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Playing with Power in the World of Not-for-Profits

Power.  A loaded word if you’re working for a fairer or greener world. Often seen as synonymous with repression, greed, exploitation – something to be worried about or fought against.

Do you crave power? Do you respect those who exert power? Do you feel comfortable when you have power over someone? Do you have days where you feel powerless?

For many of us who work in social change movements, the idea of power can make us feel uneasy.  Uneasy, because if we’re honest, most of us enjoy feeling powerful and many of us have been taught that’s wrong.  We’ve all experienced the abuse of power at some point in our lives – whether it’s been through a bad boss or teacher, a racially profiling police officer, or even just an older sibling trying to get their way.

Generally speaking, those who work in social change movements come to this important work because we’ve experienced or seen unfair abuses of power at a level that compels us to action. Because of this we tend to have a heightened awareness of the dangers that come with power.  For many, this holds us back from stepping into our own full strength.

I’d like you to consider the notion that our discomfort with embracing power is actually undermining our potential to truly do our best work, and that it undermines our ability to really succeed in making the changes we want to see in the world.

Power doesn’t have to be authoritarian, though at a certain point when a decision has to be made this type of power can be critical.  Power doesn’t just come in the form of hierarchy.

Real power comes from Continue reading

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Building vibrant communities: Sean Meagher leads from behind

In every community there is untapped potential: People with ideas, skills and talents, looking for ways to contribute – often not knowing where or how to begin. Vibrant and healthy communities find ways to reach out and engage people, creating space for those ideas, skills and talents to flourish. Sean Meagher, President of Public Interest, excels at doing just this.

Recognized most prominently for his groundbreaking community engagement work in the redevelopment of Toronto’s Regent Park, Sean’s career has been an evolution in empowering others. Continue reading

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Alex's Blog

Great Depression: Volunteers of America soup kitchen (Wikipedia Commons)

A somewhat abridged version of this post first appeared in The Toronto Star here


Governments here and elsewhere are increasingly preoccupied with cutting even as evidence piles up of its harmful consequences on people and the economy. Austerity is not even delivering the balanced budgets its advocates promise. Even the IMF is now preaching balance rather than a single-minded focus on cuts. Yet, austerity’s adherents hold fast, deny the evidence or double down. Why is that?

Of course a few at the top benefit from austerity, at least in the short term, and though few, they exert considerable influence. And some pundits are so invested in this agenda that they would have to swallow themselves to alter course. But the imperviousness to evidence is about more than that.

What makes a theory “scientific” is that it’s falsifiable – if contrary evidence is found, the theory is modified or thrown out. …

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