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CCE in brief

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Recovering backpacker, Cornwallite at heart, political enthusiast, catalyst, writer, husband, father, community volunteer, unabashedly proud Canadian. Every hyperlink connects to something related directly or thematically to that which is highlighted.

Saturday 17 March 2012

Ouroboros: Mapping Social Transformation and Knowledge Emergence in the Global Village

The dark corners of our external and internal maps are being filled in – and they’re going digital.

Aggregates in news, media, job-seeking and even social gossip are increasingly popular – and increasingly accessible.
Open-sourced, globally accessible online platforms like Ushahidi are positively transforming disaster relief.

Free translation services are providing a Rosetta Stone for the world’s languages as even archaic texts and varied analyses are but a few clicks away.  Our individual linguistic handicaps are being accommodated, communally.
Really think about this for a second.  People pay good money for institutional education which provides them with some form of certification, yet everything from do-it-yourself home projects to medical diagnoses are being done by people at home, based on information they find online.  Is this a safe practice?  Not really, but it’s common, doesn’t involve estimates and negotiations or wait-times and uncomfortable calls for life-changes.  At the same time, there is an emerging trend towards specialized collaboration in sectors across the board.

Traditional research and citation are going out the window.  Students at universities can find most of the material they need through the Internet.  Here on WAKATA, I’ve got a growing library of studies and academic papers I’ve perused from my home computer – and am now posting here everyone.  My posts are full of hyperlinks – some are interesting tangents, but in many cases, that’s me listing my sources with you.

Broad information access is humanizing public services and starting to address social concerns previously considered insurmountable.  Political Parties are embracing the potentials of social media and increasingly functional data collection and management (in ways both positive and negative); governments are looking at the advantages to things like digital health records and open-source innovation opportunities.  Can open-sourced policy be far behind?

At the surface level, society is in a state of agitation.  Politics is certainly becoming more polarized.  While ethnic, economic and religious friction are prevalent and disturbing, we are slowly becoming conscious of something vibrant, collaborative and promising peeking out beneath the surface.  It’s like the global village is a snake, shedding its old skin.
There are two linear ways to look at this social evolutionary change – as an ending, or a beginning.  Or, you can accept that like all things, social change is cyclical.
I say, it’s a good time to be alive.

Rick Santorum: Man of Faith or Man of Politics?

"I don't know about him, but I believe in acts of God," Santorum said.

Who was it that said "Give unto Caesar that which is Caesar's" again?  Somehow I don't think God looks at political nominations as appropriate venues for the expression of divine will.

If Jesus were alive today, he wouldn't be backing presidential candidates; he'd be down on the street with the Occupiers.

Stop the Ride, Canada Wants Off!

Suddenly it all becomes clear;
-          Firewalls
-          Increasingly vicious attack ads
-          A focus on messaging over meaning
-          Consumerist politics
The modern political ride is like a Gravitron – the public pays the price of admission, is ushered into an enclosed space and spun into polarized positions.
I guess the question is, who’s playing the role of carny?

Friday 16 March 2012

My Idea of Canada

Today, under a glorious sun and with a fresh breeze blowing, I took a walk through the main campus of U of T.  The old, elegant stone buildings had a faintly musty smell that carried on the wind.  History brushed against each sense in turn.

The campus itself was alive, vibrant with students basking in the warm sun, tossing a ball, heading to or from class or quietly reading a book in the shade of an ancient tree.  A couple pairs of professors sat on benches, dissecting world events.  There were more than a few parents accompanying March Break Uni tour kids, eyes wide with trepidation or excitement about what the future holds for them - which is probably a bit of both.

There were youth in short shirts, tank tops or no tops,  taking the first chance to bare skin in months.  There were fashion statements galore - prep, Emo, indie, worldly.  I saw a girl in hejab riding a skate board and one fellow in formal wear.  I noticed the variety of appearance, first - the diversity of ethnicity came next.  The crowd was a rich mix of lineages; East Asian, South Asian, Middle Eastern, First Nation, African, even a few folk of decidedly Northern European descent.

What a wonderful thing it is, I thought to myself, to be able to walk around a place of learning, the shore where new ideas lap at established wisdom, freely.  What a gift to be surrounded by so much diversity and find it encouraging, not threatening.

To me, that's Canada.

I was downtown to see a friend in hospital.  The friend is a University student; it was thinking about her that led me to walk the campus.  This friend had been struck suddenly, frighteningly by an illness the doctors were still trying to decipher.

My friend was lucky to live in this country, and especially lucky to live in a city with so many hospitals.  I shudder to think what could have happened if she'd lived somewhere without an established, public health care system.   More than that, the open communication between our hospitals and professionals across the system means there is a good chance that, if her illness has been dealt with elsewhere, that knowledge will make its way to her doctors.  This friend takes comfort in knowing that her academic year is not automatically in jeopardy.  I take comfort in knowing her life is in good hands.  We have a system, and people in that system, who understand that sometimes, things like this happen.  The goal is to accommodate success, not punish misfortune.

That's my Canada, too.

During a recent election campaign, I managed a GOTV team on E-Day that consisted entirely of New Canadians from India.  I thought it fantastic that, even before they had wrapped their heads around a whole new culture and world view, these young men were excited to participate in our democracy.

One of our poll clerks was of African extraction.  It was the first real black person my team had the opportunity to interact with.  One of these fellows, a young Sikh with a turban and beard, bravely told me he felt uncomfortable dealing with the black man.  My advice was this: don't ever let fear define you.  Fear closes doors, cuts off opportunities.  I reminded this gent that he, too, looked different from others around him.  When you get down to it, we all do - the questions is whether we focus on those differences, or instead appreciate our basic human similarities.

He took the poll and ended up having some great chats with the clerk, breaking down a barrier and opening up a new opportunity to understand.  In so doing, my Sikh friend embraced the best that Canada has to offer.

Yesterday, I had the privilege to chat with Justin Trudeau; he'd just given a speech on an idea we enthusiastically share - the idea of Canada.  The same day, I had a brief message from Federal Minister Tony Clement, thanking me for sharing an idea on staff transition strategies with him.  How many places in the world can an average citizen freely engage with not just politicians, but politicians from opposing Parties?

   - Life-long learning, available to everyone.

   - Strength through diversity.

   - Universal health care that’s there when you need it.

   - An unwavering commitment to overcome differences and share opportunities.

   - Accessible, transparent, collaborative governance.

That’s what Canada means to me.

Giving Ontario a Hand Up

    - John Milloy, Ontario Minister of Community and Social Services

It’s all coming together. 

There are service providers out there who are beginning to wonder if a strict focus on their individual programming is in the best interests of their clients, or if a collaborative approach might better serve everyone.  Police officers are proactively getting training on how to communicate with persons with mental illness, who are over represented among the homeless.  Employers are beginning to look at their employees as people, rather than means of production.

And we have, in the McGuinty government and Ministers like John Milloy, people truly absorbing the “teach a man to fish” mentality.

We don’t throw our kids into the deep end of the pool without instruction – they’d drown.  We don’t throw our youth into the workplace without an education – they’d flounder.  We don’t send soldiers off to war without training and weapons – they’d be slaughtered.  Likewise, we can’t expect people with physical or mental disabilities to adapt to a system that isn’t designed to harness their abilities.  Would you expect Stephen Hawking to manage his way around the TTC on his own?  That would be abysmally cruel.  By the same token, you wouldn’t assume his mobility challenges suggest he has no value to offer society, either.

The way forward isn’t to simply “take care” of those who require greater accommodation to function in society, nor is it to insist that people who have difficulties within existing social models have to shape up or ship out.  Banging our heads against the wall again and again does nothing but give us a headache.  Not when there are alternative solutions available.

The Way Forward:

Comprehension.  Disabilities are poorly understood.  We tend to have a broad model in our heads – if a disability seems challenging enough, we view the person with that disability as a write-off.  If we don’t see the disability, as is often the case with mental disability, we write the person off as being the problem themselves.  It’s a simplistic, outmoded perspective that actually hurts opportunity and adds to the social services burden.  Countless people relying on social services have a great deal to offer, but have been told again and again that there’s no place for them in the working world.

Training for persons with disabilities; help them find their skills and develop them, then connect them with the working world.  Set realistic goals for people, then encourage them to nudge those goals a little further.  Personalize work – when work is about meaning, about personal achievement, people will be highly motivated to work hard and to collaborate with colleagues, not compete against them.

Accommodation.  We focus so much on the problems of individuals that we completely miss the broader challenges caused by environments.  There was a time where we wouldn’t have thought to put a safety guard around a buzz saw; more recently, we would have dismissed people complaining that their wrists were sore from too much typing as being weak.  Now, we know better.  Through implementing soundfields, employing ergonomics and beginning to understand the cognitive workplace, we can design environments that enhance rather than stifle innovation and productivity.

Culture change.  Everyone, especially those at the top, tend to look at problems and opportunities through the lens of “what’s in it for me.”  Long-term benefits are great, but how does that help the bottom line today?  If an initiative will help competitors as well as ourselves, why would we want to pay for it?  Feudalism as a social system collapsed for a reason, yet silo-based, horizontally integrated businesses and public agencies still employ that model today.  The future is in shared service models, specialized collaboration, corporate altruism.  The “what’s in it for me” can only truly be realized by understanding how “me” fits into “we.”

The problems we face aren’t new – they’re simply expansions of the same challenges we have always faced.  Now, the sheer density and interconnectivity of our society is forcing us to face these challenges head on.  The solutions won’t be found in isolation; we need everyone at their best for society to be at its strongest.

It is all manageable, given the right leadership.  With leaders like John Milloy and Dalton McGuinty, we have it.

Thursday 15 March 2012

Rational Optimism: The Dawn Is Coming

Oscar Wilde

We live in a cynical age.  Hope has become a buzzword, seldom used and even less frequently believed.  Politicians don’t stand for – they stand against.  Patients are seen as clients and our democracy is falling victim to a consumerist mentality.  The Capitalist system teeters on the edge of the abyss; global leaders sense the balance is shifting and are looking into the void uneasily, uncertain of what lies below.

Yet, there is cause for optimism – there always is.  Despite the prevalence of despair, notwithstanding all the negative events and inhumane justifications that fuel them, we see all around us people willing to speak out at professional and personal risk against that which they know to be wrong.  In war, there are always martyrs; that level of commitment is a bit harder to come by when the wrongs aren’t as severe.  It is perhaps surprising, then, that the most powerful voices condemning the failings in our deteriorating, profit-motive society come not from the bottom, but from the very top.  

There are two prominent examples that come to mind – Kai Nagata, formerly of CTV News and Greg Smith, formerly of Goldman Sachs.  One could also point to Tracey Kent, Carrie Liddy and Richard Lorello and their calling for a probe into the man they helped get elected, Julian Fantino, in Vaughn.  I’d even include my new favourite professor, Michael Ignatieff – it takes a certain amount of chutzpah to come back to the stage and eat humble pie after you’d already been dismissed as the awkward guest at a party.  I think there’s a good chance I might be adding Tony Clement to the list.  I get the feeling that as the Member from Parry Sound-Muskoka faces the unenviable task of managing down Canadian public sector costs, he is increasingly thinking about the consequences to the people of the public service, as well.

Of course, having said this, I still think we’re in for a period of frightening social upheaval.  I just see the seeds of what comes next being planted today.  Yes, conflict is rising, but so is the call for something more.  As the things we fear (death, loss, etc.) stand out so prominently on our darkening horizon, we forget that  history isn't linear - it's cyclical.  When you reach bottom, there’s nowhere to go but up.

Wednesday 14 March 2012

Employee Transition Strategy Questionnaire (SAMPLE)



1.       What issues or causes are you passionate or concerned about?



2.       What do you love to do?



3.       What is your career goal/what do you want to accomplish in life?



4.       Are there specific organizations or fields that you are particularly interested in?



5.       Are you more interested in working in positions in the Public, Private or Not-for-Profit Sectors?  Starting a business?



6.       What areas of your personal performance and presentation do you feel would benefit from growth/new approaches?




7.       Which of your skills sets do you feel are your greatest strength?



8.       What aspects of your last position appealed to you the most?



-          The least?



9.       What are you interested in learning more about?



10.   What new skills do you think would be valuable to learn in furtherance of your career goals?




11.   From your experience, which types of work environments have you found most engaging?



-          Most stressful?




-          Least motivating?



12.   Do you have stakeholders/external contacts you could approach for advice, additional contacts, or to present yourself as a potential opportunity to?



Overview of Outgoing Employee Transition Strategy

The Plan

Moving Forward Together: A Team Transition Strategy would involve three phases:

1)      Build the Transition Plan and Team

2)      Implementation

3)      Follow-Up

Phase 1 – Building the Transition Plan and Team

Based on the number of departing staff, Department Heads will select Transition Team Partners to manage the transitions of no more than ten individuals each.

Transition Team Partners will be selected based on:

-          Their demonstrated commitment to the wellbeing of the team

-          Communication and empathy skills

-          Internal and external connectivity

-          Capacity to manage departing staff (client) responsibilities in addition to their existing jobs

-          Ability to identify opportunities both for their clients and, through targeted connections, the agencies they are departing

Transition Team Partners will be assigned clients and provided with client contact information and details of last position/campaign roles.

While a volunteer position, Transition Team Partners, if staff, would be given flexibility with their regular duties to allow sufficient time to exercise these responsibilities.  All Government employees, including political staff and where possible, stakeholders would be encouraged to support Transition Team Partners in identifying and connecting with targets.

Phase 2 – Implementation

HR will contact departing staff and inform them of their status; HR will then explain the transition service the Department will provide and indicate their assigned Transition Team Partners will contact them.

Transition Team Partners connect with their clients, supplying a questionnaire designed to help clients profile their interests, skills and career objectives.  A meeting to plan next steps will be arranged.  This initial conversation will firmly establish that positive results cannot be guaranteed and it is in the best interests of the client to continue seeking out opportunities through traditional methods throughout the process.

-          In the event that clients have already found new employment, meetings will still be established to retain connectivity between individuals and the agency they are exiting.

During this meeting, Transition Team Partners will use the questionnaire to help their clients build a narrative (i.e. What is your career objective?) to help Partners identify targets and clients frame themselves in interviews. 

Transition Team Partners will work with their internal and external contacts, reaching out to other potential supports to identify targets for each of their clients.  These targets will be suggested to clients and, where there is consensus, informational interviews will be arranged.  Partners can attend these meetings based on their availability and inclination.

Transition Team Partners would provide status updates to HR, who would in turn let Team Partners know of any new opportunities within the Civil Service.  Transition Team Members would also convene monthly to share targets and see where cross-pollination is possible.

This would be an ongoing process until such time as “next steps”, be it new employment, ongoing social assistance, etc, are established.

Phase 3 – Follow-Up

Once next steps have been secured and clients are established, Transition Team Partners will reconnect to see how the new positions are going.

Contacts, targets and clients will be provided an opportunity to evaluate the process.  Transition Team Partners will convene to determine best practices and lessons learned.

EXECUTIVE RECTRUITMENT, a Toronto placement firm, uses more or less the same methodology.  Where the gap lies is in employers recognizing the value of landing outgoing employees.  We'll get there.
  1. Conduct a client interview to identify the qualitative and quantitative factors that establishes the ideal candidate.
  2. Evaluate that information and, using our extensive database and experience as resources, determine the most targeted approach to finding the top candidates.
  3. Begin contacting potential candidates and screen them by way of initial telephone interviews.
  4. Determine the contenders who are the closest match to our ideal candidate to meet for more in-depth, face-to-face interviews.
  5. Assess the results to determine a short-list of three or four candidates to present to the client.
  6. Provide the client with an individual assessment of selected candidates.
  7. Arrange interviews with the client and candidates.
  8. Perform an in-depth de-brief with both the client and the candidates to ensure a clear understanding of job requirements and expectations, determine a cultural fit and establish both parties desire to continue the process.
  9. Co-ordinate follow-up interviews when necessary.
  10. Consult with client to determine the best candidate and confirm the candidate’s satisfaction and willingness to accept an offer.
  11. Facilitate the offer process.
  12. Complete or assist with the reference checks, as the client requires.
  13. Give guidance to the candidate as needed with the resignation process.