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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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