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

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