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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 19 September 2014


ISIS really wants a global war.  They're totally focused on catalyzing the Apocalypse.  To get what they want they are turning to increasingly extreme recruitment tactics, including deception.  At the same time, their methodology is brutal; they do unto human beings all kinds of things not permitted by the book they claim to follow.

They have spun the words and tried to redefine terms like "crusader."  It's worth recalling the actual crusades - Christians were called to the Middle East to fight off the Mohammadians in the Holy Land.  The kinds of people who answered that call to duty weren't always in it strictly for the cause; many of them didn't have better prospects at home.  Others saw opportunity for power.  More just wanted to get their hands dirty.

As ISIS issues it's call to arms, bringing in foreign money and foreign fighters to occupy the Middle East, it seems pretty clear that they, not the US, are the occupiers.

One more reason why it behooves those being targeted for recruitment to really think through the options being presented to them.

It's quite possible that they're landing on the wrong side.

After all, it won't be the one-eyed ISIS kings in a land of blind terror that pass the final judgement.  

Thursday 18 September 2014

Public Service: Putting Cognitive Surplus to Work

Love it.  In fact, I may be having related conversations with a bunch of folk in and around government at a couple of levels.
There's a community, you see, of virtuous schemers committed to this concept of maximizing personal potential, empowered individuals for a stronger society and tech/digital not as a solution, but a platform for engagement.
Now, instead of asking "what if we" why don't we ask "how might we"?
There's a science to motivating this kind of work, you see.  Cognitive labour - it's a thing.

Manufactured Deadlines: Gog and Magog

If you've ever had a bully for a boss, you'll probably have encountered the phenomenon of the forced deadline.  And if you're familiar with forced deadlines - or real ones, for that matter - you'll be familiar with the concept of crunch time and pulling out the stops.
The more significant the deadline, the bigger the potential win or loss, the greater the pressure becomes. 
Good bosses empower teams to manage the pressure, plan out accomplishment and offer inspiration.  People want to be part of the team because of what people can build together.
Bad bosses go with the "no gain without pain" mantra - look to your left, look to you right, not everyone's going to make it so you damned sure be willing to work hard and pull out the stops to get there.  I'll be watching you, and pushing you - whatever it takes.
Good bosses build sustainable communities and empower.
Bad bosses destroy communities and consolidate power into an insider's club.  And man, do they love their manufactured deadlines.
The Apocalypse is a pretty intense deadline.  You really gotta have your ducks in a row if you want to survive it, don't you?
This is in no small part because you never really know when it's coming.  It could be soon, though - there are signs to look for, warnings that should be interpreted as cause for people to be prepared.
But people don't cause the Apocalypse, the day where the bad are separated from the good, nor can they hurry it.  That's a divine thing, out of the hands of man.
Particularly in Abrahamic religions, though, there's a recurring theme of a force not God, not man that comes forth to muck up the natural progression of things by suggesting only they have the keys to the door of paradise.
These doom-bringers tend to have a functionally fixed, cyclopean view of the world as being black and white, with those who are bad being in the way.  They are powerful.  And they lie.
As in, bend the truth, even to the point of using information out of context so as to deceive people into believing they're not the false messiah, but the real deal.
Those who are weak in faith will flock to these boss-like beings and fall for their spin and push towards bad behaviour as justified because, you know, the deadline's looming.  They won't realize it, but they'll have been duped into doing things strictly forbidden by the company policy (or religious text).
The faithful, however, aren't fooled - they know a manufactured deadline when they see one and won't be sucked into the "us vs the zombie hoard" mentality.  Because they are patient, the devout are hard to anger.
Their focus isn't on endings, but on what can be built in collaboration.  They don't look at the world through one strictly narrow lens - they connect the dots between all things and recognize the bigger picture - including temporal - of which we're all part.
Real leaders aren't about endings and control - they're about empowering and letting go.
It's the bad bosses you have to watch out for - faking deadlines, lying and spinning, using fear to get what they want in the shortest timeframe possible.
It's funny how our metaphors evolve, isn't it?

The Real Enemy

Cancer does not recognize partisanship.  It doesn't care about wealth, entitlement, how hard you've worked or what harm you've done.

It kills indiscriminately.

Individuals cannot be strong enough on their own to destroy cancer.  When we make it a one-person battle, we doom every generation that follows to fight the same fight, and lose.

That's the thing about disease, and natural disaster, etc; they don't follow the rules of free-market capitalism.
The only way to win against cancer is research, testing, support of family and friends, treatment - in short, community.

The moral of the story should be clear enough not to need stated - but I will state it anyway.

Live together, die alone.

Living is better.

Wednesday 17 September 2014

Mr McGuinty, We Should Talk!

I have zero concerns about the notion of a former Premier acting as a lobbyist.  The truth is, most lobbyists are former politicians, or political staff, or political organizers.  Government speaks a unique language and has a closed culture - we need people familiar with that space to serve as bridges between the public, not-for-profit and grassroots sectors and policy makers.
There are easier ways to make a lot of money and be a power-broker, if that was McGuinty's interest. 
It isn't.  If anything, his decision to support Desire2Learn is an indication that he's never wavered from the things he's always believed in.
Remember, this was the self-styled Education Premier; strengthening our education system was a priority he spent a lot of time and political capital on.  McGuinty was also all about the long-game; the whole purpose behind a Ministry of Public Infrastructure Renewal or a Ministry of Health Promotion was to start heading off some troublesome structural issues before it was too late.
McGuinty was also the kind of guy who loved tech and engagement (despite his social media ban, but nobody's perfect).  One of my favourite memories of the former Premier involves him sitting down at CCVS in Cornwall with my former boss, Jim Brownell, chatting candidly with students about music, iPods and how tech and InfoTech was offering a wealth of opportunities he wanted them to be well-positioned to seize.
That's what he believed when in office; it's what he believes in now.
Funny enough, it's the same thing a number of social innovators, community catalysts and virtuous schemers inside and outside government believe, too.
Andray Domise is developing a Youth Entrepreneurship Centre in Etobicoke intended to provide a safe space for youth to learn practical skills like sales, financial management, supply management, etc. with a focus on helping them turn their passions into careers.  Andray has a particular interest in coding and the emerging opportunities of Open Data.
Chloe-Marie Brown, Policy Advisor to Toronto Youth Council, has some ambitious projects on the go with a focus on improving mentorship opportunities for youth (particularly from Neighbourhood Improvement Areas), improving civic engagement and mapping out youth spaces and services for easier access.
Speaking of mapping - Caitlin Blundell has a really cool GIS project in the works with multiple applications; imagine youth being able to do infrastructure audits of their community by uploading photos and comments to a digital platform using Apps on their phones.
That's the kind of platform for engagement that folks like AJ Tibando (who McGuinty may remember as a former Liberal staffer) of SoJo and Abdullah Mayo of RaiseAnAim are also working on.
All this ties rather organically to the move by all levels of government to Open Data, making public information available for public consumption, possibly as a resource from which to build profitable products and services.  It's what amazing folk like Sameer Vasta at MaRS facilitates every day.  It's what Microsoft CSR Make Web Not War is looking to support in their work - which is why they backed Richard Pietro's Civic Engagement tour, #OGT14.
This is before you get to the individual civil servants, design thinkers and community consultation folk also looking to empower youth to be their own best advocates.
There are so many cool people with great ideas and varied skill sets, all working in the same space - but they aren't Dalton McGuinty. 
I bet they'd love to work with him, though.  I'd be happy to make the connections.
Just think of the positive impact we could have if we're all moving forward together.


Tuesday 16 September 2014

The #OGT14 Round-Up

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All the posts I have done, to date, on Richard Pietro's epic Open Government on the Open Road tour.

Other people might right books; I blog.  Richard travels, and meets, and films.

It's all been possible thanks to the patronage of Make Web Not War who believed in Richard's vision of civic engagement as art.  It's paid off for them, it's worked out for Richard and I actually do believe we've all been able to catalyze some change.

So, potential corporate patrons out there - if you'd like to see an actual book, or here Richard talk about his experience in person, or maybe support #OGT15 - let us know.  We'd be open to that conversation.

Embedded image permalinkMarch 17 - Open Government on the Open Road

May 24 - Building Brand for the Journey Ahead

May 30 - #WeAreOpen to Memes!

June 23 - @RichardPietro needs a Bigger Boat

July 3 - #OGT14: The Adventure Begins

July 4 - @RichardPietro and an Affair at Queen's Park

July 25 - Why You Want to Be #WhereWorldsCollide

July 30 - Why @RichardPietro Deserves Your Support:

Aug 20 - The Most Interesting Person in Canadian Politics Right Now

Aug 29 - Please help me set my #OGT14 table! 

Sept 2 - This is Big: #OGT14 gets endorsed

Sept 9 - The Open Sausage: Inside #OGT14

Sept 15 - #OGT14 It Doesn't End Here

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Monday 15 September 2014

All I've got for tomorrow, folks!

I will be on the road, with RaiseAnAim Canada, trekking our way to Ottawa for the close of that little summer road trip called #OGT14.

June 10: It started off pretty simple - one man, one dream and some gear, test-camping in a backyard:

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July 3: After some test runs, the tour kicked off, with but the merest hiccup

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Across the country, audiences have grown in person, on line and even among the media:

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Not sure what to expect tomorrow, other than amazing.

Follow #OGT14 for more...

Scotland the Brave

wild are the winds to meet you
staunch are the friends that greet you
kind as the love that shines from fair maidens eyes.

Scotland is a place like no other.  Over ben and through glen, the pulse the land and the people who have inhabited it beats strongly.  Scottish blood runs thick.

And run it has.  Scotland's history is full of blood, war, treachery - but above all, I would like to think, valiance.

The idea of a Scotland unable to stand on its own two feet on any field among friend or foe defies the imagination; every single symbol of the nation represents the opposite.

Hadrian's wall wasn't built to help the Scots stay in and hidden; it was built to keep them out.

So why, then the separatist furor?  Why the wild-eyed notion that tuning out the winds of change and cleaving from your friends is wise counsel?

It's got nothing to do with Scotland being brave, nor free.  

It's got everything to do with the fear that one's identity cannot stand on its own.  

Scotland is a founding stone of the British commonwealth.  Scots have boldly shaped nations.  This is not a people who looks inward, but looks outward - the legacy of Scotland is what it gives, not what it hoards.

It is neither a mark of strength nor a testament to individuality to turn your back on your friends.  It's rather the opposite.

And a wee reminder, folks - borders have been drawn across the isle before; they never last.  

You can choose which side of a wall you stand upon, but history offers no such choice.

#OGT14 It Doesn't End Here

Every journey must have an ending.

And so tomorrow, #OGT14 - one man's quest to shared #OpenGov while discovering Canada - comes to a close.  

Richard Pietro has criss-crossed the nation, doing a bowtie loop from Toronto to the East Coast, out to the West Coast and is now in Ottawa, preparing for tomorrow's grand finale.

Along the way he has seen our country in a way few Canadians ever get to.  

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Richard has experienced the vast solitude of the countryside.  He has touched on the lives of individual Canadians where they work, where they live, and where they dream of a better future.  

Richard has climbed to great heights and delved into great depths in his discovery of Canada.  He's done fun things like ride a zipline and make the earth move; he's had solemn moments of reflection, as when he paused at the Terry Fox memorial.  

It's been a very bearable adventure to follow.

Throughout his journey, Richard has grown in his understanding of Canada and his commitment to Open Government.

Seriously - when you see how amazing our country and it's people are, how could you not want them to come together and build that better world, ensemble?

I can't begin to imagine the thoughts crossing his mind as he prepares himself for his last presentation of the tour.  From nearly being kicked off the lawn at Queen's Park to being welcomed with open arms at Ottawa City Hall, Richard has had one hell of a ride.

It all ends tomorrow.  

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This is it, folks; the #OGT14 curtain comes down tomorrow.  It's the ending of the Summer of Open.  For many of us, especially Richard, there will be a great big hole in our lives come Wednesday morning.

But the adventure doesn't end here.  Hopefully, it's just beginning.

While Richard has opened the eyes of many to the world of Open Government, there are countless people who've been working hard at cracking our governments open before the tour started; they'll still be there when it's over.

Through Richard I have met, both in person and online, some amazing, dedicated, creative public servants that are truly putting the service part first.

These are folk like Keith McDonald, Jose Iguiniz, Tehani Mott, Hizeena Abdulla, Melissa Tullio, Jacques Mailloux, Kent Aitken, Aubrie Mcgibbon and countless others.

Embedded image permalinkThey wake up every day with a mission - that mission is the same one that set Richard out on the Open Road.  It's the mission that gets people like me out of bed in the morning, too.

What all we Virtuous Schemers want is simple - to help government be all that it can be.  Government, whether we believe so or not, is an organ of society; it beats only so strong as the engagement of the people allows it to.

Right now, government's pulse is weak.  The strength of our democracy is faltering not simply because government has become more opaque, but because citizens have tuned out.  

There's no point casting blame one way or another, demanding someone else fix the problem.  

Divided we fall.

Of course, when we unite, we can not only stand tall, but we can reach further.

You can't have Open Government without an engaged, Responsible Society.  There's little point in government opening the door if we, the people, aren't ready to walk through.

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Posts like this are supposed to end with a call to action, a bridge between words and deeds.  

Well, Canada, here's your call to action: what will you do to help open government?

We won't get there by staying at home and complaining about the actions of others that we don't like.

The only way society works is for each of us to step out our front doors and engage.

Richard Pietro has inspired us all to disrupt our lives a bit and discover each other, and Canada, with an open mind.

#OGT14 ends tomorrow, but beyond, the road lies open.

Please join Richard for one last adventure - but then, look yourself to the open road beyond.

I hope to see you out there.  Who knows what we can discover and build together?

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