Three Ways to Bring Historical Analysis to Your Community

OPENING | The Value of History

“History does not repeat itself, but it often rhymes.” – Mark Twain

A thorough analysis of the past might just be the best thing for your community’s future. Because great community-builders think like historians.

A recent article in the Harvard Business Review by John T. Seaman, Jr. and George David Smith (both historians) entitled “Your Company’s History as a Leadership Tool” argues that “[g]reat leaders…[d]on’t ignore history until the time comes to plan their organization’s next anniversary. And though they may not view themselves as historians, they find it useful to think and talk about the past – in the present and in living color.”

Seaman Jr. and Smith cite the simple and profound question with which Alfred D. Chandler prodded his Harvard Business School classes: “How can you know where you’re going if you don’t know where you’ve been?”

Truth!

And this is why you should incorporate history into the decisions that you make when striving to build positive communities at work, at school, and in your neighbourhood.

One of my favourite blogs, Active History, makes a business (don’t tell them I called their operation a business) from putting the present in context by thoroughly, interestingly and, from time to time, entertainingly analyzing the past. A recent article by Mark Sholdice even explores the history of history programs (specifically PhD programs) in the US and Canada. Further exploration of professional and academic networks (Sholdice’s work examines small groups of people working towards common ends and he is “fascinated by elites”) will allow Sholdice to provide important context into how “elite departments” groom leaders in the field.

As you bring historical analysis to your community (and you totally should), here are three things to consider:

1. The Place

Think of the last neighbourhood that you moved to. How did you come to understand its people, buildings, spaces, and culture? I imagine that you were more captivated by stories of the past (even if they were negative and, possibly, scary) than predictive planning for the future; moreover, the future possibilities are almost always defined by building off-of, or transforming, the history of a place. “To lead with a sense of history is not to be a slave to the past but, rather, to acknowledge its power,” argue Seaman Jr. and Smith. For example, whatever happens to Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside in the next 10 years will certainly incorporate the structure of the past. Yes, even the rotten and crumbling bits.

Jane’s Walk, a globally renowned pedestrian exploration of thousands of communities, is a fantastic example of how people can understand the history of their community in order to build – or transform – its strengths and weaknesses into a positive and productive place of the future.

2. The Values and Culture

It doesn’t matter if it’s a company, a school, a government, or a neighbourhood – when it comes to attracting top talent, people want to know that they’re part of something bigger than themselves. Folks want to have a clear idea of how to align their talents and interests with the work that needs to be done and the way to do it. As Seaman Jr. and Smith argue, “knowing the history of a group to which we belong…can help us see events, and ourselves, as part of a still unfolding story and of something larger than ourselves.”

Vancity Credit Union reached back through its history to build its current slogan, Make Good Money, as well as to create an important statement that I recently heard the company’s CEO, Tamara Vrooman, state during a panel discussion about banking on values (I’m paraphrasing): where and how we spend our money reflects our values as a community. From onboarding new employees to financing new enterprises, the idea that everyone involved in the Vancity community should Make Good Money offers a lot of clarity for members, employees and the co-operative’s leadership.

3. the Present (and Future) OF YOUR HISTORY

Any story based on historical analysis, however, has to match the present needs, interests and goals of a community. For example, highlighting the War of 1812 might not have been something that a critical mass of Canadians supported, especially when the federal government decided to pour millions of dollars into coins, commercials and displays while cutting funding for the National Archives. Remember, history needn’t be used just for anniversaries and needs to get to the deep, unifying truth of the past in order to inspire a future that resonates with a majority of people.

Apple’s recent move to bring elements of its manufacturing process back to North America offers a better example of how an organization can reach back into its compelling history to align future goals with current reality.

CLOSING | Tell Authentic Stories

When it comes to storytelling, I’m pretty good. And I believe that one of the key factors that makes me a craftsman in the field of yarn-spinning is my authenticity. Even when I exaggerate points that best fit my narrative, dismiss the stuff that doesn’t fit well, stretch data, and/or delve into the realm of selective revisionism, I am consistently genuine and ensure that the history I present gets to the deep truth of the community in question.

Note: by no means do I recommend my method as good academic historical practice; such efforts will not make you popular in peer reviewed journals!

According to Seaman Jr. and Smith, audiences are notoriously skeptical and can “sniff out the inauthentic” when presented an idea by a charismatic, yet irresponsible, leader. The historians discuss the idea of “truthful mythology”, and such a thing must be at the core of the thoughtful and interesting historical analysis that you present to your community in order to inspire positive change for the future.

Thinking about – and learning from – the past might just be your most powerful leadership tool. Employees that ‘get’ the past will likely understand a future build off the history of a place and its people. And, hey, if you are interested in analyzing the history of your community, well, two-thirds of this blogs Editorial staff have a background in history.

Your move, Internet.

Masthead photo courtesy of josef.stuefer’s photostream / Flickr creative commons

Sport and Community Leadership

The Vancouver Whitecaps FC is leading positive change in Vancouver. We predict the club’s ideas, commitments and positive role modeling will soon send ripples throughout the worlds of sport, wellness and community. We look forward to measuring the myriad ways that Vancouver’s newest professional sporting club reaches its potentiality – on the pitch as well as in the community.

As part of their club vision, the Whitecaps are committed to being a significant community asset. For the past year, the club has been championing the Vancouver Street Soccer League through a unique partnership with the DTES community sport association. In addition to frequent ticket giveaways, practices with Whitecaps FC men and women’s teams and the recent nomination of VSSL President Alan Bates as their community MVP, the team has also looked to grow its roots within the youth soccer community. A recent example was their free community clinic at UBC where the Whitecaps invited over 100 students from Hastings Elementary and U-Hill Elementary for a coaching session with Carl Valentine (‘Caps Legend and current Booster), Jay DeMerit (the club’s Captain), and Russell Teibert (one of the club’s Canadian stars).

A new study by Griffith University’s School of Business will explore the relationship between new sporting clubs and the communities they impact by investigating “the benefits gained in terms of the fan base they will stimulate as well as the well-being of the communities they enter” and will aim to “identify ways to maximise both outcomes.” [Editor’s note: please take note of our outstanding quotations and credit-giving, Margaret Wente!].

A study by Up2Us of American professional sports leagues and the philanthropy that they deliver for communities, suggests that “‘team-based philanthropy’ centers around the following five categories: Funding; Signatures and Seats; Free Marketing; Team/Player Involvement; and Use of Space.” The report recommends that professional clubs go beyond providing hand-picked organizations with free tickets, signed merchandise and field space by truly inspiring and investing in their communities, even if it’s for transparently self-serving reasons.

For example, a team might address the challenge of youth health, wellness and fitness by, say, contributing to the construction and management a giant Soccer Training Centre that will provide access to youth in the Lower Mainland (and beyond), but will also provide an incubator for future Whitecaps FC talent. Another example from the report is a recommendation for clubs to not award grants to single community teams or local nonprofits, but to challenge these community-based organizations to develop campaigns or programs as part of a competition, where the winning organization would receive something cool (e.g. taco night with Jay DeMerit!) from the professional team.

In addition to Vancouver Whitecaps FC, here are some randomly-selected North American pro-sports clubs (and one very tall man) that are doing cool things:

What do you think of how sport clubs give and how such engagement helps communities realize their potential?

Lead Like a Pioneer

The Golden Pioneer in Salem, Oregon – Edmund Garman / Flickr

A few weeks ago, Michelle (my lovely wife who is her own, powerful woman) and I took a road trip through Oregon – we travelled down the coast (pirates!), inland through a State Forest (Tillamook!), and then wrapped up our brief trip with some urban adventures in Portland (craft everything!). Michelle and I got a firsthand look at how the philosophy of the state’s early pioneers continues to influence that culture of leadership in Oregon. Through conversations, news, museums, universities, and various other sound bites, I learned about the pioneer culture of Oregon and how such a philosophy still informs and inspires the community to this day.

This article is about leadership – specifically, how to lead like a pioneer. Suffice to say that pioneers get there first, they take risks, and they build things in new places. Sometimes this happens literally (e.g. at the end of the Oregon Trail) and sometimes this happens metaphorically (e.g. Portland is a recycling pioneer, with a program that dates back to the 1970s).

EXAMPLES OF Pioneering in Oregon

Being an actual pioneer. From 1800-1850, pioneers (explorers, settlers, downtrodden immigrants with no space to move in Eastern America) moved West in search of land and opportunity. To call such an endeavour a “massive risk” is a bit of an understatement, as hewing their existence from an unknown land resulted in failure – in the form of turning back, lost savings, or even death – for many settlers. Sure, some of these pioneers have been individually celebrated for their leadership; for the most part, though, these were folks who lead without title and by example.

ahockley / Flickr

Recycling and other sustainable things. When Mrs. Joe H. Rand (a recycling activist before there were really recycling activists) spoke with Oregon Governor Tom McCall in February 1970, her support of Governor McCall’s insistence that bottlers (and other beverage industry executives) use returnable containers absolutely went against common practice in Oregon as well as every other state in the union, which McCall argued wasted 48 billion bottles and cans per year. “Despite…opposition [from beverage companies], the Oregon State Legislature passed the Bottle Bill in July, 1971, becoming a national leader for recycling. Several other states followed with similar laws,” says the Oregon Historical Project.  In the 1970s, while everyone else was clogging dumps with glass and metal beverage containers, folks in Oregon – channelling their pioneer spirit – led change with creative problem solving and passionate activism. This leadership in thought still informs the state’s relationship with cutting-edge (by North American standards, anyway) sustainability practices.

The “hot spot map” from The Portland Plan details what parts of the city are accessible within 20 minutes.

Developing 20 minute neighbourhoods. This is urban planning leadership at its best. The objective of The Portland Plan (see “hot-spot” map) is to allow its citizens to access pretty much everything – food, entertainment, green space, health services, educational resources, the best craft beer you’ve ever had – within 20 minutes of walking or cycling or taking transit (more or less, as this isn’t an exact science). Here’s what the plan says about the above map: “This mapping analysis highlights areas that have relatively good, walkable access to commercial services and amenities. It indicates locations that have concentrations of commercial services that are within relatively short walking distance of homes. Besides taking into account the availability of grocery stores and other commercial services, it takes into account factors that impact pedestrian access, such as sidewalks, street connectivity, and topography.” Pretty great, right? Such a unique focus on urban development is being analysed and adopted by cities all around North America, which tends to happen when communities pioneer innovative, efficient and elegant ideas.

How to Lead Like a Pioneer

There are a number of lessons we can draw from these examples when crafting our own philosophy around leading like a pioneer.

Pioneers, more often than not, get there first (this is to say that many settlers got to Oregon before other would-be-settlers  – there were already a lot of people living in the place by the time white folks showed up). This could mean that you beat competitors to investors or the marketplace with your great idea, or it could mean that you’re the first person to bring an existing idea to your workplace, team or neighbourhood.

Some examples of getting there first include Mark Zuckerberg, Jane Jacobs, and the Khan Academy.

Cliché or not, pioneers are also known for their work ethic – hewing their community (a more dramatic writer might say “their existence”) from the wilderness around them. Consequently, whatever you decide to pioneer needs to embody the kind of work ethic that has become the stuff of legend…and the narrative for The Oregon Trail.

Most importantly, pioneers are risk takers. Think of an idea, strategy, plan, program, innovation, or product that you’ve been itching to launch – are you nervous? Well, try getting nervited (nervous + excited = nervited) about how you will build, test, analyze, and launch your great idea in a way that realizes its potential.

Masthead photo courtesy of zion fiction’s photostream on Flickr

The Apartment Community Complex

Copyright deepinswim / Flickr

Last Friday evening I arrived home from work via bicycle with a few reusable bags of groceries in each hand, which caused me to use the elevator. As I shimmied my way inside, the door was held open for me by a kindhearted neighbour, Sonia (sp?), who had in her possession some nifty artwork. Naturally, I struck up a conversation about the piece and Sonia politely inquired about my ride home on such a nice day.

And then something unfortunate happened…

JOHN: “Could you please push the button for the second floor? Thanks, Sonia”

SONIA: “Second floor, eh? So, are you new to the building?”

JOHN: “Nope, my wife and I have lived here for about a year and a half now. You?”

SONIA: “Yeah, I’ve been here for about the same amount of time.”

[INSERT SHARED AWKWARD MOMENT HERE.]

JOHN: “Well…nice to meet you, Sonia.”

[Both make disappointed, semi-ashamed eye-contact and nod goodbye.]

This problematic encounter, I imagine, is an all too common scene within apartment buildings around Vancouver. Sure, I – like most people in this city – are super-polite and very friendly to my neighbours; however, only one other person in my building has actually entered Michelle and my apartment and I regretfully don’t go deep enough in my encounters with neighbours.

This case gets more interesting – perhaps a bit confounding – as the people in our building are supercool folks, which Michelle and I have learned during two strata meetings. There are Inventors, members of the film industry, an Operations Manager for YVR, a Somali Pirate, Yoga Instructors, a Manager of a Mr. Lube franchise, Mr. Lube, Kevin Quinlan, an Actress, a Health Promotion Project Manager, a Comedian, two Welders, and the couple next to Michelle and I who have nicer tomatoes than we do (no envy, we’re just impressed).

I mean, who wouldn’t want to have meaningful conversations with these fine folks?!

Basically, here are three options on which I would love your feedback as I move forward this my quest to build community within my apartment building:

  1. Knock on everyone’s door and introduce myself. PRO: this is probably the most efficient way to get to know my community. CON: this is probably the most efficient way to annoy and/or alienate my community.
  2. Throw a festive holiday party for the building. PRO: who doesn’t love parties?! CON: our building lacks a shared community space, so we would either have to cram 35+ people into one unit and/or host the event in the back alley (for the record, neither of these things are “cons” from my perspective, but I live in a world where they are not deemed “acceptable”).
  3. Borrow ideas from 1990s sitcoms. PRO: the “holiday candy” episode of Friends and the “photographs and kiss hello” episode of Seinfeld were both great in their own way; further, superficial community-connections were definite outcomes of these plot lines. CON: in Friends the community rebelled and aggressively demanded that Monica make more candy, much to hilarious chagrin of the show’s most shrill character; in Seinfeld, Jerry’s refusal to kiss hello results in the vandalism of his photo on the community wall as well as his being shunned by several members of the people in his building (although this problem doesn’t come up again within the Seinfeld universe…).

Speaking of community, Gumbooteers, what do you think of these options? What are other suggestions that you have for building community within apartment buildings?

As our world becomes more dense and urbanized, building positive and productive communities in smaller and smaller urban spaces will be of tremendous importance. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go and knock on some doors.

Vancouver Whitecaps FC Community Asset Review – Part 11

Editors’ note: Kurt and John are firm believers that Vancouver can and should be the Canadian epicenter for growing the sport and culture of soccer football soccer. This is a self-described healthy community. We can play outside year-round, as fields are rarely closed due to snow and/or freezing. And, most importantly, Vancouver is the place to expertly develop the sport of soccer because our city’s team, Vancouver Whitecaps FC, shares this goal and so demonstrates this vision through its Club Structure and the Whitecaps Foundation, which aims to create the fittest generation of BC Youth by 2020.

As Vancouver Whitecaps FC season ticket holders, Kurt and John are well-positioned to evaluate how the franchise showcases its commitment to “be a significant community asset” – so, following every match we will reflect on this commitment by answering two questions, which are below. Sometimes we bring friends and/or family-members to the game. And sometimes those awesome friends and/or family-members write awesome blog posts about the experience.

On July 18 the ‘Caps tied the LA Galaxy 2-2. On July 22 the ‘Caps defeated San Jose 2-1.

HOW IS THE CLUB A SIGNIFICANT COMMUNITY ASSET?

D’uh, #winning #drawing against David Beckham and #winning against an MLS’s best team, the San Jose Earthquakes. BC Place was packed for both games, and the match against the LA Galaxy was sold out – had the ‘Caps not played to strikingly well, many of the casual fans who came to see His Royal Underwearness (rather than their home team) would have been very unlikely to return for another home game against, say, Real Salt Lake, FC Dallas, or another an MLS team from a tier-two American city with no almost-washed-up English Premier League stars on their roster.

As it turns out, putting a quality product on the field is a great way to demonstrate how the club is a significant community asset. Look, anytime David Beckham misses a free kick from this close it’s a beautiful thing:

WHAT COULD MAKE THE CLUB AN EVEN BETTER ASSET?

Destroy the spirit and will of referee-pushing Olympic turnaway David Beckham and his heels of teammates Donovan and Keane by beating them by a significant margin in front of more than 20,000 people, many of whom are not ‘Caps fans but will attend the match to experience the tour de force* that is The Beckham Show.

I’ve done the maths; a crushing victory over the Galaxy will secure at least 362 multi-game fans for the 2013 season and 73 season ticket holders for 2014.

For a sports club, being a significant community asset is, after all, about #winning.

Three Leadership Lessons from Spider-Man

Well, we’re about three days away from everyone in the world not caring about Spider-Man and the over $200 million grossing movie about my favourite superhero (see photo) [Editor's note: fair enough, The Dark Knight Rises will most likely be the greatest superhero movie ever made]. Consequently, I thought that I’d reflect on some of the things that – long ago and before it was cool – I made The Amazing Spider-Man my most favourite of comic book characters.

After seeing the 2012 film about my favourite superhero (here’s my quick review: it’s the same story arc as the Toby McGuire version and the cartoon and is just better in every way), I got to thinking about why, in addition to the facts that, first, nerds are awesome and, second, Spidey is totally protected from the terrifying Sun, the web slinger resonates so much with me.

The answer is simple: more than any other superhero, Spider-Man builds and inspires community.

Plainly put, he does so with a unique formula of leadership of kindness, humour, humility, smarts, passion, and responsibility. And below are three leadership lessons that you can take away from Spider-Man. No, this not a “new idea” and “a few people” have “already written about this” in “2010″ – this being said, my lessons get to the punchline quicker and better. And the artwork (see below) that I chose to adorn this post is adorable.

Spider-Man / John's go-to Halloween costume

Without further ado, here they are:

1. Take Responsibility. For weak leaders, this is an absolute burden. Great leaders take responsibility for their actionsespecially the screw ups and downright failures. Spider-Man leads by example and he not only owns up for the mistakes/failures/giant-lizards that “he created”, but he also solves said great problems with his great power.

2. Think Outside the Box Make Awesome Things and Show Them to People. Good leaders “think outside the box” and, consequently, find most of their creativity in outdated cliches. Great leaders inspire by the work they produce. According to Simon Sinek, great leaders relentlessly pursue the question “why?”, which is certainly at the centre of Spider-Man’s story. For example, Spider-Man’s “web shooters” are both flat-out cool and reflective of this particular leader’s elevated intelligence, not to mention his inventive entrepreneurial spirit. Also, the Spider-Man brand is so friggin’ cool that, by the end of Marvel’s most recent film, Peter Parker’s once-nemesis, Flash Thompson, is seen sportin’ some Spidey-wear! Community-building achieved and teenage-angst overcome!

3. Be Nice (and Funny). There’s a reason that he’s called “Your Friendly Neighbourhood Spider-Man” – first, he’s nice to people (take some advice from Colin Powell, Wolverine and Batman?) and, second, he doesn’t take himself too seriously (Doug Guthrie says to stop being so serious all the time, Superman). Sure, his outfit protects him from the Sun and his friends from retribution, but his possibly-luge-inspired spandex uni-tard also reveals how this community-driven leader who doesn’t take himself too seriously. Being relaxed and fun (and, when appropriate, funny) puts people at ease and provides some great circumstances for building a positive sense of community.

Finally, never underestimate any leaders “spider-sense” and their ability to trust such instincts. Intuitively, Spider-Man can see things coming before they happen, and this kind of strategic thinking will serve any great leader very, very well.

So there it is. Some leadership learning that strategically and edutainingly connects to my favourite – and, unfortunately though understandably soon-to-be-forgotten, superhero, Spider-Man.

Masthead photo courtesy of msspider66′s Photostream on Flicker

Livable Laneways Paths to Plazas Event

A few weeks ago, Australia Bureau Chief Jilly Charlwood contributed a fantastic article about Laneway Learning – below is some information about what Vancouver is doing to showcase some unique, behind-the-scenes communities – and potential – of its re-imagined and hyper-creative laneways. Enjoy!

- John Horn

For the second year, Vancouver City laneways are being re-imagined, and public events are taking place in the bustling lane at Broadway and Main bringing musicians, local business operators, artists, urban farmers and producers, residents, and visitors to the Mount Pleasant neighborhood. Livable Laneways Night Markets is a VIVA Vancouver initiative supported by the City of Vancouver. Coordinated by Livable Laneways, a non-profit organization, Paths to Plazas is an example of how they are dedicated to transforming the overlooked laneways and alleys of Vancouver into pedestrianfriendly zones. It is a collaboration that includes Blim, The Beaumont Studios the Mount Pleasant Business Improvement Area, as well as special guests, Mount Pleasant Victory Market, StudioCAMP and Vancouver Public Space Network (VPSN).

The events take place on July 21st, 28th and August 4th from 5-10pm.

For more information on the vendors and participants, please see the list below
for website details:

Masthead photo from ecstaticist’s photostream on Flickr

Vote for Alan Bates!

Alan Bates with the Portland FC team at the Homeless World Cup in Brazil

Dear Gumbooteers.

Rarely do Kurt and I call on you for swift and decisive action. But we’re asking for it now. Please visit MLS W.O.R.K.S. (which stands for Major League Soccer … W.O.R.K.S?) and vote to make friend of The ‘Boot, Alan Bates, the MLS Community MVP. Nominated by Vancouver Whitecaps FC, here are a few words about Coach Bates:

For the last four years, Dr. Alan Bates has been leading Vancouver’s Street Soccer community. Street Soccer is soccer for people affected by homelessness. As a resident physician in Vancouver’s inner-city hospital, Dr. Bates sees many people affected by mental illness, addictions and homelessness in the emergency room. When he heard about Street Soccer, he recognized it as an opportunity to help a similar group of people, but through sport. Shortly after joining Vancouver’s first Street Soccer team as a volunteer, Dr. Bates partnered with a small number of grass-roots volunteers and the Portland Hotel Society (one of Vancouver’s largest social housing providers) to form Portland FC. With Dr. Bates as the volunteer Head Coach, Portland FC has gone on to play with or against the Vancouver Police, the Mayor of Vancouver and some of the Vancouver Whitecaps. In 2010, they represented Canada at the Homeless World Cup in Rio de Janeiro where they won the prestigious Fair Play award and were featured on national and international media including CBC, CTV, and CNN. In addition to providing amazing experiences for the players, the team has generated a lot of public interest in the issue of homelessness as people are able to identify with soccer players and the inherent humanity of the highs and lows of the beautiful game. Dr. Bates also played a significant role in creating Canada’s first ever women’s Street Soccer team which represented Canada at the Homeless World Cup in Paris in 2011. As the President of the Vancouver Street Soccer League, Dr. Bates has grown the League to nine teams including teams for women, new immigrants, street youth, and First Nations players. Dr. Bates’ research about Street Soccer has demonstrated that players find better housing, gain employment, reduce drug use, make friends, build confidence, improve their skills and physical fitness, gain medical support and decrease contact with police. For the last four years, players have known that every Sunday morning, rain or shine, all year-round, Dr. Bates will be there to lead practice and provide a safe and fun environment to play soccer with friends and supports.

Meta World Peace being honoured and priviledged to meet Coach Alan Bates

Thanks very much for your time and consideration, Awesome Community-Members. Now get out there and vote early, often and tell 10 friends about this post.

Enjoy!

Masthead photo courtesy of robholland’s photostream on Flickr

From West Coast to Country Western

The country western culture is foreign to me and there is no better introduction to a new culture than total immersion. At least that’s my favourite strategy. I was of the “anything but country” variety for many years before I started dating a born and raised Calgarian. This year will be the 100th anniversary of the Calgary Stampede so it seemed like the ultimate introduction to this integral part of his upbringing.

When I imagine the Stampede, the picture in my head is a toss up between a lawless, raucous street festival and an urbane city fair with partners swinging partners doe-see-doe.  Of all the stories I’ve ever heard about the Calgary Stampede, I have heard very few adjectives used to describe it.  Usually people tend to stop short at “It’s just so –“ or  “You’ve just gotta – “.  These types of descriptions, while leaving plenty of room for my imagination to run wild or “stampede” with visions of what to expect, may or may not be preparing me for what to actually expect on my summer vacation next week. From the information I have managed to gather, there are a couple aspects of the Stampede that seem to be especially community building in nature.

 

I am so looking forward to the prospect of an entire city taking part in a weeklong theme party.  I am a costume party enthusiast to say the least. It’s hard to imagine all of Vancouver getting dressed up in any one costume besides Canucks team wear but I do like to imagine everyone dressing up as fishermen for a week while for the most part going about their daily routine. Or if during the Olympics, instead of just wearing red mittens, we had all dressed up like the ancient Greeks. I have also heard tell of a special Super Hero Day in the Brazilian Mardi Gras celebrations when everyone dresses up as super heroes. From what I gather, it’s the nostalgic feeling of dressing up that really makes the Stampede more than an urbane city fair and more of community cornerstone.

FREE PANCAKE BREAKFASTS! Get everyone together and give them free pancakes. The genius of this simple idea should not be understated. I have written before about the strong power of a shared meal. People are much friendlier when they have full bellies and even more friendly when they have recently been the given something for free. Friendly people are catalysts for community building. Perhaps the way I phrased it the first time should be corrected. The real idea here is, “if you feed them, they will come”. Notably, this concept was a smash hit over the Canada Day long weekend in Vancouver with the first ever Food Cart Festival drawing in huge crowds and selling out their street eats.

Of all the adjective-less descriptions of the Stampede that I’ve heard, there has been a consistent excitement present in all of them. That excitement is undeniably contagious. I have my best outlaw gear at the ready and I’m raring to go to my first rodeo.

Whitecaps FC Community Asset Review – Part 7

Editors’ note: Kurt and John are firm believers that Vancouver can and should be the Canadian epicenter for growing the sport and culture of soccer football soccer. This is a self-described healthy community. We can play outside year-round, as fields are rarely closed due to snow and/or freezing. And, most importantly, Vancouver is the place to expertly develop the sport of soccer because our city’s team, Vancouver Whitecaps FC, shares this goal and so demonstrates this vision through its Club Structure and the Whitecaps Foundation, which aims to create the fittest generation of BC Youth by 2020.

As Vancouver Whitecaps FC season ticket holders, Kurt and John are well-positioned to evaluate how the franchise showcases its commitment to “be a significant community asset” – so, following every match we will reflect on this commitment by answering two questions, which are below. Sometimes we bring friends and/or family-members to the game. And sometimes those awesome friends and/or family-members write awesome blog posts about the experience.

Yesterday’s match was a 1-1 tie against the New York Red Bulls.

HOW IS THE CLUB A SIGNIFICANT COMMUNITY ASSET?

Photo courtesy of MafueOne of the great things about Whitecaps games is they’re generally jammed with positivity and good sportsmanship. On the playing field, players play hard but rarely overly roughly. Diving is kept to a minimum, partly because it doesn’t seem to be part of the North American soccer culture and partly because referees seem uninterested in stopping the play and humouring a player writhing in (pretend) agony unless he was legitimately crunched. While every once and a while you’ll see a body check (half the time by Eric Hassli) that seems to harken to the NHL, most games begin and end relatively clean. There’s doubtlessly yapping on the field, but it’s rare to see it get out of hand. Dirty play is kept to a minimum.

In the stands it is a similar situation. In our section in particular, the cheers tend to be all positive all the time. All the cheers are aimed at buoying the teams spirits, congratulating great moves, hyping up the nearby fans and acknowledging great players. Even when faced with a Red Bull goalie a mere 15 meters away who’s sporting a mullet, it was exceedingly tricky to elicit a hardy “Get a Haircut” chant out of our crew.

All and all, the general “goodness” that seems to be implicit in the Whitecaps generally contrasts with the angry fans you sometimes see out East (see below) or in other sports where it is de rigour to scream nasty things. Indeed, it was this bad behaviour that forced John and I to stand in an empty stadium in Seattle for two hours last year prior to the match to ensure our crew didn’t “mix” with the Seattle Sounders fans. Such were the fears that Vancouver fans would follow in the nasty steps of other soccer thugs.

 WHAT COULD MAKE THE CLUB AN EVEN BETTER ASSET?

On Saturday I attended a game where a group of drucken dudes on a stag started yelling nasty things at the Whitecaps Cheer Captain. “Sit down and watch the game @%%$%@&&”, they screamed.

While these fellows may have been new to the Whitecaps culture or really, really drunk (or both), it would have been nice if the community rallied to let them know their behaviour wasn’t appropriate. I totally understand this is easier said then done (heck, I wasn’t up there telling them to shut up) – but hey, this section is called “What could make the club an even better asset?” Community/crowd engagement of these obnoxious louts would have been nice.