A Bystander’s Guide to Civility in a Time of Rage

Uproar, anger and righteousness are flourishing. Black Lives Matter, #MeToo, Idle No More are three examples. You may have been on the receiving end of their concerns directly. Or felt the insinuation indirectly via mainstream or social media. You may … Read More

A Desperado Waiting for a Train

It’s after midnight, the prairie wind is blowing cold and people are secure in their cells at the school for the incurables. Or are they? Curfew was hours ago and the guards are lulled into holiday drowsiness. Or maybe they’ve … Read More

Using Starlight and Statistics to Reclaim our Humanity

The Harper government dimmed the lights at Statistics Canada and the National Council of Welfare in 2012.  Into that darkness stepped the Caledon Institute, who committed to continue collecting, analyzing and publishing data related to poverty and welfare in Canada. … Read More

Twelve Books Shaping the World We Want

Looking for a good read for yourself or someone else? Have a look at these titles. Links to reviews and where to purchase included. Spirit Bear and Children Make History! this beautifully illustrated book will appeal to the children in … Read More

Hold on to your Crowning Achievements

Season two of The Crown dropped into Netflix  on the weekend. The historical backdrop is the Suez Crisis which earned the future Prime Minister of Canada, Lester Pearson, the Nobel Prize for “saving the world.” I wondered who would play … Read More

What to do when the door to the status quo opens slightly

There are times when you manage to open the door to the status quo ever so slightly. By status quo, I refer to those organizations and institutions (foundations, big budget non-profits, universities, government ministries, health systems, police departments and so on) … Read More

I Felt Your Outrage

I felt your outrage. It exploded full blast. Catching me sitting at the back of the room. Unaware. Me, who neither shares your experience or your identity. Me, who you accuse of privilege. Who can never be one of you. Why … Read More

First Leap, Bold; Second Leap, Wild

That first bold leap usually lands you right at the front of the status quo but not very far ahead of it. That’s because you are carrying the lethargy of the past and the momentum of outmoded approaches on your … Read More

Making Peace with the Unforgivable

On November 11th we are asked to remember those who gave their lives fighting for peace. How could we not forget? Armed conflict, brutality, violence, torture, abuse and killing continue. We’re exposed to it daily. Most of us indirectly through … Read More

Hitting the Key Notes of Your Time – Learning from Margaret Atwood and Gabrielle Roy

People are inherently story driven. Therefore an important aptitude of successful movements and change-making efforts is aligning with the powerful and shifting cultural stories that are already out there. You can, of course, learn about storytelling, narrative principles and effective … Read More

Wild Rose, Wild Mind

Innovations from Alberta have broken many of the molds that have trapped Canadians within the momentum of outmoded approaches. Think Chief Crowfoot, think the Famous Five and the Persons case. Think its predecessor, the United Farm Women of Alberta. Think … Read More

The Injustice of Acting Boldly

What do Cindy Blackstock, Martin Luther King Jr., Barb Goode (disability leader), Emily Murphy, Nelly McClung (plus other members of the Famous Five), Cicely Saunders (founder of hospice), Malala Yousafzai, Muhammad Yunus, Ann Livingston (co-founder VANDU), Rachel Carson, Chief  Big … Read More

From a Stretch to a Leap – Collaborating With the Enemy

The promise of Adam Kahane’s latest book Collaborating With the Enemy is a stretch for me. First, there’s my preference for collaborations that I’m in charge of and partnerships that report to me! Then there’s my tendency to slam my … Read More

Inspector Gamache’s Recipe for Boldness

Dear Reader – After a stimulating working vacation in Australia I’m bursting with new content. To make up for my silence these past few weeks I will publish on Mondays as well as my usual Thursdays for the next little while. … Read More

You can Learn a lot about SociaI Innovation by paying attention to the World of Disability

It is no surprise innovations abound in the world of disability. They comprise the largest minority group in the world, 1.2 Billion. When you factor in parents, siblings, other relatives as well as friends and caring professionals the minority tilts … Read More

Are You a Collector or a Converter?

Are you constantly on the alert for the “next big thing” or “one more thing?” Do you have thousands of names in your data base? Is your bookshelf brimming with the latest books from your chosen field? Do you pride … Read More

Time for a Charter of Human Obligations

I count myself among those Canadians in awe of anything written by Simone Weil, the French philosopher, mystic and political activist. The philosopher/theologian, George Grant (Lament for a Nation) put Weil beside the four gospels as his highest moral authority. … Read More

American Tune

I posted the following piece in September 2012 before the US Presidential election. It was a riff on Paul Simon’s 1973 song American Tune. American Tune was itself a riff on a JS Bach hymn from St. Mathew’s Passion. Simon’s … Read More

Sarah Palin and Naomi Klein have at least One Thing in Common

The belief that caring brings out the best in people. My mother’s stroke was a really formative moment in my life and I think because of it I have been attuned to seeing other expressions of that. When I started … Read More

Words – A Matter of Love and Death

Words are fascinating. They convey both meaning and misunderstanding. The more exact their meaning the more useful they are. The Inuit people who live in Northern Canada, for example, have at least 50 words for snow and ice. They have … Read More

The Face of the “Other”

I wrote recently about the importance of making face-to-face connection a priority if you want to make the world a better place. This shifts the focus of social activism, innovation and entrepreneurship from something abstract or statistically verifiable to something … Read More

Systems Change Won’t Happen Without a Resurrection of the Ordinary

Systems change is code for dealing with root causes, not symptoms. For widespread, as opposed to, piecemeal reform. For transforming our structures of governance and commerce. For dealing with all aspects of a particular challenge – from its origins to … Read More

Don’t Leap so Far Ahead of The Parade You Can’t Hear the Band

Are you a leaper or a grinder? Are you inclined to leap over the day-to-day messes and frustrations of social and environmental challenges, to demonstrate your solution for a better future, and to pull the present towards you? Or do … Read More

History’s Omission – Caregivers

History isn’t only written by the victors. It’s also written by the unmindful. At least if you are a caregiver. Historians have consigned who they are and what they do to nothingness. Can you imagine discovering, inventing, negotiating, politicking, conquering, … Read More

Jean Vanier – Bearer of the Beams of Love

Jean Vanier is a Canadian philosopher, theologian and peacemaker who shines his light on the practical steps that anyone can take to make the world a better place. His wisdom is cultivated from soil that is a thousand joys and … Read More

Tend to your Garden of Values

The ideas and values that shaped Canada grew from rocky soil, long cold winters, clouds of mosquitoes, dense stands of timber and volumes of water. Ideas about getting along and helping each other out. About appreciating our modest place amidst … Read More

Working with the Status Quo not Against It

Sooner or later you will have to stop challenging the status quo and start working with it. Why? Because at best challenging the status quo only pries the door open. Then comes the much more difficult work. Which is walking … Read More

Artists Aren’t Ahead of Their Time

Alchemy is on full display in King Arthur’s Night a brand new theatre production conceived by actor Niall McNeil. And co-written by him and Marcus Youssef an award-winning playwright and actor. And what a swirl of desires, darkness, wit and whimsy … Read More

Caring is the Common Ground of Democracy

Barrack Obama, in a thoughtful reflective conversation with my favourite American writer Marilynne Robinson, said that his biggest frustration as a politician was not being able to close the gap between the basic decency and essential goodness of the American … Read More

Tender Loving Rage

If this was Calcutta you’d think Mother Teresa. If it was a place by the river in old Montreal, you’d think Suzanne who shows you how to act amidst the garbage and the flowers. In Vancouver, think Ann Livingston. Until … Read More

The Hidden Geniuses Who Always Figure Things Out

There is a special class of geniuses who has a unique capacity to turn adversity into creativity when they love. Their reaction to a seemingly impossible challenge or obstacle is inevitably,  “We’ll figure something out.” This has led, for example, … Read More

Maudie – the Genius and Life of Painter Maud Lewis

When then President Richard Nixon commissioned two paintings from Nova Scotia artist Maud Lewis she agreed provided that he pay in advance. Ms Lewis didn’t know who he was. Which is not surprising since her world existed within a sixty-mile … Read More

Solution Based Activists Start Your Engines

It’s election season in British Columbia and in a number of other places – Nova Scotia, Britain, South Korea and France. Which is a timely reminder that a particularly good time for activists to present their policy solutions is immediately after … Read More

Simply Irresistible

Black Beauty remains one of the most popular novels ever written. Anna Sewell’s  “autobiography of a horse” is estimated to have sold nearly as many copies (40-50 million) as the complete works of Charles Dickens (50 million.) Not bad for … Read More

We Believe: Manifestos, Creeds and other Declarations

Manifestos, creeds and declarations are making a comeback. The Leap Manifesto – A Call for a Canada Based on Caring for the Earth and One Another continues to make waves. Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s controversial manifesto presents fifteen suggestions for raising a … Read More

Forget Your Perfect Offering

Forget your perfect offering, advised Leonard Cohen. There will always be another shiny concept or tool so much better than the ones you currently use. And consultants, who describe a perfect world within reach should you decide to hire them. … Read More

P(reaching) Beyond the Choir

The real choice isn’t between preaching to your choir or preaching to the choir that is competing with you. That’s one minority group, coalition or movement preaching past another minority group, coalition or movement. Your messages are pretty well scripted … Read More

Axing Alarming Adverbs – The LY Pledge

Toni Morrison, the Nobel and Pulitzer Prize winner started it – The LY Pledge – to lessen the unbearably excessive use of adverbs in political debate. Morrison’s adverb usage rate is the lowest of any of the world’s greatest writers, including Hemingway. Her … Read More

The Lakehead of Democracy

When I was growing up there were a couple of small sized cities at the head of Lake Superior named Port Arthur and Fort Williams. Everyone referred to them affectionately as the “Lakehead.” Including the people who lived there. The … Read More

Stash Your Plan in the Cutlery Drawer

Imagine a restaurant review that focused exclusively on the cutlery on the table. “What about the meal?” you would ask. Indeed. Knives and forks aren’t the meal. They are merely a means to a hopefully delicious end. Sadly in the … Read More

Take a Leap – Take a Bold Leap

The formal system not working for you? Ensnared in its lethargy? Drifting in the momentum of its outmoded approach? Then take a leap. Not onto what exists. Wrestling once more with its inefficiencies. Trying to make a silk’s purse out … Read More

Shannen’s Dream

Sadly, Shannen Koostachin will never make the list of the greatest women in Canada. Not because she wouldn’t deserve it – she led one of the biggest youth-led children’s rights campaigns in Canada – but because she died in a … Read More

It’s Good to be Lost

One of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do was to not make any decisions. Not because I didn’t want to but because I didn’t know what I was dealing with. It was a disorienting experience. I had come from … Read More

What a meeting between a PM and a Prez can teach you about advancing your agenda

Especially when you are meeting for the first time with people who are distracted by their own priorities and indifferent to yours. Whose worldview appears different than yours. Whose behavior you may abhor. Who have considerably more power than you … Read More

Tough Love

Here’s a little Valentine’s essay for all the caring change-makers out there, especially those whose efforts are ignored or misunderstood. Marrying love with justice isn’t for the faint of heart. It takes an open heart to fall in love with … Read More

Careful, shaming spreads

In Prince Edward Island where I spent many a happy summer, the Island went silent on Sundays, especially in the morning and particularly if you were Catholic. Everyone was at church. Or at least they should have been. No one … Read More

The Math of Advocacy

A critical feature of advocacy, whether on behalf of individuals or to advance public policy, is to maintain momentum especially when you have been going uphill far too long. Momentum signals to the folks in the system you are dealing … Read More

Have a Little Faith

That thing that happened to the south of us? Smart, caring people are dealing with it. In fact, they have been dealing with it for some time. David Bornstein has been covering it. John McKnight has been inspiring it. Along … Read More

The Splendour and Isolation of Martin Luther King Jr.

I remember the shock of seeing Martin Luther King Jr’s tomb for the first time. I had just emerged from the King Center on Auburn Avenue in Atlanta not too far from where he once lived and preached. Inside oozed … Read More

Flight of the “Ordinaries”

My regular walk takes me along a dyke beside a fen that should not be there. It exists because one neighbour called another. She happened to be a Mom with a new baby and rushed with her babe in arms … Read More