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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.

Thursday 9 July 2015

Solution Labs of the Americas

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I am ridiculously privileged to travel in a variety of circles and sectors, meeting amazing people from all levels of communities both global and grassroots.  

This week, I am attending the International Economic Forum of the Americas Toronto Global Forum at the Royal York.  

Last month, I was at Civics Design Camp, organized by the amazing Studio Y alumni Meghan Hellstern.  

For the past few months I have been supporting Toronto Youth Cabinet's Chloe-Marie Brown as she turns the Toronto Grassroots Innovation Forum one-off policy hack into a pilot policy lab program that could fundamentally shape the way community consultation works in Toronto.

Studio Y, by the way, is an amazing fellowship program that provides young people the opportunity to develop the learning, leading and innovation skills our world is in desperate need of.

One of the reasons I think I'm afford this privilege is because of my recognized ability to connect the dots between what is and what can be cross-sector and cross-community.

As I've been thinking about the Toronto Global Forum and the discussion of wicked problems and the emerging potential for cool opportunities, I've found myself asking - if we have so many amazing people in one space, why don't we spend some time brainstorming some of these solutions, policy hackathon-style?

How would you do that, exactly?  Would the IEFA organizers be game to test out a hackathon as part of their agenda?  Could one happen concurrently at MaRS for TGF participants to pop by?

If we're discussing impact and potential action items from the community level (including advocacy to government for policy changes), how might we incorporate them into the mix?

Here's where I'm at right now - tell me what you think.


A modified or separate Studio Y-style program that recruits young leaders from Toronto's marginalized communities.

This program will find emerging leaders and train them in the art of facilitation, hustle, etc. with the goal of being animators, facilitators and problem-owners at a Solutions Lab of the Americas policy hack.  Much as was the focus of TGIF last year, these youth would work with IEFA organizers to align local problem focus with the themes to be discussed at next year's Toronto Global Forum.

Meghan Hellstern would be an amazing organizer of something of this; she's got the experience, the guts and an incredible team of organizers.  To be really inclusive, perhaps AIESEC and my new friend Atena Lombardo could be a partner, bringing in some facilitator/animators from other American countries.

Capital, space, mentors, etc. would be required, but as Studio Y is hiring a new director, now's a great time to explore the potential of this.


Shorten the traditional TGF agenda and leave some space - a day, ideally - at the end for a day-long Solutions Lab.  

It would follow more-or-less the same format as Meghan's Civic Design Camp and may feature, as Open Data Day TO 2015 did, an Idea Fair for social innovators in the same building. 

The facilitators from Phase I would have months of training under their belt and would lead participants through the process of conceiving/prototyping solutions to identified problems - ones discussed at the Forum, but with a local twist.  These solutions could be Apps, policies, programs, whatever the brain-trust involved in the process came up with.


The hack goes on.

Picture some of the brightest minds in the world sitting in a room together, full of energy, optimism and a sense of communal purpose following the main discussions at TGF, ready to roll their sleeves up and solve some problems.

Picture youth who often face great access barriers in trying to find social success leading world leaders in solving problems both global and local.  These newly empowered leaders would go back to their communities with a renewed purpose and new contacts to help bring hope and opportunity to their neighbours.


Then, imagine a televised Dragon's Den review of the solutions with a panel of celebrity sector experts.  The winning idea(s) would have the support of corporate partners for a pilot project.

If the world tunes into sports games, and reality TV, would they tune in to something like this?  
Would local youth and world leaders collaboratively solving problems and being grilled by experts make for a compelling, nation-uniting viewing experience?

Personally, I think so.  Maybe Sean Southey and PCI Media Impact would agree.

There you have it - my morning ideation on how to design-think a program that solves problems, builds community, fosters new collaborations and breaks down socio-cultural silos.

And it took be about 10 minutes to write.

Think what we could accomplish if we committed to making this vision come true together.

Who's with me?

Wednesday 8 July 2015

Andrew Loku

It's hard not to feel frustrated.

If Andrew Loku had been white, or female, would he be alive today?

If the police had known the building was affordable housing for people suffering from mental illness, might they have taken a different tact - or ensured they had a Mobile Crisis Intervention Team on hand?

Given the number of protests that have sparked south of the border with police killing black men, might the officers in question not have considered the media fallout of acting so quickly?

Or, following carding, is this further evidence of a real cultural problem within the Toronto Police Service?

It's the police's job to keep the peace, and yes, they have  a right to defend themselves.  Based on the details we have so far - and clearly, we don't have anything other than anecdotes - the in-the-moment risk was minimal.

So, is this a police training issue?  Is there a related concern about police having insufficient EDP (Emotionally Disturbed Person) management training?  Or, is it a matter of police being demanded to be too many things, and perhaps shouldn't be mental health interventionists in the first place?

I have, of course, discussed all this before.  There are clear and practical solutions that can be put into play, right now.

But they require people at various stations to admit what they're doing now isn't perfect and accept a fair amount of change.

And as they say, it's that which adapts that survives.

Tuesday 7 July 2015

If Stephen Harper Were a Game of Thrones Character...

Some might say he's Twyin Lannister, but I don't think that fits.  Twyin was more about the brand than Harper has ever been.

No, if I were to peg Harper as one guy from Westeros, it'd be this one.

Trouble at our shores?  Eco-terrorists, niqab, etc?  Harper creates fights and then positions himself as the only one who can keep us safe from conflict.  He divides and conquers with abandon, attempting to create and live by his own rules along the way (everything from cutting off the media to committee disruption manuals."

As his own messes grow, his tactics and pressure become more severe - because that's what it takes to keep winning.  

And the climb, don't you know, is everything.  Regardless of the fall.

How about the other guys?  Who would you peg the other leaders as?

Monday 6 July 2015

Star Wars: Year of the Rat

The Mouse House recognizes the financial juggernaut that is the pan-Asian film-going audience, Chinese and beyond. If you want to expand your Asian market for big-bill films like, say, Star Wars, it's simply good business to put some Asian actors on screen to increase their appeal.

There's something both funny and deeply satisfying in this.  We've seen some pretty vocal backlash against the notion of a black stormtrooper or a woman lead in Mad Max: Furiosa Road.  The people raising their voices so vociferously tend to be neither black nor women; they're the sort of folk used to comfortably seeing themselves reflected as heroes or in positions of power and are perhaps somewhat uncomfortable about that dominance being challenged.

It's the worst kind of invasion; it's like Lefty Hollywood is opening the door and letting the barbarians in.  Or like that time Apple argued in favour of gay marriage.

How the people who argue that their traditions/genetics are superior while promoting free-market capitalism and dismiss marginalized populations as whiners square their fear of being supplanted on the streets, in the work place and even on screen by lesser-than ethnicities is a bit confusing, but hey - when you're ideology is simple and straightforward, there's not much that can alter it, is there?  

That's the big secret to competition - it's not necessarily about fighting the right enemies, so much as befriending partners.  

Evolution isn't about those who are the toughest, inflexible or violent - it favours those best able to adapt.

Which is why I'm not super worried about race wars or violent clashes between ideological progressive and conservatives.  It's basic Sun-tzu; the best battles are the ones won without ever setting foot in the arena.

I can't force you to believe this, but it is good business.

Trust me.