We’re From Civil Society and We’re Here to Help

In a healthy democracy citizens are engaged as mature equal partners with government. They recognize government’s limitations and pitch in to compensate. They pursue solutions while also improving the overall decision making capacity of government. They take care not to … Read More

Your Base is Just a Baseline

Dear Reader – I hope this post makes you curious about new approaches to organizing, campaigning and achieving your objectives.  Unless you have all the support you need, your twin organizing goals are: One, to maintain your existing base and … Read More

Don’t Give Up

A change of government is always challenging. Particularly if you don’t respect the leader. Understandably you brace for the worst. The danger is that you succumb to the drama. And a prophecy is fulfilled. On the other hand all new governments, … Read More

10 Canadian-International Book Pairings

Looking for a good book or two? Here are ten of my favourite Canadian books paired with ten favourites by writers from away.  For your long weekend reading pleasure.  A Disappearance in Damascus, the true story of reporter Deborah Campbell’s time … Read More

You Have More Power Than You Think

You have more power to achieve the changes you are after than you think. Not as much as you might like. But more than you realize. The trick is to claim it. And not let the boundaries of that power … Read More

10 good reasons why people who are poor should be in charge of ending poverty

People who are poor never get to be in charge of ending poverty Even though they know more about poverty than anyone. Here are ten good reasons why they should be. Every percentage point of the Canadian population represents 360,000 … Read More

Yaniv Janson is Changing the World One Painting at a Time

“I wonder what they think about climate change?” That question contained the most compelling vision of inclusion I have ever encountered. It was offered by a speaker in Scotland a number of years back. She asked us to imagine a … Read More

Making Peace with Fear, the Convincing and Beautiful Presence of Katheren Szabo

Katheren Szabo knows how to make peace with her fears. Which is something most of us aspire to. Especially during these outrageous, topsy turvy times when a low level state of fear hovers  like a dirty cloud.  For many good … Read More

POP Goes the Vernacular

Vernacular is a good word to know but not a good word to use in a speech, song or sentence. It means the language of the people. Which is where Shakespeare found his poetry. It’s the reason Leonard Cohen left … Read More

Making Political Love

Partisan politics continues to disappoint. Regardless of which party is elected, promises are broken. When decisions are made they are usually incremental. Never going as deep and substantive as promised. Even when bold decisions are made, bold implementation remains elusive. … Read More

If you don’t know there are potatoes in the borsch …

My Polish ancestors used to say: “If you don’t know there are potatoes in the borsch there could be orphans working in the mine.” In other words if you don’t know what’s going on in your own backyard there could … Read More

Blessing Your Presenters

Many years ago J.R., a remarkable community organizer was consulting in a northern Inuit community. One night after supper when stories were being told J.R. told a funny one involving his two young children. The room gasped. No one laughed. … Read More

You Don’t Need to Start Another Movement

The question I get asked most often is, “How do you start a movement?” My answer is always, “You don’t need to start another movement. All you have to do is contribute to the movements that you are already part … Read More

Adversity Makes you Wiser

Eventually the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” will strike you or someone or something that you love. The adversity or tragedy will be deeply personal. It will appear in a variety of forms – accident, loss, death, indignity, cruelty, … Read More

The World Needs More Peace Makers not Social Innovators

The world needs more peace makers not social innovators. Why? Because there are already tens of millions of social innovators out there. Maybe more. There always have been. There always will be. People are very ingenious about inventing themselves out … Read More

Easy Sell

Want to make your life better? How about your family, neighbourhood, community, country, world? Have I got a deal for you. All you have to do is: Take risks Get comfortable with ambiguity Ditch your habits Forget  your traditions Become … Read More

Death’s Tug of War with Mystery and Science

Death grabbed my pen several decades ago when I was finishing a sentence that I had written a couple of hundred times before, “PLAN creates good lives for people with disabilities.” To my surprise the pen continued, “and good deaths for their … Read More

Intellectual Imperialism and the Vocabulary of Harm

The headline of a recent Medium post, “The Age of the Imbecile” caught me at a bad time. I’m immersed in examining the harmful impact of words on people who experience a disability. “Imbecile” is one of the terms developed … Read More

Percé Rock and the Crumbling Patriarchy

The French writer and surrealist André Breton wouldn’t have been the first man to think it but he’s the first one that I know of who wrote it. The excerpt below is from his book Arcanum 17: “The time has … Read More

White Men Can’t Jump and People with Disabilities Can’t Act

Dear readers – you may have noticed that recently I slyly inserted a second weekly post. It is distributed, like this one, every Monday evening. They are excerpts from a new book I’m writing. The book, not yet named, will … Read More

Throwing Snowballs for Dave Barrett

Dave Barrett and his  1972-75 government is the answer to people who assert that, once elected politicians lose their boldness. His government passed 357 bills in three short years. Including the Agricultural Land Reserve a bill to preserve farmland that … Read More

Confessions of a Non Swimmer in the Currents of Culture

( first in a new series.) All my life I thought that the way to solve social problems was to make a big splash. To protest unjust ways of doing things, change laws, secure large sums of money, elect sympathetic … Read More

What Are You Doing Here?

A man I admire greatly took that question seriously. And has become one of Canada’s most prolific and talented social entrepreneurs. His name is Brian Smith and his story needs more space than I have available. So here is the … Read More

Emancipate yourself from Mental Slavery

Those words from Bob Marley’s Redemption Song were birthed in Nova Scotia. “Emancipate yourself from mental slavery,” was part of a speech delivered by Black rights activist Marcus Garvey in Sydney Nova Scotia in 1937. Marley likely heard about the … Read More

Yayoi Kusama’s Path to Infinity

Tokyo based Yayoi Kusama is known as the “priestess of Polka Dots.” During the 1960’s she was part of New York’s avant-garde scene and became friends with Andy Warhol and Georgia O’Keefe. She is now the most popular artist in … Read More

Moose Hide – a love story

This is a story about men doing something about our propensity for violence against women. It is also a story about what one man, an Indigenous hunter, can do when he listens to his daughter. The daughter’s name is Raven. … Read More

Cultural Transformation one (Baby Gerber) Step at a Time

Lucas Warren, the current Gerber baby, is delighting mainstream and social media. Of course he’s cute. And deserves all the oohs and ahs he is getting. The big deal is that he has down syndrome. Which to some people should … Read More

Government Innovation isn’t Your Main Problem

Government innovation isn’t your main problem. It’s government’s. After many years of unsuccessfully peddling the processes of social innovation to governments across Canada I’ve learned: Not to peddle process. Instead to focus on proposing bold, workable solutions to problems they … Read More

Eyes Wide Shut – Carmen Papalia’s Guide to Democracy

Vancouver artist Carmen Papalia’s adventures in darkness refreshes the practice of democracy. And illustrates yet again the depth of wisdom within the world of disability. His views on agency and accessibility are influencing art galleries around the world, including the … Read More

Don’t Forget the Other Social Innovators

Canada’s federal government seems to have forgotten the other social innovators. They are not the only jurisdiction doing so. These forgotten practitioners are the ones who everyday, everywhere invent themselves out of adversity. They are the original hackers whose solutions may be worthy of … Read More

“Saving” Ryan

Montreal born animator Ryan Larkin had a couple of brushes with Hollywood. Which is not surprising for someone once described as the Frank Zappa of animation. The first brush was for his 1970 Oscar-nominated film Walking. The second was for … Read More

Hockey Legend Ken Dryden’sTips for Changing the Rules of Your Game

One of the world’s best hockey players, Ken Dryden wants to eliminate concussions from hockey. There are two key rule changes that he’s certain will do it: 1) Ban all hits to the head (head shots) and 2) Penalize players for … Read More

Artisans for the Common Good

I have found a new elegant phrase to describe a class of people whose small daily acts without fanfare, flourish or compensation make the world a better place. These people are the original change makers, long before it became a profession … Read More

The Role of Containers, Hacks, Frames and Metaphors in Social Change

You may have a great solution to a social challenge. Something that you are certain will be beneficial to thousands, maybe more. However, unless you have the right container, package, framing or metaphor your proven innovation may linger in isolation … Read More

Mental Fitness Touches a Nerve in Everyone

Mental fitness touches a nerve in everyone, myself included. It exposes one of our deepest fears, the fear of deviancy and incapability, of losing it, of not measuring up, of not being seen as a person. The signs are everywhere. … Read More

The World Needs More…Of You

The world needs more of you. Not just your projects, programs, and innovations. It needs the thinking, values and aspirations behind them. It needs to understand the soul of your work. Otherwise your projects, programs and innovations will have limited … Read More

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