SPECs and Vision

As the end of the year rolls closer, I have been taking some time to reflect on the work I have accomplished so far through Strong Roots Consulting and where I hope to go. My recent post about Amazing YXE got me thinking about the strengths-based approach that has consistently served as one of my guiding principles – in case you missed it, here’s the pertinent part:

In supporting for-impact groups and organizations, I have always preferred to take a strengths-based approach that recognizes, celebrates, and builds on existing skills and assets. Although it would be foolish to deny that there are real needs and challenges in our communities today, focusing exclusively on deficits can lead to disillusionment, cynicism, and hopelessness: looking at strengths and existing resources (which may not always be measurable in dollars and cents) can help create confidence and point a way forward for individuals and neighbourhoods. More than that, this approach affirms the fact that every individual has something to contribute and some way of making a difference for our world.

In the above quote, I bolded the line about deficits-focus because the trend to emphasize needs and challenges is all too prevelant in our world today, including (and perhaps especially) in the traditional non-profit sector. Charities and service providers often work to address some type of problem, such as the effects of poverty, illness, violence, bereavement, or family conflict. Blame it on the prevailing Western model of medicine, where our idea of “health” has been formulated as the absence of illness, but even organizations that aim for a more positive and affirmative outcome like helping children achieve their potential can end up working to address impediments over encouraging well-being.

Very few people I know who work to make the world a better place want to focus exclusively on slapping bandaids on the wounds of individuals, families, and communities. While recognizing the necessity of dealing with acute problems that comes from living in an imperfect world, we want to build capacity, nurture strengths, and empower people and neighbourhoods. Over time and in the face of shrinking budgets and a never-ending flood of problems, it becomes too easy to focus on immediate needs and leave those aspirations for broader change on the back burner until that near-mythical future point where funds, time, and the will to use them are abundant.
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Amazing YXE

In supporting for-impact groups and organizations, I have always preferred to take a strengths-based approach that recognizes, celebrates, and builds on existing skills and assets. Although it would be foolish to deny that there are real needs and challenges in our communities today, focusing exclusively on deficits can lead to disillusionment, cynicism, and hopelessness: looking at strengths and existing resources (which may not always be measurable in dollars and cents) can help create confidence and point a way forward for individuals and neighbourhoods. More than that, this approach affirms the fact that every individual has something to contribute and some way of making a difference for our world.

Given my approach, I was glad to learn about the Saskatoon Food Bank and Learning Centre’s holiday campaign, simply titled “Do Something Amazing”. Over the next month, their website will feature stories about ordinary people doing amazing things in our community, starting with the story of five-year old Baya who has collected over 68 kilograms of healthy food for the food bank. The campaign also kicked off with the announcement of PotashCorp matching donations (up to $1 million!) to Saskatchewan food banks, which provides a very simple way for anyone to do something amazing!

To help kick off this campaign, I would like to highlight a friend of mine here in Saskatoon, Victor Das. In addition to “helping socially conscious organizations thrive” through Unite Marketing Co-op, his heart is always focused on making a difference in the community, such as through promoting the Filipino-Canadian Association of Saskatoon’s (FILCAS) fundraiser for those affected by Typhoon Haiyan. What really pushed his actions up into the amazing category for me was a Facebook post a few nights ago when the temps were going down into the -20’s: “I’m very grateful to have a heated shelter for tonight. Thinking of folks who have to spend the night outdoors because they don’t have a choice.” Cold winters are a fact of life in the Canadian prairies that we all grumble through: Victor’s post helped me put that discomfort into perspective and remind me that for some members of our community, the arrival of cold temperatures is not just an inconvenience but a matter of life and death. Hopefully his timely reminder will encourage people to support local organizations like The Lighthouse and work more broadly for change.

Amazing actions that make a difference can be as simple as a Facebook post, connecting with our neighbours, or volunteering a few hours. If you see something amazing in Saskatoon this season, I encourage you to share it with the Saskatoon Food Bank and Learning Centre via email, Facebook, or Twitter (using the hashtag #amazingyxe) – I’ll be doing the same!