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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.

Friday 1 August 2014

Profiting from the Creative Commons: a Lesson from GotG

Jesse Schedeen has written a fascinating piece that hopefully the folks at Disney and Warner Brothers are paying attention to.  In fact, a lot of people should be paying attention. 
We live in an age where we expect everyone to be a master sales agent, only want to invest in the next Google and our favourite dish has become the low hanging fruit.
So few companies see motivation or innovation as their role; instead, they hire or acquire talent that shows potential, eat through it should the potential not result in immediately salable products and move on. 
Research is still significant in Canada - research and development, however, lags behind many of our international peers.
Why?  Because far too many of our political and economic leaders are beholden to the industrial model.  Hire people for their skills, let them make widgets based on orders and sell them. 
Systems Change: Facing Canada‚Äôs toughest challenges - MaRS Global LeadershipHow much VC goes into small not-for-profits that could help develop business skills and savvy among marginalized youth?  Not a lot.  Or, how about iterative HR management projects that have to take a couple iterations and a significant period of time to get where they can go?
Some teams like the MaRS Solutions Lab aren't afraid to look big-picture.  Certain university professors have taken students and their nascent firms under their wings.  Companies like Microsoft's Make Web Not War have become patrons for civic artists like Richard Pietro.
In each case, investments are being made in projects that won't provide immediate ROI, or a clear return that is measurable in dollars and cents.
Meanwhile there are so many great initiatives out there in Toronto alone that could be build and tried with a bit of capital, some good will and a willingness to empower the creators.  Youth Entrepreneurship hubs, civic engagement groups, meet-ups like Why Should I Care function with a bit of support or a the odd donation but more than anything through the passion of their teams.
If you'd seen the original pitch for Richard Pietro's Open Government on the Open Road Tour #OGT14, you'd have scoffed at the idea of investing in it.  Microsoft did; they haven't gotten their ROI back, but through Richard they are catalyzing a growing in-person and online Open Community that is taking Canada by storm.
Richard left Toronto with a small farewell involving a tight group of friend and supporters.  When Richard hits Ottawa on September 16th, there will be a massive audience, a grand bazaar and politicians.  Then, he's off to France to go even further.
Whether it's art, or exploration, or R&D it is always worthwhile to invest a bit in creation and the people who are good at building, not just selling.
You never know when one of your less-successful products/services could blow up into the issue of the day.

And, wouldn't you know it - looks like Disney has beat us to the punch already.  Guardians of the Good?  What's our Canadian equivalent to that?

Virtuous Schemers, perhaps?

As Requested on Solving the Middle East Conflict

Canadians for Israel @CDNS4Israel 4m
Craig, if u have the solution to the crisis or conflict, by all means - PLEASE share it with the world!
Of course, I don't have the answer to the crisis in the Middle East or the solution for poverty.  I can't tell you where lies the path to world peace - I'm only human, limited to the same skin, bones and moderate cognitive capacity as anyone.
Which is the point.  We are all individually limited in what we can achieve.  None of us can move mountains, nor walk on water, nor part seas.  Not on our own.
But are we really meant to?  Bear with me for a bit; you'll see where my tangent leads in a bit.
Sea turtles are designed to be independent from the moment they hatch.  That's why they have so many babies - it's clear not all of them will make it from shore to ocean, or survive for long when they get there.  Theoretically, those which survive should be the strongest and most self-sufficient, ie meant to survive.  Let's be honest, though - it's largely luck of the draw.
The young of all mammalian species require more nurturing if they are to grow in to adulthood - they need to be fed, protected, taught basic survival skills.  Most have evolved into social species, where adults band together for protection, support and even division of labour.  Being social helps mitigate the luck factor, though for most species social groupings are small-scale and often in competition with others over space and resources. 
Internally, there's competition for dominance, which means better access to resources and mates but also generally involves greater risk and requirement to fight off aggressors.
Deer have big antlers to fight with; lions have big manes to look intimidating with.  They roar, they stomp their feet, they lock horns, or claws, or words.
Let's switch into politics; how candidates will undermine each other, intimidate with threats and attack ads, or portray themselves as infallible saviours.  Only they can save us from a designated enemy.  In return for that, of course, we're supposed to leave the big decisions to them and trust their judgment, without question.
Competition is competition; dominance is dominance.  On this front humans start from the exact same place as any other species.  Whether it's the political arena or the theatre of war, the objectives are the exact same as in any other competitive conflict between any other beast on the planet.
Hamas is a perfect example.  As an organizational entity, Hamas is about being the dominant voice for its coalition of people, i.e. the Palestinians.  It needs to portray itself as strong, strong enough to fight off the bad guys and aggressive, aggressive enough to deliver the goods its people need to live comfortably.  In so doing, they will get continued power and access to resources.
Within Hamas are individuals; some of them are aggressors, some of them are followers, others are like carrion birds, going where the opportunity lies.  It's the same as any organization or social grouping. 
On the other side of the equation is Israel.  Israel is Rivendell for the Jewish people of the world; a safe haven in a world that has, for thousands of years, been anything but for Jews.  It is a place that is constantly under threat.  The role of Alpha Males/leaders like Netanyahu is to keep the people safe from threats. 
Unlike in other countries where Tough Leaders need to manufacture threats to rationalize why citizens should give them unquestioned power, Israel's threats are ever-present.
Is this a gross simplification of the conflict, reducing it to limbic behaviour, resource competition and Alpha males duking it out for dominance among their people largely by picking fights with other groups?  Perhaps, but biology is biology - in execution, the Middle Eastern conflict is no different than any other conflict between any other actors anywhere else in the world. 
This may be an offensive thing to say, but it is hopefully equally offensive to all parties involved.  Yes, I'm saying that the more stressed and pressured you are, the more reactive, defensive and short-sighted you become, just like any other animal.  The difference is humans have more complex needs of food and shelter, greater populations and as such, weapons-drive conflicts lead to greater collateral damage.
Toby Trompeter @LobbyChampion 13m
we are more than just biology, human beings run on their beliefs & what they feel is meaningful.
Are we more than our individual biology?  Yes, we are.  We are also the aggregation of our collective biology, our social engagement.  Whatever Ayn Rand might have pushed, people are more than the sum of our parts.  We are society.
Humans are more inter-dependent than any other species on the planet.  Our babies are helpless for ages; as adults, few of us could survive in the wild without specialized support or access to infrastructure.  We see this play out in every slum or warzone in the world; as a species, we cannot go back to being isolated groupings living on the wild.
We have evolved to be social creatures, inter-dependent, more than the sum of our parts.  Mapped on top of our reactive, limbic selves is the neo-cortex that is designed to make us more social, more inquisitive, better able to plan ahead instead of just react to what's in front of us.
What do we feel is meaningful?  What raises us up beyond being competitive individuals, enables us to aspire and feel part of something greater? 
It's easy - community.  Community is something we are part of, like cells in an organism.  It is something awesome that inspires that lovely oxytocin feeling; we are healthier, happier and better when we stick together.
Which leads to a great paradox - how do we aspire to be more than we are individually when we are pulled by ancient drives to not risk losing what we have?
Forget Id, Ego and Super Ego - where our inner battle lies is between limbic, reactive emotion like fear, suspicion, resentment and anger and pro-social feelings like hope, love and inquisitiveness.
It's one of history's great ironies that the Middle East has been a perpetual conflict zone between the better and worse angels of human nature.
The Abrahamic religions were born there, each bringing community, aspiration and a sense of being part of something greater to the people.  The power of each enabled us to transcend our baser instincts, for a time.
We all know this isn't the end of the story, though.  As the light of community spreads, it is often met with suspicion and fear, as basic instincts naturally reject that which challenges the status quo.  Then, community is consumed by those hard-wired to fight their way to Alpha status.  They don't know it, but their anger against the Other and sense of righteous justice is their neurochemistry egging them on to do what it takes to get ahead.
As the birthplace of three of the world's predominant religions, the Middle East has become the hill on which to plant one's flag.  At the same time, it is geographic place to which many communities can trace their roots, and their histories.  Places like Jerusalem are woven into the tapestries of identify for Jews (the religion and the people), Christians, Muslims and various related demographic groups that have far more in common than they tend to think about.
The never-ending conflict in the Middle East is about many things - territorial rights, safety, justice (or revenge), defense and attack.  At it's core, though, it's about human beings with the same basic needs and same basic drives competing for dominance and attempting to drive out the Other. 
So long as Semitic people of Abrahamic faith (and their allies) focus on differences, wrongs, mistrust and their own wins, everyone will continue to lose.  Those who lose the most will always be the people those Alphas are supposed to be protecting.
They aren't the answer.  No one person ever is - and that's the lesson that's emerged from the Middle East time and time and time again.
We - we, the bigger community, we, the whole that's more than the sum of its parts - we are the answer.
No Israeli should feel the need for an army to defend itself against their brothers and sisters across the wall.  No Palestinian should feel the need for Israel to suffer so that they can have access to the basic necessities of life.
It's biology, it's politics, it's religion all wrapped into one.  The only way forward is for the people to say "we would rather learn to live together than die here alone."
Don't count on any political leader to be that voice - it's beyond them.  Through social media, the people from each community need to be reaching out to each other and saying "whatever has happened, I want to understand you now.  How can we support each other to make this happen?"
Forget aid to governments - people should provide aid to each other. Empathetic support needs to come from everywhere and be directed at people on both sides of the false divide.  Send money, send food, write Open Letter campaigns to press, politicians and to each other saying we're more than conflict, we want to be more than foes.
The absolute hardest thing in the world is to break down the barrier that lie between us and someone we fear, hate or mistrust.
But isn't that the whole point behind loving your neighbour?  Isn't that what we've developed our expanding social brain to do?
I never lose hope that we can grow our community and be more than these conflicts, because I know we can.
We just need to have a little faith in each other and what we can build together.

Wednesday 30 July 2014

Why Richard Pietro Deserves Your Support

I've been in and around politics for pretty much my entire professional life.  I've supported many candidates - sadly, less than I've actually worked for.  

I'd like to think my experiences both positive and negative have given me at least a wee bit of insight into what works and what doesn't when it comes to a political campaign and a "winning" candidate.

So when I ask you to support someone I believe in, who I feel can really change our country for the better, you've got reason to wonder when the ask is coming.

Here's the thing; my guy isn't looking for donations or even votes.  He's not running for anything and, in fact, is decidedly sick of politics-as-usual.

All he wants is for you to get engaged.  He believes that we're better, stronger, more adaptable when we work together openly.

His ask isn't empty rhetoric; he asks no more than he is already doing himself.  With the Open Government on the Open Road #OGT14 tour, this fella is literally bringing the Open Government conversation from coast to coast.

My friend is gaining support for his efforts here and even internationally.  

It's not because he's got the most seasoned campaign team behind him.  He doesn't; most of the people helping him are doing something they've never done before.

It isn't because of the massive funds he's raised; Make Web Not War chipped in $10,000 as a patron and that's pretty much all there is.

No barrage of strategically planned advertising is pushing the Open Government message to its audience.

People support this fella because they believe in him, are inspired by what he says and deep down, beneath the layers of cynical sediment they agree.

Meet Richard Pietro, folks.  We're going to be hearing a lot more about him.

Or, better yet - you can be part of the Open movement.  If you're on Twitter, follow him at #OGT14.  If you're on the path of his tour (schedule found here) stop by for a listen.  

Check out Canada's Open Government Action Plan, here.

Above all else, though, get engaged.  Join the conversation, do some homework on Open Government and Open Data, question - be a catalyst.

The reason I support Richard is because he believes in us.  Hopefully, that's a team we can all get behind.

Boss vs Leader

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I spend a lot of time on this topic, and for good reason.  

Bosses are great at bullying people to get a specific task done or making others feel like they're awesome or fearsome, whatever.  

The problem is, they don't solve problems; they punt them down the field, sweep them under the rug or even create them.

They think they're important, the Sheppard (or wolf) among the sheep and look down upon those who can't bloody their knuckles alongside them.  Only they can solve problems, and if a problem can't be solved by them, it can't be solved, period.

It's ego-feeding delusion.  Our society is on fire because of bosses, both literally and metaphorically; how much fuel gets spent, heat generated for how little light?

We stumble and fumble our way through supposedly intractable problems - poverty and war among them - that could be gone tomorrow if every boss on the planet were replaced with a leader.

Leaders don't believe in trickle-down economics or survival of the fittest any more than they do nanny-stateism or developing personality cults.  

Leaders are conduits; their focus lies beyond themselves and includes everyone.  They can be visionaries, but don't have to be, nor are all visionaries necessarily leaders.

Leaders are the stones in the pot, the catalysts, the social synapses.  Sacrifice isn't something they promote in others; it's something they live, daily, without even considering it such.

We don't have many leaders and are burdened by way too many bosses.

Which is why we keep cycling back to the same damned problems time and again.

Monday 28 July 2014

Forget Superman: Unleash the Dragon Warrior

Anyone who reads this blog (and I know there are one or two of you out there) know that I love metaphors, with Superman-as-Saviour being one of my favourites.

Superman is a modern mythical figure, most often portrayed as a Jesus (noble, strong, disciplined, sacrificial-oriented - the adult in the room) than a Heracles.

Superman is not of our world, does not have the same faults and flaws that we do, but as he lives in human form he is a bridge, an embodiment of something more powerful that lies beyond us.

We can always look to Superman to right wrongs or make the world better.  In much the same way, people of faith look to their chosen saviour to emerge and reset the world to right, ensuring the bad guys get penalized along the way.

Except there are no supermen out there.  Sorry to the believers out there, but I see on evidence that a divine or semi-divine hero is ever going to emerge to rebuild paradise on earth.

There is only us.  We are flawed - selfish, short-sighted, reactive, disingenuous, ignorant.  

But we are capable of so much more.

It doesn't take a secret serum nor a noble birth to transform us into leaders, problem-solvers and community-builders.  There's no need for an act of divine grace for us to grow beyond the prejudices and wrongs that tether us to the past.

We do not live in the past; every day forward is what we choose to make it be.  Nobody can change that reality except us.

This is a theme emerging in today's mythic narrative telling, the notion that hero's aren't external, or divine, or in any way foreign; they are us, when that's what we choose to be.

In the LEGO Movie, the hero was supposed to be the greatest, most interesting, most important person of all times.  That was what most of the main characters wanted to be - special.

It may have taken a Jesus-like death and rebirth for the main protagonist (Emmett, who's name means hope) to realize the truth, but he did, and he shared it.

We all have it within ourselves to be the hero.  It's not always easy, but we can all make the world better.  But if we're all off trying to be our best individually, we aren't building anything that will last.  That's something we can only do together - but when we do it together, everything does get better.

Think of a Guinness Book of World Records competition, or the way people came together on the ground at the Boston Marathon bombing, or to help people they'd never met who've suffered from famines, floods and other acts of God.

As another man who has walked among us once said:

There is no us and them.  There's only us, on common ground - whether we're capable of seeing it or not.  

That and only that is the real secret.