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Touchless Part II: Travelling during COVID & Creating Connections

I usually travel a lot…that was pre-COVID.  Enterprise4Good has operations in many diverse locations within Canada plus several community development projects around the world.  The secret sauce of our organization is that we have become good at creating “Connection”.  Connection automatically creates a Gestaltic power that is greater than the sum of the people parts. 

I’ve been blessed to meet a lot of people in my life and a blessing it has been indeed. For me, connecting with someone new is not only a thrill, but also an opportunity to learn something new.  I’m insatiably curious!  What I learn from others constantly imbues healthy respect for the views of others and humbling realization on how little I actually “know”.  It imbues a realization that the vista of life has so much more to offer than the fragile picture the cocktail of my human frailties, beliefs, biases, opinions, glossed over prejudices and intolerance that my own hairline crack view of life provides.  As I meet new people and learn from them, the crack widens.

When meeting new people, invariably I’m asked where I live.  My standard humorous reply is to reply somewhat accurately “in an airport and hotel”.  On average I do between 100 to 120 flights per year…again pre-COVID.  Many of those flights were extremely long haul because Enterprise4Good’s international projects are typically in Africa, Asia, or South America.

Thus I’m no stranger to airports and hotels, sometimes accommodations often no more than rustic guest houses in remote villages…or an open air hammock strung between the trees.  Just me and the spiders!

Recently I’m coming into a travel “COVID Thaw” after almost 8 months stuck at home.  I’ve started flying again.  My how things have changed!!  Touchless processes everywhere.  How you get a room at a hotel or get a meal at a restaurant.  The list is endless!!  How you check-in at the airport…how your baggage is handled…how you go through security…how you get your coffee once inside…how you’re onboarded…how you are treated on the plane.  Woe betide you if you slip your mask off for a second to take a drink!!!  Flight attendants are on you like wasps protecting their nest.  Intolerance is everywhere if anyone breaks with what someone else thinks they are supposed to do.  Of course there is the other side of the rebellious intolerance of those who chafe at being required to wear a mask, social distance or self-quarantine.

As I’ve mentioned previously, I’m firm in my opinion that all these new procedures and processes are necessary to stamp out this pandemic organism, an organism that has proven to be a very effective hitchhiker…a hitchhiker that stubbornly stays waiting by the side of the road for their next ride no matter how hard we try to clear the road.

But I’m certain, get rid of it we will…eventually.

My worry is how much of all this sticks around after COVID ultimately leaves us.

Not so much the processes themselves, but the intolerance that they breed and the fracturing of human connection.

Intolerance is an unfortunate by-product of any systemic measures designed to intensely control behaviour to a prescribed norm. 

In my world as the CEO of a charity, I worry about how things will turn out for the vulnerable in our midst. After the acute phase of the COVID phenomenon passes and whatever residue remains, how tolerant will we be of those wonderful, valuable, special needs people that were already on the fringes of our society pre-COVID?   How tolerant will we be of a family of a child with Autism that won’t keep their mask on?  How tolerant of a senior with Dementia that gets confused and won’t follow the arrows?

The list of people with special needs is long.  Do they become even more disenfranchised from community?  Never mind how persons with special needs will be viewed, how will we all view each other?  Will it be through the lens of coming together toward a common purpose or intolerance?

I hope I’m wrong, but I fear it will often be the latter. 

In my view, intolerance evaporates connection.  This unfortunately focuses our attention on the differences that separate us, rather than on the commonalities we share that keep us together.

This leads us to polarity, biases, prejudices, constant argument, and inevitably to the gradual destruction of community connection that we so desperately need in these changing, uncertain times. The hairline crack becomes even smaller!

As we wait for a COVID vaccine, what is the vaccine for the potential of intolerance?  Stay tuned for Part III.

Touchless Part I: Are we moving towards a touchless society?

Are we moving toward a touchless society?

I’m now starting to wonder.  The COVID phenomenon is rapidly changing human behaviour that has been rooted in millennia.  Long-standing business processes also have changed almost overnight.  For example, people used to wear masks to rob banks…now you can’t enter a bank without wearing one.  We used to greet each other with hugs if we knew the other person well, or a friendly handshake if we didn’t. 

Human closeness and connection was one of the major factors that allowed homosapiens to vacate the safety of the trees our insignificant ancient ancestors called home, to the dominant species we are today. (Please read the thought-provoking book Sapiens). 

The very survival of our species depended on tightly woven family and tribal connections that have been cultured over the millennia. Embedded in our DNA is a yearning for connection that has its roots in hundreds of thousands of years that guaranteed our safety and pre-eminence. 

Enter COVID which is splitting us apart.  Now our personal “bubbles” now have to be 2 meters apart.  The health officials and politicians call that “Social Distancing” or “Physical Distancing”. Instead of closeness being a hallmark of community mindedness, now the exact opposite is true.  Our internal “radar” now has to be recalibrated to spot incoming human “threats” coming into our 6-foot space like missiles from an enemy country.  We also have to be certain our own movements don’t invade someone else’s airspace.  Our personal radar has to be ever vigilant! 

We now have to obey new rules that are deliberately crafted to keep us apart.  Little circles inside/outside public buildings guide our spacing.   We have to deal with customer limits at retail stores that are monitored by staff at the front door.  Of course, we dutifully wait outside in line, six feet apart on our little circle, all the while getting wet, frozen, or windblown until it is our turn.

It used to be “No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service”.  Now it is simply “No Mask, No Service”!! 

Once inside, our movements are dictated by arrows telling which direction we should be traveling down the aisles.  If our minds should wander, or our vigilance become lax, woe becomes us if we go down an aisle in the wrong direction!!!  We have to endure the “stink eye” stares of other customers or staff as they give us a wide berth, muttering negative pleasantries as they go by!  Whoever would have dreamed a short six months ago that little circles and arrows on the floor would take on so much importance?  How many people ever heard of Zoom six short months ago?! 

Oh, if our arboreal ancestors could see us now!!!

They’d either laugh…or shake their heads in disbelief…maybe wondering why coming out of the trees didn’t require circles and arrows!

Don’t get me wrong!!!  This is not some right-wing, Trumpian rant!  I believe all of these measures are absolutely necessary to save lives.  We should do them!! We have ample evidence to see the immediate negative results when we don’t.

But let’s think about this!!! What are the side effects??  What are the long term ramifications?  Are we in fact overturning hundreds of thousands of years of relying on physical proximity and connection that was required for our species’ development…and becoming a Touchless Society? 

Likely everyone on the face of the earth has an opinion on COVID, I know I do, but no one really knows how the future will unfold.

Even our health and political leadership have been wrong time and time again.  We can’t blame them because we are all traversing new territory.  Yet, there is one feeling most of us share and can’t shake and it is this…we feel that everything around us is fundamentally changing to something new…maybe forever.

Who knows??...but if that proves to be true, even in the short run, how do we align ourselves personally and organizationally to these tectonic changes?

I’m thinking a lot about that and about how those tectonic changes will affect the lives of the most vulnerable in our communities.  I’m thinking about how we, as a charitable organization providing programs and services to some of the most powerless and vulnerable in our communities, continue to not only serve their needs effectively but now also to assist them to traverse this new change.  I believe we have a responsibility to do so.

Everything we do at Enterprise4Good is built on the foundation of one and only one basic principle…and that principle is how the concept of Social Enterprise can create connection!  Everything we do is based on that.  All our programs and services, how we think, how we measure ourselves, our planning for the future, etc. are based on this simple yet powerful principle.

If we fail to create or imbue the connection between “community” and the people we serve…then we are a failure as an organization.  The people we serve are already on the margins of society and if not properly addressed, a Touchless Society created by COVID will make them even more marginalized…divided from opportunity, relationships, happiness, and a life that has meaning.  I passionately believe we have a duty to address those issues

Stay tuned for how we do that.  Part II will come out shortly.

Help Kelly Gurtin with Hail Damage Repairs

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In the Enterprise4Good organizational code we have the value of being employee-focused.  This is a time for us to live that value and look after our own.

Like many others, Kelly Gurtin was horrified at the damage caused to her cozy home this summer when a nasty hailstorm passed over NE Calgary. The roof, siding, windows, and doors are all in desperate need of repair to keep the residence safe and habitable for winter. Unfortunately, we all know how difficult insurance can be to deal with and Kelly’s story is no different; they’ll only cover a fraction of the estimated $23,000 costs. Even worse, if she can’t complete the repairs herself there’s a significant risk that she’ll lose her insurance coverage altogether and won’t be able to keep her home.

Here’s the real kicker: following a horrible automotive accident, Kelly is a C 3/4 quadriplegic and suffers from terrible chronic pain. While she relies on Long Term Disability, the modest income just barely covers her necessities. While she has forged ahead to be self-sufficient and live a life of purpose, she just hasn’t had the ability to build up savings for an emergency of this size.

Over the last 20 years, Kelly has been giving back to her community by working with a local non-profit called Enterprise4Good. She has been critical in organizing charity casino fundraising and providing clinical programming and employment assistance for people with disabilities. It’d be hard to calculate just how many volunteer hours she’s contributed to the organization and its events. Throughout the various positions she has filled over the years, the positive impact her loyalty and dedication have had on the lives of disabled individuals in Calgary is inspiring.

Despite her physical challenges, Kelly has been living her best life. She has accomplished her goals and has been a shining example of support to her family, friends, and community. Everyone she knows is blessed to have her in their midst. She could definitely use a hand in her time of need.

We can’t imagine such a wonderful person losing their home. Life has dealt Kelly constant adversity and she deserves a break. We hope to raise $17,000 to pay for Kelly’s hail damage as well as some necessary home accommodations and environmental controls to make her home safer and more comfortable.

Please help us show Kelly just how much the community appreciates her when she needs it most.

Click here to Share and Donate to Kelly Gurtin's GoFundMe page. 

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Chez Nous Seniors Home Provides Free Meals to Home Bound Seniors

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The Chez Nous Seniors Home in Moose Jaw will provide free meals to support vulnerable seniors, still living in their homes, who are at risk of not being able to obtain proper nutrition because of COVID pandemic issues.

Moose Jaw, April 8, 2020

The Chez Nous Seniors Home, a charity owned facility in Moose Jaw, has identified a population of seniors in Moose Jaw that are at risk of not being able to enjoy proper nutrition. These are seniors who live in their own homes independently, but who still require the support of family members or neighbours to assist them for basic daily needs such a meals, laundry, prescription pickups, etc. The COVID pandemic has severely restricted social movement and thus for various reasons these family members or neighbours are no longer able to provide this crucially needed support and thus putting seniors at risk.

Chez Nous is pleased to announce that we will make and deliver meals to this category of seniors during the COVID pandemic…for free! Our commercial kitchen will simply make extra amounts of the same nutritious food we serve to Chez Nous residents. The food will be packaged in disposable containers and delivered to the doorstep of a resident by Staff volunteers. There will be no physical interaction in order to keep everyone safe.

“As a charity, we are excited to do our part to support the Moose Jaw community during this extremely difficult period”, said Adrian Bohach, President/CEO of Chez Nous. “The COVID phenomenon has identified a segment of vulnerable seniors with issues that previously were “under the radar”. We are committed to make our resources available to assist vulnerable seniors to stay in their homes as long as safely possible. We will continue to monitor the needs of seniors in Moose Jaw and area and may potentially announce additional supports as needed”.

Chez Nous has already announced that it will make available up to 6 residence units to families who may have an elderly family person who needs a safe place to live during the pandemic.

For more information, interested family members should contact Manon Desruisseaux at 306-693-4371.

About Chez Nous

Chez Nous began providing residential care in 1979 for up to 60 high needs seniors or individuals with severe disabilities. It has operated as a charity owned facility since 2017. For further information, please review our website or call Adrian Bohach, 403-605-2924.

 

The Non-profit Sector – The Same Yesterday and Today, But What About Tomorrow?

Let’s ask ourselves some important questions about the non-profit sector. Is the non-profit sector really any different today than it was 5 years ago? Is it even much different from how it was 15 years ago, or even 40? Unfortunately, the answer is no. In fact, there is now more demand than ever for fundraising, Volunteers and public attention. Is there any change to the public perception that nonprofits are “causes” that need to be supported through donated time and money from “community minded” people? Yet again, the answer is no. Employees working in the sector are often paid substandard salaries and have to work with worn out hand me down infrastructure, simply because they work for a “cause”. Is this any way to reward the passion and dedication these people have for helping others? Given their nature, shouldn’t these people be properly rewarded for the public good they create in their communities? 

Most non-profit organizations must spend an inordinate amount of time and energy pressing their foreheads to carpet continually begging for money. For example, by writing grant proposals, managing fundraising campaigns, hosting golf tournaments or organizing special events, all just to keep their operations afloat. There has never been significant change to the organizational structure of a typical non-profit. While at the same time the concept of “donor fatigue” continues to be an issue, where the never-ending pressure on a typical citizen or corporation to give, give, give never seems to go away.

With so many questions that yield less than satisfactory answers, we have to ask ourselves, how did things get this way? And more importantly, how are we going to change things for the better?

It is estimated that there are over 200,000 nonprofits in Canada and about 10 times that in the United States. This is significantly more than there were a few years ago and there are no signs that the growth will ever stop. The non-profit sector is estimated to be about 6% of GNP, so it is not insignificant. This means, the amount of resources expended on competing for fundraising dollars, volunteer time and public attention is also not insignificant.

The nonprofit sector is the only sector in the North American economy that has not yet experienced consolidation. If you think about it, most other industries have. There are less banks, investment houses, automobile manufacturers and a host of other industries from coffee shops to the corner stores giving way to the larger competitors. This is all due to natural economic forces. The big fish eat the small because the small cannot compete with the resources, buying power, marketing reach and scale of the big. Any valuable innovation created by the small fish eventually captures the attention of a larger predator and the innovation is eaten, after hopefully, a lucrative payday to the smaller fish. Both parties benefit from the arrangement.

Consolidation has been a major disruptor in most industries and has created structural change almost everywhere, all for the sake of efficiency. If the non-profit sector followed suit, the duplicated resources of approximately 200,000 non-profits could be consolidated to provide much more efficient service to vulnerable people rather than being lost down the black hole of fundraising and administrative costs.

So why aren’t natural forces pushing non-profits to consolidate? Quite simply, because there aren’t any. Managers of non-profits have an interest in keeping their jobs. Boards, unfortunately have the misguided myopic behaviour of doing what’s best for the survival of the organization and so are blind to the view of doing what is best for the community.

There are no big paydays for anybody so, the status quo is the norm and its barbarians at the gates if another non-profit comes sniffing around to talk merger. The the only thing that changes is that we have even more non-profits out there today than there were yesterday and likely many more tomorrow. More non-profits making do with hand me downs, paying low wages and living precarious financial lives. More non-profit crabs trying to outcompete each other for scarce resources in a donor fatigued world.

So, is there any solution? Is there anything on the horizon that has the promise and scale to grab the nonprofit sector by the scruff of the neck and shake into a new reality? Thankfully, yes there is. It’s called Social Enterprise. Social Enterprises look for investment capital that is used to develop ongoing, long term cash flows. The investment capital is paid a return and eventually paid back. This is almost unfair competition to a typical non-profit looking for a gift of capital that is never paid back and which the donor knows will go down the black hole of paying for operational expenses. Once the money is spent, the donor knows the non-profit will often be coming back for more.

Capital will be one of the natural forces that will force the non-profit sector into a new reality. With the rise of such things as new investment strategies such as Impact Investing, new financial instruments such as Social Impact Bonds and new corporate structures such as 3C corporations, Capital is looking for a new type of home and it is looking for proper management that can make that home comfortable. 

That being said, great Social Enterprise ideas are not enough. An organization needs to convince investors that they can execute strategy effectively. Management capability is key. In my view, a new realization will dawn on forward thinking non-profit managers and boards that investors are seeking those organizations that can demonstrate return AND social impact while, at the same time having sufficient management bench strength to implement strategies and manage risk. Those early to the game will have a huge advantage over those late to the party.

It’s not as simple as just deciding to become a Social Enterprise. There are challenges many non-profits will have to overcome. For instance, how does a typical non-profit assemble an effective management team that has the experience to attract Capital and implement a Social Enterprise? How will the typical non-profit afford to attract this team by paying them below market rates? Unfortunately, for most non-profits, this is a fantasy. The fastest and easiest road to accomplish this is one nasty word in the non-profit sector, Merger.

When two or more forward thinking organizations look at their operations and see that they have all the resources they need by simply eliminating duplication (e.g. duplicated staff in accounting, fundraising, management, etc.), they have the money to attract and properly pay for the management bench strength they need. A merger then becomes an imperative, a natural force that can cause a chain reaction of consolidation and change the way the non-profit sector looks and operates forever.

Watch Adrian's Biz 1 on 1 interview with Randy Lennon here.

What is Social Enterprise?

Check out Adrian's interview on Biz 1on1 here.

If you’ve spent time researching the subject, you’d be forgiven for thinking there’s no set definition of social enterprise. The internet is populated with a range of opinions and for the most part, the definition largely depends on who you ask. 

It’s important to note that social enterprise as a concept is not solely relegated to for-profits (which are primarily driven by profits, market share, and increasing organizational value) or non-profits (which are primarily driven by mission and resourced through traditional fundraising). It’s also important to note that since social enterprise is a relatively new concept, it is still developing and adapting to modern business models, which themselves are constantly shifting to adapt to the economy.

Confused? Don’t be. It’s a lot more straightforward than you think.

In our view, social enterprise simply means “to use business methodology to accomplish a public good”. We strongly feel that the use of time-tested business practices often has a greater impact in achieving altruistic goals than traditional charitable means.

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A new Chapter for the Ability Society

Dear friends and Supporters of the Ability Society,

We are excited to announce our rebranding to “Enterprise4Good”. For the last 20 years the Ability Society has been pioneering new ways of doing “Charity” at the forefront of social enterprise in the Canada. With this in mind we felt it was essential to choose a name that more closely reflects who we are and what we do. The new brand aligns with our existing values and will help position us as the leading social enterprise in the Country. Under this new brand we will be running many new initiatives, all self-sustaining and all with the common goal of helping those in need by creating caring communities.

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