One Cause At a Time – Archive

An Archive of Chicago Now One Cause at a Time Posts

Archive for September 2016

My Chicago TARDIS Charity Auction Badge of Honor

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Pinned to a corkboard in my home office is a blue badge. Three hundred and sixty days out of the year, it hangs there as a reminder…and for four days in November, that badge serves as a reminder of how driving social change – and doing good for the greater community – can happen in the smallest of ways.

That badge identifies me as director of the Chicago TARDIS Charity Auction.

I’ve written about the Chicago TARDIS Charity Auction in the past (here’s last year’s post for those who missed it), but it’s one of my more enjoyable non-professional activities. (And I’m fortunate enough that, as a freelancer, I can afford the time to work on it as well as the Chicago Doctor Who Meetup). And yes, this is an obvious ploy to recruit bidders and (more importantly) donors…but it’s also an effort for me to give back, and to “stay in the game” of nonprofit relations.

One of the great things about working the Chicago TARDIS Charity Auction is that all proceeds benefit Northern Illinois Food Bank, which serves 13 counties in the Western suburbs. With Chicago TARDIS holding its convention (focused on Doctor Who) in Lombard, this is a natural match between convention and organization…but more importantly, it meets a very simple need: doing good for others in a basic manner simply because it’s the right thing to do. Northern Illinois Food Bank

Most of my professional life has been spent working for one cause or another; it’s only been in the past few years where I’ve expanded to include “for-profit” organizations. Working on the Chicago TARDIS charity auction involves many steps – not just acquiring items for donation, but crafting web copy,  creating appropriate methods and metrics, and coordinating/collaborating with other staff members. For a volunteer gig, it’s challenging, but also provides for some really great moments.

Moments like the time I held an actual Doctor Who prop from a frequently maligned story. From the people who say “hello”, seeing us as a fan-friendly addition to the conference. Having the casual encounter with a celebrity guest that comes out of nowhere. Yes, it’s also a lot of work (and for those complaining that it’s Thanksgiving weekend, all I have to say is…it’s a good way to avoid football). Getting to know fellow fans whom I encounter regularly in my convention and my private life. (Even my work as a published author doesn’t lead to as many chance encounters as does my involvement in Doctor Who fandom).

This may seem a bit self-indulgent for a blog post – after all, I’m used to writing more about the work that others do – but when I look at that blue badge on my corkboard, knowing that November is coming…I don’t see another obligation, or “it’s just work”….or even a ticket for attending a convention free of charge.

That Chicago TARDIS Charity Auction Director badge is, above all else…a badge of honor. And I’m proud to serve.

Know any other great work in the community? Know any unsung heroes or groups that need public recognition? Please share it in the comments section below, or let us know via our Facebook page. (If you want to reach out privately,  simply use this “Contact Me” form or any information via this blog’s About page)

And as always, thanks for reading!

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Written by gordondym

September 29, 2016 at 1:44 pm

Five Lessons in Social Justice from Colin Kaepernick

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One of the biggest stories of recent days has been Colin Kaepernick and his protest….and rather than spend time recapping, here’s a 1o minute clip from The Daily Show that outlines exactly what’s been happening:

 It’s ironic that, in a year that is highly charged around both free speech and social justice issues, that the individual responsible for driving the lead did so by his lack of action. For nonprofits and social enterprise, fear of reprisal may inhibit their efforts to effectively advocate for their mission. For social change agents, taking a stand is critical…but knowing how to negotiate through blowback is a very critical skill.

Yet, Colin Kaepernick’s actions provide great examples in how to advocate for social justice in a strong, assertive manner:

  • Counter critics with actions, not words – In an age where the phrase “social justice warrior” is used pejoratively (and often inaccurately), and with significant criticism from other public figures like Kid Rock and members of KISS, Colin Kaepernick could easily engage in a war of words in the media. Instead, he is choosing to let his actions speak for themselves….and as we’ll learn, he’s backing his statements with action.
  • Remember to put justice into social justice If all Colin Kaepernick did was avoid standing during the National Anthem (which has only happened in more recent times), it would be noteworthy. But Colin Kaepernick is making sure he follows his principles by taking further action, whether through donating profits from jersey sales, holding fundraisers, providing backpacks for kids, or encouraging the San Francisco 49ers to follow his lead. Most social justice advocates back their words with actions, and Colin Kaepernick is providing an excellent example.
  • Understand that the First Amendment applies to everyone  – One of the advantages of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution is that it outlines two basic rights: the right to advocate and believe in a particular set of ideals, and the other is the right to challenge and criticize those beliefs. It is a right bestowed upon everyone, and the Constitution makes it clear. For those who want to learn more,  you are free to check it out in text, audiobook, or even YouTube video.
  • Stay Informed….and be willing to inform others – One aspect of Colin Kaepernick’s actions that rarely gets covered is that this is an athlete who stays aware and informed of the issues. Posting one’s opinion on Twitter is good, but looking at Kaepernick’s Twitter account, there’s an almost equal number of shares around social justice issues.
  • Finally, know how the opposition will counter your statements – Many opponents for positive social change tend to engage in a select set of strategies, outlined via the Community Tool Box. By avoiding many of the “traps” that happen when discussing difficult issues around social justice, Colin Kaepernick is providing a great example of “grace under pressure.”

Social justice issues, especially around racial and police relations, are current hot-button topics, with many people having strong opinions on either side. Despite being dismissed in some quarters as another “athlete with an agenda”, Colin Kaepernick is providing a really strong example of social justice advocacy done right.

And proof that sometimes, great insights can come from the most unlikely of sources.

What do you think – please feel free to provide comments below for join the conversation on our Facebook page. (Both Facebook and blog comments are moderated, so please be civil). If you want to reach me directly, simply use this “Contact Me” form or any of the methods listed on this blog’s About page.

And as always, thanks for reading!

Want to receive updates via e-mail? Just type your email address in the box and click the “create subscription” button. My list is completely spam free, and you can opt out at any time.


Written by gordondym

September 16, 2016 at 9:30 am

More Nonprofit (and Life) Lessons from STAR TREK

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Earlier today, I made a guest appearance on WBEZ’s Morning Shift to discuss the 50th Anniversary of the original series of Star TrekThe idea was simple: discuss the lessons I had learned growing up watching the show.

(Really – I came of age during the beginning of syndication, and I’ve not only discussed the show on WBEZ in the past…I’ve also written several Star Trekrelated posts for this blog).

One of the areas that I touched upon in the conversation was how, as a nonprofit professional, the show influenced my own attitudes around social justice and social conscience. However, I think Star Trek contains many lessons that resonate not only within my own work in community organizing (and yes, I can draw a straight line between Star Trek and community organizing around tobacco prevention), but that I think have important resonance for other Chicago-area nonprofit and social enterprise professionals in their work….and their life.

So, just a few nonprofit (and life) lessons from Star Trek:

  • Missions matter…and knowing your mission is critical: One of the great aspects of Star Trek was that its mission statement was built into the fabric of the program. To quote: “Our…mission: to explore strange new worlds. To seek out new life and new civilizations. To boldly go where no man has gone before”. Yes, it reflects the show’s 1960s-era times (and would later be amended to “where no one has gone before”), but Star Trek wasn’t just a show that took place in space – it had an organizing philosophy (unlike its competition Lost in Space). Knowing your organization’s mission – and defining your personal mission – can often mean the difference between getting by and moving forward.
  • Everyone is capable of both great good and great malice…and professionals learn to how to manage both capacities: Episodes like The Enemy Within and Mirror, Mirror show (in dramatic terms) how people often have two sides to their character, and that character assets in one context can be character defects in another. As nonprofit professionals, we can easily forget that we’re expected to always be noble, positive….but that the best of us work to integrate those negative impulses. And like Mr. Spock, we can work to integrate our emotional and intellectual selves in a unique manner.
  • Diversity and inclusion aren’t just phrases – they’re active principles: Many cite Star Trek‘s diverse cast as a touchstone for its futuristic thinking….but I would like to go one better and suggest that Star Trek‘s stories promoted the idea of healthy diversity. Journey to Babel highlighted differences between various alien races while in the midst of a crisis. Day of the Dove and Devil in the Dark focused on accepting differences, and how divisiveness never benefits anyone directly. (If you’ve been following the current Presidential race, Day of the Dove seems very timely). Nonprofits and social enterprise are both committed to the idea of diversity, but it means full diversity in ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, and thought. Star Trek provides some great early – yet critical – thinking about these issues.
  • “Genius doesn’t come on an assembly line basis – you can’t simply say, ‘Today I will be brilliant'” –  Many nonprofit/social enterprise professionals struggle with both integrating new technology and maintaining a specific level of creativity and innovation. As this quote from The Ultimate Computer suggests, innovation and creativity are not traits that can be brought on demand, but require time, thought, and effort. Like many other nonprofit & social enterprise professionals, I find myself frustrated because I’m not being “creative enough”…but this quote reminds me that creativity and innovation require work.

Many of us who work in the nonprofit/social enterprise field find ourselves challenged to make a greater impact on the community with limited resources. However, as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the original Star Trek series, we can find many great lessons that the show can teach us about our work. Let’s end with a famous quote from Return to Tomorrow – although focused on space travel, Kirk’s words about risk make it clear that despite our challenges, driving social change is definitely worth the effort:

What are your thoughts on Star Trek’s 50th Anniversary? You’re more than welcome to join the conversation via the comments below or on our Facebook page. You can receive updates via e-mail (instructions below), or contact me personally either through the One Cause At A Time About page or this Contact Me form.

And as always, thanks for reading!

Type your email address in the box and click the “create subscription” button. My list is completely spam free, and you can opt out at any time.

Written by gordondym

September 8, 2016 at 5:10 pm