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HappyFrog.ca merges with 3rdWhale! November 22, 2008

Posted by Raul in environment, EPIC 08, link love, local business, social change, social media, sustainability.
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1 comment so far

I recently learned about the recent merger of HappyFrog.ca with 3rdWhale from my good friend DaveO, but I hadn’t had a chance to write about it, as I’d been really overwhelmed with work. HappyFrog.ca was founded by Ron Williams as an all-encompassing directory-social networking resource for green businesses in British Columbia. The platform in and of itself is fun, and handy.

I have been a proud member of the FrogSquadders (I covered EPIC 2008 for them along with a great line up of local bloggers). I frequently guest-post in HappyFrog’s FrogBlog and they have given me great exposure in their newsletter as well. Funny how everything is connected in this world, I do know of the work of Boyd Cohen, the force behind 3rdWhale (although, surprisingly, I’ve never met him in person despite the fact that we both live within the Metro Vancouver area!)

I look forward to learning more about what 3rdWhale and HappyFrog.ca merged can do combined! One improvement that 3rdWhale’s page desperately needs is an “About Us” page. I am pretty sure that everyone wants to know more about how they came about and what they’re up to!

3rdWhale recently organized a PodMob (which I also promoted on Twitter), although truth be told, at some points I was overwhelmed with so much writing and talking about the podmob. The success of the podmob at Sushi Bento on Robson Street is in no small part due to the enthusiasm and positive energy of the people behind 3rdWhale, and I believe primarily it was Emily Jubenvill, who is “The Greenest Person in Canada”.

It’s great to learn about these new developments! Congratulations to HappyFrog.ca and 3rdWhale!


Public policy lessons on homelessness for Vancouver’s next mayor November 2, 2008

Posted by Raul in academic life, Focus on Vancouver, food for thought, Homeless Action Week, homelessness, public policy issues, random thoughts, social change, Vancouver.
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Vlastula on Flickr

Credit: Vlastula on Flickr

Both of the candidates with actually the best shot at actually becoming the next Mayor of Vancouver (Gregor Robertson and Peter Ladner) have participated in debates on (and broadly proclaimed that they’ll work to end) homelessness in Vancouver (you can read a good recap by Tris here). Well, gentlemen, I seriously do hope that whoever wins, will seriously seek some sound advice on public policy, particularly on the issue of homelessness.

I am not an expert in homelessness policy by any means. I am, however, a specialist in environmental studies and public policy, and particularly I’ve researched issues that are clearly the domain of various levels of government. In particular, water governance in Mexico faces many challenges precisely because of this problem – overlapping jurisdictional responsibilities. Homelessness has the same basic structural problem. It should be a shared responsibility, but no actual level of government takes real responsibility and is truly accountable for dealing with homelessness.

In Mexico, wastewater governance and water supply provision, for example, is fully a responsibility of the municipality. That responsibility is enshrined in the Mexican Constitution (Article 115). Unfortunately, municipalities don’t really have a standing in the Canadian political system. Canadian federalism recognizes the Federation and the provinces (and Territories). However, municipalities/cities are not recognized (see Canada’s Cities report) and therefore, the intergovernmental relationships amongst municipalities, the provincial governments and the Federal have become really complicated [EDIT – Found even better sources on the debate on whether municipalities should be granted constitutional status in the site of the Library of the Parliament of Canada and in the Canadian Encylopedia].

This is unfortunate, and it’s a big problem if you think about it, because – who bears the brunt of homeless as a societal issue that needs to be addressed? The municipality. However, how can a municipality address an issue that requires cooperation between provinces, the Federation and the municipality if there is no actual recognized Constitutional status of the city in Canada? (see the sources I’ve included above on the state of the debate in regards to the constitutional status of the municipality/city)

According to Vision Vancouver’s blog, Gregor suggests to “build relationships with all levels of government” as one of the key actions they’ll undertake if elected.

According to Peter Ladner’s blog, Peter suggests that he will tackle homelessness “through a partnership of federal, provincial, regional, municipal governments and non-profit agencies”.

Well, dear candidates in the November 15th municipal election, you will need to not only build relationships and partnerships, but actually establish sound, solid intergovernmental agreements that lead to the implementation at a local (municipal) level of the Federal Homelessness Partnering Strategy. Although, that being said, I think we need a sound National Homelessness Action Strategy.

Homelessness is definitely a regional/municipal public policy issue, but municipalities can’t solve the problem by themselves, without the support of the Federal government. For all candidates, I suggest you coordinate your strategy with the Federal Homelessness Partnering Strategy (launched in December 2006).

Under the HPS, the federal government will offer the provinces and territories the opportunity to enter into bilateral partnerships, improve collaboration and develop linkages between the federal homelessness programs and provincial/territorial social services to help communities make strategic investments that will best serve their homeless populations.[HPS About Us]

I would also recommend investing in solid, evidence-based research on homelessness using a global, multi-country, multi-region comparative strategy. Surely, other countries have reduced homelessness. How did they do it? What did they do? What was needed?

I am sure someone must have done good research on the topic. I haven’t, but if I was a specialist in urban issues (specifically homelessness) rather than an environmental specialist, I probably would launch a research programme with applied outcomes (e.g. partner with the local communities to actually effect change).

I was able to find a good article on homelessness and health (co-authored by, amongst others, Dr. Jim Frankish, whose research I do respect a lot).

Homelessness and Health in Canada: Research Lessons and Priorities
C James Frankish; Stephen W Hwang; Darryl Quantz, Canadian Journal of Public Health; Mar/Apr 2005; 96.

[Link here]

Additional resources – Not a research paper, but Monte Paulsen’s post on The Tyee “Seven Solutions to Homelessness” is a great read.

One last word – whoever wins, please don’t just give us empty promises.


Homelessness Action Week 2008 – October 12th to 19th, 2008 September 8, 2008

Posted by Raul in blogosphere, Focus on Vancouver, food for thought, Homeless Action Week, homelessness, public policy issues, random thoughts, social change, social networking, Vancouver.
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Photo Credit: Matthew Good on Flickr

Last week, I mentioned that I was worried about the lack of interest in local/Canadian politics and the excessive focus on the US election on Canadian and Vancouverite blogs and on Twitter. Well, with the news of an upcoming Federal election (October 14th, 2008), I am very, VERY happy to see the interest of our bloggers, readers and Twitterers renewed on Canadian issues 🙂

During the same week, I tried to remind my readers that in order for us to really participate, and put the public back into public policy, we need to focus on local issues while maintaining a global perspective. One of those hyperlocal issues that I think we need to focus on is the lack of homes and shelter for homeless people. On a side note, I am not too sure that homelessness will be taken up as a Federal election issue, but who knows.

Even though homelessness is mostly considered a regional, municipal/provincial public policy issue, there is an actual Federal Homelessness Partnering Strategy (launched in December 2006). From their About Us page:

Under the HPS, the federal government will offer the provinces and territories the opportunity to enter into bilateral partnerships, improve collaboration and develop linkages between the federal homelessness programs and provincial/territorial social services to help communities make strategic investments that will best serve their homeless populations.[HPS About Us]

Homeless Action Week will take place EXACTLY during the 2008 Federal election week, which is kind of timely, if you ask me. Why? Well, because everything is interconnected. With the 2010 Olympics and the discussions around the gentrification of the Downtown East Side, there will be a need to re-examine the Federal strategy on homelessness. And I have the feeling that Homeless Action Week may be the catalyzer for this re-examination.

Is lack of homes (and affordable housing) an issue? Well, let’s examine the data provided by the Regional Steering Committee on Homelessness.

A 24-hour snapshot count conducted on March 11 th, 2008 indicates that 2,592 individuals were found to be homeless in the Metro Vancouver region. This number is an increase of 427 individuals over the 2005 count data, or an increase of 19% over the number of homeless individuals found in 2005, and a jump of 131% since 2002.[HAW Research Page]

So, the question again is … how can you help? In addition to all of those great suggestions provided on the RSCH page for Homeless Action Week, you can also
– Blog about it.
– Tweet about it.
– Talk about it with your friends, family, etc.
– Write about it (in print).
– Discuss it on national media.

And, two additional things you can do…

One, you could donate your time, clothing items or food to local food banks. Rebecca has for very long been a champion of Metro Vancouver’s food banks, most recently raising over $10,000 dollars for the United Gospel Mission (along with Duane and with the generous help of Matt Good, Matt’s fans and many other participants). Lack of food would most definitely be an issue that homeless people face.

Two, you can participate in the events for the 2008 Homeless Action Week. Last year, I highlighted some of the 2007 HAW events and had a chance to participate in a few. As I mentioned in that previous post, sustainability, social change and social responsibility start at home, and Vancouver is my home, so that’s where I am trying to effect change.

On that note, I would like to invite you to follow @vanpoverty on Twitter, as this is a project where I am partnering with the brilliant Joe Solomon (@engagejoe on Twitter) to use our combined blogging/social media powers to bring issues of poverty and homelessness in Vancouver to the forefront.

Social media for charity and social change roundup (Vancouver) August 27, 2008

Posted by Raul in charities, social change, social networking.
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For those of you who are looking for places where you can effect change and be charitable, here are a few causes you might want to consider:

– Via Jenn Watkiss – Riann Batch is looking to be a Superhero for a Day! The Drop Zone Vancouver is organizing a fundraising event, and Riann is going to be descending single-handedly, as she lost the use of her right arm in a skiing accident last year. Link to Riann’s page is here.

– Via Jay Grandin – Giant Ant Media and The Urban Project are partnering to create a really cool project. In their words [Giant Ant Media – Tanzania]:

Giant Ant Media will be producing a film and web series that follows a group of street youth in the pursuit of recording a hip hop album, with the hopes of breaking out on the Tanzanian music scene. Urban Project, a Vancouver-based charity, will be providing funds to ethically compensate the youth involved via a salary and school fees, while also funding recording studio time.

Their next fundraiser will be a concert at The Anza Club on Sep 10th. Sadly, I won’t be back in Vancouver yet but you’re more than welcome to attend and let me know how fun it was!

And three causes I had already highlighted, but just in case you need a reminder 🙂

– Tanya Davis is joining Buzz Bishop’s Team Diabetes and will be running a half-maraton and she’s now going putting her money where her mouth is! Go check her blog entry right now and donate to her cause here.

Karen Parker is doing the Bicycle Trek for Life and Breath, and you can sponsor her here. Karen is one of the kindest-hearted persons I’ve met. One time, I was feeling down and she took me out shopping and to the Apple Store. How’s that for geek friendship? 🙂

– And last, but never least, Barbara Doduk, Keira-Anne and Matt Good are all doing Paws for a Cause. You’ll find their personal donation pages in each of the posts I’ve linked here.

My friend Gus indicated that he was going to do a charity round-up, so I’ll link here and update the post when he puts his up. UPDATE – Go check Gus’ entry on charity, it’s up already!

Homelessness in Vancouver: A very complex issue July 19, 2008

Posted by Raul in Downtown, homelessness, public policy issues, social change, Vancouver.
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1 comment so far

Last week, I had a conversation with Nancy Zimmerman on her post regarding the ticketing of homeless people who were sleeping in Oppenheimer Park (at 4:30am on Thursday I think), in the Downtown East Side. As I have mentioned before, the realities of the Downtown East Side (DTES) are very complex, and homelessness is not an easy issue to tackle. If it were, Vancouver wouldn’t have any problems of homelessness.

One of the most debilitating and dis-empowering feelings I have ever had in my life is the feeling of not having where to sleep. The most recent time I moved to Canada, I simply didn’t have a place to stay nor had I secured housing at the university. Therefore, for like three weeks, I *had* to stay at a friends’ place. While her apartment was very nice, living out of a set of luggage bags is NOT really nice.

Now, I have adapted to Canada and to Vancouver, but those feelings of disempowerment are not easy to let go. I hope I never get to experience them, ever again.

I am also keenly aware of how much Nancy loves her neighbourhood and how committed she is to social change. I think that we ought to take a holistic view to the homelessness issue and more than anything, be compassionate. We never know when we can end up there. Fate has a way of turning out in unexpected ways.

Upcoming event – Podcasting for Social Change (Net Tuesday) July 3, 2008

Posted by Raul in blogosphere, Gastown, Net Tuesday, podcasting, social change, upcoming events, Vancouver.
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1 comment so far

So, remember when I said that I was going to only attend 6 events all month? Scratch that. It’s going to be 5. Green Drinks is colliding with WordCamp Fraser Valley, which means, I can’t do Green Drinks YET AGAIN. Ooops. But on the good news front, I will be going to Net Tuesday, and I want to promote my friend and mentor Dave O’s upcoming event, with the topic “Podcasting For Social Change”. You know you want to go, because he’s got a very fine line-up of speakers, including John Bollwitt, Roland Tanglao, Rob Cottingham, and Dave Olson as a moderator (you’ll NEVER get another chance to spend this much time with these many awesome people at the same time, unless you do Northern Voice 2009… and even then!).

So, mark your calendars – Wednesday July 8th, 5:30pm, WorkSpace. More details? Check Dave O’s blog.

I took the liberty of using DaveO’s YouTube promotional…

Live-blogging Third Tuesday with Joe Solomon June 17, 2008

Posted by Raul in social change, Third Tuesday.

We are at The Network Hub. Rebecca is live-blogging and I can’t move by fear of having my laptop die on me. Tod Maffin is doing the introductions for Joe Solomon. After 3 times that you participate, the person who is part of the dialogue with good stuff, gets this book (“Ultimate Blogs”). Barack Obama’s Facebook page is a few hundred people away from one million.

Social media is a group of like-minded people that talk through online tools. Colleen Coplick is describing her survey and explaining how much reach she has now thanks to Web 2.0 tools (e.g. Twitter). You can’t reach some people unless you have online tools.

Joe is describing about his role as a social media consultant for non-profits. When Greenpeace sets up a company in YouTube, it explodes (whereas other companies, for-profits, don’t have the same success). People want to connect to causes (which makes Joe’s job very easy).

[SIDE NOTE – My TwitterFox @hummingbird604 seems down, so if you’re Tweeting me, I can’t see it right now]

An application – climate change application – won 1 Karma point 😉 hehehe. Imagine raising over $ 25 million dollars. If you use the application, and you work hard at it, good things happen.

Social media is really about engaging. A lot of non-profits (the non-Web 2.0 non-profits – knowledge is power – I couldn’t even find their ‘Donate Button’ – pretty hidden).

Using social media with popular social networks. Not talking about NothingButNets, HappyFrog, ChangeEverything. He is going to talk about meeting users on Facebook, Twitter and SecondLife.


Genocide intervention – 2005 – The constituents were calling the senator’s donors (so they had a bill passed). OpenSecrets.org.

– Based in the UK – Facebook group – linked on the wiki. The Coca-Cola campaign – created a group. A blogger wanted to get Coca-Cola to get their user distribution channels to spread dehydration salts (help protect 1/9 children die of de-hydration). If they could get these in the Coca-Cola crates and they could distribute them. He couldn’t do this WITHOUT FACEBOOK.

Colleen asks if donations are working and do they actually go to where they should?


– Over 20% of Barack Obama’s videos went to this particular one. This is NOT viral because there is not transformations.

– Really viral video-campaigns.

– YouTube collaboration on climate change – putting a message from one side of the screen to the other side. Handing off this bottle – showing how the US changes the position. It’s viral if you actually move the message and spread it and everyone transforms it.

– Video – tag – instant karma – pass this vid for humanity – make a video of how you want to save the environment and pass this message.

Colleen actually WON the book (congrats Colleen!)

My question – how do you reach out to those like me who are NOT on Facebook.
Joe’s answer – go multi-platform.

Tod Maffin – exception to the norm. What do companies do?
If something is at stake – Joe will latch on there.

How can our client come off like they’re really interested in saving the world?
Well, if it’s not authentic, then it doesn’t work.

Rephrasing his questions – what lessons can be drawn?


Using the hashtags for people who are depressed. IF we use Twitter and put a hashtag on how the people are feeling (on a scale from 1-10) – but it allows you to engage the groups.


What is the degree of success?
Many do, but it’s particularly measured in terms of the community.


Frozen Pea Fund – initiated in support of Susan Reynolds. Through the power of Twitter and re-tweeting. It’s a wonderful program in support of women who have faced breast cancer.

[SIDE NOTE – Joe would benefit from speaking more slowly. This is a really cool talk but he’s speaking about WAY too much and delivering way too much information too fast. But it appears he’s going to talk about KnowMore.org soon, so his basic messages are four – Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and KnowMore]

Are we seeing the style of marketing – maybe we turn internal people and make them in the commercial – do we find individuals who happen to work and celebrate them?

Article in Wired by Clive Thompson – about transparency – The See-Through CEO.



ILoveMountains.org – Stop mountain-top removal. In this widget, you can recruit people and it will show you in real-time, and shows how many people you recruit.

Raising awareness (YAY – and now what?, asks Colleen). It’s slowly seducing the new constituents, and potentially there are donations that could go on. For Joe, it’s about getting people involved, in small steps. Change themselves in mountain tops.

You can sign a petition for human rights that every country should have and you can read it and sign it FROM the widget. We are moving into enabling the bloggers to do really cool stuff on their sidebars.

The Nature Conservancy – They started a plant and donate trees – donate a dollar to buy a tree.
– 324,000 trees installed

Facebook has 80 million users. FIREFOX HAS 174 MILLION USERS!!! Can you imagine!

Knowmore.org is a Firefox extension that wiki-profiles companies and the criticisms that these corporations are dogged by. So Joe called them and implement the extension for when you go to Wal-Mart, Nike, etc. You’ll see the ratings from Wal-Mart. You can turn Google into a StumbleUpon that actually will screen each company you search for.

You source it to the experts.

Bruce Byfield suggests – careful with having this hijacked.

Rebecca Bollwitt – Web Annotation – rate the web. She asks a question on this – allowing anyone to leave comments on the web. Maybe you could rate the comments. Good ones up and bad ones lower in the ranking. Failed miserably, apparently.

Question – Do you know of any examples where non-profits have received money from corporate entities as a result of these campaigns?

Tanya – Microsoft got involved in Kiva, as a result of the companies.

The Bill Gates Foundation does a lot of work like that.

JOE – I am available for hire. Social media consultant.

RAUL – I make the point that it is really hard in social science to find out the actual mechanism of influence (HECK I’VE DONE RESEARCH ON THIS!) and the person who asks is – are there examples of grassroots campaigns’ successes of influencing corporations? Joe understands the question but doesn’t have an answer. (I like that about Joe, he’s VERY honest and forthright).

7.50pm – LIVEBLOG FINISHED. I hope you guys liked it!

The inter-mediators: Subject matter experts with a dash of Web 2.0 May 23, 2008

Posted by Raul in academic life, blogosphere, environment, food for thought, geekifying myself, personal life, random thoughts, social change, Vancouver.

At Darren Barefoot’s recent talk on Third Tuesday, I brought up a point that I thought was worth developing in one of my posts: the concept of intermediaries. I wrote about this idea recently, as I was indicating that there was a need for translators of GeekSpeak: those people who can speak the language of geeks yet still speak traditional, non-jargon-laced English.

However, when I was making this comment to Darren, I was referring to what I am going to subsequently call “inter-mediators“. I define inter-mediator as a subject matter expert who can also speak social media (Web 2.0). Inter-mediators can also be social media experts who dabble on other subject matters. For example, in the field of sustainability, I could be considered an inter-mediator. I have PhD-level training in environmental studies, and I have a fairly decent understanding of social media by now. I am, by no one’s standards, an expert in social media. But I have a blog, which I love, and I have a fairly high number of Web 2.0 friends (note that I said friends, not acquaintances). And I have increasingly gained a better understanding of social media and Web 2.0.

Why is it important that we have inter-mediators? Well, simply because nobody can work alone anymore. Social connectedness and networked relationships are here to stay. You can’t do a campaign for a social change enterprise if you don’t have the subject matter experts. Your marketing campaign for a restaurant chain can greatly benefit from the in-depth knowledge of food critics who also have blogs.

One of the reasons I undertook my MBA training was to be able to speak business to engineers (I am a chemical engineer), and vice-versa. The relationship has to be bi-directional. You can’t just try to market a wastewater treatment process that appears miraculous without having at least some understanding of the technology, so that you can properly design a marketing campaign that really highlights the best features in the process. Along the same way, if you have no understanding of your target market, it doesn’t matter how great the technology is, since you don’t know who you are trying to sell it to.

While I still have a great degree of love for academia, I still love doing research and publishing papers, I can really see myself doing more and more of the role of inter-mediator. Of course, I can write a full-fledged post on the theory of ecolabelling and how OceanWise and SeaChoice as ecolabelling schemes are also environmental policy instruments. I can certainly tells you about the ins and outs of pollution control strategies. But that doesn’t really help you directly (unless you are a consulting firm, the government or one of my students!). However, creating an online strategy to reach out to the public, and help educate folks on the dangers of ignoring climate change is for example, one of the best strategies to use both of my talents (my enviro-geek expertise and my up-and-coming social media geek savvy).

I do know of some people who do this kind of work, like Jason Mogus from Communicopia, Rob Cottingham and Alexandra Samuel, quite obviously ChangeEverything and of course, my friend Jonathon Narvey, who is an excellent writer and has done some freelance work for David Suzuki Foundation if I recall correctly. Somehow, I *think* this is the direction where my career may head. Who knows, I may end up taking up an assistant professorship(*) at one of the local (new) universities, but one thing is sure: The future definitely looks bright for me.

(*) And even if I become a tenure-track professor, I still plan to continue blogging.

Vancouver NetTuesday for May 2008 recap May 8, 2008

Posted by Raul in blogosphere, Gastown, Net Tuesday, social change, social networking, sustainability, Vancouver, Web 2.0.

Fresh off of the recent Vancouver NetSquared event (also known as NetTuesday), I just got swamped with work and thus was pretty much unable to write a recap. However, since I have a meeting shortly and I can’t really focus much on work, I figured I might as well write a couple of comments on the meeting.

I had happily volunteered to live-blog the event for Rebecca (on Miss604.com), who couldn’t make it on Tuesday. It was the first time I’ve done a guest live-blog directly on her site, which made me a bit nervous (I feel better if I screw up on my site than on anybody else’s!), but at the same time, I was very excited.

At any rate, the evening, entitled “Welcome to the Widget Revolution” was very entertaining, with two presentations on how non-profits are making use of widgets to advance issues of social justice, sustainability and societal change. The last presentation was actually a demo of SproutBuilder, a great tool-building application.

I have the feeling that some of the participants expected a more geeky/techie kind of talk. The last part definitely was, but the rest was very much about how already built widgets were incorporated into the social media toolkit of a number of non-profits. I think that the message could have been more clearly articulated, although reading again the invite, I have to say that one could have found it from there.

Widgets aren’t just little pieces of portable code. Widgets are about opening up your message to your supporters and the community. Widgets represent a shift towards using online tools, and online thinking, to connect with more people and build deeper relationships with the people you are already connected with.

Vancouver’s 3rd Net Tuesday will explore the stories of nonprofits that are spearheading this revolution as well as demo a new widget platform — Sprout.[Vancouver NetSquared Meetup Site]

I took the liberty of making bold the part where you can read exactly what the event was about, but honestly, I can also understand why it felt as though somehow there was something missing. In the future, I would suggest that the organizers make it a bit clearer. Joe has made a LOT of great choices and put in a lot of hard work, both for speakers AND the sponsors – for example, the food was organic and the cutlery was biodegradable.

Here are some links in case you weren’t there:

Jason Mogus Slideshow: (Click here)

Jason Mogus Video:(Click here)

Scott Nelson Video:(Click here)

It was great as always to see a lot of my fellow Web 2.0 friends, including Nancy Zimmerman, Jonathon Narvey, the always amazing DaveO, Erika Rathje, Nadia Nascimento, Jenn Lowther, and I’m a bit afraid I’ve missed someone, so if I did – sorry! You can always send me an email to reproach me, hehe.