiguity. They contend, and I agree, that we no longer live in a world where we know exactly where we … Read More

Salt, Seed and Taking Care

Ghandhi’s first act of civil disobedience was aimed at the British Salt Tax. Salt was deeply symbolic to Ghandhi. “Next to air and water, salt is perhaps the greatest necessity of life,” he said. He understood that an item of … Read More

Caring Makes the World go Round

There is a direct link between caring for each other and caring for our planet. Caring is that invisible but indispensable force that connects us to each other and to all forms of life. Caring reminds us that we belong, … Read More

Thinking Like a Voyageur – Prévoyance

Prévoyance is the ability to prepare for the unexpected in a world of uncertainty while maintaining your principles. It is a concept introduced to Canada by the great explorer Champlain. There is no English equivalent. Pity. We could use more … Read More

Angels in the Architecture

I woke up the other day to a radio report that one of the parties in the election campaign will now be ‘turning its guns’ on the leader of another party. I was filled with sadness. Election campaigns are not … Read More

The Truth About Vulnerable

Our culture is inexhaustible in its capacity to ignore the fact of our vulnerability. As a result, we are all becoming more fragile. The fashion, advertising and sports industries ‘sell’ perfection of the body as something we should all strive for. … Read More

Glory Days

August 28th is the 50th anniversary of my near association with glory. I caught a perfect game for the Hearst Lumberkings. The game launched the Lumberkings on a magic season that led to the all-Ontario finals, a unique feat for … Read More

Without a Vision People Perish; Without a Vehicle Vision Languishes

Vickie and I had a short essay about vision rejected recently. It took us a while to understand why. They wanted vision as ‘content.’  We imagined vision as ‘vehicle.’ Vickie and I agree about the importance of describing the details … Read More

Play the Field with Concepts but Stay Faithful to Your Ethics

By all means get to know the latest concept. Date it for a while. Allow yourself to become infatuated with its appearance of perfect possibility.  I do! But don’t get too enraptured. Another concept is just around the corner. If … Read More

A River Runs Through John

I wrote the following review of a new book by a new friend, Cormac Russell, about an old friend, John McKnight. For those who don’t know John, he is the man who taught community organizing to Obama. And helped get … Read More

What Colour is Your Flag?

Mine is monotone peppery. There it is. High on that mountain top. Not that one. Or that one. Not that one either. Those flags belong to  people who are a little naïve about social change. They tend to compromise easily. … Read More

Whole Systems Change is not a Rubik’s Cube

If you are inside the social innovation world you know everybody’s talking about whole systems change, If you are not, get ready. It’s bound to seep into more and more public discussions. That’s a good thing as long as we … Read More

Like Shining from Shook Foil

The title above is borrowed from a favourite poem, God’s Grandeur by Gerard Manley Hopkins. July 28 is his birthday and I couldn’t resist the occasion. The poem begins: The world is charged with the grandeur of God. It will … Read More

Which comes first transforming the banking system or government?

There is a lot of activity in the social and philanthropic sector to attract investment from banks. This pursuit is a component of what is generally referred to as social finance. Impact investment is another popular description. Many see it as … Read More

Richard Steckel – the playful Social Entrepreneur

Social movements have many parents and the social enterprise movement is no exception.  The first social entrepreneur in Canada for example dates back to Mother D’Youville in the early 1700’s. The current manifestation of social enterprise is often attributed to … Read More

Reading a Case of Canada

I could read a case of Canadian books and still be on my feet. The following books nurtured my understanding of this great, big, diverse, ornery, multi- textured land. Here they are from east to west. Guaranteed to hit ‘terroir’ … Read More

Slow Change

Despite the urgency, lasting change takes much longer than we appreciate. Darn. One way to counteract our impatience is to shift from ‘chronos’ to ‘kairos’ time. Chronos time is sequential time, measured by the clock and which seems to be … Read More

Innovation is Birthed from Disorder

Here’s some advice for the explorer in you who desires to make the world better, particularly the young bright sparks who are just setting out. Trust all your senses. When your experience compels you to seek something different and your … Read More


“Look up,” said the Friendly Giant who was a staple of children’s television for decades. “Look way, way up.” When we hear the words “ashes to ashes, dust to dust” most of us are likely thinking they refer to the ground beneath … Read More

Moral Oxygen

Social change can be harsh and unyielding. It can take a toll on you, your family, your friends, your colleagues and your adversaries. The sustenance for this journey comes from what Quebec philosopher and social commentator Jacques Dufresne describes as “moral oxygen.” … Read More

Montréal’s Top Social Innovations

Ah Montréal. Thank you for your joy, vibrancy and sensual delight. Thank you for introducing pleasure to Canada’s diet. You have been very patient with the rest of us. Thank you for blending the inclusiveness of Canada’s first people with … Read More

Generation Without Boundaries

One of the many reasons I’m optimistic about the future is because we will soon be led by the first generation without boundaries. This generation is transcending traditional boundaries and shattering artificial borders. They are shaking things up and making … Read More

The Role of the Canoe in Creating Canada

The canoe is Canada’s original and preeminent social innovation. There is no other invention that has impacted us so profoundly and for so long. The canoe defines us as Canadians. It is relevant to every nook and cranny of the … Read More

Toronto’s Top Dozen Social Innovations

The rest of Canada can get petulant about Toronto. Once it was even fashionable to describe Toronto as dull. I doubt it was ever true. Or that Toronto was any duller than any other place in the country – except … Read More

Social Change is Enlightened by Love

People care more deeply about our social and environmental challenges than we realize. One of the reasons our initiatives don’t have the impact we’d like is because there aren’t enough people falling in love with them. There are three possible … Read More

Singable Songs for the Young at Heart

The recent death of Lois Lillenstein of Sharon Lois and Bram reminds me of the revolution in children’s music that beloved trio was part of in the late 1970’s. It started with Raffi who was both musical innovator and social … Read More

Impact 6 is Ready to Make a Dent in the Conversation

My new book Impact: Six Patterns to Spread Your Social Innovation is now available in print and electronic formats. Impact explores the difference between short term success and lasting impact. It will be of interest to anyone who has ever … Read More

Beautifying Social Change

Too much of the conversation about social change is wrapped in the language of policy and finance. While these are important considerations they are limited in describing and realizing the world we want. We need a different language. I propose … Read More

Social Innovation – a Definition of Opportunity

When asked recently to define social innovation I replied rather off handedly it’s a combination of the old, the new and the surprising. It’s not much of a definition but then again the ambiguity might be useful. Definitions all too … Read More

The Spark That Ignites the Social Innovator’s Journey

Then, when he had flown a while longer, Something brightened toward the north, It caught his eye, they say. And then he flew right up against it. He pushed his mind through And pulled his body after.       … Read More

US Embargo on Intellectual Property Shakes Up Canadian Change-Makers

The Canadian social change community is slowly reacting to the latest American border restrictions. It’s hard to believe but the Americans intend to restrict the free use of US intellectual property (including social change concepts and practices) outside their borders. … Read More

Cherry Blossoms & the Social Innovation ‘Terroir’ of Canada

Have you ever wondered what cherry blossoms in Vancouver taste like? I didn’t have the imagination to even conceive of such a question let alone answer it until I attended a dinner hosted by Elementa a collective of young culinary … Read More

Steve Nash and Acting Your Age

Steve Nash’s decision to retire from basketball is a reminder that boomers like me also have a hard time letting go of our roles and responsibilities. The professional sports world is full of stories of athletes who stayed on past … Read More

Setting the Heather on Fire – The Antigonish Movement

I fell in love with Nova Scotia in the 1970’s. It started in Antigonish – green rolling hills, sea bound coast, hundreds of fiddlers performing under the summer stars, John Allen Cameron singing at a local club, caber tossing, and … Read More

Dating Concepts

I fall a little in love with new ideas, methods and concepts. It happens all the time. We date. Everything is rosy. They are perfect. There is nothing they can’t do. I’ve found the one. This has happened with social … Read More

Resurrecting the Ordinary

The Quakers of the seventeenth century thought of themselves 
as “God’s ordinaries.” They meant ordinary in the sense that extraordinary acts are not reserved for the special few. They believed that we are all born with the capacity to be … Read More

Stepping Out

Dear Reader, I’m excited to be back blogging! For more than 2 years I’ve been immersed in writing a new book, Impact: Six Patterns to Spread Your Social Innovation. (More details very soon!) Writing a book in my case meant … Read More