Three Lessons on Innovation and Adaptability

We’ve always had to innovate to thrive. From developing better clubs for bonking food on the head to wrapping wheels in rubber or miniaturizing on-off switches and building faster, brighter, and more shiny machines upon which we can design faster, brighter, shinier machines.

Now look out at your own organization. Chances are, unless you’re bootstrapping a start-up, it’s becoming increasingly large and complex with formal structures that don’t do a lot to foster innovation or adaptability.

It doesn’t have to be that way, and you’re the solution. Use these three lessons to improve your ability to adapt and innovate.

Journal with Purpose

Take ten minutes at the end of each day to write a reflective journal. Learning is adaptation – and it’s key to fostering a capacity for innovation. A structured reflective journal helps you move from being an actor to being an observer.

Kolb's ELM

Kolb’s experiential learning cycle (ELM) is a great starter format for a learning journal. Follow the 4 steps in the list below to write a journal that will help you improve your ability to adapt and identify opportunities for innovation.

  1. Concrete experience
    • Jot down a few quick sentences about something that happened that day. Write it how it is, not how you feel about it.
  2. Reflective observation
    • Here’s where you write a few sentences about how you felt, what you might have affected your actions or decisions.
  3. Abstract conceptualization
    • OK, so you know what happened, and how you reacted and perceived the situation.Write down one or two things you’ve learned from the experience.
  4. Active experimentation
    • Make a plan for action. Write down one thing you’ll do tomorrow to take an element of what you’ve learned and make it real.

Find out more about ELM

Ten minutes, eight to sixteen short sentences, applicable learning. Repeat at the end of each day and you’ll develop the ability to run this cycle during your day – you’ll be both the actor and observer. Brilliant.

Disorganize

There are initiatives across sectors to foster innovation, but a glance at what makes our federal list of innovative practices brings the sad state of innovation at major employers into sharp relief:

  • The City of Ottawa compensating employees for the time they spend using email, the internet, or text messages when responding to work-related requests outside of regular hours.
  • Oil Sands employers and the GPMC establishing “a joint sub-committee to investigate and discuss the competitiveness of the current general project maintenance, repair, and renovation industry in the province of Alberta.
  • Bombardier Transportation and their union retaining a women’s advocate.

Are any of these all that innovative? Exactly.

Disorganize for innovation by reaching across formal structures within your organization to create partnerships and drive change. Look outside of the system-within-the-system.

Your colleagues and competitors have great ideas that aren’t benefiting your organization because formal structures usually aren’t adept at using ideas from everywhere to inform practice. They’re too top-heavy.

To do this effectively you’ll need a disciplined application of the third lesson:

Build Positive Relationships

Adaptability and innovation are at the heart of positive change, and you can’t lead people across burnt bridges. You’ll need people to help implement all the great opportunities you’re finding through journalling. You’ll expand those insights tenfold through conversations with people outside of your office, unit, department, division, and organization.

This is true whether you’re at the top, bottom, or middle of an organization. Your colleagues and competitors at all have valuable information. Our world is too complex to think we can lead, adapt, or innovate alone.

Find friends, colleagues, and competitors all have skills and knowledge that compliment your own. Build your network and you build your capacity for adaptability and innovation.

Have other ideas on what makes a good journal or how to bend a formal org-chart to your will? Drop us a comment, won’t you?

Five Attributes of Awesome Risk-Takers

Being comfortable with risk is pretty rare these days. Whether we’re transitioning from school to work, trying to move from one job to the next, pitching a new idea to the boss, or making a romantic move on a long-time friend, risk puts our confidence, money, reputation, and even our community on the line.

Risky business is known as scary business. But it shouldn’t be.

John in a beautiful arbutus tree (both human and tree are recovered and doing just fine)

Last weekend I was on Salt Spring Island celebrating my mom’s 60th birthday. During one of our hikes I decided to climb a tree. And then I came up with the idea to jump from the tree, swing on a branch, and land safely on the ground. The conversation with my dad went like this:

JOHN [in tree, gesturing confidently]: “So, I’m going to jump from the tree, swing on that branch and then land on the ground over there.”

DAD: “Don’t do it. The branch is dead and it won’t hold you. You will impale yourself on the rocks. Don’t do it.”

JOHN [jumps]

Lying on my back – impaled on the rocks, just like my dad said – looking up at the sky and my concerned/incredulous wife and parents, I smiled and reflected on my failure, knowing that the next time I attempted such a maneuver success would be achieved because I learned from my mistake. But don’t just take my word for it. Other thinkers, like Historian Engineer Henry Petroski, have opinions about the relationship between failure and success, too. According to an article in the Huffington Post by Ben Michaelis, Petroski argues that “limited failure early in your working life can be immensely helpful to your career trajectory. The takeaway message is that if you are not failing you are not trying.”

The world needs more risk takers, which is nicely evidenced by this Fast Company article that features the travel company Kayak – their Chief Technology Officer, Paul English, has this to say about their culture of innovation: “Everything we do encourages fast decision-making and risk-taking. We don’t do design by committee, and we disable large meetings here. We reward risk-taking and speed, even when it fails!”

Sure, my falling out of a tree is a silly example of risk when compared to some of the other things I’ve done (moving across the country for university, being friends with men from Halifax, studying History at graduate school, going to East Africa when I’m allergic to the Sun, pitching a service learning program to a business school, telling people I love them without certainty of reciprocity), but it is nonetheless an illustrative example of what I’m talking about.

With this in mind, here are five things that you need to know about being a professional risk-taker.

1. Be authentic. Following a risk I took and a failure I experienced, my past boss and current mentor said this to me: “When you make a mistake and fail you will always be okay because you are genuine and authentic. People know that you are doing things for the right reasons and have the best of intentions, never selfish ones.” When you genuinely have your community’s goals at heart then risk – and the failure that often comes with it – becomes more acceptable.

2. Jump in with both feet. A former student and current friend, David Singh, just left a great job in Deloitte’s Consulting group to join Kira Talent. This guy doesn’t know how to not go all-in, as he’s already wearing the value proposition of this awesome interviewing start-up on his sleeve.

Kym Banguis (shop.herrohachi.com) jumped in with both feet. The only problem was that she jumped off of a moving scooter. #risktaking

3. Take responsibility for your success (and failure). Managing risk can also involve simple experiences, as demonstrated by my former colleague and current friend, Holly Langland, who inspires teams with pop-fresh dance moves: “I was first on the dance floor at the xmas party on Friday. What this says about me is that I don’t hesitate to lead the way when needed…or I just don’t mind looking bad!” Regardless of how she looks, Holly owns it.

4. Have an eraser. Risk-takers need to have a long memory, for those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it. That being said, it’s important to reflect on risks-gone-wrong and then erase them. As her tone-setting speech to ring-in the New Year (“September” is what people outside of Higher Education call this time of the year), my boss read us this awesome letter from everyone’s favourite holiday cop storyteller, John McClane Stuart McLean. The letter ends with this gem: “Don’t mind mistakes. The mistakes are how you learn. You have an eraser. Go ahead make the messes. Then … clean them up. Try again.”

5. Be playful and have fun with it! My Frientor (friend + mentor = Frientor), Rodney Payne, eloquently summarized how approaching life with playfulness is an important part of approaching risk: “Teaching myself to kiteboarding when it was really unsafe has taught me everything I know about calculated risk. You need to be comfortable with risk in order to innovate.”

Failure is a part of life. You know this. Being comfortable with and open to failure, which will happen, is the kind of common sense that is not common practice. So, by starting small (talking on the phone to a prospective romantic partner or professional employer instead of texting them) or going big (jumping out of a tree twice the size of the one I swung from and/or starting your own business), think about how you will bring positive and calculated risk to your community today.

Masthead photo courtesy of Frank Wuestefeld’s photostream on Flickr

Developing Successful Storytellers

Support A Good Book Drive and build a library of children’s books for East Vancouver literacy program the Writers’ Exchange.

This is a story about stories and storytelling. Its purpose is to inspire you to, first, give a copy of your favourite children’s book to a kid and, second, support A Good Book Drive if you live in Vancouver. Why? Because stories are the most powerful communications tool that we, as humans, have at our disposal.

“How do we get people to act on our idea? We tell stories.” This is a line from the first chapter of Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath, a must-read for teachers, communicators, marketers, leaders, and pretty much anyone who wants to get their ideas across in an effective and inspiring way.

In a nutshell – or some kind of stickier legume – here are the Heath Brothers’ six principles for SUCCESsful ideas:

SIMPLICITY – To strip an idea down to its core, we must be masters of exclusion.

UNEXPECTEDNESS – We need to violate people’s expectations. We need to be counterintuitive.

CONCRETENESS – We must explain our ideas in terms of human actions, in terms of sensory information.

CREDIBILITY – We need ways to help people test our ideas for themselves – a “try before you buy” philosophy for the world of ideas.

EMOTIONS We make people feel something.

STORIES –  Research shows that mentally rehearsing a situation helps us perform better when we encounter that situation in the physical environment. Similarly, hearing stories acts as a kind of mental flight simulator, preparing us to respond more quickly and effectively.

Like I said, storytelling means the ability to influence, and stories are not only the preferred idea-delivery-mechanism of the Heath Brothers, but are also at the centre of Andy Goodman’s belief that “stories are the single most powerful communications tool” that we have available to us. Check out his very free and very awesome PDF “Why Bad Presentations Happen to Good Causes” to learn more about incorporating storytelling into what you do.

In the broadest professional sense, recent research by the American Management Association, the Canadian Association of Career Educators and Employers, and several North American universities has found that the top competency employers look for when they hire talent is communication: they want to know that you can speak and write effectively, persuasively and with good grammar and syntax.

Fun fact: as a young professional, it is more detrimental to your career to consistently spell things wrong on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and your blog than it is to have pictures of you drinking.

So, knowing how to understand, create and tell stories is possibly the most important thing for human beings to harness in order to realize their potential, which is why you should help kids from inner-city schools in Vancouver achieve their storytelling potential by supporting A Good Book Drive. And if Vancouver isn’t home, well, there are programs like this one in your community, too. And if there isn’t such a program, start one.

The need for literacy programs in inner-city Vancouver is evident; schools designated as “inner-city” are located in communities where crime rates are high, and a large percentage of the population has low education levels and receives income assistance. The children growing up in these neighbourhoods and attending inner-city schools are struggling with reading and writing.

A Good Book Drive is an annual book drive in Vancouver sharing children’s books and stories with a new generation of readers. It is a project from the non-profit storytelling organization Rain City Chronicles and this year the campaign will support Vancouver’s Writers’ Exchange.

The Writers’ Exchange is the only program in Vancouver where children work with volunteer mentors and professional writers to boost their literacy skills and self-esteem through free homework help, dedicated reading time and creative writing projects. The Writer’s Exchange is a project of Tides Canada Initiatives, a nationally registered charity.

To learn more and receive updates on A Good Book Drive please visit:

agoodbookdrive.com
facebook.com/agoodbookdrive
@agoodbookdrive
@agoodbookdrive 

For more information about A Good Book Drive please contact:
Lizzy Karp
agoodbookdrive@gmail.com
604.910.2807

For more information about the Writers’ Exchange please contact:
Sarah Maitland
smaitland@vancouverWE.com
778.888.5498
vancouverWE.com

Ahava Shira – The Heartful Entrepreneur

 

Who are you?

I am a poet, storyteller, performer, photographer, and long-time journal writer. I am the founder of the Centre for Loving Inquiry, where I facilitate individual and group mentoring programs, retreats and home-study courses for people who want to bring more creativity and compassion into their lives. The practice of Loving Inquiry supports us to open our hearts and to engage with more kindness and curiousity toward ourselves and others.

I also work as the program facilitator for the Connecting Generations Program, which creates opportunities for conversation and learning between high school students, youth, adults and elders in the Salt Spring Island community.

I am the host of Love in the Afternoon, a radio show that walks listeners through the practice of Loving Inquiry, and encourages them to live with more creativity and compassion (on Salt Sprig Radio, CFSI 107.9FM or www.cfsi-fm.com online).

I am also the author of a book of poetry, Weaving of My Being and a poetry CD, Love is Like This. To learn more about my work visit www.ahavashira.com/

What do you do for fun?

I write, do yoga, walk in nature, hang out with my Goddess-son, listen to all kinds of music, host my radio show, make raw truffles, watch movies with my partner, play in a collage journal, read novels and non-fiction books on relationships, work and spirituality, sip tea in cafes and have wonderfully deep conversations with friends and clients.

What is your favourite community? Why?

The human and more-than-human community because I am intrigued and delighted by our interconnectedness. I live on a farm and find joy and refuge in nature’s variety and beauty.  I also love listening to people’s stories and learning about the diverse ways they live.

What is your superpower?

I am present and alert when I am speaking or being with others and that makes me highly intuitive and a really good listener. I am also very good at improvisation: being willing to “not know” what’s going to happen, to stay open and to say yes to whatever emerges in the moment. I use these superpowers in my work as a writer, facilitator, mentor, radio show host and as a speaker and performer.

How do you use it to build community?

In my experience, we build community when we are kind and authentic and when we share our unique gifts and ways of being in the world. Through the Centre for Loving Inquiry, Connecting Generations and Love in the Afternoon, I am helping to create a world that honours the diversity and interdependence of all people and all beings. In my writing and teaching, I seek to relate to people with openness, empathy and compassion.

My Three Favourite Things About Ahava Are…

1. Entrepreneurial Spirit. I love the myriad ways that Ahava both engages and builds community; from hosting a radio show to truffle making, she is an absolute model as to how the practice of education can uniquely realize its potential. Ahava speaks with authenticity and positive energy that captivates audiences and clients in a one-on-one environment and her many projects reflect the passion with which she connects with her community.

2. Connecting Across Generations. The Connecting Generations Program is just fantastic! Our elders have so many stories to share and so much history that can, well, warn us about mistakes we might be repeating and, more importantly, inspire us to build a better and happier future. Connecting youth and elders represents an unfortunate gap in many communities, and it’s inspiring to see how Ahava and her team are creating and sustaining such an important connection.

3. Lovin’ the Creativity! Reading this interview simply makes me feel love and creativity. Such things radiate from Ahava. And this is a beautiful thing!

 

Solve Problems by Crossing the Streams

Solving Problems by Fostering Community and Surfacing Innovation

We work in silos. The boundaries might be fuzzy like a Turner landscape, but community, collaboration, and innovation can suffer as a result. We can improve our ability to work together to surface and solve problems by learning from how we socialize with the help of technology.

Let’s take a step back and examine the way we connect and communicate socially has transformed how we work.

We start by identifying the commonalities across our work and social lives.

Streams and the Multitude of Answers

I’m willing to bet that most of you agree that your job environment is pretty complex. Really, if you work with other humans, and you have an inkling, desire or flat-out goal to advance over the course of your life, you are operating in a complex system. Things are changing all the time. As colleagues move up or down, come in and out of collaboration, as priorities and budgets shift, you will find yourself constantly adapting to new ways of doing business in order to survive and thrive.

Complexity gurus David Snowden and Mary Boone have called this “The Domain of Emergence.” Their seminal article, A Leader’s Framework for Decision Making, ( Harvard Business Review*)  gives a great introduction to the Key characteristics of an increasingly complex workplace, including:

  • Flux and unpredictability
  • No right answers;
  • Unknown unknowns
  • Many competing ideas
  • A need for creative and innovative approaches
  • Pattern-based leadership

Think about your work and colleagues and nearly all of those should feel immediately familiar.

Now think about your social circles and how you interact through the tools of social networking.

When planning something as simple as a dinner out with friends the boundaries of decisions have become extremely soft. Plans can – and often do – change right up until the last minute as DM’s, texts, tweets, and pin-drops influence our ability to stick to a hard plan.

This can feel frustrating for those of us accustomed to locking-in our decisions early, but it opens the door for experiences and last minute discoveries that can only be found by embracing emerging opportunities.

Those experiences are the unknowns that only come to light when one of your group texts or tweets that en route to the restaurant they heard a great band playing a few blocks away, or when the first person to the theatre sees a line a mile long and can reach the rest of the group to organize a last-minute backup plan.

Social networking has improved our ability to adjust to the unpredictable and quickly explore competing ideas (where to eat, what to wear, who brings what for the potluck). We can probe (suggest something), sense (see how others react), and then respond, and our ability to identify patters is heightened because enough information is shared openly that they emerge.

So how can we take those abilities and apply them to our workplace?

Start by tackling a project through any one of your socially enabled platforms. Google docs with google + and circles, or a Linkedin group limited to your partners in collaboration, or just by agreeing as a team to have the conversations around the project through any one of your social-streams, tracked by a hash-tag or equivalent so you can move through probe, sense, and respond much more quickly.

Use your streams as a group to probe, sense, and respond. It’s a lot like being able to challenge the ideas of an “outsider” because of the veil of security afforded by the stream. Laying out some ground-rules in advance can strengthen this advantage, allowing you to challenge assumptions as a team very rapidly and use ideas from across the group to form solutions.

Social media is moving away from being every leader’s biggest fear to being one of our best opportunities to foster community and innovation at work. Get cracking.

*Just google the titles if you don’t have access to a library. Lots of organizations have pdf’s on their website.

 

Bridging the Gap between Research and Action

Go to any academic journal and pull up a random scientific article. Can you understand it? Chances are you will probably not understand all of it. Even if you do understand all of it (yes, even including the statistical analysis section), do you understand how this relates to the dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of other articles done on the same subject? And equally as important, do you have the time to sift through stacks of articles to make an informed decision on a program, policy or service you are considering implementing in either your private or professional life? Herein lies the value of knowledge translation. Knowledge translation is the process of taking research and translating it into something practitioners, professionals, policy-makers and the general public can understand and use.

While this type of undertaking doesn’t happen enough in Canada (e.g. with professionals being given the time and resources to review research and translate it into understandable language), a good example of structures being put in place to support such KT activity is the National Collaborating Centres (NCC) for Public Health. These Centres aim to translate academic evidence and develop resources that can be used by public health practitioners and policy-makers to address a number of public health topics, including infectious diseases, health inequities, environmental health, and healthy public policy.

Living up to their name, the Centres also collaborate with one another on a number of special projects, including a structural profile of public health systems and functions across Canada. A particularly interesting project that has recently commenced within the National Collaborating Centre for Determinants of Health looks at how the social determinants of health and health equity can be integrated into population health status reporting, and in turn how such reports can result in effective health equity policies, and improved health equity in Canada.

While research and practice are equally as important and in many ways dependent on one another to fuel their respective activities, the importance of having systems in place that allow for critical and independent translation between the two is crucial to ensuring valid and reliable research is driving quality, evidence-based practice and policy.

Learning to Love the Library

When I was a kid, I used to love going to the library. There was something amazing about going down to the local library with an empty book bag, and coming home with a bag full of borrowed magic that I could pore over for hours. Then I started earning money, and my visits to the library became less frequent as my bookshelves at home filled up with purchased books. This continued until I bought a kindle about four years ago, at which point I stopped reading physical books altogether and promptly forgot about libraries entirely.

But two things have happened recently that have rekindled my love for libraries. The first one is that my wonderful Grandpa (who, incidentally, is 93 years old and a regular reader of this blog) bought me a membership for the Athenaeum Library in Melbourne. The Ath is Melbourne’s oldest library, starting its life in 1839 just four years after Melbourne became a colony, and is filled with all the magic and history that you’d expect from a library of that vintage.

Over the past two months since I started my membership I’ve borrowed and read a new book every week, and I approach my visits to the library with all the excitement and anticipation that I did when I was a kid. I still feel like there’s something vaguely mischievous about the whole thing – walking to down to the library in my lunch break and coming back with a bag full of books that I didn’t pay for, and that they trust me to return when I’m finished. Amazing.

The second thing that has renewed my love of libraries is that I came across the Little Free Library movement. Basically, Little Free Libraries are tiny book boxes in front yards, bus stops, gardens and bike paths across the world where you can ‘leave a book, take a book’. The movement started about three years ago, when Todd Bol from Wisconsin came up with an idea to remember his mother – a teacher who had a passion for reading and literacy. Todd crafted a box that looked like an old school house, waterproofed it, filled it with books and put it in his yard with a sign that said ‘free book exchange’.

The idea took off, and all of a sudden, neighbours who Todd had never spoken to were dropping in to chat and look through the books. Three years later, there are Little Free Libraries everywhere from Africa to Australia, and Todd has a website (www.littlefreelibrary.org) where you can buy kits to create your own library. Little Free Library’s mission is simple – “to promote literacy and the love of reading by building free book exchanges worldwide, and to build a sense of community as we share skills, creativity, and wisdom across generations”. Double amazing.

Why not check out the Little Free Library World Map to find out if there’s one near you, or even better, how about starting one in your neighbourhood and sharing some library love!

Social Change Leadership

lumaxart's photostream / Flickr

On Thursday I participated in an awesome staff retreat with my very awesome teammates. One of the many themes of discussion for the day was the Social Change Model of Leadership, made popular (at least within circles of higher education) by Susan Komives and her community of practice. I’ll let Susan explain it to you:

Awesome, right? If you didn’t catch ‘em, here are the Seven C’s of the Social Change Model of Leadership:

Citizenship: Citizenship occurs when one becomes responsibly connected to the community/society in which one resides by actively working toward change to benefit others through care, service, social responsibility, and community involvement.

Common Purpose: Common purpose necessitates and contributes to a high level of group trust involving all participants in shared responsibility towards collective aims, values, and vision.

Collaboration:Collaboration multiplies a group’s effort through collective contributions, capitalizing on the diversity and strengths of the relationship and interconnections of individuals involved in the change process. Collaboration assumes that a group is working towards a Common Purpose, with mutually beneficial goals, and serves to generate creative solutions as a result of group diversity, requiring participants to engage across difference and share authority, responsibility, and accountability for its success.

Controversy with Civility: Within a diverse group, it is inevitable that differing viewpoints will exist. In order for a group to work toward positive social change, open, critical, and civil discourse can lead to new, creative solutions and is an integral component of the leadership process. Multiple perspectives need to be understood, integrated, and bring value to a group.

Consciousness of Self: Consciousness of self requires an awareness of personal beliefs, values, attitudes, and emotions. Self-awareness, conscious, mindfulness, introspection, and continual personal reflection are foundation elements of the leadership process.

Congruence: Congruence requires that one has identified personal values, beliefs, attitudes, and emotions and acts consistently with those values, beliefs, attitudes, and emotions. A congruent individual is genuine and honest and “walks the talk.”

Commitment: Commitment requires an intrinsic passion, energy, and purposeful investment toward action. Follow-through and willing involvement through commitment lead to positive social change.

An at the centre of the whole model is the concept of change – hey, it’s the only sure thing in life. There are many things to like about the Social Change Model of Leadership and the positive, community-minded change that it seeks to create. In my business – which is career development, or, more interestingly put: fostering a capacity for people to realize their potentiality and make the world a better place through their work – I am excited to combine elements of this model with triple-bottom-line sustainability principles.

The data – from Chaos Theory of Careers to the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – is already showing us that our future leaders (say, by 2030) will need to really and truly invest in a cradle-to-cradle approach to business, education, governance, technology, and the arts.

Everybody is already talking about the need to prepare learners (in high school or higher ed) for jobs that don’t exist yet. My goal is to prepare learners to lead teams that do work that employers don’t even know they need yet, which is why integrating triple-bottom-line sustainability principles (Natural Step or otherwise) with Social Change Leadership will foster potentiality-realizing leaders who can support their communities through the next next challenge and transform said problems into next next solutions.

A short history of cacerolazos

Quebec’s student protest turned into something much bigger y diversified when Charest’s government adopted bill 78 on May 18, in various ways limiting rights to assemble and protest. A few days later, people of all ages and backgrounds starting hitting kitchen pans to make noise and express their discontent to this tired, corrupted and incompetent government. First on their balcony, later in the streets. Les casseroles also gained regions outside Montreal, traditionally less inclined to protest and take the streets. How this original form of protest came about? Where does it come from?

A cegep political science profesor first proposed the idea on facebook. François-Olivier Chené thought it could represent a good way to protest without disobeying bill 78, since people would stay on their balcony to protest. Protesters quickly got taken away and les casseroles took the streets. He had heard that Chileans had protested against Pinochet’s dictatorship doing cacerolazos. The first protesters to use this technique were indeed Chileans, but were upper class right-wingers protesting the socialist government of Salvador Allende – killed during a military coup led by Pinochet in 1973. Later, the other camp performed cacerolazos to protest Pinochet’s repressing regime. It also spread to other Latin American countries living under dictatorships. Members of my family in law were proud to show me that some of their pans were in bad shaped, due to the bagging received during the last months of the Uruguayan dictatorship (1985), when they would get on their roof during cacerolazos.

Cacerolazos came to be known worldwide following Argentina’s economic and political crisis starting in December 2001. Following the collapse of its financial system and the uncontrollable capital flight, the government imposed a corralito, strict restrictions on banking activity, forbidding people to take their economies. When the pesos devaluated, many lost their life savings. To draw a parallel, imagine Greece had to leave the Euro and went back to the drachma, individual savings would lose most of its value, just as it happened in Argentina. Hopeless and angered by their collective and personal bankruptcies, middle and upper class Argentineans took the streets, armed only with kitchen pans. First in Buenos Aires, los cacerolazos then spread all over the country. It allowed people to show loudly their discontent and probably letting off some steam in a tense moment.

Casually, while Quebec protesters where making noise with casseroles, some Argentineans took part in new cacerolazos in Buenos Aires. While a small movement, they did get some attention. The 2012 cacerolazos are denouncing the government (centre-left) power abuses and corruption. Because they take place only in very wealthy neighbourhoods, many think these new cacerolazos are mainly due to new restrictions imposed on changing American dollars, in an effort to strengthen the Argentinean peso (Argentina has a double currency system, in which houses or cars are bought with dollars and day-to-day spending with pesos).

It is not clear why hitting on a saucepan has become a popular protest technique. It could be because it symbolizes private citizens making direct pleas to government officials – noise coming out of the kitchen to be heard by authorities. That people love being part of something bigger, feeling as they are not alone to feel anger. Or, it could be that people just enjoy bagging shinny objects… In any case, it seems very interesting to me that protesters can appropriate for themselves another culture protesting tradition and that it could spread so quickly. We will see with time if les casseroles become a traditional form of protest, resurfacing occasionally, when people are upsets, as it was the case in Argentina.

Masthead photo courtesy of jazzjava’s photostream on Flickr

Chapbooking with The KidSafe Writers’ Room

An awesome reader from Queen Alexandra Elementary!

Last night Michelle Burtnyk-Horn, Alex Grant and I took in a fantastically edutaining (education + entertainment = awesome) literary wrap-up for the KidSafe Writers’ Room readers and writers from Queen Alexandra Elementary School. The very awesome Sarah Maitland hosted an evening of storytelling starring several young readers, writers and performers from Vancouver elementary schools.

About a dozen kids proudly – sometimes nervously, always awesomely – read aloud their work to an audience of peers, parents, teachers, and volunteers with rave reviews from all in attendance.

Truly, it was a wonderful celebration of a community in which you can be involved over the summer (and beyond) as a volunteer or donor.