Sunday, June 10, 2012

The 10th Communities in Control Conference in Melbourne, May, 2012

It was really exciting to be attending the 10th Communities in Control Conference in Melbourne. In our invitation it says that it will be the last one and many of the attendees have certainly wondered about that purely because this conference is one of the most useful and beneficial conferences for the nonprofit sector in Australia that I can think of.

I was completely taken by the conference last year and this year is no difference. I think that attending is one of the best decisions I've made this year. The atmosphere of the conference just blows you away with it's excitement.

To me this year's Communities in Control Conference was a heartfelt reminder of the things I hold dear, which is working for the social justice and equality in the world.

It is really a noteworthy thing that while we are working in our daily tasks in the community and thinking that we are doing it for the good of the community and especially benefit those who are vulnerable in our society, we can easily loose the tread on what it means to be working for a good cause. Our struggles for funding and other opportunities often shift the focus to things that lead us to pettiness and fragmentation, away from the real issue, which is to maintain social justice in our community and nation.

The Communities in Control Conference works to restore the balance helping us to hold on to that big picture. It gives us some worthy suggestions on who to follow in order to get to the right information, that 'right stuff' in maintaining our knowledge base on where the world is at this particular moment in the human rights and social justice area of things.

I was literally blown away with the discussions in this year's conference on many subjects. Last year, I was really impressed but this year's conference managed to catch my attention at every turn. My mind was captured at every moment, with every speech and every speaker.

The Hon Peter Ryan, the Deputy Premier of Victoria rightfully questioned the invitation to this conference as the last communities in control conference. It is really right and proper that the format of the conference should follow the times and maybe change to something reflecting more of the so called modern times in media, but at the end of the day, it is the human beings in the conference and where else would we get such a wonderful possibility to meet new people whose concerns are similar to us or to listen to an oration on social justice with teary eyes. Not online, as the atmosphere is very hard to transfer through broadcasts. It is the human interaction that inspires and lifts us up to such new hights that ensure that we feel like we need to 'do something' about mobilising for building and maintaining social justice in our communities and the nation.

From the first speech at the conference delivered by Dr James Whelan from the Centre for Policy Development about the 'Big Society' movement and it's possible effect on Australian society, I was holding my seat in awe of how much information I had been missing while concentrating on my own organisation's struggles in gaining a threshold in service delivery in our area.

I had not noticed how the global impact of the Big Society ideal has been creeping to my world without me giving it any deep thought. Luckily, I can now read the report that is published by the Centre for Policy Development online. I am looking forward to reading James Whelan's analysis and research and by doing so acquiring some tools to encounter the signs of the Big Society taking over my consciousness.

Associate Professor Natasha Cica, the Director of Inglis Clark Centre for Civil Society in Tasmania had recently published a fascinating book, called Penner Dreaming about the stories and the pictures taken around the disappearance of the lake Penner in Tasmania during the 1950's. She also told us some touching stories that will be part of her next book on the Polish refuges from the WW II to Australia.

She raised a question on where do we need to take our stand in being responsible for our own actions despite the systematic possibility for compromises in human dignity some dictatorial nations (like the nazi Germany) provided or provide for performing heinous acts in the name of the ordered society. Her speech left me with wonder and a desire to buy her book for further reference.

Renowned health sociologist Dr Samantha Thomas from the Monash University spoke about the scare campaigns that are rampant concerning obesity and gambling.

She held the view, backed by her research that the individuals and the communities involved should be part in finding solutions to the problems. That is the only way to gain insight and really make a difference in removing some obstacles from finding dignified ways to solve the problems. The results of the scare campaigns only lead to more harm done to the society at large than ensuring that there is real outcomes for the people and communities involved. A very inspiring speech, indeed.

My favorite speech for the first day was delivered by George Magalogenis, an Author, Journalist, Political Commentator and a Blogger. It was a very intellectual speech and covered a lot of ground in Australian politics and the history of politics. I now look forward to reading his book, the Australian Moment and making sure that I read some of his blogs to keep up with the political atmosphere in Australia in relation to the global issues.

The first day ended with Judith Lucy's hilarious comedy performance that left me giggling and a little embarrassed, long after exiting the conference room, which I am sure was just her intention from the beginning.


If the first day of the conference, in my opinion, was excellent, the second day easily topped it and ensured that the participants left with renewed spirits and an eager mindfulness about social justice issues that we need 'to do something about'.

The day began with Margaret Simons, a well known journalist, author, academic and the founder of YouCommNews talking about the end of journalism as we know it. "There might not be journalists as we know in 20 years but the will always be acts of journalism." We do live in an age where everyone can publish, anything and everything online.

She held a positive view to the worldwide fragmentation of information and news and said that even though it might be fragmented, with a little bit of effort, it is possible to find 'the good stuff'. An audience needs to choose carefully who to follow to get to the unbiased, well researched news and act of journalism. It is all in the skills of how to navigate through the maze of unnecessary information flow.

Her speech left me thinking that a community organisation such as in which I work at or indeed any kind of modern business that is working to help the vulnerable people in the community needs someone who can keep up with the big picture that will help us to guide the organisation to informed decision making.

Scott Riddle, the Strategic Syndication Partnership Manager for Google then followed the lead of Margaret Simons and informed us of all the new technology, help and systems that, the nonprofit part of the Google business has actually already put in place to help the nonprofits of the world online. He talked about cloud computing and raised concerns in the audience about privacy issues. He acknowledged all the concerns and said that they were really good points and that Google was certainly putting a lot of effort into dealing with such issues as privacy etc.

I was quite fascinated by The OurSay Panel that followed. On the first day, the participants had been invited to log on to the, write down the question that we would have liked to be answered by the politicians and vote on the questions that others had raised. The three top questions were then presented to a panel consisting of former and current, local, state and federal politicians.

What was interesting was to hear their point of view to the questions raised. It left me with a definite aim to actually look more deeply into this kind of online mobilising of the public behind important questions that need our attention.

Next Damian Ogden, the founder and Executive Director of Campaign Action and an Obama Campaign Advisor give us his insights to how to organize meaningful campaigns for a good cause.

I was really impressed by his high ethics in planning and mobilising people behind worthy causes. I am sure that the program his company runs would benefit anyone who is in a process of thinking about what to do about concerns and how to go about doing whatever it is that needs to be done. I certainly will take this up anywhere I go and talk about the social justice as an issue to be raised in relation to building equality in our nation.

After that, it was time to announce the the winner of the Joan Kirner Social Justice Award winner and to listen to the Joan Kirner's fantastic Social Justice Oration. It truly made my day by reminding me and everyone else why we are working in the community. It is to help others and the world to reach the goal of Social Justice all around the world.

I do not think that there was a dry eye in the audience while listening to the Joan Kirner's speech. It was a heartfelt reminder to us all about the huge work that is there in the community and society for those who set the goal of helping nations to equality, peace and freedom as a main purpose of their life's work.

A really worthy cause to follow and I am looking forward to seeing where the new forms of the Communities in Control Conferences will lead us.
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Sunday, April 15, 2012

LAPPSET Seminar in Brisbane; From Children's and Senior Parks to Intergenerational Play

Community capacity building has been a passion for me for the past five years. As a Service Manager for Finncare, Home and Community, Aged Care Services for the Australian Finnish community, I noticed that it is really hard to inspire people who have been guided to passivity in their retirement to revitalise their interest in recreational sports and fitness. If we think that it is hard to pick up a new habit as a young person, how hard would it be to change your attitude when you are set to the end of life path already at the age of 65.

As a Director, responsible for providing community care services for a large community in every age group, I have come to realize that intergenerational solutions are the best and most effective in terms of getting the community involved in their own wellbeing. Promoting healthy lifestyle is most efficient when everybody has the change to be together in the same space. It could be at different times of the day but it is the connection to the community and the feeling of belonging that is important.
My search for inspiration for Intergenerational Play has long roots, starting from the cultural dance and games that were such a wonderful experience for me as a young person. The connectedness to friends, family and community can not be stressed enough when talking about what inspires people for community involvement and healthy lifestyle. If there is a reason to be mentally active, live longer at home, be involved in the world, then my experience shows that it is easier to take up new habits to enhance that wellbeing.

Recently, I attended an innovative Seminar on Parks and Playgrounds in Brisbane, organised by the LAPPSET Group. They are playground equipment specialists from Finland and the leaders of the multi-generational playground design concept.

The Lappset Seminar introduced the participants to innovative ways of looking into public playground design, from defining who are the park equipment uses to suggesting practical ways to new playground design.
Many interesting talks were given explaining the necessity for careful understanding of the community needs, of planning suitable playgrounds to meet these needs and ideas on how to implement the whole Intergenerational Play concept to the modern way of life.

From Tuire Karaharju-Huisman, a researcher to aging population from Melbourne, I learned that by 2017, 15% of Queenslanders are over 65 but only 43% of people between 65-75 are active enough to keep them in good health. It is of grave importance for an aging person to be agile enough to avoid falls that can lead to permanent health risks. Walking alone is not enough to keep the kind of personal fitness, strength, balance and flexibility that enables a long healthy lifestyle. What is needed is some planned activities that are especially designed to maintain personal fitness and health.
One good example of the national focus on Senior Parks is found in Spain, where there are more than 1000 parks designated to promote Senior Health. This doesn't mean that they are for the seniors alone as many parks are used for different age groups during the different times of the day. This requires that they are planned to be diverse enough for everybody. The focus then shifts to designing a suitable play area where multi-generational play is possible.

On the other hand, I was made to understand that young people have their own needs and many times it is important to take into account that they might want a whole park devoted just to their entertainment. The huge success of Parkour in the designated parks points to that. There again, it is essential to note that boys and girls learn in a different way.
According to Ali Kadhim, the Australian Parkour Champion, boys learn to jump and then land as opposed to girls who train to land before learning to jump. And up to now, I haven't even mentioned the original mass uses of the playground equipment, the children under 10 where there are such noted enormous differences in age play that for example 4 and 7 year old children do not even play together, not to mention in the same way.

Ali Kadhim pointed out that in today's society where all the children are being supervised and all the risks for harm are carefully measured, there is a need for children and youth to search for their limits in order to develop their self-confidence. Parkour, for example, let's the kids find their own strength and limitations in a safe environment.

Jenette Blake, from Queensland Health called for everyone 'to consider taking physical activity out of the gym and into the playground' where intergenerational community involvement would enhance the general wellness and wellbeing of everyone. According to her, public parks are a cost-effective way to promote healthy communities. She also noted a changing public perception that encourages community evolvement.

Petteri Ikäheimo, the Asian Manager for the Lappset Group said that 'it is about doing things together', that if adults play together with their children in the playground, they are inclined to spend longer time there. The imperative, then, is to design the equipment so that it enables multi-generational play.

Well, after a day like that, who wouldn't be convinced? Especially, after we went to visit the Riverdale Park in Logan, where there is a wonderful playground, designed by LAPPSET where we were able to witness a marvelous Parkour demonstration by Ali and his Team9Lives mates.
In conclusion, I can say, that the attendees to the Lappset Seminar now have a considerably better understanding of the Intergenerational Play concept in global and multi-generational perspective. I feel that my passion for the Community Capacity Building has been enhanced and that I now feel even more enthusiastic in my goal to help to further Healthy Communities through striving to provide more opportunities for Intergenerational Play.

I sincerely thank the organisers for providing us with such a pleasurable and informative day and I look forward to working towards the realization of a dream where we could have more such interactive playgrounds in our own communities.

The Pictures in this blog are:
1. Rivedale Park at Logan, Queensland. A Parkour friendly design.
2. Team9Lives from Sydney
3. An inspirational quote
4. Ali Kadhim showing what he can do
5. Me testing my fitness, strength, balance and flexibility
6. Team9Lives Parkour demoinstration
7. An example of multi-generational playground equipment
8. Some Seminar participants at the Riverdale Park. In the forground Tuire Karaharju-Huisman

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Friday, March 2, 2012

Contemplation on Social Media

The Community Services Forum held at Cleveland discussing Social Media trends and the future of Volunteering.

The Queensland Compact, held at Sunshine Coast, Social Media Workshop.

Aged Care Services Forum held in Brisbane, encouraging participants to look at Social Media as Human Potential.

The members of Logan Country Chamber of Commerce at Jimboomba, being encouraged by Russell Lewis to use Social Media as a marketing tool.

Ehon Chan at Innovate Symposium Social Media Workshop organised by Volunteering QLD.

Yvette Adams introducing the Westside Business Women to Social Media usage in small business marketing at their breakfast meeting in Springfield Lakes.

Discussing the trends

It is unanimous, inevitable, decided and agreed that our world has gone through a complete Social Media revolution in a few years. We are more connected, accessible and visible than ever before. It is not a question of do we like it, it is a question of how to use it to the best of it's ability.

We do not run our businesses on like, we operate them on professionally well thought strategies. The use of Social Media is not a choice, it is a survival strategy that is being introduced to every facet of our lives, business and private.

There is no way a modern business owner, or a non-profit organisation can ignore Social Media as a viable tool for getting the message across to the existing customers and potential target groups.

Every layer of our society, from the Commonwealth and the State Governments and Advocacy Organisation to the smallest of the business owners and groups is considering Social Media.

Lately, we have witnessed the impact of Social Media in surviving catastrophes and influencing political decision making. It has been effectively used in gathering large crowds to one place to demonstrate or take action.

There is no doubt that the Social Media as a tool cannot be ignored. It can only be embraced and used to it's best advantage.

Those who are still in doubt should maybe try to apply the Critical Thinking Methods to how, where and which vehicle to use for their social media messages to be most efficient in the market place.

I have found that for a non-profit community organisation building a positive and engaging community through the social media outlets like the Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn can be a good way to spread the community spirit.

On a personal level I've found that choosing the right social media vehicle for your personal and professional live is the key to engaging with your network. I've found that it is the quickest way to hookup with friends and business partners and get their immediate respond.

The choice of how you engage through the social media is all yours. Why not enjoy the experience to the full!

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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Inspiration Application; An Unexpected Day in Amsterdam

Last week, I got stuck in Amsterdam. There was a storm and I missed my flight and landed a great opportunity to be inspired by the moment in time in a great city.

My conclusion is that Amsterdam is not a bad place to get stuck in. It is merely the question of how to size this unexpected opportunity suddenly and without any preparations. Quick decisions had to be made of what out of all the possibilities a visitor could choose to be inspired by.

So, I chose the most obvious, the canals. It is the quickest way. After all, that is the most striking feature I know about Amsterdam, besides the famous tulips, of course.

After making your way to the Amsterdam Central by train from the Airport, you just walk across the street and hop on a boat that will take you around the city's canals for a day. There is a combi-cruise available, where you can hop on-and-off wherever you like. The coolest thing ever, especially on a dreary mid-winter day.

Then it is another decision of where to hop-off as with a sudden opportunity time is of the most importance as you have to catch the next flight home, for sure.

The other great feature I know about Amsterdam is that it is full of great art. Hoping off next to the National Museum then becomes quite a simple decision. But would there be time enough in two hours to absorb it all? I' d say no. So the next available inspirational, fit-for-two-hours-experience is the Van Gogh Museum, right behind the previously mentioned one. And Wow!

It is an inspirational tour of the best kind. To me, it was an exercise in turning the dreary into colorful. Van Gogh, famously, knew how to do that.

Let's see! Here we have a person, who adores dreary landscapes and colors but instead becomes the trademark for orange.

To make the long story short, here is an example of a person who, at the age of 27, after making a sudden decision of becoming an artist instead of selling art, works tirelessly at improving his skills. He is also confident enough to forgo critique and hold on to the inspiration to the end. It is a show of real self-confidence in one's abilities to be able to say that you are satisfied by your work of art and leave it at that despite of what anybody else says.

I was fascinated by the way Van Gogh was inspired by the Japanese art and how it can be detected in his work. His famous work, 'The Bedroom', for example becomes much more understandable with the background knowledge of where he took his inspiration from. It is much like after watching the special features of making a movie, you can better appreciate the completed work. The Van Gogh Museum has certainly succeeded in giving the visitor that experience.

Amongst the inspirational art that inspired Van Gogh, I also found Odilon Redon, a new favorite of mine in inspiring for the mysterious.

One of the art works also reminded me that I should re-read Emile Zola, which would then in it's turn inspire with the understanding how the rebellious mind of the youth of the 19th Century can be turned into great art pieces.

What I did take with me after spending an unplanned day in Amsterdam as a spectator for great architecture, landscape and art was the concept of inspiration application.

The opportunity is in all of us, despite the dreariness of the day. It is learning to size the moment and channeling every inspiration to make our day a worthwhile experience. Holding on to that inspiration and letting it move us towards an enchanted life then becomes a little bit easier every day.

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