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PechaKucha 20×20

PechaKucha 20×20 is a simple presentation format where you show 20 images, each for 20 seconds. The images advance automatically and you talk along to the images. This is my PechaKucha 20×20 from the Canadian Environmental Grantmakers’ Network conference. We were asked to address how we got into environmental grantmaking, where our passion lies, and what the future looks like in a fun and engaging way. My colleague Satsuko just did one on elder care and put it up on her blog. I thought that was a fabulous idea. Here’s mine:

We were asked to address how we got into environmental grantmaking, where our passion lies, and what the future looks like. Question #1: How did I get into grantmaking? Well this is my family. My dad said don’t be a teacher. My mom said don’t be a missionary. My sister said don’t go into business. My brother thought the government sucked. The only thing that was left was to work for a foundation.



As for where my passion lies I think it’s really in eating. This is my vegan food blog called v:gourmet. You can find it at http://vgourmet.ca. I pretend it’s about eating healthily and providing me with a creative outlet, but it’s really just an excuse to cook good food, eat it, and wash it down with a lot of wine.



So I got into environmental grantmaking by default and my passion lies with food. Now for the final question: What does the future look like? Well, it’s either rosy or apocalyptic depending on your perspective. I tend to fall on the side of rosy these days. If it’s apocalyptic then it’s pretty hard to get up in the morning. So, instead, I cast my lot with those who, age after age, find hope and look toward a bright future.  



So that’s it. Thank you. …. But no really, why do I get up in the morning? What do I do each day? Why do I do it? What do I hope for? I think these are all the same questions so instead of answering each question literally, instead I would like to offer you the 15 reasons why I get out of bed every day and commit myself to doing the work I do.



The 1st reason I get up in the morning is that the future is good. This is Ben. Ben’s from Hamilton. He’s 13, he’s a philanthropist, he volunteers. For his barmitvah, instead of presents, he got his family to support the Hamilton Fruit Tree project through Small Change Fund. We hear about obesity, drug abuse, kids stuck to their ipods and other electronic gidgits. But with Ben coming up through the ranks we can believe in hope.



The 2nd reason I get up in the morning is to celebrate diversity. There are people like Ben all over the world who are doing incredible things. Many of you will have read this book by Paul Hawken in which he writes about the amazing number of people and organizations working on environment and social justice issues all over the planet – the largest movement we’ve ever seen. We need to celebrate the breadth and depth of a movement for good.



But a lot of these groups don’t get support. So the 3rd reason I get up in the morning is to be a gateway, an enabler. This is why I started Small Change Fund. This photo is of the Gulf oil spill. We can’t count on governments to prevent them, to clean them up, to mitigate the disaster. We can’t count on companies. The only thing we can count on is people at the local level, community leaders. I get up to support them.



But support comes in many packages, it has a number of different faces. While we like to think – as grantmakers – that all of our support enables, facilitates, and helps, we all know that sometimes it doesn’t. The support I have come to value most is the support that amplifies voices. The 4th reason I get up in the morning is to facilitate funding that raises the voice of communities and people closest to the ground.  



The 5th reason I get up in the morning is to grow things. I’m a mad farmer. My husband and I have a little farm outside of Toronto where I grow garlic and medicinal plants. But I also grow organizations like the CEGN, Small Change Fund, and the Prince Edward County Community Foundation. The reason is because we need new mechanisms to get money where it’s needed and help germinate a much more profound ecosystem of funding.



The 6th reason I get up in the morning is to see what the day will bring. The previous photo was me at 43; this is me at 4. How did I get from here to there? I have absolutely no clue. At 4 I certainly didn’t say “Mommy, I want to be a grantmaker.” Nor at 18. Nor at 24. Things are beyond our control and we have to embrace the chaos, the unexpected, the unpredictable. Accidents happen.



Speaking of accidents, these are my 2 sons at our farm running through the snow in their pajamas about to launch a war. Provocation and retaliation. I remind them almost daily that energy follows energy. In this case bad energy follows bad energy. But good energy follows good energy. The 7th reason I get out of bed in the morning is to follow good energy. Ideas are energy. Money is energy. Change is energy. 



The 8th reason I get up in the morning is that everything is connected. Donella Meadows – one of my heroines – said “It’s not possible for your heart to succeed if your lungs fail, or for your company to succeed if your workers fail, or for the rich to succeed if the poor fail, or for the global economy to succeed if the global environment fails.” It’s not possible.


Number 9 is to expose my mental models to the open air. Another inspiration to me is Lucy Bernholz who completely reconfigured an old paradigm for me. We were talking about taking things to scale. She said “Ruth, think about it, scale no longer means big. Scale means networked.” She helped me discover that a lot of us are already at scale working locally, nationally, and globally with the help of social media and new technologies. 



Part of exposing our mental models to open air is to learn, which is the 10th reason I get out of bed in the morning. There is so much we don’t know. “Stay the course” is only a good idea if you’re sure you’re on course.  What’s more appropriate when you’re learning is small steps, constant monitoring, and a willingness to change course as you find out more about where it’s leading.


The previous photo was of my daughter, Rebekah, which leads me to the 11th reason I get up in the morning. To fight for equality. It was heartbreaking when my 4-year old tugged on my pant leg, and asked me why there were no lego women. Archeologists, deep sea divers, chiefs – not a woman in the bunch. After hours of searching we did find one – a witch. Unfortunately too many of our institutions, boards, organizations still look like this and don’t reflect the values we hold.


The 12th reason I get out of bed is to honour my parents’ and grandparents’ quiet and faithful activism. We, in the environmental movement, live and work in an activist culture but not all activist are cut from the same cloth. This is my mom, a rebel in her own quiet and faithful way, following in her father’s steps before her. She never held a placard, joined a march, or wrote a letter to parliament, but she has moved mountains.



One thing my mom taught me is that there is nothing so constant as change. So the 13th reason I do what I do is because victory and progress are impermanent, always in flux, always dynamic. These are the people of Fish Lake. They got a gold mine stopped with the help of Small Change Fund and many others. Well, the company’s back. They are putting in another application.  The victory is possibly short-lived. Our work is never done.


This is why we have to continue to work hard. Number 14. I get up to work my butt off. This is my grandad, a very successful farmer in southern Ontario – he woke up every morning his whole life at 4:00 AM to shovel s***, feed animals, plant corn, fix heavy machinery, milk cows, keep abreast of a rapidly changing industry through the sweat of his brow and a lot of early mornings.


Which brings me to my final point – number 15 – the future is good and we can live in hope, which, if you were paying attention, was my first point. This is the gym in Gjoa Haven, Nunavut. Youth and elders got together to reimagine their future with the help of a few renovations and a mural artist from Iqaluit. With $6,000 we transformed a community. It brought healing tears to their eyes and it brings tears to mine each time I tell the story.


If you’re lucky you’ll see a lot of other PechaKuchas but there are many you won’t see. There are so many ideas, diversity, talent, and passion out there, not to mention personal stories which are powerful. Your own story being the most powerful. So ask yourself the question – why do you get up in the morning? Do your own PechaKucha even if you only show it to your kids or parents or dog. What’s your story? There’s power in the answer.