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    How Are You Different?

    Have you ever told someone what you’re working on, and gotten a reaction along the lines of, “isn’t someone else already doing that?”

    It happened to me last week after delivering a speech about my big event, The Good Hundred Experiment, to a business audience. Someone took me aside afterwards to say,

    “You say you want more participants from business and government. But a lot of them have workshop fatigue. They get invited to tons of these things. How are you different?”

    That’s been playing on a loop in my head ever since. How ARE we different? We want to be doing something that’s genuinely needed, not duplicate efforts. But there’s almost no such thing as a new idea. Should we abandon our approach to doing good just because it resembles what someone else is doing?

    In our particular case, I think the key differences are:Unique

    1. Personalization. The event is about each attendee’s own work. There is no third-party or educational goal, like, “Collaborating on a strategy for public innovation”. We meet people where they are and work to provide them with whatever they need, right now.
    2. Quality and accountability. Not all professionally facilitated workshops/interactive events are created equal. I suspect that when someone has “workshop fatigue”, they’ve been to a few too many of the poorly executed ones. We never stop tinkering with our program and strategies, never say no to an offer of feedback, and ask participants directly to tell us how to improve, every time. We want to be the best, and to keep getting better.

    At last weekend’s event, a woman who goes to a lot of workshops and events all across the country stood up and said that yes, we are different; we stand out. So I feel better about that now.

    But I still think it’s worth asking the question – how are you different? Are you offering something that’s really needed? Are you doing it in a way that’s different and/or somehow better than anyone else? Are you offering it to a community that doesn’t have access to anything like it?

    Duplication is not good. And if your offering isn’t new or different, you might have trouble attracting participants/customers/donors/etc. But asking about it doesn’t have to lead to packing it in. It’s just a valuable exercise in making sure you’re truly filling a need.

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    The Audric Moses Profile: The Edmonton Do Gooder Project

    This post is part of The Edmonton Do Gooder Project, a series of profiles on Edmonton folks doing good in creative ways. This year’s Do Gooders were identified through a people’s choice-style process as part of The Good 100 Experiment in June of 2013, an event co-hosted by The Savvy Do Gooder and The Local Good. The 2013 profiles have been generously created by Breanna of The Local Good using a format based on the Charting Impact 5 Questions.

    Audric MosesAudric Moses is the writer of The Green Scientist and developer of The Green Scientist consulting services, in line with the products offered by his wife’s retail shop Funky Bug Naturals. With his background in medical sciences, Audric aims to educate people about how to make simple healthy, sustainable lifestyle and dietary choices that can better their overall health and wellness.

    1. What is the good result you are hoping to create?

    I’m trying to get people educated about how to make smart purchases by really thinking about the products they’re buying instead of just buying things blindly without thinking of greater consequences. I know I can help people decrease the amount of illnesses they experience and increase their quality of life by educating and getting people aware of what to look for on labels when buying stuff. Also, I want to be part of the movement that encourages shopping at small businesses over multi-national stores. Small, local businesses are more discerning about the products they bring in, whereas chain or big-box stores sell shelf space to the brands that can pay the most.

    My goal is to increase awareness around that these issues exist… issues like consumer products are slowly harming people’s health because of their composition and the way they are industrially produced. The goal of multinational corporations is simply to make money and in the process they downplay environmental and lifestyle issues their products cause to cast doubt that there are any “issues”. For instance, Denmark and Scandinavian countries have the best regulations for manufacturing productions, and skincare products made in Europe are superior to ones made elsewhere because they have stricter regulations for ingredients and processes. 

    2. What is your approach for making this happen?

    My blog, The Green Scientist, is a test version of the consulting services I will eventually have set up — that project is yet unnamed. The sort of advice I offer via The Green Scientist is what I would offer on a larger, more direct scale with the consulting service. I want to go into people’s homes, workplace, school, daycare… and talk to people about the changes they could make in the areas of nutrition, personal care, cleaning products, air quality, building materials… everything in their immediate environment really…  to make it a healthier space to live and work in. I want to work with people to improve their all-encompassing lifestyle — I’d call it environmental health — so, really, improve anything one is exposed to during daily life.

    People are already good about understanding nutritional aspects of foods; its pretty well understood that “whole foods” are better than “processed foods”. But for anyone without a science or medicine background, it’s difficult to look at the ingredients in a product and discern whether or not they should buy it. I would give them a simplified list of companies that have good business practice that they should support. I want to help people make see the difference between “better” and “good” and “bad”, not feel their only buying options are between “bad” and “worse” products.

    3. What makes this issue/area the best fit for you personally?

     I have a MA in experimental medicine from the University of Alberta and worked in the sciences (biochemistry) for ten years. Through my work and education I’ve learned to distinguish between original, legitimate research and internet hearsay; there is so much incorrect information on the internet and without a strong science background or familiarity like mine it would be hard to know the difference. When I read something questionable and the source isn’t one I’m familiar or know to be reliable, I do more research into discovering the truth to a claim. But I understand that not everyone can do that! So that’s what inspired me to develop this consulting business, to make this useful information accessible for everyone. When I work at the U of A hospital I see so many sick kids going into the Stollery Children’s Hospital and I know that so many of those childhood illnesses could have been prevented if the mother’s knew what they were eating and exposing their bodies to during pregnancy.

    The “tipping point” for this project and my strong belief in bringing about this change was the birth of my first child, honestly. You realize children are so vulnerable and dependent and you just want the best for them; it got me thinking about the products you’re putting on and in to them and the environment they’re living in.

    4. How will you know if you’re making progress? What is “success” for you?

    Getting the consulting project off the ground and working with initial clients would be a big first step. Educating people and getting them to think critically about their health issues is important to me. Success is hard for me to measure because you can’t measure prevention, but mostly I just want to see more people maintaining a healthy lifestyle and it’s most important that pregnant women and young children are living healthy lifestyles. If I could grow my program in places like day homes and schools where children are concentrated, that would be a great success.

    5. What have and haven’t you accomplished so far?

    Maintaining my blog and Funky Bug Naturals has been great, and I’ve been making some important contacts with nurses and physicians who are concerned with environmental health issues and who are supporters of my project. Obviously I haven’t set up my consulting project yet, and that will be the biggest/next step. What’s preventing me from getting it going is just a lack of time to develop it effectively and put together a serious business plan.

    6. How can others get involved?

    Read my blog at greenscientist.ca and like Funky Bug Naturals on Facebook and start implementing some of my advice into their own lifestyles. Definitely get shopping at Farmer’s Markets and talk to vendors about how they grow and prepare their products to get a sense of the difference between whole and processed foods. Environment Working Group and Environment Defense are also great sources of information for healthy living. Also, I recommend people read Doubt is Their Product by David Michaels and Slow Death by Rubber Duck by Rick Smith and Bruce Lourie.

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    The Dustin Bajer Profile: The Edmonton Do Gooder Project

    This post is part of The Edmonton Do Gooder Project, a series of profiles on Edmonton folks doing good in creative ways. This year’s Do Gooders were identified through a people’s choice-style process as part of The Good 100 Experiment in June of 2013, an event co-hosted by The Savvy Do Gooder and The Local Good. The 2013 profiles have been generously created by Breanna of The Local Good using a format based on the Charting Impact 5 Questions.

    Dustin Bajer is a teacher, master gardener, and permaculture designer, and the founder of  JP Permaculture program at Jasper Place High School. His work incorporates his belief that the integration of ecological patterns and principals into design can create resilient people, communities, and systems. Dustin was recently appointed to the Edmonton Food Council  and will be advising the city on matters of food and urban agriculture.

    1. What is the good result you are hoping to create?

     Students need to understand that people aren’t inherently evil and that we can choose to interact with the environment in ways that improve the environment and ourselves — it doesn’t have to be one or the other that we preserve. I encounter all these 16 year old students who have been fed narratives about how “we” are destroying the environment and the problems are too large and the damage is too extreme to do anything about it. That sort of narrative is so dis-empowering. Students, youth… they should be optimistic about what they can do and know that change is possible. We need to work with nature and set up the conditions so that nature ends up moving the design in directions that are conducive to both sets of goals [natural and constructed]. We need to believe that people are not inherently destructive and understand our own networks and connections to the natural world and the parts of the whole. The universe is a constant — look at network theory: A forest is a network of connections, people are part of a social network of connections. This sounds really cliche and cheesy but everything is interconnected: your actions have a direct effect on those around you and vice versa. We have this individualistic view but we are responsible to/for others, which isn’t a bad thing. This view that we are all connected puts an onus on the individual to do good.

    2. What is your approach for making this happen?

    Teaching students about effective design, whether it’s for city planning or a social network or a community garden. Macroscopic permaculture emphasizes that it is not about the particular elements but rather about how every part is connected; it’s about relativity and existing relative to other networks. With design, it’s about expanding the adjacent possible and looking at existing or parallel systems before creating a new design. A succession needs to take place before you can expand or build any concept; the ethics of a system is to move from simple to complex structures and designs in order to increase the adjacent possible. I explain to my students that the natural world is full of sets of patterns and that’s what we need to replicate in our world; for instance, cities can follow a pattern of sharing resources and mimic the design of a forest and create a resilient ecosystem (see his blog post “Redefining Nature” for a more detailed explanation of this). A lot of people think that if you double the size of a city you’re doubling the size of your carbon footprint, but that isn’t true. Often it results in a significantly lesser carbon footprint. My approach is simply about educating students to think differently about how we can interact differently with and build differently within our urban ecosystem.

    3. What makes this issue/area the best fit for you personally?

     After I graduated from university with an education degree (BEd), I realized that the curriculum and format of education is very outdated. What we have is an industrial model of education — even the design is very industrial. Think about it: we group kids arbitrarily by age, the classes are the same length of time every single year until you graduate… We’re moving into a very new phase of industrialization in business as everything gets shipped overseas and, at the same time, creativity and an entrepreneurial attitude are allowing new ideas and structures to emerge. We need to see that sort of creativity and innovation in education too: kids should be taught big ideas and themes — like ethics — and then we teach them ways of thinking and ways of problem solving. We should teach students to become resilient learners and expand their general knowledge and resource base. Think about it: they come in to kindergarten at age 5 or 6 with a knowledge base of things like their favourite TV show, probably some stuff from Sesame Street, their family, their pets. Education should expand on these resources and give students a lot of information and a lot of things to think about. I think that creating a resilient student/learner/individual should be the goal of education.

    When I discovered permaculture I felt passionate about it and wanted to integrate it into my approach to teaching and in to the curriculum I was teaching. I’ve taken to incorporating relevant content with the structure of the curriculum; for instance, when I have my students build a food forest, this incorporates subject matter from math, chemistry, biology, design, and social studies. There is such a large scale to permaculture projects, as many of the designs are based upon connections and relationships.

    4. How will you know if you’re making progress? What is “success” for you?

    Progress for me is about seeing the program continue to expand and not leaving it as-is. I want to expand the permaculture program beyond secondary schools and work with community groups, non-profits, and municipal governments across the province. As long as the program continues to grow and the adjacent possible keeps expanding, I’ll feel that this is a successful endeavour.

    5. What have and haven’t you accomplished so far?

    Education is a project that is never finished; there are new students every year, and I can always work on growing the program. I would ultimately like to work with other teachers to write a new [provincial] curriculum. 

    6. How can others get involved?

    Schools should get involved with their community: have students share ideas with community organizations, start a community-supported urban agriculture program. Others need to see the potential in working with the environment and ignore the cultural assumption that people are evil and everything we do harms the environment. We need to focus on positive, attainable projects, like if there’s an urban garden maybe look at watering it less or growing different plant varieties that actually fit in this climate instead of spending money on ornamental varieties. We can reduce urban sprawl and get people to use the space that already exists within the city. I really like what Fruits of Sherbrooke is doing, and Edmonton’s FRESH movement is really inspiring. Each movement like these moves the bar a little closer towards having a resilient community. Considering the upcoming municipal election, it is important to have people on city council who are receptive to these ideas. At the same time, every individual is party of the adjacent possibility; we can’t just rely on the people who have the [perceived] power and say to them “you need to do this.” It’s not always apparent or evident to them what needs to be done. Take on permaculture projects yourself that work towards incorporating the urban environment with the natural environment.

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    The Claire Edwards Profile: The Edmonton Do Gooder Project

    This post is part of The Edmonton Do Gooder Project, a series of profiles on Edmonton folks doing good in creative ways. This year’s Do Gooders were identified through a people’s choice-style process as part of The Good 100 Experiment in June of 2013, an event co-hosted by The Savvy Do Gooder and The Local Good. The 2013 profiles have been generously created by Breanna of The Local Good using a format based on the Charting Impact 5 Questions.

    Claire Edwards is a first-year political science student at the University of Alberta whose project Student Voice Alberta aims to establish the position of elected Student Trustees on every local school board in the province.

     1. What is the good result you are hoping to create?

    I want to get youth engaged in and learning about politics now so that they care about voting when they are the legal voting age. It’s hard for youth to understand why they should care about politics when they can’t even vote and when they feel the government doesn’t represent or care about their interests and I think this leads to voter apathy when they grow into adults. Likewise, when students don’t hear about other students taking initiative they can fall in to the trap of thinking apathy and a lack of engagement is just ‘how all students are’. They aren’t motivated or inspired to attempt to put their big ideas into action because they think they don’t have a voice, or don’t have any idea how to start their project. I hope my project will also inspire students to take initiative by creating a network for students to reach out and get connected and share resources and ideas with each other and their student trustees.

    2. What is your approach for making this happen?

    I’ve been working with Sarah Hofmann, Trustee and Board Chair for Edmonton Public Schools in Ward G on a proposal about this project that we will be presenting to the Edmonton Public School Board in the fall. The trustee vote on our proposal will determine whether student trustees will be added to the board, and then we will implement the plan for election process of these trustees. I just took a chance to reach out to Sarah, who I hadn’t met before starting this project, and she’s been so great to work with. There’s been a lot of support for this project from the current board, but there will be different people sitting on the board after the [October municipal] election. We need [Sarah] to stay on, she is an essential voice to having this proposal accepted; vote for her!

    3. What makes this issue/area the best fit for you personally?

    I have friends in Ontario who were student trustees and thought that was an amazing idea. I was impressed that students in Ontario had an engaged voice and a platform to create change. I am startled that, currently in Alberta, school trustees are accountable to tax payers and not to students. When you have disinterested parties making decisions about a certain group, their decisions may not be favourable. It doesn’t make sense for someone who went to school 30 or 40 years ago to make decisions about issues like cyber bullying, obesity, and cell phone use when those issues didn’t even exist back then. They create theories about issues that they have no experience with and never see the application of. Ontario has had student trustees for over 10 years, providing insight on issues like bullying, healthy lunches, and recycling. When you look at what high school students are accomplishing, it’s easy to see that young people have the intelligence and the savvy to make informed decisions. Of course, not every student is going to want to participant in voting, but many will; it will be the same way it is with adults. Not all adults vote.

    4. How will you know if you’re making progress? What is “success” for you?

    I’m proud of the success I’ve had so far, but there really isn’t a single goal. I will always want students to be engaged and that will change every year as new students enter and leave high school. Success for me is seeing more students engaged. Even once student trustees are added to school boards, I won”t stop there! That will be a huge success but that’s not the end goal. Students need to be and feel like they can be active and engaged and empowered and that’s an ongoing project, and the means through which I can achieve that will always change. There will always be new opportunities and options. Plus, the proposal I’m focusing on right on is intended to establish student trustees on public school boards in Edmonton, and after that I want to expand it to the Catholic school system and then to other districts across Alberta. I celebrate each accomplishment but I know there is always more to do!

    5. What have and haven’t you accomplished so far?

    In Vancouver, BC the municipal school board just passed a motion to implement a pilot program for student trustees. However, the provincial board turned down this program, and seeing things like that are quite disheartening. I would also like to work with more youth to engage their passions and get them involved in ambitious projects… projects they may have ideas for but aren’t sure how to pursue them. While you’re in secondary schools you see education as a “system” and you don’t think of how you might be able to change it until you’re out of the system of education. You don’t think you have any agency, especially in relation to the municipal government and school board. I think that needs to change, and student groups like Take Back Our Education who staged student walk-outs and protests at the legislature are amazing. To see more of this we just need to talk about it more, create more content and resources that address the problems that secondary students are facing. That sounds cheesy and easier said that done, but it’s true. Talk about it with more people, and you’ll find more people who want the same things you do and think of ways to achieve those goals and the motivation to take the initiative to start a project.

    6. How can others get involved?

    [In Edmonton] I advise everyone to ask school board trustee candidates what they think of youth engagement, and vote for the ones who support and prioritize youth engagement. Often in municipal elections people don’t think about voting for school trustees, they just think about voting for the mayor and councilors, but it’s such an important vote! These are the people who manage our education system, and even if you don’t have children you’ll be working with these students sooner than you think! Decisions about education transcend temporal moments, and their effects carry in to the future where they will affect everyone.

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    You Are Not Alone: Reflections on the first Good Hundred event

    People who have creative ideas for making the world a better place often end up working, to some degree, in isolation. Bloggers, small businesspeople, charity workers, artists, and other changemakers often make their way in the world against the grain, fighting the status quo; resisting the path of least resistance.

    It can get pretty lonely, not to mention exhausting.

    That’s what was so exciting about co-hosting The Good Hundred Experiment (along with Tad Hargrave and The Local Good) this past weekend. It was a room full of do gooders from across Edmonton; from different sectors and walks of life. They gathered to talk about what they do, why they do it, and how they do it. They gave each other unconditional support and honest feedback.

    There was tough love and inspiration. The word that came up over and over was “energy”. These people were fully engaged from beginning to end of what was really a very mentally and emotionally taxing day.

    In the end, many people said they appreciated the opportunity to interact so meaningfully with like minded people. There was such relief in their voices; and a sense of wonder. I believe they were realizing that they really aren’t alone.

    Despite the fact that many of us are working in small groups or on our own, we’re not alone – there are more mavericks and squeaky wheels just like us out there, all fighting for what we believe in; each in our own individual way.

    Although your views, or your methods, or your gut feelings about doing good might be unorthodox or new, it doesn’t mean you’re the only one. I learned this weekend that change agents are all around us – so keep the faith and keep following what your head and your heart tell you about your best path to the world you want to live in.

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    Post-Mortem: Edmonton Do Gooder Project 2012

    As you know, this blog has been taken over for the past several weeks by a series of profiles on great people from the Edmonton area.

    It’s been very well received, and is definitely something I’ll consider doing again next year with a new class of do gooders. Getting to interview these folks was a highlight of my summer, and I’m extremely grateful to each of them for participating.

    I hope their stories and their insights have been helpful to you in your own do gooding. I hope you’ve been inspired in some way, or enabled to see your efforts in a different light. I certainly have been.

    That being said, I know that this is the proverbial tip of the iceberg. There are many more people doing amazing things out there, many of whom will be joining me for a semi-private event this weekend.

    (By the way – the afterparty is open to the public. Get a ticket and come on down if you’d like to mingle with some truly awesome Edmonton folks).

    This project has merely whetted my appetite for engaging with people doing good works; digging into the ‘how’ and the ‘why’ of what they’re doing.

    To the do gooders of the world: I can’t wait to meet you, but be prepared, because (in the words of one of this year’s profilees) I do ask tough questions.

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    The Adam Rozenhart Profile: The Edmonton Do Gooder Project

    This post is part of The Edmonton Do Gooder Project, a series of profiles on Edmonton folks doing good in creative ways.

    1.     What is the good result you are hoping to create?

    I’m trying to shine a light on some of Edmonton’s untold stories. That means meeting with and publishing the stories of people who might not be able to gain mainstream media attention.

    We have a great city here, among other great Canadian cities. But unlike some of our bigger brothers, we’re terrible at explaining what it is about this place that brings us here, and keeps us here and makes us want to improve and grow here. I’m hoping that some of the stories we share on the Unknown Studio inspires other people about Edmonton, and makes them feel more connected to the larger community.

    2.     What is your approach for making this happen?

    Storytelling can take on a variety of forms. In an effort to illuminate lesser-known Edmontonians, I and my partner Scott make use of our website, which features a blog, as well as a twice-a-month podcast that publishes throughout the year. We also try to promote these individuals using social media tools like Twitter.

    3.     What makes this issue/area the best fit for you personally?

    A big part of starting to do this was a desire to just try something. The notion of finding interesting Edmontonians to talk to followed from that. One thing was certain in the initial concept, though: we wanted the show and the website to be about Edmonton somehow.

    I’ve lived in Edmonton my whole life, and even with grand plans of leaving, there’s always been something that’s kept me here — I always felt as though there was something unfinished or unsaid. And I think I realized a few years back that my personality, and my approach to people (which is really about being nice, interested, and to try and find ways to help everyone) have turned me into something of a conduit for enthusiasm about the city. People come to me with ideas, stories, comments and questions about Edmonton — why I stay here, and how we can make the community better.

    I’m naturally disposed to being around people. I love meeting people, I get energy out of being around people. And I’ve decided to channel that disposition into something actionable that can maybe inspire and excite others.

    4.     How will you know if you’re making progress?

    We measure the effectiveness of our efforts by assessing who and how many people are consuming the media we create — and how many people are further commenting on the content we put out “into the wild.” Some stories get a ton of attention, and some get very little or none. The one thing we haven’t gotten good it is a sense of which stories will resonate most with our audience.

    5.     What have and haven’t you accomplished so far?

    Among our proud accomplishments, we’ve had a chance to interview Mayor Stephen Mandel, to chat with a variety of other politicians, local businesses owners, artists, creators and celebrities. We successfully hosted our first ever live show, and now we’re working on trying our hand at some small-scale video production. Future goals include interviewing certain people, some from Edmonton, some not.

    As for what we’ve failed at… one of the biggest problems we’ve had in the past was laziness. Sometimes it’s easy to think we’re only accountable to ourselves. But when we sit back and think about the number of people who visit our site on the monthly basis (over 4,000) and the number of people who download our podcast every month (about 4,000 as well), we realized that we’re accountable to our audience. So we try to remember that regardless of what we’re working on.

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    The Kathleen George Smith Profile: The Edmonton Do Gooder Project

    This post is part of The Edmonton Do Gooder Project, a series of profiles on Edmonton folks doing good in creative ways.

    1.     What is the good result you are hoping to create?

    To make charity and philanthropic work hot – fashionable. I’m trying to get people to decide what’s important to them, and get them to take action.

    2.     What is your approach for making this happen?

    I write things that are controversial, deliberately pushing people’s buttons. It gets ‘em fighting. It gets ‘em involved. When people get angry, they do something about it. I’m selling the causes, as opposed to shoving any particular action down peoples’ throats.

    To make something a trend, you’ve got to make it controversial, get people mad. I’m inflammatory on purpose, because being extreme gets a reaction. I want people to care too much. As Tina Fey says, it takes a bitch to get stuff done.

    Online is the new medium. It isn’t the newspaper anymore. I spend an average of 8-9 hours a day online. I treat it as a work day, as a job. I have a website that’s an online magazine (KikkiPlanet.com). I profile local businesses and individuals who are giving back to the community. I also live-tweet events that tie in to that.

    Based on a recommendation from someone I respect, I’ve recently switched some kinds of conversations to Facebook instead of Twitter. I found that it works better to keep Twitter content a bit lighter, and have more substantive conversations on Facebook.

    I’m leveraging the online world to get people to engage.

    I haven’t monetized any of it, though. I’ve had offers from advertisers, but I’ve turned them down. I want to maintain my objectivity. My husband and I are lucky – we can afford to do that.

    3.     What makes this issue/area the best fit for you personally?

    I once heard the author Toni Morrison say that in her life she knew she had to love her children and write. I know I have to love my children and make a difference for the better. I have a passion for this.

    I’m good at it because I have no filter and I don’t care what people think of me. Some people choose to work quietly, but I’m just not a quiet person. I am loud. I have a voice. I am far better at pulling together an army of people to effect change.

    My dad never stood for injustice. He was a simple, rural, salt of the earth type of person, but he always stood up for what’s right, with no hesitation. He was a peacekeeper for the CAF; an officer and a gentleman. He taught me to be proud to be a loud and opinionated woman. That means a lot to me.

    I love computers and online life. I was on the internet in 1992, when there barely was an internet. I was in the original chat rooms. That makes me unusual amongst my peers. Most women my age don’t get what I see in it all.

    I’m also a north end girl. My mother was a teenage runaway. I spent most of my life in poverty. The money I have doesn’t mean much unless it’s making somebody’s life better. For my husband and I, if we have it – we’re sharing it.

    4.     How will you know if you’re making progress?

    When people react, I know I’m making progress.

    For example: A year and a half ago, the City wanted to charge SlutWalk organizers $2,500. I protested. It was against the Charter of Rights. It was wrong. Well, people who never cared about the walk before showed up to march. That’s impact.

    The number of people who come to events I organize is another indication of success. Also, website traffic. We launched KikkiPlanet.com on September 30 and have had 175,000 hits in less than a year.

    Social media engagement is another measurement – Twitter followers and interactions, Facebook comments, etc.

    I also just love it when people tell me I’m wrong and prove it. I love a good debate. The more of that is happening, the better.

    5.     What have and haven’t you accomplished so far?

    I’ve raised $20,000 in the past year for various charities. Am I proud of that? Hell, yeah, I’m pretty proud of that.

    The provincial election was another win. After writing my posts, I started to see women speak up. I consider myself a feminist. Women died so we could have the right to vote – that means a lot to me. Women need to speak up as intellectuals, not as emotional females. We can’t make it all personal – our speech has to be informed speech. We’ve become a society of people who are who they last voted for – unquestioningly loyal. What we need to be first and foremost is watchdogs for our own party.

    One of my first blog posts was picked up by my idol, Paula Simons. That was the moment I knew I could do this.

    I’m inspired by the amazing under-35 crowd in this city – people like Adam Rozenhart, Scott C. Bourgeois, Mack Male, Brittney Le Blanc, Seth Glick, Ryan Jespersen and Kari Skelton…

    But I’ve learned to do my due diligence before signing on to anything. I once helped raise $15,000 thinking it was for charity and it ended up just disappearing. Now, I know I’ve really got to do my homework.

    I struggle with the fact that with profile comes attention and then everyone wants you to promote their thing, come to their event. It got to the point where I was doing 7-8 events a week. My family life was suffering. I actually ended up in the hospital at one point. Now, I’m more discriminating. I often feel bad about it, but I say “no” a lot more.

    This is something I learned from Ryan and Kari. They believe in focusing on fewer things, and being minimally involved in the rest.

    It’s so hard to say “no”. There can be backlash. Some people claim I talk a good game but don’t put my money where my mouth is.

    But I have a responsibility to my followers to investigate things. I can’t just retweet or post everything I’m asked to. I can’t be tweeting anything that turns out to be scam. I have to be discerning. In the end, you have to think about where your money’s going.

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    The Zohreh Saher Profile: The Edmonton Do Gooder Project

    This post is part of The Edmonton Do Gooder Project, a series of profiles on Edmonton folks doing good in creative ways.

    1.     What is the good result you are hoping to create?

    Intervivos exists to help young professionals and students in Edmonton become more informed  and engaged in our community. These people are leaders on the brink who want to be connected to some of Edmonton’s most influential and esteemed leaders. We’re seeking to inspire and inform the next generation of leaders, because there are a lot of really interesting young people without an avenue to make this happen in an easy, accessible way.

    We want young leaders to stay here in Edmonton – Edmonton is awesome. We want people to stay and make it even better. Edmonton needs young leaders in order to keep moving forward, to not stagnate. That’s how we can grow, improve and reach the full potential of this city.

    2.     What is your approach for making this happen?

    We have two program streams : issues programming, and mentorship.

    Issues programming consists mostly of events with speakers on topics relevant to young professionals in Edmonton. We come up with topics based on interactions with members, and have a few a year.

    The mentorship program consists of twoevents a year to matche emerging leaders with seasoned leaders. The event component is set up in a speed-networking format to determine the  best possible matches for mentors and protégés. We have recently re-launched the program with this new approach  and so far we have been receiving very positive feedback.  We are expecting more pairings for our next event which is taking place in November. Our programs are revenue-neutral. We’ve moved away from sponsorship because we found it limited us a bit, in terms of our ability to address political topics. We operate as a non-profit society. We’ve deliberately decided against being an official charity, because it’s a big administrative burden with lots of limiting rules and reporting requirements. It just doesn’t make sense for us considering our current structure.

    3.     What makes this issue/area the best fit for you personally?

    I’m really not well suited to bureaucracy. I’m a more grass-roots and action oriented person. So I like the immediacy of the results that I see through Intervivos. I can see the results right away – tangible outcomes. I can see, for example, when people get hired as a result of the connections we’ve helped them make.

    I studied political science, which contributes to my interest in the issues-based programming. In terms of qualifications, though, I’d say that I’ve grown into the role and developed skills along the way. I didn’t necessarily come into my role as President with a lot of applicable background.

    However, I am just basically a people person. I love to connect people. When it comes to the people we’re looking to work with, it also helps that I’m one of them – a young professional. Before interVivos existed, I felt that gap. I felt a bit lost and directionless. So I can relate.

    4.     How will you know if you’re making progress?

    We’ve actually been discussing this in board meetings lately. One way is repeat attendance – retention of participants. Another is growth – attracting new people to the programs.

    I’ve been involved in interVivos for 7 years. I’ve seen that people who are involved tend to stay, or if they leave, they come back. I think that’s some indication of success. I hear from people who leave Edmonton that their new communities are missing the element that interVivos brings to our city.

    The fact that I never feel burned out on it all also says something about how well it’s working; the work is always fueling me, as opposed to draining me. Our strong alumni presence is also a sign of success. People who do leave don’t do it because of frustration or burnout. Other groups approach us wanting to partner, and our name recognition is growing. All these things are signs that we’re doing something right.

    5.     What have and haven’t you accomplished so far?

    I would like to be doing more – more events, more mentorship.  Sometimes I feel bad about not doing more. But we have no staff, so capacity is limited.

    We’ve learned that sometimes trying to be cool and innovative can go too far. It can be good to stick with things that are tested and true. A certain level of predictability can be a good thing.

    interVivos doesn’t always do a great job of talking about our own successes. That’s something we could work on.

    We did re-think the mentorship program. It wasn’t cost-effective the way it was, and not reaching enough people. Before, we only had 10 pairs of people in the program, and now we have between 30 and 40. It’s also become more equal between protégés and mentors, where it used to be very protégé driven. We basically took the best of what we’ve tried in the past and transformed it into a newer, more energetic and more dynamic program.

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    The Mack Male Profile: The Edmonton Do Gooder Project

    This post is part of The Edmonton Do Gooder Project, a series of profiles on Edmonton folks doing good in creative ways.

    1.     What is the good result you are hoping to create?

    I want Edmonton to be the kind of city I want to live in, and I want to leave it better than I found it. People often think of Edmonton first as a great place to live, then as a great place to visit. I want it to be both.

    For me, this means higher density, and great public transit. Vehicle-oriented design impacts our interactions; the way we live. With public transit, people explore in different ways; have a different perspective. It also impacts taxes. The less dense the city is, the more tax money is needed.

    2.     What is your approach for making this happen?

    I have some initiatives of my own (like my blog), I volunteer with a number of groups around town, and participate in some one-off stuff, like organizing one-time and informal events.

    Share Edmonton is something I created because I believe that a web platform is an important infrastructure piece for a modern city. It’s intended to bring together things that may useful to Edmontonians, like notices of public consultations, garbage pickup details, etc., all in one place.

    I sit on the 104th Street Committee, the Downtown Vibrancy Task force, the EPCOR Community Essentials Council Board, and others.

    I look for opportunities for involvement where I have the chance to learn something in the process. I try not to get involved unless there’s something tangible for me to take on – like build a website, or plan an event. It’s very important for me to feel like I’m doing something. If it feels like I’m just sitting on a board to be able to say I am, or so someone else can say I was there, I’ll withdraw. This is an approach developed through trial and error, learning as I go.

    3.     What makes this issue/area the best fit for you personally?

    I was born in Edmonton, and I’ve lived here most of my life. I feel a natural pull to this city. The size of it is such that we have a lot of big city advantages, but it’s still small enough to feel approachable. I feel like it’s ingrained in our culture here to be really well-connected. We basically invented community leagues. The degrees of separation between any two people is smaller than it could be; that gives us a lot of opportunity.

    My writing skills come from practice over a long period of time, and they allow me to articulate things effectively, which is very helpful. I’m also able to introduce myself to anyone without fear. I find that speaking and writing like you know what you’re talking about – having that confidence and backing it up by knowing your stuff – makes a big difference.

    In terms of the tech skills that help me do the stuff I do, I studied Math Science at the University of Alberta, which consisted mostly of computer science. Most of the knowledge I use today, though, I learned by doing. I’ve been tinkering with computers since my family got our first one, which was very early. I’m lucky that my parents were early adopters, and that I seem to have a natural aptitude. I’ve always had that curiosity, and the willingness to tinker.

    I don’t believe it’s about being an expert in anything – it’s about try, try again. Something that helps me get things done is, I think, a combination of skill, statistics knowledge, and enough passion to make the time.

    It helps, too,  that I’m a white male, and that I have a unique name. It may be unfortunate, but those things are advantages.

    4.     How will you know if you’re making progress?

    Some of the things I’m involved with have metrics involved, like the volunteer work with the Learning Centre, where we can measure literacy rates.

    In other cases, the measure of success is whether the activity gets to the point where it can continue without my personal involvement. You could say that I’m interested in bringing about my own obsolescence, always having an exit plan somewhere along the line.

    Overall, though, I think impact is a hard thing to measure.

    5.     What have and haven’t you accomplished so far?

    There are some direct examples of changes that have happened that can be linked to my writing, like the cancellation (for now) of the controversial City Market meeting that I blogged about. I feel like I had some impact on the debate about the municipal airport lands.

    What the Truck is an accomplishment – we now have an audience, we get good attendance, the trucks sell out, there’s a good amount of media coverage. We’re seeing some progress on policy around food trucks, too. City administration is now looking at guidelines and policies that could help make them more sustainable.

    Something I’d like to do better with is Open Data. It’s about making the info that the City collects available to anyone who could use it. We got it started. Now, we have a catalogue, but it’s not really growing as much as I had hoped. The initial effort was great, but the follow through has been less so. Open Data is not built into the City’s operational processes, so it’s an extra step for people to contribute to it. It’s been hard to get buy-in, and I haven’t figured out yet how to get over that operational hurdle. It’s not a failure, but it’s not what I envisioned. There’s still a lot of potential there.

    There’s still a lot of stuff I want to write about, but it can be time consuming in terms of research. For example – I’d like to write more about Edmonton’s brand and image. I’ve got a bit of a backlog there, but I want to make sure the quality is there.

    I would really like to do something more with Share Edmonton. The next level would be to have it become the digital platform we need. I’d like it to be the go-to site for the latest in Edmonton issues, events, etc. There’s lots of opportunity there.

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