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Welcome to HC Link's blog! Our blog will provide you with useful information on healthy community topics, news, and resources, as well as information on HC Link’s events, activities, and resources. Our bloggers include HC Link staff and consultants, as well as our partnering organizations, clients, and experts in the health promotion field.

Please note: opinions in posts are those of the author and are not necessarily the opinions of HC Link or our funder.

We look forward to engaging in thought-provoking conversation with you!

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Reflecting on Madiba

Today is Mandela Day, and Nelson Mandela's 94th birthday. With South Africa six hours ahead of Ontario, I woke up to a flood of emails, social media alerts and articles celebrating the life of Madiba, as he is affectionately known. But as the day wore on, I noticed international tributes circulating as well. As a South African, his effect on me is profound. But I often forget that his legacy is admired around the globe, as he is arguably one of the most influential people in the world. Amongst the wishes and reflections, one quote was shared more than the rest:

nelson-mandela-quotes

As a bibliophile and a quote fanatic, one of my most cherished gifts is Nelson Mandela By Himself: The Authorised Book of Quotations, bestowed upon me by my brother. Organized by theme, the entry on poverty is four pages long. It is not surprising that Mandela became Amnesty International's Ambassador of Conscience. In his acceptance speech, he says:

"Overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice. It is the protection of fundamental human rights. Everyone everywhere has the right to live with dignity, free from fear and oppression, free from hunger and thirst, and free to express themselves and associate at will.
 
Yet in this new century millions of people remain imprisoned, enslaved and in chains. Massive poverty and inequality are terrible scourges of our times - times in which the world also boasts breathtaking advances in science, technology, industry and wealth accumulation. While poverty persists, there is no true freedom...
 
People living in poverty have the least access to power to shape policies - to shape their future. But they have the right to a voice. They must not be made to sit in silence as "development" happens around them, at their expense. True development is impossible without the participation of those concerned."
 

Today we reflect upon, and celebrate, a man who dedicated his life to equality. He made a difference in a once divided land. He left the prison gates as a friend of the prison wardens; he ventured into the new South Africa with no bitterness, as he said he had to leave that behind to be truly free. For a time, he made everyone know what it is to be united as one, to share a common destiny. He chose to focus on the future rather than the past, on reconciliation rather than retribution. There was a euphoric sense of community – South Africa celebrated as one! We need to be reminded of this as the South Africa, and the world, prepares for a time without Nelson Mandela. With so few giants of his stature bestriding the world stage, it is imperative that his values live on, even as his physical presence will inevitably fade away.

To learn more about the life of Madiba, visit the Centre of Memory.

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Austerity and Innovation

 

I just returned from an exciting lunch event at MaRS in downtown Toronto (where incidentally, I had what were quite possibly the best cookies I’ve ever had in my life) that I thought might be of interest to HC Link’s clients. The speaker was Geoff Mulgan, Chief Executive from the National Endowment for Science Technology and the Arts (NESTA) in the U.K. Geoff began his talk with a picture of a painting depicting a beautiful  1800s British wooden sailing ship being towed by a less-than-beautiful tugboat to the shore, where it would be destroyed. Innovation, says Geoff, can be painful as we make way for the new.  But innovation can yield exciting results, particularly in frugal times. Two examples of ‘frugal innovation’ that he used were the Aakash (a $60 tablet computer made in India) and www.couchsurfing.org. Then Geoff challenged us to think: what are the public sector equivalents? How can we mobilize the creativity often seen in the private sector and by imaginative entrepreneurs in the fields in which we work?


In the private sector, 10-15% of budgets are devoted to research and development to foster innovation and new ideas. In the sectors that we – in healthy communities and health promotion – work in, we see far less (if any). To illustrate the effect of this, Geoff showed a graph (which I was not able to find on the internet, so use your imagination) that showed a correlation between health care spending and mortality over time. The more you spend, the more people die. Though slightly tongue-in-cheek, Geoff used this example to show what can happen when we use the same old techniques to cope with ever-changing and complex situations withoutUntitled innovating.
All over the world, countries, governments, organizations and businesses are facing massive cuts in spending/funding. Those of   you working in local communities are no strangers to this reality. But we can – as others have- use this as an opportunity to do things differently. To innovate. And see what happens.


Here are some examples. In Sutton, England the public library faced massive cuts and could no longer purchase new inventory. The solution: Sutton Bookshare – where people list the books on their own bookshelves via the library website that people can pop over and borrow. Now, using the existing infrastructure of the library’s borrowing system, not only has the library solved their problem, but the solution fosters a sense of community. Another example is Big Society Capital – a new bank that lends money to those creating socially innovative projects. The new bank is funded by the millions of pounds sitting in unclaimed bank accounts. Couch Surfing, and similar concepts for car-sharing in Europe also solve the problem of needing a place to stay or a car to drive, but not having the money for a hotel/car rental.


My brain is still spinning from the session. But I think the one take-away for me (other than the cookies!) is that - when you take the ‘problem’ of funding cuts (or the resulting cuts in service due to funding cuts) to the community, the solution can often be found. Many of you are doing just that in your community work – and are finding innovative, community-based solutions that are working for you. I invite you to share those ideas using the comment box below – let’s start a conversation about innovation!

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