I have been thinking, as one is want to do at this time of year, on the previous 12 months and reflecting. I am fortunate in that my family is healthy and we are safe and sound and together which is no mean feat in these times of collapses, fall offs, and cutbacks. We remain solvent emotionally. We still like being together.
So last year began with my work continuing at Glen Cairn Community Resource Centre which is without a doubt the best place I have ever worked. My colleagues, including my brilliant and thoughtful boss Barb Schust-Lawrence, have at all times been supportive, inquisitive, and we are always open enough with each other to ask difficult questions without the feeling of being attacked. Politics amongst us has never raised its ugly head and that is due to the dedication we each have to working in a community that is often left behind and the brilliant cooperative leadership that Barb uses.
In April there was a radical shift in my work responsibilities as funding was cut to my position and my hours were reduced to half time. This was hard for me but was equally as difficult in retrospect for my fellow team mates. This meant a lot of reorganization and I thought at first that I needed to move on but somehow that never seemed to happen. The Board and Barb were always supportive and would often have projects for me that were important to me personally and to the community as a whole.
Another shift, this one a much easier one, for me was the many new friendships I have formed in the last year. I became active on Twitter and because of that started getting involved more in the wider community. I attended podcamp, an un-conference on podcasting, in the spring and because of that joined the Unlab. That led directly to my cohost, the thoughtful and always interested, Stuart Clark and I creating This Week in London Tweets Podcast. The podcast is a weekly show that covers what’s on the minds of the London twitter community and has provided the opportunity to meet and interview some really interesting and engaged people in our forested city. I am looking forward to this next year to see where this show goes and how it evolves.
Also I met Ed Jackman (@edjackman). If you are at all on twitter and keep an eye on the London scene you will have seen Ed. Ed and I meet at the first City Symposium, the brain child of James Shelley – another on the go and engaged Londoner whom I am proud to know, and we fell into a conversation that seems to continue and evolve. Ed is one of those people who decides, much like James, to do something and then it happens. From his social media company, The Jackman Group, to his involvement with the London photo scene to Untrepreneurs, Ed is interested and involved and is continually building relationships. I am fortunate to have him as a friend.
I cannot fail to mention some other folks who I have gotten to know over the last year as well. Ronny (@ronnyxu) is someone who called me up for some info on mental health for a friend of his. Since that first meeting Ronny and I have gotten to know each other better and I am always impressed that he continues to meet his challenges (and that of others) with courage and caring. Let me also mention Ed Platero (film maker of London), Kevin van Lierop ( community ninja!), Laura Shelby (London’s Grace Kelly), Abe Oudshoorn ( a man who continually illuminates the issues around homelessness and poverty), Bill Deys ( one of the unlondon/unlab founders), Broderick and Scott ( owners of Kowrok), Titus Ferguson (Another unlondon/unlab founder and geek convenor), Chris Moss ( social enterprise goddess and supporter of all things community) , Donnie Claudino ( Artist ), Marty Leveque ( Anglican Minister and all around cool guy), Mike Battista ( AKA Phronk – one of the best creative writers I’ve met in a long time), Mike Marsman ( someone who I should have gotten to know sooner!), Kevin Labonte ( Green Party Candidate and stand-up guy), Derek Silva ( entrepreneur and supporter of TWILT), James Wilkinson ( force for chaos and joy), Rachel and Andy Berdan ( smart creative arts types – I like them), Ian Gifford ( the man who brought Q to London), Karen Shulman-Dupuis ( super smart social media maven and defender of good), Joel C Adams ( the man who oversees the operations of London`s most exciting tech incubator and godfather of the London Lawn), Kevin Dixon ( the Dean of London’s Anglican Cathedral and a man who is trying to shift some serious mountains), and Jo-Anne Bishop ( Pollyanna extraordinaire)
Also there`s Shawn Adamson (@late2game) who is one of the owners of rtraction ( a digital design company with a soul) who continues to ask the hard questions that need to be asked and has a heart that’s all about making things better for his fellow Londoners. Add to this London’s coolest individual, Jodi Simpson(@jodisimpson) Shawn’s partner and one of the most thoughtful people in the city when it comes to issues small and large and I have found myself a wealth of new acquaintances and friendships.
I must mention also Don Seymour. Don is one of those people when I met him that I felt I had known him along time. Don is the Executive Director of WOTCH, a community mental health agency, who has taken the organization through some hard times and come out the other side stronger and better equipped to meet future challenges. In the mental health arena there are people who “Get it” and people who don’t. Don not only gets it but he advocates for people who often have no advocate. I’m proud to call him my friend.
Then there’s Glen Pearson. Glen and I got to know each other over twitter and then he invited me to meet. Since that time we have developed a deepening friendship. Glen was my former member of parliament, the very least of his accomplishments, and founded the London Food Bank. He and his wife also worked hard in Sudan to help to end slavery there and to bring about the creation of two new countries. North and South Sudan. He and his brilliant wife Jane adopted 3 wonderful children from that war ravaged country and we are all better for it. I am grateful for his friendship and our work together.
Another strong theme for me in 2011 was Community. Interesting word that, Community. One of its definitions is – “ a group of men or women leading a common life according to a rule”. The rule that seemed to evolve from the conversations and friendships that I developed this last year was do good. Now this may seem overly simplistic or even smack of jingoism but when you think about it it rings of truth and common sense.
I have always been heavily involved with issues like mental health, through my family’s journey, and poverty, through the work I do, but something interesting happened this fall. Occupy London coalesced around the issues of income inequality and the lack of power we seem to have in our political and economic wellbeing. I was familiar and had worked on many of these issues in the past so there was a natural affinity for me with this group. I went down to Victoria Park with a group of friends to meet the folks who decided to stake out their tents on some important issues but shortly thereafter our City Council evicted the Occupy London from the park. From this Glen was approached by the City to open a dialogue with the Occupiers. So he asked James Shelley, Myself, and Kevin Dixon, to come with him down to the park to make the offer. This, needless to say, was rejected and I understand why. What happened after that though has become one of the most meaningful things I have ever worked on. Glen was asked by City Council, through councillor Joni Baechler and with the support of Ross Fair, to ask for citizens input on the Social Assistance Review Committee. I’ve written about that here. We have so far held the first public meeting, under the auspices of City Symposium, earlier in December. I great number of people came out to learn about the income gap and what we’re doing and where we need to go. Our next two events will happen in January and we’re asking our fellow Londoners to learn how the most disadvantaged live and what we can do to change this uneven the playing field to a game that is fair for everyone.
The forth theme has been family. I have spent some wonderful time with my Mom and step dad fishing and laughing and being a family – something which I often need. My “little girl” turns 16 years old this January and I am constantly amazed at her imagination and ideas and I am grateful that she has inherited that absurd sense of humour I have – she’s one of the few people in the world that get my jokes. Then there is of course my wife of seventeen years, Heather. She is the anchor around which our family is connected to where we need to be and what we should care about and what we should let go. The three of us got to go to New York this fall and I am grateful that we got to experience so much art, and music, and Big Apple together with our old friends Andy and Aimee. We’re a strong Family and we continue to be strong through the connections we strengthen to each other and build to the community around us.
So in reflecting on the previous 364 I have to say that it has been an outstanding year and I am a very lucky man for the riches I receive every day in my work, my friends, and my family. To all of you Happy New Year. If in reflecting at the end of 2012 I am a quarter as fortunate as I have been in the last year I will count myself lucky and raise a cup of cheer to you all in thanks for what I have.