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Archive for the ‘Social Change’ Category

Our soon to be Commander in Chief made today a day of national service, even pitching in to show us the way:

Obama volunteering at Sasha Bruce House

Obama volunteering at Sasha Bruce House

I just wonder how long this renewed enthusiasm for doing good will last, and would like to revisit a post I wrote a few weeks ago, about “The Future of Doing Good”.

Sure, there is no harm in joining Obama’s volunteering initiative, USA Service. I would just like to mention another option, one that was suggested to me by my friend Sam Bower, and one that may be more sustainable in the long run. Time banking introduces mutuality and fairness in the volunteering equation:

For every hour you spend doing something for someone in your community, you earn one Time Dollar. Then you have a Time Dollar to spend on having someone do something for you. It’s that simple. Yet it also has profound effects. Time Banks change neighborhoods and whole communities. Time Banking is a social change movement in 22 countries and six continents.

Sounds like a winner to me, and one concept that could be easily folded into President Obama’s USA Service initiative.

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The news of Steve Jobs’ illness has been on my mind. All day.

Tonight, I want to meditate on these words from him, from his 2005 commencement speech at Stanford – as quoted by Leander Kahney in his excellent post today, Steve Jobs and Death:

“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life.  Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.”

Many years ago, as I lay in Savasana, I took in these words from Carlos Castenada, given to me by my teacher, Gabriel Halpern: Live every day with death upon your shoulders, it will remind you to love. Often times, I have thought of that first part about death. The last words about love had slipped from my memory. It is only tonight, as I googled ‘death on your shoulders’, in search for the exact words, that I got the love part back.

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I have this vision of millions of jobless folks sitting at home, waiting for their next job to materialize. 11.1 millions, according to the New York Times. That’s a lot of talents, and skills being wasted, while our soon to be next President and his economic team figure out a plan. 

Here is my idea. Imagine for a second a place on the Web, where the newly unemployed could go to connect. Not to find a job. There are enough job sites as it is, which by the way appear to be rather worthless in this new economy of scarcity. No, instead this new place would be for the jobless to list all their skills, and talents, and dreams, and passions, and ideas, and the kind of people they would like to work with. Notice I say ‘with’, not ‘for’. The site would enable local meetups between members with complementary interests. Where I am going with this is an organizing community that would take full advantage of the tremendous resources from all its members, to facilitate the creation of new businesses. 

After all, a business is nothing more than a collection of people coming together to create a product of a service. In the absence of money and banks willing to extend loans, the next best thing may just be people stepping in, and lending each other their skills and time. 

Just an idea . . . 

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Once upon a time, I met Tiffany Von Emmel on Twitter. A few tweets and meetings later, I am playing with her and the rest of the  Dreamfish team. Tiff’s got a great blog about women, and coworking, and social innovation, and the future of work. I like what she had to say today:

Women are talking… Tara Hunt wrote a blog post about the future of work involving this pattern of bridge-crossing domains. I heartfully agree. The future of work is all about transforming the box into networks.

For most of my professional life, I have struggled with THE BOX. I am sure many of you, men and women, can relate:

- Long hours spent in soul-less offices – Apologizing for my endless curiosity – Trying hard to be ‘professional’ – Wearing a suit – Juggling being a parent and working – Pleasing the bosses, and acting like one – Clocking it – Ignoring my body’s plea for a mid-day gym break – Working on meaningless, ‘important’ projects – Worrying about results first, people second – Feeling boxed in – Dreaming of a different life - 

Even more oppressing than the outside box, was the box inside, that part of me inherited from an old men’s world, that shrunk my feminine self:

Bye Bye Box
Bye Bye Box

Recently the box has given way to a more supple container, one that conforms to all of myself, and let me BE, at work, at home, out in the world. Fittingly, I changed my Linkedin profile to make room for my new liberation, proudly opening with a ‘Don’t try to squeeze me into a box. I won’t fit.’

Others are taking notice, and starting to react accordingly. Being themselves, and playing with me. I can’t tell you how good it feels. 

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Beth Kanter alluded to ‘reciprocity’ in her comment on yesterday’s post about micro-donors. The concept of reciprocity in the general area of social good, is one that has been on my mind for quite some time. A few weeks ago, I participated in a discussion on The Huffington Post, in response to Craig Newmark‘s post on “A Craigslist for Service”. In my comments, I drive home some key points about the old volunteering model, and what I see as the future of  ‘doing good’:

Marguerite – While it is true that service does increase individual happiness up a notch, it is, as you point out early in your post, not an option for the increasingly large, disenfranchised segment of the population. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is an apt framework. As times grow more and more dire, I would like to suggest another twist on the service idea, that relies on the trading of services, rather than traditional volunteering. I see a huge opportunity in the service enabling infrastructure space, to facilitate such bartering of goods and services. This is why Craigslist is such a great model. I also like the mutuality involved in bartering of services, a model that it is inherently more respectful of each individual’s need to be valued. One psychological aspect of the volunteering model that has not been looked at enough, is the subtle negative effect of being on the receiver’s end. We all need to feel that we have something to give. I may be homeless, but give me a job to do, like working at the city recycling center, and I will gladly accept a hot meal and shelter in return. I may be a single mom with four kids, barely making it in the poor part of town, but ask me to participate in a babysitting co-op so that I can have time to go to school and get the skills I need to get a job. You get the picture.

DragonMama - great minds think alike – i suggested to my local democrats club at the first meeting after the election that what we need are “childcare co-opts for change” or at least playdates for change. i have so many friends with small children who just can’t afford to pay a babysitter so they can participate in the civic/volunteer engagement things (tho my personal preference is to bring my kids – ages 4 and 1 – with me whenever possible… how else are they going to learn to be good citizen participants?). people who were school-aged during the Regan administration seem to have been very strongly indoctrinated with the “asking for help is a sign of weakness or failure” mentality, to the point that we almost need to hit rock bottom before we ask for the smallest bit of help, and we have a hard time accepting it even when it’s freely offered WITHOUT our having to ask for it. I’ve grown up physically challenged so I got over it, but even I tend to wait too long to ask for help or even delegate a task. I know very few people under the age of 45 who are any good at delegating tasks or other forms of cooperative effort. It’s a skill we desperately need to learn, not just for the good of the country but also for our own mental health.

Loria – DragonMama,
That is a great idea. I am fortunate. My kids are in school and old enough to take care of themselves. I work, but not fulltime. But, I have friends who want to volunteer, yet they have young children. A coop for volunteers is a good option for them. You are right. It will also teach their children from a very young age of the importance of giving back.

LaurieR - Some wonderful points, Marguerite. A “handout” often diminishes the person it’s meant to help. People in “reduced circumstances” need to feel like they’re a part of the world around them, not invisible… or even worse, a liability. (Geez, I think I’ve been possessed by the spirit of RFK today. Which is hardly a bad thing!)

Marguerite – It is time to reexamine the values handed down to us, from well-meaning, patriarchal organizations, that are relying on hierarchical, top down, them vs. us, type of model. Language is important, as is the – often implied – transactional framework that’s being used.

Thanks DragonMama, Lorie R, and Loria, for chiming in. From now on, let’s give everyone equal opportunity to do good.

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