Catalyzing a Youth Movement

Youth are the key to discovering the solutions to the complex societal challenges we currently face. We have therefore reached a point in history where we can no longer afford to leave their naturally inherent compassion and creativity untapped.

My Current Youth Projects

In the summer of 2010 I launched The Social Entrepreneurship Academy for Change Ltd. (SEAChange).  At SEAChange we are using an innovative business model to transform youth experiencing homelessness into Social Entrepreneurs.  Our unique model blends a focus on both job creation and education and empowers youth with the skills they need to avoid a future with the adult homeless shelter system. Helping 150 youth experiencing homelessness enter the job market instead of the adult shelter system could save Albertans approximately $20 million/year. Click here to learn more.

Alberta Party Youth Movement – I’m in the process of building a team of youth that are taking responsibility for developing the strategy and executing the plan to increase youth engagement in the Alberta Party. In my opinion, our ability to renew democracy is dependent on our ability to inspire and empower youth to take the lead.

Teen Voice Calgary is a space that provides many opportunities for Calgary’s youth to speak out and be heard. Teen Voice Calgary is a committee that offers events where youth can express their opinions on various issues involving your community and city. I met a couple of the founders of Teen Voice at CivicCamp 3D and since then have assisted them with developing a plan to increase their impact.

Click here to see all my posts related to a youth movement.

Kahlil Gibran ~ On Children

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

This poem deepened my commitment to catalyzing a youth movement.

A GRASSROOTS YOUTH MOVEMENT HAS OFFICIALLY BEGUN!

Striking a Balance between Collaboration and Competition

Today’s Alberta Primetime Interactive Question is:

What impact would eliminating score-keeping have on Alberta kids playing minor sports?

In my opinion, it’s important to continue to score-keep in sports. Choosing to eliminate score-keeping would take away a valuable and necessary learning opportunity from children.

There is a creative tension that exists between collaboration and competition. When teams, organizations, businesses, leadership races etc. are able to successfully strike a balance between the two, they both inspire and unite. Canada’s hockey gold medal a year ago comes to mind.

Society today can benefit from understanding that collaboration and competition are not mutually-exclusive concepts. One is not preferable to the other. They exist on the same continuum. Children need to learn from an early age that people aren’t competitive or collaborative. They are both.

A better question would be: How do we as a society learn to value teamwork, collaboration and skill-improvement equal to winning?

1 to the power of 3.7 million Albertans  = 1

There’s power in ONE.

We’re ALL on the same team.


Korloue – My latest favourite word

I learned a new word today.

Korloue

Korloue is an Ogoni word meaning say what you have in mind. I learned this word today from my friend Dum. He is from the Ogoni tribe in southeast Nigeria and currently resides in Port Harcourt, Nigeria.

Dum and I worked together at the William J. Clinton Foundation in the capital city of Nigeria, Abuja . I am inspired by his passion for his country and his deep awareness of its vast potential. I admire how in the face of adversity he has the courage and strength to continue to pour his heart into helping Nigeria.

Dum is representative of the many young Nigerians I met who often place the needs of their country and community higher than their own needs. It is these very youth that will help lead Nigeria towards a goal of creating opportunities for wealth (in all its wonderful forms) and meaningful work for all its people.

Their challenge will be learning to find their own personal balance between giving and receiving and through this example help their country’s systems find the balance between collaboration and competition. This, in my opinion, is not unlike the challenge we are currently faced with in North America.

Yes, our countries are different, but they are the same.

What is the mission of Korloue?

As per the Korloue website:

Korloue is an initiative to move young people away from the thought of violence as a means to an end. It advocates intellectual reaction to issues as opposed to violent confrontations, and seeks to promote agitation for changes and reforms without the loss of lives and property.

It seeks to channel grievances towards positive ends, by engaging the minds of the young in intellectual debates, competitions, and programs, and to create an avenue for reaching the world through writing. They are no longer mere observers in public opinions, but also participants, with a world-wide followership.

Korloue plans to erase the misconceived view that Niger Delta youths are all about militancy, but rather give the true picture of rational people who see their society from the ideal point, and react to it rationally, without a recourse to bombs and kidnapping.

SEAChange for Youth

Systems take time to evolve and I can accept that. But I was born an entrepreneur and it is my calling to identify opportunities. In my opinion, ending poverty and homelessness is an amazing opportunity.

Unlike the pain and struggle that we in the mainstream face, the pain and struggle faced by those experiencing homelessness has little hope today of being transformed into joy through hard work.

The SEAChange Mission

The Social Entrepreneurship Academy for Change Ltd. (SEAChange) is using an innovative business model to transform street youth into Social Entrepreneurs and empower them with the skills they need to avoid a future with the adult homeless shelter system.

By investing in youth who often face insurmountable barriers to finding employment in the mainstream job market, we believe we can organically grow a youth-driven job market that will serve as an attractive alternative to theft, gangs, drug dealing, prostitution, and panhandling.

The Business Case for Calgary

In December 2008, Tim Richter from the Calgary Homeless Foundation said to CalgaryInc magazine,

“Our business model says we’re spending $134,000 per year for every person who’s homeless.” Tim Richter, Calgary Homeless Foundation CEO, CalgaryInc, December Issue 2008, Volume 6, Number 10

For every youth we can help to enter the job market instead of the adult shelter system, we can save Albertans approximately $134,000 per year.

Employing 150 youth translates into a ~$20 million/year savings for Alberta. (150 x $134,000=$20 million/year)

More importantly, by educating our street youth to become entrepreneurs we are contributing to the future economic growth and stability of our great city.

Our experience shows that street-entrenched youth would choose an opportunity to become a legitimate entrepreneur over street life or the mainstream.

“When asked, none of the youth interviewed (during the Calgary Youth, Health and the Street Report) wanted to stay on the street and 90% had goals of gaining better employment, having a family or finding housing. – Calgary Youth, Health and the Street Report (Worthington et. al, 2008)

The youth SEAChange works with are natural entrepreneurs. They desire freedom, independence and self-reliance.  They are risk-seeking, innovative and resourceful.  By leveraging these facts we can help them become leaders of our business community and put an end to their homelessness permanently.

The SEAChange Business Model

SEAChange is launching a Social Enterprise Incubator for YOUTH in Calgary, Alberta, Canada working hard to transition away from street life and out of homelessness.  As part of the holistically designed incubation program, youth will be paid a Living Wage to attend Business School so that they can achieve stability in their lives and obtain technical business skills prior to admittance into the incubator.

To accomplish this goal and to achieve long-term financial sustainability we are working on two business plans.  (1) SEAChange Recyclers; Calgary’s convenient and caring alternative for recycling bottles and cans.  (2) SEAChange Services; Providing superior offsite office services to save you money.

To learn more please visit:

http://twitter.com/seachange4youth

http://www.facebook.com/seachange4youth

To Go Farther, Go Deeper – The Irony of Commitment

Originally written in December 2009.

“The irony of commitment is that it’s deeply liberating – in work, in play, in love. The act frees you from the tyranny of your internal critic, from the fear that likes to dress itself up and parade around as rational hesitation. To commit is to remove your head as the barrier to your life.” – Author Unknown

Since my arrival back to Calgary in 2009, I have been trying to figure out a way I could accelerate the transformation of our economy so it is fuelled by compassion rather than consumption. Knowing in my heart that this is exactly where I needed to be did nothing to lessen the pain caused by the struggle I faced attempting to fully commit.

The source of my struggle was that I was scared that a project of this magnitude would tie me to Canada indefinitely and that the global lifestyle I had become accustomed to would have to be put on hold. The freedom I had experienced by selling all my possessions in order to move to Barcelona to attend the IESE Business School felt like it would cease to exist if I decided to stay and build something here.

It wasn’t until I read the above quote on a Starbucks cup that I started to see the paradox that exists within commitment. But in reality it took one more trip overseas to 3 different countries to attend 3 different IESE friend’s weddings to really understand what it was saying.

During the trip I started to see how my adventures around the globe were somehow horizontal in nature. Although there was a newness to everything I did, it rarely touched the depths of my soul. Even Nigeria, a country that profoundly impacted my life, a country that I love; even living there and working for the Clinton Foundation couldn’t capture my imagination and unleash the burning and untapped passion and creativity inside of me. Everywhere I went I felt like the experience was just a horizontal scratching of the surface. Intellectually stimulating yes, but always left starving for more.

This got me to thinking. Perhaps where you are born is not an accident. Perhaps it’s where you can best experience the vertical depth and richness that life has to offer. Some of our most memorable protagonist’s journeys end up back where they started: Dorothy, the girl from “The Wizard of Oz” or Santiago, the shepherd from “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho.

Perhaps true joy springs from going deeper, not farther.

And so I took my clues from these musings and feelings and allowed my own “Wizard of Oz” type journey to lead me back to where I started, back home.

It hasn’t been easy letting go of a phase of life that took you places you had never been, but in the end it has turned out to be an amazing choice. I finally feel like I am experiencing a vertical adventure….delving deep into the depths of Canada….into my home.

My fears that life would become predictable have not been realized. Committing to transforming our economy in Calgary so it creates wealth, health, happiness and meaningful employment for ALL people has been a liberating and delightfully unpredictable journey of discovery; inspiration around every corner….. new parts of the plan continually revealed….books on what it means to be Canadian, what it means to be a woman….new and fascinating people met almost every day.

Making the commitment to Calgary….to Canada has finally freed my soul to be the best expression of itself. It has burst on the scene here and every day is a new adventure.

Having experienced my own “think global, act local” epiphany, I understand now that this commitment to Canada doesn’t mean an end to my global citizenship. The world desperately needs an example of a developed country with a compassion-fuelled economy. If this can be successfully achieved, it will create a positive ripple effect that reduces global poverty.

By trading in my horizontal, hare-like race and struggle through life for a chance to be a tortoise I am experiencing all of the vertical depth and richness that life has to offer.

I finally understand why it is the tortoise that wins in the end!