Entries in "activism"

November 08, 2006

metaphors for social change

Remember back in May, when I wrote about the metaphors of motivating change? We need a whole new set of metaphors for understanding how social change occurs, as well -- metaphors that acknowledge the relational dynamics that accelerate or dampen social change processes.

Political social change seems to be occurring in the United States. The timeframe for that change ranges from the year (2006) to the generation (1980 to 2006), at least according to Joe Kein at Time Magazine. (Thanks to John Ettorre for his blog post bringing this article to our attention.) Klein's article is headlining 2006 as "the year the Democrats punched back", suggesting that political social change occurs in part as a battle of the fists (or at least of the political ad blows and counterblows). Klein's article ends with a very different metaphor, though -- the metaphor of tides cresting and receding:

"2006 may be remembered as the year that the Reagan Revolution finally crested and began to recede."

I recognize that some may consider 26 years more than a generation, and yet Strauss and Howe's 1992 book Generations called 1982-2003 the Millenial Generation. In political writing, this notion that great waves of right-oriented and left-oriented governing alternate is a familiar one, suggesting that perhaps no social change actually occurs; instead we are just watching a pendulum swinging back and forth very slowly... or, we are the grains of sand on the beach, washed first by one wave, and then by another.

And yet our individual experiences suggest that social change does occur, within one lifetime or less, and that relational dynamics are an important part of how social change occurs.

A generation from now, will history acknowledge that the BAWB conference in NEO two weeks ago was actually the tipping point for how business and academia began to act differently together, to make themselves agents of world benefit? Nadya Zhexembayeva is convinced that it was a tipping point, October 25, 2006. She has been watching for this tipping point for a long time -- she heads up the World Inquiry, an action research project of the Center for Business as an Agent of World Benefit (BAWB). She also served as the host of the Virtual Conference that extended the BAWB Global Forum to additional 500+ participants from all over the world.

Be sure to read what Nadya Zhexembayeva wrote for GreenBiz about BAWB and the tipping point. Read it not just to explore some of the metaphors for social change she evokes -- but also to become your part of the social change that is happening among us and around the world.

October 01, 2006

management skills save the world, one orphanage at a time

One of my former students, and a recent alumna of Case Western Reserve, has been blogging about her experiences as a volunteer in Kenya. I have found her entries touching and inspiring.

"Each time someone stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope." -- Robert F. Kennedy


Continue reading "management skills save the world, one orphanage at a time"

August 07, 2006

Saving Peter's leg

Be sure to click through and read Kelly’s blog entry about Saving Peter’s leg. Such good work she is doing in Uganda!

See also my post from back in April about the Global Night Commute and the demonstration of support from Clevelanders. It includes links to a DVD and bracelets you can buy to support the work of IC's work in Uganda. I own a copy of the main DVD, and would be happy to lend it to anyone I know.

April 30, 2006

outcomes of the Global Night Commute

There was an article in the Cleveland Plain Dealer on Friday about plans for the Saturday night event. Similarly, in California, KGET reported on plans in Bakersfield and 10news reported on plans in San Diego. In Seattle, over 1000 people were expected to participate.

News is also beginning to come in about attendance at the events around the world. In Rochester, NY, there is already a report from WROC, a local television station, saying that 200 people in that city participated in the night commute last night. In Augusta, GA, more than 25 people participated in the march, and in Aiken County, GA, participants numbered over 200 (story here, login required or use bugmenot.com). In Austin, TX, the Austin American Statesman reported that hundreds of college students walked from the clock tower at the UT campus to the grounds of the state capitol to participate in the night commute. There are also photos of this event available at Flickr already, and here's a story from an Austin TV station. In San Francisco, over 500 people gathered, according to the local CBS news station. In Chicago, over 2000 people gathered in Grant Park, including one teenager from Uganda who now attends a private school in the US thanks to the folks at Invisible Children. And here's a personal account of the San Diego event, which was huge -- 5000 people in Balboa park! Participants in other cities have been checking in on MySpace with updates about what the Global Night Commute was like for them. The pictures are really inspiring!

Unfortunately, I can't find any information from anyone who was at the Free Stamp last night. If you were there, would you please leave a comment and let me know what it was like?

April 26, 2006

reinventing jobs, careers, and the w

"Reinventing Jobs, Careers, and the World of Work"

It's a good sign when three posts emerge in the same morning of blog reading, all ready to be packaged up in a theme. It probably indicates that all the cultivation I have been doing of online relationships -- reading blogs, adding some to my Bloglines so I can read them again later, commenting, making my own posts -- is starting to yield fruit for intellectual enjoyment.

Click through to read on if you'd like to learn more about Diane at Zaadz, Miriam Peskowitz, and David Pollard, and how the different social movemnts they help to advance are converging.

Continue reading "reinventing jobs, careers, and the w"

April 04, 2006

is MacDonalds socially responsible, or is it marketing greenwash?

The Carnival of the Capitalists is up for the week, and one of the highlighted posts is about MacDonalds. Steven Silvers offers mocking commentary on the blog that MacDonalds makes available to consumers with the tag line "Open for Discussion". His teaser summary asserts that "If McDonald's thinks selling salads constitutes social responsibility, they must figure clean bathrooms deserve the Nobel Prize."

The potential that companies might just appear to change their behavior, when in fact all they are doing is disguising themselves as socially responsible, is what makes me skeptical about buying products marketed as supporting particular values, like the Reebok breast cancer eradication sneakers that I wrote about last week when I asked how company values affect consumer behavior. It is why I think new portals like Alonovo which empower consumers with a deeper analysis about whether companies are walking their talk are going to be forces to reckon with in the future.

What do you think about the MacDonald's blog? Is MacDonald's a company you admire? Or do you boycott it on principle?

March 07, 2006

what do I need to know if I work at Bell South?

This is the sixth of a series of posts introducing the NEO community to the intrepid students who have taken on an optional assignment in MGMT 251 this spring. The sixth student I am highlighting is Matteusz Sladeuski, whose blog focuses on Mergers, Acquisitions, and Restructurings. He has made six entries so far, and his latest addresses the downsides of mergers. Please click through to read his commentary on why they can fail. Would you add any possibilities to his list? Read his entry and leave him a comment, please! I'm also looking forward to reading his commentary on the proposed acquisition of Bell South by AT&T and the opposition to the merger by Consumers Union and others.

P. S. The fifth entry in my series highlighting students' blogs is here, and lists the earlier entries as well.

P. P. S. Heads up for tomorrow: March 8 is Blog Against Sexism day. Look for a post from me about pregnancy discrimination and why it harms society...

February 21, 2006

problem solvers wanted

In a faculty meeting yesterday, one of my colleagues argued that we could measure our degree of success in developing our students' skill levels by assessing the difference in their salaries before they entered a degree program and after they left. He asked a rhetorical question, something along the lines of this: "Isn't anything we do that will have value for students going to get translated into more money for them after they leave here?"

I could not help myself. I bellowed, from the last row, "NO!"

I feel quite strongly that an MBA is not just a ticket to corporate success. It should also be a ticket to superior problem-solving skills, and an understanding of how businesses can be used as vehicles for solving world problems. When I ask my students what their top 5 values are, relatively few of them say "getting rich"... most of them talk about things like honoring their family, enjoying time with friends, and pursuing meaningful achievements. The value of our degree programs must lie in the extent to which we develop the skills that students need to live noble lives, acting in accord with their values.

James Cascio at Worldchanging makes an impassioned argument that environmentalists need to be working on solving the poverty problem, and I would argue that businesspeople should be working with them. CK Prahalad argues in "The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid" that pulling those in poverty out and into a class of entrepreneurial consumers is the next great challenge for business. I would argue that pulling all of us into the status of sustainable producers and consumers is fundamental to the question of whether our global society will remain healthy, or implode within my daughter's lifetime.

CK Prahalad's book argues that working at the bottom of the pyramid is profitable. I'd assert that even if it yields lower lines of financial return than other types of work, it's still worth pursuing. There are more important things in life than making more money, and solving the problems of poverty and environmental degradation are two of those most important tasks for my generation and those that follow.

More information about companies pursuing this strategy is available here and here and here, and I'd appreciate receiving links to other similar collections of information, as well.

September 21, 2005

the illusory trend to return to traditional women's roles, and what we can do about it

Poor Louise Story. The young Yale graduate who wrote a story for yesterday's New York Times which landed on the front page is getting pummeled throughout the blogosphere (even in the comments), in Slate, and probably, by "many" of her friends. Yes, I pity her, even though I know that the critics speak the truth, because I remember being just out of school and having the sense that the trends among my peer group were newsworthy, without realizing how circumscribed a peer group I had constructed around myself.

I do not remember talking much with my college friends about our plans for marriage and family. I just assumed that I would work and raise a family with my husband. I knew that I needed to stay employable, in case of divorce or an illness that might incapacitate my husband. I had the sense that my mother had not been happy when she was not employed (she returned to the workforce part-time when I was 10 or 11), and I couldn't imagine living a life without a public role of respect. The problem is that parenthood is still not seen as a role of public respect in our society.

Continue reading "the illusory trend to return to traditional women's roles, and what we can do about it"

August 03, 2005

Education is a human right and we have community responsibilities

Two pieces combined to strike a mournful chord in a minor key as I read this morning's Plain Dealer. The first was the front-page headline, Cleveland voters reject school levy, and the second was an op-ed piece on page B9, Just enough cash to live opulently (which was reprinted from the Scripps-Howard News Service, with the original headline "Forbes' working stiff and his millions" and written by Paul Campos at the University of Colorado.

The first piece explains that with a pitifully low turnout (11 percent of registered voters) a small number of West Side voters who opposed the school levy drowned out the voices of Cleveland's schoolchildren and their needs. The reason given? They did not receive notice from the levy campaign of the reasons for requesting the levy. MaryBeth understands, but I'm not feeling that charitable this morning. Did none of those opposed voters consider purchasing a Plain Dealer at any point in the past month? Or visiting a local public library and reading it for free? Did any of them calculate how much it would cost to mail campaign materials to every household in the city of Cleveland, and compare that with the paltry budget for the campaign? Since when do people need an engraved invitation in order to vote in favor of a public good? Yep, you can tell, I'm really ranting and raving about this.

According to article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, "Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages." But apparently we have been neglecting teaching this value to enough Clevelanders that now, only 15,008 of them were willing to take the time to go to the polls and vote "yes" on the 8 mill levy. Without the revenue from the levy, the school board will need to address a projected $30 million deficit for next year.

How can this be? Well, the second piece may help to explain things. Paul Campos comments on a Forbes magazine article which calculates what it would cost to live in comfortable opulence in different US cities (such as Columbus, Ohio. Professor Campos criticizes the article authors for assuming that individuals at this enviable standard of living would only dedicate 1 percent of their income to savings, and for omitting all federal taxes and charitable donations from its calculations. Perhaps it's unfair to criticize Forbes for this one article. After all, they also publish items like this -- the most powerful women humanitarians. Still, it's hard to find those kinds of pieces amidst Forbes' overwhelming emphasis on financial wealth. Furthermore, Forbes definitely seems to be aiding and abetting the individuals in our society which is increasingly dominated by values that seem to have more to do with "keeping up with the Joneses" (or with the Gateses) than with fulfilling their community responsibilities. I share Professor Campos' concern that our society is overly materialistic, with the effect of transforming "human beings into talking monkeys -- that is, creatures who are genuinely satisfied to live lives dedicated to acquiring an endless stream of shiny new toys." There should be more to life than the pursuit of comfortable affluence.

My response to the despair I felt when I read the headline about Cleveland's failed school levy is to commit to action. If the best I can do is to find a local charitable equivalent to DonorsChoose (which concentrates its efforts in other cities, although they are currently engaged in a matching funds drive which will allow them to commit to further expansion), then that's what I'll do. If I can find the time to volunteer, then I will, even if it means that I'm spending less time at my daughter's private preschool. (We donate to the scholarship fund there as well.)

I may not be willing or able to live like Paul Farmer right now, but I will do what I can to demonstrate my belief that education is a human right, and we have community responsibilities to support public education. If you have suggestions for how I might act on my convictions, will you please let me know?

August 02, 2005

Deye mon gen mon

"Deye mon gen mon" is Haitian saying which translates as "beyond mountains there are mountains" and the saying is explained in this way: "as you solve one problem, another problem appears, and so you go on and try to solve that one too."

Mountains Beyond Mountains is a book by Tracy Kidder which tells the story of Paul Farmer, a doctor who works at Harvard and the Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston and at Zamni Lasante, a clinic he founded in the mountains of Haiti.

This book was selected as a common reading for the Case community for the coming academic year, the fourth year of our common reading program. My colleagues selected this book to inspire, I am sure; Case is involved in a variety of ways in fighting poverty and disease, and recently won a multi-million-dollar grant to do research on fighting tuberculosis, and there is much work left to be done. First-year students were invited to submit essays in response to several prompts, and upperclass students were invited to address equally tough questions.

I will be taking the book with me on vacation for a slow rereading, since it was almost too intense to absorb on my first read, back in June. [I did eventually write up an answer to an essay question; see my post from several months after this one, on my areas of moral clarity.]

By the way, this idea of a common reading is not Case's innovation. Duke students were invited to read the same book last summer, and this year Case students will be joined in spirit by members of the LaRoche College community in Pittsburgh, by campus residents at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and by first-year students at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, among others.