Is this Freedom?

Capitalists, Entrepreneurs, CEOs, Bankers, Shareholders, Economists – they like to talk about freedom and individual liberty and think it can be found in the free market.

Libertarians, Conservatives, Liberals, The United States Declaration of Independence, Republicans, Democrats, Politicians – they like to talk about freedom and individual liberty and think it can be found in more or less government.

Catholic, Christian, Muslim, Jewish and Other Religious Leaders – they like to talk about freedom and individual liberty and think it can be found in God.

New Age Philosophers, Self-Help Gurus, Spiritual Messengers – they like to talk about freedom and individual liberty and think it can be found inside of you.

Afghanis, Iraqis, Iranians, North Koreans, Tibetans, Venezuelans, Guatemalans, Cubans, Sri Lankans, Palestinians, Nigerians, South Africans, Sudanese, Kenyans, Indians, Germans, Italians, Spaniards, Americans, Canadians, The Poor, The Rich, The Homeless, The Middle Class, Average Joes, Citizens, Humans – they like to talk about freedom and individual liberty and wonder what it would actually feel like to live in a world that fosters and facilitates it.

Life is supposed to empower you, liberate you and provide you with the freedom to grow, mature, learn, discover and evolve. On this we all agree. Unfortunately when I look around me, whether it be small town Alberta, Corporate Calgary, Business School in Spain or the Homeless Community, freedom and individual liberty are not what I see.

I see a developed world held hostage by an economic system that isn’t designed to create opportunities for the majority to experiment with and explore their connection to other people, to themselves.

I see a developing world held captive by a belief that our economic system is the key to the freedom they crave.

Is this freedom?

I see a world of hares racing to retirement; a world where people put their dreams on hold and become investment bankers or accountants or construction workers or oil patch workers so they can buy the freedom needed to live out their dreams later in life.

I see a world where people live out their dreams, follow their hearts and try to give back to the community by becoming teachers or social workers and then struggle to make ends meet.

Is this freedom?

I see MBA classes that teach you how to design carrot and stick incentive systems that force the behaviour that the corporations desire and in the process destroy opportunities for human development, growth and evolution.

I see people repress who they are and wear masks in order to exhibit the characteristics rewarded by the incentive system some high-priced MBA designed.

Is this freedom?

I see customers being forced to deal with poor service because the people providing the service do not have a vested interest in the company and could therefore care less about the customer.

I see mom and pop shops, that provide a level of service we all hope for, disappearing because not enough people can afford to pay for their higher prices.

Is this freedom?

I see an ever widening gap between the rich and the poor.

I see power in the hands of a few, in the hands of the rich, in the hands of big business.

I see big business successfully lobby governments, employees, and citizens to not take care of their own.

I see citizens relinquish their power, sacrifice their voice and choose not to vote because they are fed up with government and big business.

Is this freedom?

I see hard-working people who live in recently gentrified areas and fear for their safety.

I see street youth and the homeless born into families that aren’t able to provide care, but still try to find ways to take care of their own.

Is this freedom?

I see meaningless jobs that don’t require creativity or critical thinking put people to sleep.

I see marketing and media successfully manipulate and brainwash people because they are asleep.

I see people sourcing their identities externally and reducing their value as human beings to the size of their car in the driveway.

I see people become slaves to their credit cards, mortgages and debt.

Is this freedom?

I see brilliant minds going to waste inventing new and improved razors, laundry detergent, cures for erectile dysfunction.

I see innovation that could be beneficial to the world delayed until the market demands it.

Is this freedom?

I see a world where passion and creativity are underutilized because they do not guarantee profit for shareholders.

I see a world where profits are more important than people.

Is this freedom?

I see a world where we have to use taxes and laws to stop corporations from causing harm.

I see great companies who strive to be responsible and not cause harm, but are held hostage by quarterly reports.

Is this freedom?

I see economists use ceteris paribus to try and turn subjective theories into objective ones.

I see a world that has created dualistic systems in order to avoid cognitive dissonance and as a result we have to live with inflexible systems that can’t take into consideration multiple possibilities.

Is this freedom?

I see a health care industry conflicted by incentives that put our human health at risk.

I see people reliant on pharmaceuticals to feel happy or normal or calm or healthy.

Is this freedom?

I see people who have been hurt so many times they no longer have the strength to fight.

I see people who were born with amazing talents that are afraid to fly.

I see people who don’t like who they are so they judge others to avoid their own pain.

I see people who are unknowingly stuck in a mental trap of negativity.

I see people who were born into the middle class and are depressed, overweight, addicted, lonely, stressed, overworked, and underpaid whose lives are a mere struggle for survival.

Is this freedom?

I see people born in Canada that see poverty on TV and know intellectually they are one of the lucky ones, but still feel ungrateful for their lives.

I see people who suffer physical and mental health problems because they can’t live with the guilt caused by their lack of gratitude.

Is this freedom?

I see a world where painters, writers, singers, and actors can’t make a living and are forced to abandon their dreams.

I see a world where introverted grinders who work tirelessly behind the scenes make less money than the extroverted visionaries who can naturally sell themselves better in front of the scenes.

I see a world that diminishes equality by allowing a free market to measure the value and worth of a complex human being.

Is this freedom?

I see people struggling to figure out their purpose and how best to serve the world.

I see people struggle with their weight who think the answers to their prayers lie not in the discovery of who they are, but in the form of a thinner body.

Is this freedom?

I see people who lack trust and the opportunities to develop it.

I see people that don’t understand that being human means that neither God nor money can save you from pain and struggle; it is required.

I see people using money to try and isolate themselves on their own personal islands in a feeble attempt to protect themselves from the pain and struggle caused by our interactions with other people.

Is this freedom?

I see Capitalists use the lone societal benefit of job creation as an excuse to be unethical, unjust and unfair.

I see people who are slaves to their companies at the expense of their relationships.

Is this freedom?

I see corporations bind you to long-term contracts that you aren’t sure you want but have no other option but to sign. (think gyms and cell phones)

I see reward cards implemented so stores can gather data on your spending habits and use it to determine how to make you spend more in the future – all in the name of customer service.

Is this freedom?

I see people in every economic class with addictions who only want to escape their pain.

I see people with undiagnosed mental health issues that spiral further and further away from reality.

Is this freedom?

I see rural communities struggle to save their schools as their inhabitants are forced to move to the city to find work.

Is this freedom?

I see a world that unintentionally harms the vulnerable and weak in the name of freedom.

I see a world that passes laws to protect its citizens from themselves, but sacrifices freedom in exchange. (think seatbelts and helmets)

Is this freedom?

I see children go against their nature in order to not go against their upbringing.

I see adults go against their nature in order to not go against their corporate training.

Is this freedom?

I see people who have sacrificed their souls to make money.

I see people who are lost and think money could solve all their problems.

I see people who make a lot of money, have no idea who they are and keep buying things they don’t necessarily need in order to try and fill the hole they feel deep inside of them.

I see people at the margins of society who are in the minority and therefore can’t easily access the opportunities systemically designed for the majority.

I see people who risk it all to make a difference and then burnout fighting the systems that work against them.

I see people who are doing everything right. They work hard in jobs they don’t necessarily love, but are willing to make sacrifices to care for their families. They have made the tough choices and no longer have to worry about money. They take responsibility for their own lives and don’t look externally to place blame. They live their lives not at the expense of others and give back to their communities. All they desire in return is to be happy, but they are still unable to find peace.

I do also see people who love what they do and have found wealth, health, meaningful work and happiness within the current system, but they are not the majority.

Is this freedom?

It sure doesn’t feel like it to me.

Addendum

I like to talk about freedom and individual liberty and think it will ring when we leverage the principles of social entrepreneurship to build a bridge between the public and private sectors.

Read next: Social Entrepreneurship: The Great Equalizer

Do Intellectual Property Rights Hinder Creativity or Protect the Creator?

Larry Lessig – Professor of Law at Stanford Law School presents arguments for limited control to the creator and then advocates to “let that content live freely for people to develop and transform as they want.”

He draws his arguments from his interpretation of the original intent of the Constitution of the United States and goes on to say, “Jefferson said that nature made it so. Nature has made it so that you can’t capture and idea and bottle it up.”

He also states, “We don’t make public policy depend on what’s in the interest of particular people. We make public policy turn on what’s in the interest of society as a whole.”

Current copyright laws could use revising in order to move them more to the “centre” of the freedom and protection values continuum.

 

Social Entrepreneurs Are Key to Diversifying Alberta’s Economy

What is a Social Entrepreneur?

I define a Social Entrepreneur as an entrepreneur that trades off short-term profits in exchange for long-term financial sustainability in order to create jobs for those currently excluded from the mainstream economy.

Social Entrepreneurs are often associated with a “triple-bottom line” approach that values a balance of social, economic and ecological outcomes. (people, profit and the planet)

How can Social Entrepreneurs Help to Diversify Alberta’s Economy?

Skilled-labour is a barrier to investment in Alberta.

Social Entrepreneurs can launch businesses requiring less technical skills and hire those currently excluded from the mainstream job market. Then, once stability is reached, their employees can leave the social enterprise to pursue greater challenges and more learning opportunities.

Focussing on less technically-skilled positions gives the Social Entrepreneur the flexibility to adapt to the unique needs of their employees. These needs could include (but are not limited to) court dates, addictions counselling, English classes, mental health challenges etc. There are many circumstances where their employees will have a higher level of skills than is required for the job, but they are willing to make the sacrifice because they see it as a stepping stone towards a better future.

Social Entrepreneurs in Alberta are working to build a bridge to the mainstream economy for ALL Albertans.

The success of this bridge is dependent on planning, coordination and a commitment from industry and government to hire new employees from social enterprises. Industry and government also have a responsibility to prepare their employees in entry-level positions for advancement into higher skill-level positions.

Job-training programs, resume writing, job search assistance … these can only go so far.

People who face insurmountable barriers to entering the mainstream economy need job opportunities that can pay them a Living Wage. Without a steady and stable income, stability can not be achieved. The need for this stable flow of funds is no different than our education system or our municipalities requiring it.

The innovation required for the effectiveness of the payment of a Living Wage is that it must be coupled with a structured goal setting and budget process. You will then equip people with both the job skills and financial discipline they need to succeed in the mainstream.

I know firsthand that those currently excluded from the mainstream economy get excited by opportunities to work in social enterprises. It is because the opportunity is seen as being necessary, but more importantly it’s seen as temporary. It is only one-stop on their journey towards financial security and self-sufficiency. Motivation in ALL of us increases when we can see a future beyond living paycheck to paycheck.

The effect on our economy of inspiring people with a vision for a better tomorrow is immeasurable and “priceless”.

In Alberta the time has come to transition the low-skilled businesses to Social Entrepreneurs with flexible revenue models that can accommodate workers with higher needs. A great example of this is the VRRI Bottle Depot in Calgary. They offer a fully-inclusive work environment where people with disabilities run a highly-efficient operation.

Other social enterprise opportunities that exist include recycling services to apartment buildings in Calgary or offsite-data entry services to larger organizations (outsourcing work doesn’t necessarily have to go to India to save companies money.)

Catalyst Needed for Change

Social Entrepreneurs in Alberta need a lower cost of capital. These types of businesses can operate successfully with loans, not grants. Their business plans make sure of this fact. I am currently looking to connect people with a passion for finance to launch a Patient Capital fund. (Contact me at tammymaloney@shaw.ca if you are interested in connecting with us or investing.)

Summary

Increased access to skilled-labour will attract investment in Alberta.

Social Entrepreneurs connecting with other Albertan Entrepreneurs and working towards a shared vision for our province is key to diversifying our economy. Ensuring ALL Albertans can succeed in our economy is key to Alberta making the most of its amazing blessings and living up to its full potential.

My Take on Alberta’s True Advantage

If we focus on our values and strengths a sea change for Alberta is possible. In Alberta we not only value entrepreneurship, we excel in entrepreneurship. This is our Alberta advantage. We have both the freedom to create and the spirit to achieve.

To unleash an entrepreneurial ripple effect that transforms Alberta, we must strategically connect with one another and work together towards a shared vision of our future.

1 to the power of 3.7 million Albertans = 1

There’s power in ONE.

We’re ALL on the same team.

“Despite current ads and slogans, the world doesn’t change one person at a time. It changes when networks of relationships form among people who share a common cause and vision of what’s possible. ”~Margaret Wheatley, 2006

My Direct Contribution to Social Entrepreneurship in Alberta

There are legitimate reasons why certain Albertans are unable to find success in the mainstream job market. The barriers they face are real and cannot be overcome by working harder. I learned this at The Mustard Seed volunteering for 5 different programs and as a youthworker at a Boys and Girls Clubs homeless shelter for teens.

These experiences, in addition to several pilot projects I ran with youth I met at the shelter, helped me to develop a model that can help street youth enter the job market instead of the adult homeless shelter system.

150 jobs for youth = ~$20 million/year in savings for Albertans

Visit http://seachangeacademy.com for more details on the social enterprise model I developed directly with some amazing street youth in Calgary.