January 30, 2009

The Character Approved Awards

Sweet. I love it when for-profit companies out there begin think a little bit like a nonprofit. Maybe making money for making-money's sake isn't the real bottom line? Just throwing it out there. Kudos to the the USA Network for recognizing a few social innovators. Maybe I'll start watching Monk again. You can find the whole list here, but these are my favorites:

Charles Best, Founder of DonorsChoose.org (Check out that sweet 'stache!)



Shepard Fairey, Street Artist



Jimmy Wales, Founder of Wikipedia



Lupe Fiasco, Rapper



Have a great weekend! See you on the other side of a Cardinals Super Bowl victory...


Cheers,
Sam
"The enemy of art is indifference."
Shepard Fairey

January 27, 2009

Strike That, Reverse It

In between flower consultations and guest list-trimming, I'm finding little time to write. I try to send out one or two cool (in my opinion, anyway) links a day via my Twitter account. But, alas, not everybody is on Twitter, so I'm forced to find other ways to waste people's time. If you are one of the plenty out there who are a little hesitant about Twitter, check out this rad article.

Ok, on to the good stuff:



The above video was inspired by the below video, which won the silver lion in the Cannes Lions Contest. Marc from Osocio said it pretty well, "So simple and yet so brilliant."



Cheers,
Sam
"All great things are simple."
Winston Churchill

[Source: Osocio]

January 26, 2009

Crosswalk Memorial

Another great example of subtle, yet intrusive, social advertising:



Cheers,
Sam
"Road sense is the offspring of courtesy and the parent of safety."
Australian Traffic Rule

[Source: Social Design Notes]

January 23, 2009

Big News From Sam & Kim

To Our Friends & Family-

We write to you with great joy and pride.

On the eve of the most historic event in our lifetime I asked my brilliant, caring, and gorgeous girlfriend, Kim, to marry me. And she said, "Yes!"

The Story

We were traveling with a few friends to Washington, DC for the Inauguration of President Obama. After settling into our temporary home we decided to take a late-night tour of the National Mall and avoid the 2 million other visitors with the same idea. We walked past the Capitol, a few Smithsonian Museums, the Washington Monument, and the White House before reaching the Lincoln Memorial.

On our way up the steps, I had handed my camera to a friend and said, "Start taking pictures." I then began a speech that I had rehearsed about 175 times, but still screwed up. It went something like, "Much change has happened here. Among many others, Cesar Chavez, John Lennon, and Martin Luther King, Jr. inspired hundreds of thousands of people from these steps, built in honor of one of America's greatest leaders. But all that pales in comparison to the change you have made in my life." Up until this point, Kim was oblivious to what was about to happen. Those who know me well can resonate with Kim, who thought that this was just another one of my pontifications about changing the world. Blah, blah, blah...

But then, I got down to one knee, pulled out the box that I had in my jacket and asked Kim to be my wife. The rest, they say, is history. And a lot of crying. :)

Ubuntu

The Zulu word, ubuntu, roughly translates, "I am who I am because of who we all are," and that definition has much relevance in our lives. Kim and I are lucky to have such a deep community to share this next chapter of our lives with, and we are blessed by the reality that marriage is about much more than just two people. It is about two families, two groups of friends - two distinct communities - converging to become one. We thank each and every one of you who has been part of this journey and look forward with expectant hope to whatever comes next!

With Much Love & Gratitude,

Sam & Kim

PS - In such a Digital Age, there is a good chance that we don't have your mailing address. In addition to sharing this happy news freely, we would very much appreciate the opportunity to update our address book. Thanks! Looking forward to talking with you all very soon.


January 16, 2009

Fantasy Congress: Season One Hundred Eleven

Remember Fantasy Congress?



Well, I'm thinking about setting it up again. If you're interested, send me a message (samuelisaacrichard [at] gmail [dot] com) or reply in the comments. The 111th Congress technically convened on the 3rd of January. But they'll be there for awhile...

Cheers,
Sam
"Congress: Bingo with billions."
Red Skelton

January 15, 2009

The Power Of Stories: Day 2

The Perfect Mix Tape

High Fidelity is probably one of my favorite movies. The biggest reasons for this is Rob Gordon's (played by John Cusak) monologue about creating the perfect mix tape. I searched for half an hour through YouTube to find the clip but no bored 30 year-old living in his mother's basement has posted it yet, so this (slightly augmented) transcript with have to do:

You have to start off with something good, and then with track two you have to put in something even better. But you don't want to peak too early in the tape, so you cool it off for a bit for track three. After that, you might find yourself in a freefall. Don't panic. Just listen to your songs back-to-back and see if they sound good next to each other.

After Egger's introduction to the conference, it was tough to imagine that anything could satisfy the masses for the rest of the week. Much to my surprise, though, track 2 delivered...

The day was designed to be mostly professional development. At breakfast we participated in roundtables, where a professional from the Sector sat with us and answered any questions we had. Stan and I were at the AFP table, where Catherine from the DC Chapter was patiently fielding queries. I was intrigued to learn about her background, which was in associations. And she wasn't kidding - Catherine worked for the Association of Associations before joining the Association of Fundraising Professionals. Awesome.

After breakfast, it was off to workshops. I visited four sessions that day, and all were extremely invigorating. First up was a session on the Urban Institute's new research software. Probably sounds infinitely boring to most of you, but trust me - it's awesome. Have I ever mentioned that I'm a geek? After that I went to the most popular session of the week, Google For Nonprofits 101, taught by Matt Dunne who works as the Manager of US Community Affairs for Google. In addition Matt is an AH Alumnus, former two-term Vermont State Senator, and former candidate for Lieutenant Governor. It's amazing what you can find on the Internets...

I'm really glad his campaign was unsuccessful, though - otherwise he wouldn't have been able to share with us all the amazing things that Google offers for the Nonprofit Sector. I've already spoken of my love for Google, but seeing the software suite in action brought it to a whole other level. Here's a fun little video if you're looking for more depth:



After the technology overload, I transitioned into a session on effective meeting management. A couple great people from Leadership Ventures came and packed a full day's worth of information into sixty (60) minutes. I left with a packet of sample agendas, recommended communication flows, and some creative problem solving ideas. Meetings can be mundane, but as the sage Dan Quayle (motto: "Thank you, George") says, they can also be powerful:

The thing is, if you control the Senate meetings, you control the gavel. And the gavel is a very important instrument... an instrument of power. An instrument that establishes the agenda.

Armed with a slew of information on leading meetings with more creativity, authority, and instruments of power I headed to the last session of the day. But I was in Track 9 territory. No Man's Land. Most of my energy had been stolen from role-playing ("OK, now Sam is going to be the disruptive employee. At what point do we confront his behavior in front of the entire group?") and digesting mountains of technical data.

But much to my delight, I was greeted by Ann and Laura from Youth Resources in a workshop titled, "Youth In Governance: Breaking Into The Boardroom." I went in with completely selfish motives. A few months ago I was honored with the opportunity to serve on the Board of Trustees for the Alliance of Arizona Nonprofits, and I was recently invited to join the Board of Directors for the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network of Phoenix. So, I trotted into the room thinking that I would share my experiences as a young person in the Boardroom and spread little Wisdom Dust on my peers.

Instead, I encountered one of the most articulate and intelligent people ever. Period. Listening to Laura talk about her time with Youth Resources was inspiring. The programming that Ann (Executive Director at YR) and her team offer to the youth supports their development, empowers them to make important decisions, and sets them up for current and future success. It was a pleasure to hear the story of Youth Resources, and I left looking forward to nothing more than tracking Laura's career. She is the reason why Robert says that this upcoming generation is our salvation.

I left energized and excited about another day. John Cusak would've been proud.

Cheers,
Sam
"I swear to God this mix could sink the sun."
Jack's Mannequin

The Purpose Of Young People

This is how it started:



It became this:



And the new administration has taken notice. Today, Courtney blogged on behalf of New Global Citizens for the USA Service Blog - and it's pretty fantastic:

The election of President-elect Barack Obama proved to the world a few things: there is value in dreaming big, the energy of a generation can overwhelm all odds, technology is no longer optional in coalescing a movement, and it can be cool to wear your future president on a t-shirt.

There is something momentous happening here.

We are witnessing the power of a new generation and listening to their unmistakable passion. Young people in our nation represent the most technologically connected, ethnically diverse, and wealthiest cohort the world has ever seen. There is only one thing more powerful than that combination: our desire to change the world.

That desire to change the world becomes more tangible every day as we inherit a backyard that has expanded several thousand miles within an increasingly interdependent global community. Never before could a text message from inner city Chicago reach a rural village in northern Uganda in a matter of seconds.



Read the rest here. And then do something on Monday to help out. Don't know what to do? Here's a full list of stuff happening via usaservice.org. Or give some ideas in the comments section. Whatever you do, do it with purpose.

Cheers,
Sam
"Life without a purpose is a languid, drifting thing."
Thomas Kempis

[source: USA Service]

January 13, 2009

Clean Rivers Are Fun!

From the Milwaukee Riverkeepers:




Talk about an effective appeal. Waterkeeping isn't necessarily the "sexiest" cause out there (motto: "Bacteria Testing: Culture Yourself"), but the Milwaukee Riverkeepers manage to make the issue relevant. By hitting on the deliverable - clean water - the meat of their work becomes more interesting. Honestly, before you saw the dirty water slide how likely were you to participate in Water Quality Monitoring? Just saying...

Cheers,
Sam
"I believe that water is the only drink for a wise man."
Henry David Thoreau

[source: Wooster Collective]

January 12, 2009

The Power Of Stories: Day 1

The Dust Of Your Rabbi

Rob Bell often speaks about Judiasm. The thought is that to better understand Jesus, we should learn a little bit more about the world he grew up in. Makes sense to me. Anyway, we'll get back to Rob in a little bit.

I flew into Indianapolis on Saturday (got to the airport via the new light rail), but the conference didn't officially start until Sunday evening- so we had a little time to kill. In the afternoon, we went to the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art. They house a fantastic collection, but if felt sort of ironic that we traveled halfway across the country to visit a museum full of Western Art. Anyway, after perusing the museum I still found myself with a little free time. The hotel we were staying at was right across the street from the State Government complex, so I walked around and snapped a few shots of Indiana's gorgeous statehouse.

Downtown Indianapolis is a beautiful and vibrant place, and I've been trying to figure out why ever since I got back. I'm not bagging on Indy - it's just that the numbers don't fit. The weather is horribly cold and it's not that big of a city. Despite it all, there wasn't a boring night - maybe Phoenix could take notes? To be fair, some of the fun-having might have had something to do with there being a thousand (1,000) social change geeks just like me all in one city. Young enough to be optimists, old enough to enjoy adult beverages. Dangerous. Speaking of optimists and adult beverages, let's move on.

The big kickoff to the Conference was a keynote address by Robert Egger, Founder and CEO of the DC Central Kitchen. From his blog:

On January 4, 1965, during his State of the Union Address, Lyndon Johnson outlined his vision for the Great Society, which included a declaration of “war on poverty”.

On the 44th anniversary of that auspicious act, I spoke with close to 1,000 college students, instructors and nonprofit colleagues at the annual American Humanics conference in Indianapolis.

Talk about a solid way to usher in a bold new year…and talk about a wildly motivated cohort of future leaders. I tell you what, I’ve spoken all over the country, and flat out— this upcoming generation is our salvation. They are wholeheartedly into the “what’s next” debate and I aim to help them find their voice. I love my generation, and I will continue to try to be part of the dialogue that helps them loosen their grip on the sector, so that this new generation (who have more of an economic stake in the race than we do) can begin to try new ideas, new tactics and…at times, entirely new economic and political approaches to solving really tough social issues that charity alone cannot even dent.

I wish I transcribed his remarks, but I was too riveted. After the keynote address, a much less formal Q&A session started in the next room. Understandably, an hour and half talking about the V3 Campaign - and what steps are needed to get a cabinet-level post representing the Nonprofit Sector - makes a guy thirsty, so the conversation moved downstairs to the bar. There, the small group of us that had persevered heard stories about Robert's past in the nightclub business and the beauty of Washington, DC. We also continued to debate the political viability of the sector and our generation's desire to get paid what we're worth. Robert had started speaking that night at 7PM, and we pretty much closed the hotel bar down around midnight. I feel like there might be an invoice in the mail. Wisdom, $60 / hour. Nostalgic stories, $30 / hour.

In any case, after intense conversations I usually fall into a fairly contemplative state of mind, and that night wasn't any different. Enter Rob Bell. More appropriately, first century Israel. From Rob:

Different Rabbis had different sets of interpretations about how they lived out and understood and interpreted the Scriptures. Now, a Rabbi's set of interpretations was called a 'yoke.' So when you went to apply to a Rabbi to become one of that Rabbi's disciples, what you wanted to do was to take that Rabbi's yoke upon you so you could learn to know what the Rabbi knows in order to do what the Rabbi does in order to be like the Rabbi.

Tracking so far? Good. If you're thinking, "Sam has gone off the deep end. I know that Robert was one of Oprah's Real Sexiest Men, but that analogy takes it a step too far" just ask anyone who has had the pleasure of getting to know Robert. His positivity, deep passion for the individual success of everyone he meets, and love for tequila all make Robert's yoke pretty intriguing. Back to the first century. You've found a Rabbi whom you would like to follow. You passed the disciple test (yes, there really was one) and the Rabbi says, "Come, follow me." Well, go and follow the Rabbi. Again, from Rob Bell:

And after days of walking on dirty roads from town to town, you would be caked with whatever your Rabbi had stepped in. So this saying developed amongst the wise men and the sages. They would say to the disciples, "May you be covered in the dust of your Rabbi."

All this to say that I now know what I want to do when I grow up - and in whose path I'd like to follow. I know that I want to help facilitate the political voice of the Sector. I want to be a dynamic, engaging, and inspiring public speaker. I know that I want to look at institutionalized problems with a creative lens, hoping for lasting solutions. And I know that I always want to be part of the "what's next" debate. And this was just Day 1...

Cheers,

Sam

"It does not cost anything to write. It does not cost anything to speak. But it will cost you and your generation tons of dough and tons of time if you are quiet."

Robert Egger







January 9, 2009

The Power Of Stories: Introduction

Introduction

I'm home.

The plan was to blog while I was away, but the good people at Marriott like to charge $15 a day for wi-fi. Alas, I'm back here in Phoenix - with a more affordable Internet connection - ready to download my experiences from the 2009 American Humanics Management Institute. So much happened over the trip that I'm going to split it up into five parts - Introduction, Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Conclusion. Pretty inventive, I know. But there are a wealth of experiences I want to share with you, and a few thoughts that I want to flesh out. So get excited, because I am.

***

If you haven't figured it out yet, I am in a part of a program called American Humanics. The AH curriculum "educates, prepares, and certifies professionals to strengthen and lead nonprofit organizations." Once a year all seventy (70) campuses with AH programs are invited to attend the American Humanics Management Institute (AHMI). This year we were in Indianapolis, and next year we will be right here in Downtown Phoenix. Throughout the week, we discussed a broad range of issues and topics with the overarching theme of The Power of Stories: Passion From the Inside Out. I attended workshops on research tools, ideas to engage youth in leadership, and others. Our keynote speakers addressed hunger, and we networked like crazy. Hanging out in downtown Indianapolis wasn't too bad either, but I can't share all of those stories - this is a family program. Overall AHMI was an outstanding experience, I'm looking forward to sharing a few vignettes with you.

But before we jump into Day 1, here is a striking video I found on Osocio today. It is very well done spoof of Burger King's new Whopper Virgin ads. Let is serve as a reminder as to why a meeting of the next generation of nonprofit leaders was more than necessary.



Cheers,
Sam
"The future does not belong to those who are content with today... Rather it belongs to those who blend passion, reason, and courage."
Robert F. Kennedy

January 3, 2009

Storytelling In Indianapolis

This morning I'm hopping on a plane headed for Indianapolis, Indiana. For the next few days a few hundred of my closest friends and I will be exploring the future of the Nonprofit Sector. Every year, all 70 campuses with American Humanics programs converge on one spot. This year, the conference is titled, "The Power Of Stories: Passion From The Inside Out" and lasts until Wednesday.

Robert Egger from the DC Central Kitchen will be speaking there, as will plenty of others who have solving international and domestic hunger at the core of their passion - sort of the sub-theme. I'm looking forward to sharing pictures, stories, and plenty of ideas with you as the conference progresses. That is, if I can survive a high of 21 degrees...

Cheers,
Sam
"Conversation about the weather is the last resort of the unimaginative."
Oscar Wilde



January 2, 2009

The Knowledge Worker's Tool

My sister got The Daily Druker for me this Christmas. Casey said in her inscription that she hopes "this book will find a way to inspire you each and every day. I also hope you will share some of the knowledge and insight this book contains with your avid blog readers." So far, I haven't been able to tell if 'avid' was a sarcastic punch to the gut or not...

31 December

Information is what holds an organization together and information is what makes knowledge workers effective. Enterprises and individuals will have to learn what information they need and how to get it. They will have to learn how to organize information as their key resource.

In moving from data literacy to information literacy, you need to answer two principle questions: "What information does my enterprise need?" and "What information do I need?" To answer these questions you have to rethink:

  • What your job is, and what it should be
  • What your contribution is, or should be
  • What the fundamentals are of your organization

So, as we move deeper in this New Year I challenge you to answer that series of questions for yourself and for your organization. And what would a challenge be if I didn't follow through myself?

I consume a ton of information every day. Most if it adds to my line(s) of work, but I'm sure that at least one of my 125 RSS feeds is unnecessary. And that doesn't count the paper, the radio, or any other of the myriad sources of information out there. I don't think that a news blackout is in my future, but I am at least going to perform a little more due diligence so I can move further from data literacy and closer to (relevant) information literacy...

How has data consumption (versus information consumption) affected you? Or maybe you don't see a difference between data and information. Either way, I'd love to hear your thoughts on the subject.

Cheers,
Sam
"The executive and the knowledge worker only have one tool - information."
Peter F. Drucker

Not A Balance Sheet

From Ben Stein in last Sunday's New York Times:

We are more than our investments. We are more than the year-to-year or day-by-day changes in our net worth. We are what we do for charity. We are how we treat our family and friends. We are how we treat our dogs and cats. We are what we do for our community and our nation. If you had $100 million or $100,000 a year ago and now you have a lot less, you are still the same person. You are not a balance sheet, at least not one denominated in money, as was explained to me recently.

Losing and making money are not moral issues so long as you are being honest. You may have a lot less money as this year ends than you did two years ago. But you are just as good or bad a person as you were then. It is a myth that money determines who you are, and if you have gotten over that myth by now, then 2008 will have been a very good year.
Stein's complete article was about his brief brush with Bernie Madoff's scheme, but he brilliantly manages to assure his readers that we are more than our dollars. And more than what we are able to do with them.

Happy New Year!

Cheers,
Sam
"I politely passed and went on my way, finding my own inventive ways to lose money on a colossal scale during these last 15 months."
Ben Stein
(on passing on the opportunity to invest with Madoff)