by Albert Thibodeau, Co-Founder & Board Member
I think any initiative that can get people to, of their own volition and without coercion, give their time or money to a cause is a good initiative. This means I’m against cashiers asking for charity at the check out, and mandatory volunteering for high school students; I have mixed feelings regarding judicial sentences involving community service.
One recent initiative to get people to give up a bit of their precious time on this earth, or their money – by which I of course mean their labour, or their labour-power – is giving Tuesday.
A fine initiative, seeking to have people do good!
First of course, comes the unbridled consumerism of Black Friday, then the virtual unbridled consumerism, of Cyber Monday. Finally, on Tuesday, you may look at your new large-screen televisions, the jet skis, and assorted electronic equipment strewn about your living room, and cry out, like a beast in the wilderness, “I have not interacted with another person outside of the market in days – nay, months!” and you may don the hair shirt of volunteering in your community for a day, or spending whatever coins might remain to your good name to quell the unending guilt and lack of satisfaction that all your possessions have brought you.
A saving grace in the United States, is that people see their extended families for their late version of thanksgiving. This is the best form of charity, as it involves forgiveness, attempts at understanding, and putting up with people you wouldn’t otherwise want to spend time with.
In all seriousness, if giving Tuesday is what it takes to get someone to give their time or money, then I’m happy for it; if it convinces someone that they want to make giving a more regular thing then that’s fantastic. Certainly anything that can get people to want to be engaged with a community for good will get my support. But if I could advocate for one thing it would be that giving of your time or money isn’t something that you fit in the spaces between everything else, it’s important in and of itself. It connects us within communities and reminds us that we’re not just consumers in a marketplace, we’re citizens and neighbours, and human beings sharing the planet with each other and holding it in trust for future generations.
So go out on Giving Tuesday and do something. Even better, make a commitment to start doing something more regularly. Give your money to a cause and make the world a tiny bit better for everyone; or give your time and you’ll find that participating is more gratifying than purchasing.
JustChange is a group of people who make decisions by consensus. This is no small feat; some of us knew each other before we began this project, but many of us did not. Decision making by consensus is a great challenge, but when it is achieved, it can lead to better decisions, and in the long-term, more effective group dynamics.
Having spent a good deal of time participating in, and sometimes chairing, volunteer boards, I wanted to share my views on why decision making by consensus is important, how we achieve it, what the challenges and benefits have been, and provide my thoughts for why this model has worked for us. This is a bit of a personal reflection, and I can’t claim to speak for anyone else on the board in this – though I hope they share similar views.
Firstly though, what I mean by decision-making by consensus is that by the end of the meeting, we have come to an agreement that each member of the board can support. It may not be everyone’s first choice walking in (in many cases it isn’t) but it’s a choice that we can all agree on, or at the very least support.
I believe strongly that the decisions that are made around the JustChange board table are better because we are committed to making decisions by consensus. This is because we have to listen to all voices around the table, including marginal voices. As an aside, I’m convinced that this is one of the reasons that democracies fare better over the long-term compared to more authoritarian forms of government – but that’s another topic for another day!
The fact is that because we have to come to an agreement, everyone’s perspective on an issue is brought to the table, and everyone listens to that perspective. We aren’t looking for a simple majority on a decision, we’re looking for everyone to support it, and that means that everyone’s questions, comments, and concerns have to get dealt with.
In the end, having so many people think and listen to everyone else’s views means that decisions are more informed, and fundamentally better than when looking for enough support to form a simple majority, when a single voice – a single voice bringing up a very important point – can sometimes be neglected in favour of expediency.
I have never been part of a board like JustChange. Firstly, our meetings are virtually un-chaired. We may start with someone giving a brief introduction and meeting a proposed agenda and process, but the role of “the chair”, as much as one can call it that, passes from person to person as the meeting progresses.
Yes, sometimes, this results in moments of chaos, where several people end up talking to each other simultaneously, but things settle of their own accord and the meeting proceeds with an order, shocking to anyone who’s been involved in a volunteer board.
Part of what allows us to do this, is the fact that we are each basically equals on the board, no one person, or group of people is really the leader. Some of us lead given initiatives, but nobody gets to drag anyone else anywhere. We are all working toward a common goal, but no one person is taking everyone else along towards their vision. We share a common vision and we are consistently pulling in the same direction.
The other big reason this has all worked is because we’re all very honest with each other. Or perhaps it’s that we’re very honest and very forgiving. Apart from the benefits inherent in honesty, this means that we haven’t suffered from groupthink that groups like these can suffer from. By that I mean the propensity of some groups to want to agree with each other and either put down, or have people not express, dissenting opinions.
You’ll excuse me if this sounds like I’m repeating my earlier statement – but this bears emphasis. Single dissenting voices have to be heard to achieve the best decision, and to ensure long-term engagement by members.
I can’t recall a single meeting where I left thinking all the same things that I went in thinking. I think the rest of the board can agree with this; and that’s a good thing.
Alright – now that I’ve convinced you that this is so great, how are you going to implement it in your group interactions? While this method isn’t for everyone (it can be slower, and gets much more difficult as group sizes grow) I would urge most small groups to consider giving it a try.
If you want more information on this, or have any questions on the topic, or on how you can use it in your groups, feel free to drop me a line (email@example.com) and I’d be happy to speak with you, or provide you with my perspectives on how you might use this in you’re your own groups.
This is the third session of JustChange funding, and there’s a lot that’s been going on around at JustChange and we’ll be writing about it in the near future. For now though, I’m pleased to present a bit about our most recent winner, and would like to extend an invitation to our upcoming JustDrinks event on May 31st. It’s at Vetta Osteria & Bar – 199 Bank Street Ottawa, ON during 5:00pm – 7:00pm and it’s free to come, but we ask that you get a ticket at our eventbrite page, so we have an idea on numbers.
This session’s winner is David Rust-Smith, Nick Breen, Bailey Reid, Lida Tohidi, and Nicole Bélanger, who impressed us with their Bibz Youth Employment Program intended to bring young people and technology together. Their project aims to train youth coding and computer skills which are used while running birthday parties for children. These youth are paid a fair wage, and are given training to increase their skills in terms of coding, and website design; a marketable skill. The intention is that these youth can come from communities that are under-represented in the high-tech market with the goal of making the high-tech sector more diverse and representative.
I had the opportunity to speak with David Rust-Smith, one of the founders of the project. He explained that there is a huge demand for computer scientists and that the market was only expected to grow; and that this future need could be addressed while at the same time increasing the number of computer scientists from more diverse backgrounds. To that end, most of the youth involved in the project are young women.
Please join the JustChange Board and I, on May 31st in celebrating the new Bibz Youth Employment Program with David Rust-Smith, Nick Breen, Bailey Reid, Lida Tohidi, and Nicole Bélanger at the Vetta Osteria & Bar at 5:00pm.
The grant review process is almost complete, however before we release the benefactor of our first grant, some thank you’s are in order.
Recently, JustChange was able to offer its first request for proposal.
We eagerly await the opportunity to provide our first grant to a
deserving community member, and to see the benefits our support of
small entrepreneurs and community organizations can bring to the city.
This would not have been possible without the generous support of our
sponsors, at this time, the University of Ottawa, and the Intersol
Group. Not only did these sponsors provide us with material support
including office space, an address, access to facilities, and in the
case of the Intersol Group, the fantastic facilitation skills of Lise
Hebabi, they provided us with the knowledge that community partners
were ready and willing to support us and our ideas. Without this
support it would be unlikely that we would have been able to progress
from idea conception to RFP as quickly as we have.
To our sponsors, thank you for your kind support, know that you share
in all our sucesses.