Recent Publications

The Art of Settlement

engaging newcomers through community art
Community art is the creation of artistic works where community members engage in the process of art making and where the art produced reflects the issues that directly affect the community. Karen Kew, from Immigrant Services Guelph-Wellington, has written an article on this subject, now published in the August 2013 of One Thousand Trees.

Hamilton Centre for Civic Inclusion: Conversation Cafe

A conversation with an ethnically diverse group in Hamilton
On November 15, 2012, Hamilton Centre for Civic Inclusion held its first conversation café, an event designed to get residents from every ethno-cultural background talking to each other and their elected representatives about their hopes for Hamilton...and the changes they’d like to see. This report is a summary of the findings from this conversation.

Leaving Nobody Behind

Aboriginal Peoples and Community
LEAVE NO ONE BEHIND:  Larry Brigham May 14th, 2013 No Equality Here: As Canadians we pride ourselves in our equality under the law.  Section 15 of the Canadian Charter makes it clear that every individual in Canada regardless of race, religion, national or ethnic origin, colour, sex, sexual orientation, age or physical or mental disability is to be considered equal. But how can we be equal if some get to eat and others don’t?  What is the bottom line?  Is it OK for some people to have excess food and others none or to be hungry?  Or maybe some have no food of a nutritious nature. Is it OK for some Canadians to die with 10 or 20 years shorter life than others because of the postal code? When I was growing up my father shared the story of his best friend, a First Nations lad who lived in Toronto Cabbage town.  The two went to the theatre one day and were told that my father could go in but the “Indian” was not welcome.   Needless to say neither went to the show that day but they did spend it together.  It was only a few years later that both guys, now young men, went to war.  Fortunately they both returned home.  But my dad’s friend still did not have the right to vote and would not have it until 1960 even though he had fought for our freedom.  Canada gave Aboriginal people this equal right to vote in 1960 because the way things were was unfair. SO I HAVE A RANT:   If everyone gains by addressing poverty, why have we not given equal rights to healthy food for eating to all people regardless of their colour of skin to have nutritious food in this rich country?  Why is it left up to the charities alone to try and make this situation right?  When will the shame of children without food finally sink in with our decision making institutions?  Now I admit that government is not in the best position to deliver on programming.  It has a history of messing up in this regard and frankly is not trusted.  But maybe a transfer of some funds is warranted with contractual agreements and achievable goals. To leave some out from having basic justice and equity is totally unacceptable. We need to engage and include everyone on this adventure called life. We cannot leave out any first nations people, immigrants, single parents, the disabled or elderly.    Life itself is a team sport.  We are dependent when we are born, rely on others in many ways throughout our existence and then depend on others, often heavily again, as we come to our later years.  When we examine what makes a society great, or what it is that is necessary to our existence, it is important to frame the questions with this awareness of dependency.  Being as independent as possible, rugged individualism may be seen as a desirable characteristic, but it is important to remember that dependence is always a reality at some points in our lives. Life is not a fan sport to be played from the sidelines somewhere by anyone, but it is dynamic and real and meant to be played with enthusiasm. The Canadian Hunger Count through Food Banks Canada reports the following: ·       “ Food bank usage is rising across the country; ·       870,000 Canadians turn to a food bank each month. This was a nine per cent increase from the previous year, the largest year over year increase on record ·        38 per cent of those turning to food banks are children ·        51 per cent of households are families ·       17 per cent are employed recently ·       7 per cent are on some type of pension How much enthusiasm can be shown about living by people facing food shortage?  Our numbers of those in poverty are still very high.  No one should be forced, as a young mother I heard about, to rob a local grocery store to feed her four year old because there was no food in their home.  Seeing young mothers sitting under blankets at 30 below waiting for food from a food bank to just get through a month is a sad commentary.  Lessons Taught by First Nations: First Nations people have simplified life priorities and have found answers to life’s complex questions in a very profound and a meaningful way.  I have learned much from them.   They say that the important items for future planning will be: 1.        THE AIR WE BREATH  2.       THE FRESH WATER WE DRINK 3.       THE FOOD WE EAT 4.       OUR RELATIONSHIPS -THE MANNER IN WHICH WE TREAT EACH OTHER –WHAT WE VALUE AS IMPORTANT Economic Development is important but should be predicated based on a solid reflection of these four items.  They are like 4 legs on a chair, without any one leg, the chair will not work.  Air and Water: Personally, I am so fortunate  to live in Thunder Bay because we have the cleanest air in Ontario and 1/10th of the world’s fresh water at our doorstep with Lake Superior.  We need more projection on the effects of climate change and chemical contamination to the ground water and we need to protect this precious resource.  Nancy Goucher writes about this and it is detailed in “Upstream Thinking”   March 19th, 2013.  The most major problem within our country is with First Nations’ Drinking Water.  73% of the water systems on reserves are at high or medium  risk of contamination and close to 120 communities are on a boil-water advisory.  “Medieval water-borne illnesses like dysentery and shigellosis are still commonplace in aboriginal communities.” According to the Globe and Mail, an increase in Canada’s corporate tax rate from 15% to 15.5% would provide revenues to fix this problem over 10 years  which is estimated at $4.7 billion according to a group providing policy alternatives to the Federal government. Food and Inequity: Canada urgently needs a food Charter as close to two and a half million Canadians are food insecure.  A group of concerned citizens has developed such a beginning document and it is called “Resetting the Table” and may be seen online on the Food Security Canada website.   Thunder Bay itself has adopted a local Food Charter,  and with the emphasis toward more farms in the area, the Food Action Network and the Food Research Network that is going on together with the plans Volker Kromm has for the  Paterson Food Centre the third leg of the chair is becoming stronger for this city.  Food security is still, however, a huge issue for Northwestern Ontario and particularly for First Nations people.   With extreme transportation costs for food, The Nutrition North Canada program should be overhauled to ensure it is meeting its objectives to make food prices on reserves more equal to those in urban settings.   This program needs to be expanded to allow all isolated communities to take full advantage of it while reviewing the best way to support food security in these communities into the future.  On the Provincial level Bill 36 the Local Food Act is a great start. Kathleen Wynn, as premier, understands the importance of food and assumed the Agricultural portfolio and is moving it in the right direction   This new legislation however missed the northwest and should have  reference and relativity to Northern First Nations with cultivating, gathering, hunting, fishing and trapping.  There is still time to adjust this as it is in second reading.  Also, more generally, incentives are needed to increase the number of farmers and the volume of local food while ensuring that farmers are able to earn a decent living. We are the only G8 country without a national funded school meal program. A National student nutrition program could be initiated by placing a tax on sugary drinks and thus discouraging consumption in this area to help address the obesity epidemic and diabetes issues and reducing health care costs. The research on changed social policy shows that even when ensuring a living wage for all families, the cost savings for this province would round out at $2300 additional cash in the pockets of all tax paying people each year.  The financial details are spelled out in The Cost of Poverty 2009 by the Ontario Association of Food Banks, sponsored by the Atkinson Foundation with the PROJECT ADVISORS & REVIEWERS: Don Drummond, Senior Vice President and Chief Economist, TD Bank Financial Group Judith Maxwell, Senior Fellow,Canadian Policy Research Networks (CPRN) James Milway, Executive Director,Institute for Competitiveness and Prosperity and the Martin Prosperity Institute. Dr. Mark Stabile, Director, University of Toronto School of Public Policy and Governance John Stapleton, Innovation Fellow,  George Cedric Metcalf Charitable Foundation I sat across the table from Marc Hamel, a money market manager in Burlington and also the head of the Burlington Round table on poverty at a conference “Champions Change” in April 2013, sponsored by Tamarack and FSG Social Impact Consultants and was struck by his number crunching.    He has the figures and there is an article in the Toronto Star on May 19th,2013 by Joe Fiorito  headlined “Poverty Costs Us Billions.” To cite one more recent report:          Poverty Costs is a ground-breaking report, developed by Vibrant Communities Calgary and Action to End Poverty in Alberta, identifies that it costs Albertan taxpayers between $7.1 billion and $9.5 billion every year to maintain persistent levels of poverty. These costs include direct benefits to families living in poverty as well as health, crime and other related costs. Values, Relationships and Forgiveness: The fourth leg is our relationships to each other.   Positive relationships are key to our moving ahead.  I don’t want to go down the traditional path of pointing fingers…”they should….but they should”….this has not resolved the issues of hunger.  It is time for a new approach.    It may come as a surprise, but we all make mistakes and many times this is where the best learning is.  This does not mean I encourage anyone to go out and make many more mistakes to learn more. We are all flawed in one way or another and we need each other to show kindness and forgiveness.  As Ogo Pogo, the comic strip character of the  1960’s said “We have met the enemy and he is us.”  We need to confront our own weaknesses, fears, biases and use of power to control others.   We need to be gentle with ourselves and with each other. Physical poverty and spiritual poverty are so intertwined.  There are the poor and then there are the poor in spirit.   Our city is more than buildings and infrastructure.  The mining boom and the Ring of Fire are economically important but they are nothing without positive relationships.  Marilyn vos Savant said “ To acquire knowledge, one must study; but to acquire wisdom, one must observe.”  I have been observing and this is what I have seen: We cannot have any left out or behind. We desperately need collective values. As Jeffrey Sachs the famed economist says in his new book The Price of Civilization, we need to get beyond the craving for wealth, to become more aware of what is really important through being mindful that our values are out of touch.  “If we determine what it is we want as a society, or community or individually and then focus on how to get toward this objective, it will require social realignment and not frenetic economic development.”  He points out that “the United States is one of the world’s richest economies by per capita income, it ranks only around seventeenth in reported life satisfaction.” p. 167   After I had kids they were attending a local elementary school in Stoney Creek and the school principal was a Six Nations Band member, Marvin Longboat.  It is over 30 years and I can still remember his name. He made special allowance for one of my children to fit into his school.  Creative educators like Marvin are invaluable.  In Thunder Bay my other two kids needed to be accommodated specially at specific times without compromising standards.  Wayne Fletcher, Al Houston and Penti Paularine made things happen.   Including my kids, welcoming them and making adjustments for their real success.  So classroom teachers and parents  are critical to development and wisdom.  Into the future, a reduction of poverty, the inclusion of all and retooling of our values are most critical.  Am I optimistic in this battle against poverty? ….I would quote Desmond Tutu`s words “no I am not an optimist but that does not mean I’m the opposite….I certainly am not a pessimist.”   “I am a Prisoner of Hope and confident in the Power of Compassion”           The local First Nations people have the 7 Grandfather Teachings and these are now being emphasized once again.  The majority of us grew up with familiar positive values that gave us direction for living in society but many young people are missing these teachings.    Some of our institutions have picked key words and have tried to emphasize these.   “Tolerance” is a value word used about 20 years ago.   Today various organizations within our community use the word “Respect” as a key value.  With tolerance we put up with the situation, with respect we give deference and esteem the other.  “Respect” is important. But we need more than one significant value to guide our relationships in this community.  Hope, compassion, honesty and encouragement in addition to respect is a cluster of values, I would suggest, is worth striving toward in our relationships.  This is not nostalgia; it is necessity. •         Hope is a belief in a positive outcome even in the face of adversity…yes it recognizes and is aware of the challenges…it doesn’t pretend problems don’t exist….but there is a confidence in a better future. •         Compassion is a deep awareness of the suffering and hurt of another or others coupled with a wish to relieve it.   Compassion and Hope arouses, as nothing else can arouse, a passion for the possible.  •         Encouragement –is the true inspiration to be what we know others need us to be to assist them with their walk.  It also embodies the word courage. Even as we think and set values within community conversations, we and our environment start to change.  We need to focus on future possibilities.  New methodologies of design thinking, appreciative inquiry and asset-based community development offer new excitement for planning a better future. This new way of thinking does not separate “them from us.” We are all in this together and the language of moving forward changes as we move forward together.  There is no emphasis upon victims or blame. There is no patient and clinician, no client and provider,  we all move in the same collaborative circle.  The unusual may be expected with new intuitive creativity.  We are not locked in by rigid step by step mechanistic planning used in the past.  “There is room for imagination and brilliance to be celebrated.”    So we start by asking important questions? What kind of world do you want to live in? or What kind of world do you want your children and grandchildren to live in? What values should govern in the future? We are going to have to become more thrifty aren’t we?  Careful with our possessions and how we treat these things is important.  Development of more green energy is imperative, as burning of carbon fuels becomes less available and unacceptable.   Frugality will be important but most important will be how we treat each other. Over the last decade there are many First Nations people, Muslim people, disabled people and new immigrants, who I count as friends.  They are great role models.  Throughout our community we need to honour each other with RESPECT,  HOPE, COMPASSION, and ENCOURAGEMENT. This will be the solution to some for the fear and anxiety and subsequently decrease racial tension.  And to the First Nations People of our community let me say this and again I quote Desmond Tutu but put it in my words:  ``Be nice to us whites, we need you to rediscover our humanity.” And to the white people living on First nations traditional lands :  “Be nice to the visible minorities they need us to rediscover their humanity.  Remember to  Honour each other with HOPE and COMPASSION. “We must all learn to live together as brothers or we will all perish together as fools. Because of our involvement in humanity we must be concerned about every human being.” Martin Luther King, Jr.    Remember what is important …our air, our water, our food and our relationships. LET’S ALL FIND THE KNOWLEDGE AND THE INSPIRATION TOGETHER TO MAKE A WONDERFUL FUTURE FOR OUR CHILDREN AND GRANDCHILDREN IN NORTHWESTERN ONTARIO   Thank you once again for this tremendous honour! Merci and Miigwech

Dancing, rhythm and old shoes

A conversation with a group of community builders in KW
This past month the staff and board at the Social Planning Council in KW set aside some time for a rich conversation about community.  Attached are some of the highlights from this conversation.

Community Vitality Design Team: Goals, Action Steps & Measures

February 12, 2013
A Design Team of 15 Guelph residents met on February 12, 2013 to address the question: How do we improve wellbeing on a citywide basis concerning Community Vitality, and what help would you need from others?

Guelph Wellbeing Forum

Summary Report
During the summer and fall of 2012, thousands of people from the Guelph community
participated in the CWI and provided their input through a variety of mechanisms. The Guelph
Wellbeing Forum brought together individuals from the community to learn about the project,
hear common trends from the input gathered to date, and to identify elements of a vision and
goals, as well as identify potential actions and priorities for wellbeing in Guelph. The forum was held on October 11, 2012 on a city bus route at the accessible River Run Center
in Guelph, with free parking provided. There was an afternoon and evening session, which
gathered community leaders, residents, key City staff, politicians and stakeholders. From 6 pm
to 7 pm prior to the evening session, a ‘Market Hall’ was available with displays on, ‘What We
Heard’, the Canadian Index of Wellbeing (, Photo Voice" target="_blank">( and city displays. This report provides an overview of
the forum and summarizes the input received from forum participants. Report Click Here!

Digging into 175 years of community at East Zora

A conversation with a faith group in KW area
  EZ Community Discussions Compilation Group 1 Why EZ community important to us? ·      Feel  welcome, and can tell people mean it ·      Big family coming back home ·      Sharing-help when needed ·      Not perfect but no other community I’d rather be for me and family How do we express community? ·      Times of crisis ·      Prayer chain ·      Parish nursing ·      Myf crokinole young and old connect more than years ago ·      Mission trip ·      Drama and musical events When is experience  of community meaningful? ·      Young song leaders being mentored ·      Worship leaders N/B to encourage ·      Personal preparation for whorship/community ·      Expect something good When is experience not meaningful? ·      When someone cannot afford to be involved in sports etc, or choose not to be (they then feel like outsiders) ·      Didn’t feel welcome because family was poor so felt looked down upon. How can we deepen our experience of community together? ·      Accept people who play sports and are involved in Sunday tournaments ·      Recognize people who are sincere in their faith, but have other commitments/decisions    Group 2 Why is EZ important?         Feel accepted, belonging, supported, encouraging,       Feel at home (knowing each other)       Welcoming safe place to grow, try talents       Accept people where we are at- open minded       Conscious and aware of visitors- greet smile welcome     What creates this setting?  Smile, handshake, encouraging people of all ages to become involved in worship activities How do we express community?       Some of above comments address this question       Memorable community experiences       MYF reunions       Small group experience- opportunity to be open and honest, feeling of trust       Jesse Yantzi service at church,  candle and prayer service       Support form congregation during death of family members      Events of church ie. Choir, musical, commitees How can we deepen our experience?       Living open and vulnerable       Communicating members who are away due to school etc.       Recognizing milestones- by sending cards and notes Highlights      Remembering special occasions       Little things smile greeting, affirming each other, welcoming       Being vulnerable allows us to grow supportive of each other  Group 3 What are our most memorable experiences of community?       Difficult times helping out Jesse, Vernon Ruby leg loss, tornado,       Common goals      Sharing communion   Why is EZ important to us?       Like family       Where grew up       Roots       Central to lives      Home base How do we express community together?       Crisis seems to deepen by taking down walls, broadens perspective of others       Bigger picture rather than petty stuff       Visiting each other as in years past   When is our experience  of community meaningful?       Spiritual part present and effect us       Needs addressed       May be just a conversation       Encouragement       A meal shared- time given   When is our experience not meaningful?       Inclusive       When we allow someone to stand alone (potluck-coffee time)       Cliques/ groups       Initially get attention as new person, but then get let go       No family How could we deepen our experience of community together?       Commit to getting out of our comfort zone       Get them involved, give others a chance       Be intentional   Group 4 Why is EZ community important to us?       Part of a family- look after each other       Social time       Get more out of it if you get involved       Caring – good place to raise family       During times of crisis knowing you have other people caring       Appreciate talent       Worship service get you through till next week Where can we do better?       Sometimes we get too busy and church takes a back seat       If it isn’t something that EZ promotes we don’t get involved   Group 5 Why is EZ community important to us?       People care about each other       It is comfortable and familiar       Community of faith/ welcoming       Multi-generational open to inviting       Intentional at inviting people @ the fringes       Intentional @ developing skills of people   How do we express community together?       We are drawn to the practical things & work together       Reach out to others in crisis with support       Prayer focuses our attention on needs       When we eat together spend time together       Sharing time       Shown @ funerals and live events       Develop & care & include youth       A place to talk about tough issues   When is our experience of community meaningful?       Anniversary celebrations       Being able to relate to others with similar interests       Caring for people @ the fringes of our church community      When it is personal and relates to us   When is our experience of community not meaningful?       We can continue to grow @ meeting others and to be more purposeful to interact with people we don’t know as well       Actions and emotions are watched & we are sensitive to that       How can we make it so all feel they fit?   How could we deepen our experience of community together?       Each of us to be intentional about trying ie. The more peple that share the more that others will share.       Be more forward sharing good news stories       Engage in groups of 3       We have to have humility to ask for help and don’t forget about people       Community happens with the people we spend time with Group 6 Why is EZ Community important to us?       Provides a similar group of people. Allows you somewhere to develop your faith       Like-minded people       Safe place can have different people       People care-show interest in other people’s lives       Warmth in this community- welcoming       Place to get involved How do we express community together?         Potlucks, creation celebration, camping, crokinole       Intergenerational events       Prayer chain       Music-several different bands, music groups       Coming together for purpose of fundraising       Missions trips-sharing, working, building faith and friendship     When is our experience of community meaningful?       Making connections- like- minded people and friends,       Knowing that people care for you       Working with others for a greater good and overwhelming       When it encompasses all above aspects (fun, faith caring)       Helping others – support, lifting others up, focus not on ourselves, but helping others   When is our experience as community not meaningful?       When we are not open to the community- not open to sharing       Need to be willing to be vulnerable       Always easier to listen to others/help others, but need to realize that it is okay to share that you need help.       Non-judgemental love       Don’t feel sense of community if you feel that others are judging us, our opinions       Need to remember to step back and look at situation with no judgemental eyes.       How do we welcome people into our community      When we’re not vulnerable How do we deepen our experience of community?       Being intentional at welcoming outsiders       Being vulnerable       By crossing intergenerational lines       Being on commitees with people where you have mutual ground and goals       Intergenerational committee members       Intergenerational Sunday School classes-have prepared questions both ways       How do you apply Bible? Values? to your life now       Understanding and learning What stood out?       We have a lot to learn from each other       Connect and form relationships       Open, vulnerable intentional about creating relationships       Very idea of getting together today     Group 7 Why is the EZ community important to us?       Always welcoming place, comforting, wonderful meeting place       Caring congregation       Looking forward to meeting people seeing familiar faces, enjoying our wonderful worship services (all aspects of our church life, family, education)       Great to feel a part of larger family not the same if not here for worship service       Caring family over 175 years       Sets direction for the week, brings peace in busy week and lives       Enjoy commonality of church here, sense of belonging, moving together to God’s kingdom       Grew up here sense of community       Feels like home, gathering point centre of our lives       Parents worship here, grandparents here, long line of community and family   How do we express community at EZ?         Seeing many youth from outside our church, some even joining as members.       Anniversary celebrations, shows a lot of caring, a lot of community       One on one, personal greetings, encouraging words,       We welcome new people who join us on a Sunday morning    Through childrens’ programs (VBS Creation Celebration)       Express community by being faithful to people in times of need     When is our experience of community meaningful?       When going through difficult times (sickness, health, death) people support us through prayers, visitation, bringing food etc.       Recognized through a smile, friendly face,       Feeling of don’t know how they survive without church       Can’t imagine surviving difficult times without church family       Being involved is so meaningful       EZ community really pitches in and is there when you need them. When is experience of community not meaningful?       When we are our own worst enemy, come to church in the wrong frame of mind       If someone who comes to our church doesn’t have the same roots as us, do they feel as welcome or part of this community       Have to make sure we don’t fall short of our obligation to welcome outsiders       Issue of not having any relatives/ friends here, always feel an outsider       We all have moments when we feel disconnected   How can we deepen our experience as a community?       Keep focusing on our faith and keep it central to our lives       Stay steadfast with our core conviction       Common goal to always help others, everyone, not just Mennonites, but all walks of faith       Importance of meeting in different times (Jesse and Brendan Hammer Crisis) where all people come under one community umbrella       Make sure our doors are always open to outside community       Through playgroup, MYF, girls/boys club, making and extra effort to get to know them and their parents. What stands out?       This faith community is the “world to us”       How many times mentioned how important this community is to us.     Group 8 Why is the EZ community important to us?       Fellowship (born with desire to mingle with other people)       Home       Enthusiasm       What is it that keeps people coming?       Grew up here and formed friendships       Working with people, formed bond, comfortable       Something missing if you can’t be here       Population of youth making good connections       Not afraid to tackle tough questions, safe place       Able to worship as community       MYF being able to be with friends       Feel welcome       Knowing you have support of others       Inviting everyone to participate, new song leaders       Belong       Intergenerational involvement       We have lot of other communities we are involved with but our church is more willing to help when we need support How do we express community together?       Making connections       Sharing       Some small groups but we connect more intimately       Fellowship groups (does everyone feel apart of these?)       Volunteering to help other places (Ten Thousand Villages)       Getting to know other youth groups (local and missions trips)       Getting out of comfort zone       Good mix of corporate worship-supplemented by other programs and informal connections       Sharing meals with people, one to one connections       Organized by care team       Prayer shawl ministry-practical way of loving, fun, prayers, helping       Working together-washing dishes, quilting, preparing a play, draws to workers together       Welcoming newcomers       Getting youth to participate in worship and test their abilities- mentoring young people’       Spreading our light to others VBS etc.    

On Collaboration

Rants, Ideas, and Some Debunking
  We all know collaboration is at the heart of making positive change in society. We know this primarily because we tell one another it must be true. We tell ourselves that the range and depth of change needed to improve our communities can only be accomplished by working together. We deploy maxims like “no one can go it alone.” We are so convinced that collaboration must permeate everything we do that funders now demand it as a matter of course. Sometimes we proclaim collaboration is a great way to reduce costs or duplication, despite the lack of comprehensive evidence that this is true. We grab onto new versions of collaboration like “collective impact.” It is almost as if individual effort has become devalued in and of itself. But is collaboration the answer we keep telling ourselves it is? Here’s a perspective offered by Todd Cohen who blogs for Inside Philanthropy, which is published by The Philanthropy Journal.[1] Collaboration has to be one of the most bloated, overworked and misunderstood buzzwords in the charitable marketplace. Funders and donors preach and demand it. Trade groups and consultants peddle it. And nonprofits, nodding to the sermonizing of their funders and donors, pay endless lip service to it. Sadly, far too few of any of them actually practice it or even know what it is or what it takes to make it work. Collaboration sounds great in theory. But in practice, it can prove to be slippery, complicated, risky and sometimes plain unworkable. Ideology versus Capacity
One of the largest barriers to collaboration is the wide gap between the ideology of collaboration and the resources required to support it. Despite the fact that collaboration is not an end in and of itself and that it is not always necessary, the non-profit sector has persuaded itself to believe that it is fundamental to nearly everything it does. Funders, in particular, espouse the need for it in their proposal calls or granting applications. It’s just how things are suppose to be. The simple truth is that the resourcing of collaboration is given short shrift by too many funders and under-estimated by too many non-profit leaders. One can argue funders lack the resources to optimally support collaborative efforts, but that doesn’t appear to stop the demand for collaboration. Concurrently, non-profit agencies have bought into the ideology and because they feel vulnerable to funding, they agree to undertake efforts they lack the infrastructure and capacity to do. It is a cycle of dysfunction that all parties perpetuate. All too often the result is underfunded collaborations that cannot achieve their potential or that fail. Or the language of collaboration is used to pitch ventures that are packaged as collaborative but in actuality are more representative of cooperation or coordination, which are less resource intensive. Survival versus Mutual Gain
Non-profit executives often muse about how they are expected to collaborate with one another on the one hand and also compete for limited resources in the funding market place and of course for donors and volunteers. Not all non-profits are struggling to survive, but there is sufficient research to suggest that many are merely subsisting. By that I mean they are balancing their books on the backs of staff that are not paid what they are worth and often labor on without compensation increases, much less adequate benefits. Infrastructure necessities are set aside for the sake of a balanced budget or at least minimal deficits.  The irony is that while many non-profits struggle to subsist or survive due to thin, flat, incomplete, and sporadic funding, funders keep a worrisome eye on the bottom lines of the organizations they under-fund. The expectation is that while given insufficient funds to operate effectively, agencies that go into the red are viewed as risky business. On the other hand, there are funders that are equally averse to stronger organizations having “too much” money in the bank for a rainy day. It’s as if the right financial state for non-profits to be on the edge of instability. Here’s Less Funding, Now Do More
The dichotomy is this: while non-profits are required to collaborate and work to achieve win-wins for the community they serve, they are consistently and pervasively under-valued by those who resource them. In all the years I have consulted to non-profits of all shapes and sizes, I can’t recall seeing a non-profit whose deficit could be simply attributed to bad management nor have I experienced clients whose savings accounts (i.e. reserves) betrayed their missions.  This observation does not mean I think funders and donors have unlimited funds. Of course there are tough decisions to make. What I am suggesting is that the common decision to just expect more from non-profits while giving them less to work with is at best a misguided decision or, sadly, disrespectful. De-Bunking Mythologies
Often all of us operate with some degree of allegiance to a mythology that collaboration will save money, cut out inefficiencies and stretch limited dollars. Many seem to just accept the facile notion that the answer to tight funding is to rid ourselves of duplicate services. We don’t think this way when it comes to the private sector, however, where in reality we depend on choice and, subsequently duplicate services. As well, we do not see funders consolidating into fewer organizations. Why is that?  Truth is that collaboration costs money and in many instances there are no substantive, if any, savings afforded by a collaborative effort. Collaboration, I propose, offers the potential of having more impact much more than cutting costs. Those who think mergers are the solution appear to forget or ignore that mergers also have substantive costs which no one cares to fund; as well, they create opportunity losses, and can result in fewer services or decreased quality than existed previously. Backend consolidations are no panacea either. As the CEO of an good sized human service agency, I have been advised by anti-duplication advocates that it would be more efficient if we combined our finance or HR functions with other organizations or if we provided such services to smaller organizations. I am always perplexed how many offer such advice without any understanding of how we operate. Integrating financial operations, for example, involves much more than the technical aspects of doing so. The respective cultures, mindsets, values, and approaches to stewardship all factor into the picture. Invariably, the gain in efficiency that might be – and I stress “might be” – brought about will also include the loss of business processes and access to prompt, relevant data that is possible when one controls one’s own financial matters and tools. Besides, if it is such a good thing for non-profits, why don’t funders consolidate their backends? Why don’t corporations that work in the same industry integrate their finance teams, their HR processes, and so forth? How come Apple and Microsoft don’t consolidate their back ends? What about utility companies? How about one big finance team for all the oil companies? How come when voices rise up to suggest non-profits should be more like businesses, they wish to apply rules of engagement to non-profits that businesses would not consider? Innovative Collaboration
Effective collaboration is rich ground for innovation. There have been, and still are, many conversations across the non-profit sector about the need for transformation. Many suggest, and I agree, that what has been done for so long is not working to the extent that we want it to.  What is not clear is who the “we” is. Is it just the non-profit sector? Just agencies? Is it just the non-profit sector that is failing to achieve the impact the community requires and deserves? Non-profit leaders are talking about how what we are doing is not achieving the results we need to achieve. A critic of my organization told me that we aren’t doing enough to house the homeless because there are still homeless people. This year we will house 240 homeless people through our participation in the Housing First program. We house many more who do not qualify for Housing First. Is it true that we are not doing enough? Is it my organization’s failure that more homeless people are showing up at our door seeking help? Sensible people would say no it’s not, but for some reason, all too often the community at large acts like it is. There are many excellent ideas being discussed and numerous organizations in my community are re-stating missions and vision statements and articulating new strategies that markedly differentiate where they want to go from what they have been doing. These ideas are often innovative, some are indeed transformative, and I have no doubt they reflect authentic intentions of good people seeking ways to maximize the impact of their work. Clearly the problems society faces require appropriate cross-sector collaboration more than ever. Poverty, homelessness, violence, abuse, racism, mental illness, addictions, and so on are community problems with complex causation. Some causes are based in the individual and rooted in decisions or actions undertaken by people. In other words, it is true that each person among us bears some measure of responsibility for who they are and what they do. Some causes are, for the lack of a better word, accidents. This refers to people born with a disability or who experience later in life the onset of a mental illness, or whose lives have been changed for the worse from abuse or violence. Other causes are rooted in the collective, meaning they are structural causes. Racism is an example of this. Collective decisions that result in perpetuating poverty are another. The promise of collaboration will be small if any of us thinks the responsibility to address social problems can be fixed by human service programs alone. Or that the problems our community faces equates simply to the failings of governments. Or that that a poor economy can be corrected by the corporate sector. The complexity of what we are facing and the interdependency of our lives requires, if not demands, collaborative efforts across the community. This is the first innovation we need to understand and subscribe to: that the community is accountable for itself and that the various sectors that make up the community are not outside of or above community but creatures of it. This may sound obvious, but it is not how we tend to see things. To achieve this kind of synergy we need innovative collaboration and in some cases, if not many, new forms of collaboration. Of course we need ideas but all ideas require execution and the transformative call we are making to one another requires transformative practice – new or at least reformed ways of behaving, and this is I believe where the challenge truly lies. We need collaborations that foster opportunities to identify and prototype new ways of working and that are aptly funded to do so. This means risking more than we seem to want to and overcoming past habits and perceptions to do so. Funders and those they fund need to accept that the creation of new ways of working necessarily means the destruction of what is not working. As I have written elsewhere, the practice of transformation requires personal change, not just changes to systems or funding criteria or mission statements. Without such personalization of change, we will end up trying to act on new ideas with old and irrelevant processes and protocols. Collaboration will not take place the way we want it to unless accompanied by our ability to change ourselves and at the same time help support the changes of others Collaboration and Polarization
To solve social problems, we need to stop all the complaining and whining about one another. We need to stop perpetuating adversarial approaches to problem solving and more importantly that kibosh aspirations we all share. Our political system fails citizens when the default of the ruling and opposition parties is to take opposing views on most things. The human services sector within which I work is often too quick to position itself against something rather than for something. Even worse is when, for example, a government announces actions that have been advocated for years by the human services sector and is met with the next stage of outcries and criticisms for not going far enough or for not getting things quite right. A local, provincial example: for many years people like me – and I imagine some of you – have wanted the Government of Alberta to recognize that poverty is an issue provincially and then do something constructive about addressing it. Significant efforts have gone into such advocacy. Groups have formed, briefs written, criticisms voiced in the media, money spent, and so forth. When the Premier of Alberta, Alison Redford, announced in 2012 the government’s intention to undertake a poverty reduction strategy and also to eliminate child poverty within five years, the response of many human service agencies was to criticize the announcement as “not going far enough,” “not having enough details,” and so forth. In such cases, the absence of affirmation was shrill and strident. Perhaps a more appropriate strategy would be to affirm the intention and voice interest in collaborating with the government to achieve such intentions. All too often human service agencies and the communities in which they operate fail to work collaboratively and instead spend energy, time, and money on their respective polarizing positions. This is especially true when it comes to social housing, which typically is more dense in inner cities and low income neighborhoods. Residents who express concern about the density and impact of such housing on their community are labeled as suffering from NIMBY-ism, as if their concerns are unfounded, uncaring, and irresponsible. On the other hand, community members see social housing groups as outsiders who care only about what they wish to build for their clients and devoid of any regard for their neighbours. In reality, neither perspective is likely true, but that is the environment we seem to prefer to perpetuate – all of us. Imagine, if you would, how things might be different if the community took charge of the collective problems and issues it faces and residents, institutions, funders, service providers, businesses, and faith communities came together to figure out how to tackle issues like poverty, mental illness, homelessness and so on? That’s about collaboration, right? Coming soon: Drivers of Collaboration [1] Retrieved from  

Writing to Impact Change - Tips from Writers

Heather Plett and friends share wisdom about writing to inspire change.
When Heather Plett was called on to teach a university class on writing to impact change, she discovered there weren’t a lot of resources on the subject.  So, she sent an email out to about 30 friends who are writers asking them to share their best tips for how to write to impact change.  “Their answers were so inspiring, that I paired them with my photos and make this lovely little e-book,” she said.  Here are just a few examples:   ·         “Write it for the people, not yourself” – Jarda Dokoupil ·         “Invite people to consider, rather than trying to get them to change” – Julie Daley              If you’re looking for a spark to ignite your creativity around how you can use the power of the written word to inspire others, this beautiful e-book offers just what you’ll need.    Download Writing to Impact Change here     Learn more at:  

Urban Gardening and Social Justice

Is there a correlation between urban farms/gardens and displacing the poor of the city?
Find the article at: By Same BeebeThe author at work as an urban farmer. I moved to Detroit almost 10 years ago, largely because I was interested in learning more about the city’s burgeoning community gardens. At the time, little media interest was being paid to Detroit or its urban agriculture movement, and it certainly was not a place folks were looking to for the future of city gardening. Not long after my arrival, my sister hit me with a sucker punch of a question: “Don’t you ever worry that your work in community gardening is contributing to gentrification?” I vehemently denied her charges, but in the back of my mind I had already been turning over the question, and feared that she might be right. Over the years, her question has stuck with me, and it seems especially pressing now, as development in Detroit is ramping up. Proposals for a light rail system, construction of a high-end grocery store, and the rehabbing of luxury lofts all have folks wondering where this will lead. Some see it as Detroit’s rebound, others worry that rents will begin to skyrocket and the working class will be driven out. Looking at the Detroit landscape, there is still so much empty land, and so many vacant buildings, it can often be difficult to imagine gentrification even happening. I’ve met people who say “a little gentrification would be a good thing for Detroit.” I disagree. There are things that can and need to change about the city, but change in a neighborhood is often organic — one group of people finds themselves in better economic situations and moves on. Gentrification is systematic; it involves the displacement of people against their will. City governments use economic incentives to attract higher-income people and the businesses that cater to them. Rents and property taxes go up, and those who have historically lived in a community have no choice but to move elsewhere. Gentrification should not be confused with community development — or neighborhood improvement, through organizing and hard work by the members of that community. Places like the South Bronx, Harlem, the South Side of Chicago, and the Mission District in San Francisco have all been improved drastically by hard-working neighborhood activists only to see them increasingly vulnerable to gentrification as conditions improve. Urban agriculture can be a force for good in under-resourced neighborhoods. It can provide job training, access to healthy food, and it has also recently been linked — in one study at least — to reduced crime rates. But many of the people of color I have known and worked with say it also inevitably attracts young white people, which — while not necessarily the cause of gentrification — is often a sure sign that it’s on the way. Patrick Crouch Detroit’s Birdland garden before it was bulldozed. Frank Donner was part of a garden in Detroit which was recently bulldozed to make room for a parking lot. The garden was started around 2003, and over the years Donner saw major changes. “The garden stabilized some vacant land, attracted the eye of people passing by who were interested in flowers and fruit trees,” he recalls. It also served as a community gathering spot. “There were a lot more people stopping by and asking questions.” Patrick Crouch The same garden before it was paved over to make a parking lot. The business that would eventually take over the garden’s lot opened in 2005. It was at times supportive — it was willing to provide water to the garden — but, Donner says,”I don’t think the owner ever really got what we were doing.” When he started seeing “white women in sports bras jogging in the evening,” he knew that the neighborhood was well on its way to being gentrified. It wasn’t long after that the lot was bought by the business next door and the hard and painful task of digging up fruit trees, grape vines, and other perennials began. There are many factors that can cause a neighborhood to change, and the community garden was only one of “a variety of reasons the neighborhood was ripe for gentrification,” adds Donner. For one, it was conveniently located near downtown Detroit. He points to another garden, called the Georgia Street Garden (on the east side of Detroit), as an exception. “Georgia Street is doing a lot for the community but is never going to contribute to gentrification.” It’s also located far away from the central business district, from good jobs, and from the area’s major highways. Karen Washington is an urban farmer from the Bronx who helped start the community garden across the street from her house — The Garden of Happiness — in 1988. “You had people who wanted to take back their community and got together and turned those empty lots into gardens. For me it was the first community organizing experience, going into these lots, cleaning them out, and starting to grow,” Washington explains. Initially, she says the community garden movement was a means to take pride in and feel a sense of ownership in low-income neighborhoods. While growing food was important, it was secondary to the desire to push drug dealers out, stop illegal dumping, and create a little beauty in areas that were battling blight and absentee landlords. Washington points to Brooklyn neighborhoods like Bushwick and Park Slope, which have both seen a great deal of gentrification in recent years. “As the complexion of the community changed, so has the complexion of the community gardens.” Rather than seeing these gardens as a cause of the shift, Washington sees it in reverse. “Gentrification was the cause of seeing more of a white presence in the community gardens,” she says. But the shift away from community gardens toward scaled-up, more food-focused, often for-profit urban farming is a different story. “You have this new yuppie group coming in that is gung ho about urban agriculture … but the movement wasn’t about urban agriculture, it was about survival, taking back our communities,” she says. “Now you have people coming into gardens that have established histories, that were built on the backs of people who made it safe for you to come in, and you’re gonna talk about urban agriculture? You cannot leave out … the history and the legacy of the elders who were there long before so you can do whatever you wanna do.” Calamity Hane Washington makes an important point. In recent years, the media seems to have shifted the spotlight from community gardens to urban farms. We see an increase in portrayals of young, white urban farmers on rooftops using expensive hydroponic systems. Because there’s often a profit motive, it’s easier to justify the land use to city officials and developers because it can mean jobs and economic development, thus bringing new value to that land, and making those communities ripe for gentrification. It won’t surprise you to hear that, as a young white person who manages an urban farm, I’m still left wondering about my role in gentrification. The projects I’ve worked with don’t seem to have increased property values and forced people out of the neighborhood, but I can’t say the same for the impact of other current, or proposed future, projects. Could my work contribute to a neighborhood that is one day filled with luxury lofts, rather than the rehabbed houses and affordable housing it needs? And are those concerns a reason not to act, to try to make a difference in the first place? Probably not. I moved to Detroit not because I had answers, but because I had questions. I moved not into one of the hip neighborhoods, but what I would call “real Detroit” — far off the beaten path for any New York Times photographers; a middle class/lower income African-American neighborhood. My wife and I were some of the only white folks around. I had neighbors who spent hours schooling me in the history of the neighborhood, Detroit, urban farming and gardening, racism in the community, and much, much more. I spent what felt like months just exploring the city, volunteering at community gardens, sharing tea on stoops and meals with all sorts of folks while listening to their stories. Over time, Detroit became home. I found myself more invested in the work, and developing more of a leadership role in the urban farming world. This opened me up to criticism. People I greatly respected started questioning the proliferation of white people in leadership roles in the Detroit “food movement.” I admit to recoiling a bit, feeling defensive, but it would have been wrong not to face these critiques. So I listened to my critics’ concerns, and talked with them about how I could address them. In recent years I’ve worked to make changes at the organization I work with — Earthworks Urban Farm — based on the feedback I heard; we moved our focus toward social justice, and reevaluated our decision-making and hiring processes. We worked to develop a residents and business association that we work closely with. We developed partnerships with groups that were actively promoting justice as their work, and learned more from them. I became a part of a group that sponsored anti-racism trainings in Detroit, and became active in a white anti-racist group. (While gentrification by definition is an issue of class, as long as wealth inequality falls along racial lines, race will be an important piece of the puzzle. Hipsters and artists have often been implicated in gentrification, and while both groups are often diverse in race and class, they are not the beneficiaries of the economic changes of gentrification. The land developers, landlords, and banks are the ones who really benefit, and those groups are most often white.) Earthworks and I still have a lot of work to do, but we’re doing what we can to make sure urban agriculture is more than just a catalyst for gentrification. We’re rooting our work in the history of growing food in Detroit, and our values are deeply grounded in social justice. We might not be perfect, but we are trying, and that gives me hope. Are you working in urban agriculture and want to promote social justice too? Here are some suggestions you might find helpful: Learn the history of the community you are working in. Understand how it was developed, which indigenous communities lived there before, and what polices shaped it and changed it. If you are not from the community you are working in, I recommend spending more time listening — really actively listening — than talking. You don’t have to take credit for good ideas to see them enacted. And even if you have some good ideas, don’t assume those ideas haven’t been tried before, or that no one else has had them. Seek out established leaders and support them. Accept criticism graciously and don’t immediately defend yourself. Take it in and evaluate it slowly. Find mentors you trust to help guide you in your work. Patrick Crouch manages a 2.5 acre organic farm which is part of a soup kitchen in Detroit. He also serves on the Detroit Food Policy Council and blogs at Little House on the Urban Prairie.