Peace And Love Movement Brings Awareness to Foster Care Normalcy Law

In 2013, Florida lawmakers chose to implement the Normalcy Act; a law that requires their state government to allow foster parents to have the right to make decisions about allowing foster children to do simple things such as attend school outings and participate in sports.

In this article, the Florida Department of Children and Families called this the “Let Kids Be Kids” Law.

Most people who I’ve talked to even some child welfare professionals are unaware that such restrictions ever existed. I get to travel the country on a regular basis speaking to judges, lawyers, social workers, foster parents, CASA workers, and foster youth so I have talked to a large amount of these populations.

In actuality, these restrictions causing a foster child to jump through hoops just for permission to attend a school outing still exist in most places.  Sometimes they even have to go all the way back to a judge through social workers and case workers prior to getting a permission slip signed.  This Salt Lake City, UT article shares about a teen girl who had to battle just to be able to join her teammates at a state cheer competition earlier in 2014.

When I was in care, I ended up with a biological aunt who allowed me to forge my mother’s signature to avoid this process. Although some people may not think that is right, I am ever so grateful for that common sense move that she made to simplify my complicated childhood.

But not everyone has such an advocate on their side who is willing (or legally able) to do what is truly in the best interest of a child without serious reprimand.  Therefore, this issue shows up with almost every group of foster youth that I speak to.

After speaking to them to inspire hope for their future, they usually want to take photos with me, but if they are under the age of 18 they can’t because it takes too long to get signed permission for a “media release”.

After a while, I got sick of seeing disappointed faces when a program director would tell kids they can’t take a photo with me.  So, one time in South Dakota, while touring with the Unified Judicial System, I found a way to work around the system.

I asked the entire group of kids to stand facing the wall and I stood in front of them facing the camera.  All of them proceeded to hold up “peace” and “love signs, giving birth to the #PeaceAndLove Movement.

Here is the original group of foster youth who started this movement:

Peace And Love Rapid City, SD Foster Youth | Normalcy Law | Foster Care Speaker Travis Lloyd
Peace And Love Rapid City, SD Foster Youth | Normalcy Law | Foster Care Speaker Travis Lloyd

I now do this Peace And Love activity with almost every audience I speak to.  You can see several of the audiences that have already faced the wall and joined the movement in 4 other states by clicking this link (scroll to the bottom of the page to see all of the photos)  In these photos you will find college students, fortune 500 corporate executives from businesses like Luxotica and Ray Ban, as well as foster parents, judges, and lawyers.

This #PeaceAndLove Movement needs awareness.  The next time you’re with a group, large or small, ask them to turn around and hold their Peace And Love signs up with both hands, as high as they can.  And then take a photo of yourself standing in front of them then add the hash tag #PeaceAndLove.

Don’t forget to check out the other awesome photos and share them with your networks.

Voter Suppression? We’ve Got An App For That

Election-Collection-Screenshots

These days it seems like there’s an app for everything. If I can map my daily jog, surely I should be able to use this new technology for a greater good. With this in mind, we set about designing an app that would use mobile technology to help prevent and document incidents of voter suppression. Southern Coalition for Social Justice has launched Election Collection, a data gathering initiative that uses a location-based mobile data collection app to document, track, and rapidly respond to voting irregularities and instances of voter suppression at polling places nationwide for the 2014 General Election.

The app’s design was guided by community geography principles and is directly informed by the array of needs communicated by litigators, organizers and researchers in attendance at the inaugural convening of the Southern Leaders for Voter Engagement in May of this year.Election Collection is a free app designed to help voting rights advocates record instances of voter suppression for use by election protection volunteers as well as voting rights litigators, social scientists, and other voting rights advocates.

This app allows users to nimbly relay the status of Election Day events in real time to both in-house legal response teams and to fellow volunteers on the ground. On Election Day, trained volunteers will be able to log in to personalized accounts and record incidents of voter suppression using its listed forms. The intuitive app is easy to navigate as it follows a simple design that should be familiar to those who have ever filled out a form on a website.

Volunteers can select from a wide range of text fields, drop-down menus, multiple-selection buttons, and photo and audio file attachments to relate a highly accurate and comprehensive account of voter suppression events.
SCSJ, in cooperation with several partner groups, is leading ongoing training sessions for teams of Election Collection volunteers to use the mobile app to gather information from voters on-site at polling locations nationwide.

Each time the app is used to record a voter contact, it will upload immediately to the Election Collection cloud database and mapping service, where it will then be relayed to or conveniently accessed by remote teams of legal monitors at different locations throughout the country. From there, attorneys can effectively respond to voter problems as they arise using the desktop interface in either a map or spreadsheet view. Polling place monitors can similarly view an up-to-the-minute map of recorded incident reports on their smartphones using the mobile app.

The Election Collection app was designed by a community-based activist and researcher in collaboration with organizers, policy analysts, litigators, IT entrepreneurs, and mobile GIS industry specialists. These participatory and multidisciplinary roots account for its characteristic flexibility in form and function. The app is intended to record not only general data that national voting rights advocates, researchers and litigators might desire, but also such information that voting rights advocates at the state and local levels have identified as being critically important to protecting voting rights in their respective areas of operation.

Generally, the app collects data in several categories: voter information, wait time, ability to vote (regular ballot, provisional ballot, no ballot), types of voter problems encountered (voter registration problems, identification problems, etc…), witness information, and media attachment or documentation. It is also configured to support tailored forms to gather data related to state- or locally- specific policies or practices that impede a voter’s access to the ballot.

Election Day collection is designed for two audiences: (1) volunteers in the field, who will have simple interfaces that work across platform and device; (2) back-end users (litigation, policy, research), where immediate voter problems are flagged and routed in real time to attorneys.

Individuals or organizations interested in downloading the app and participating in Election Collection, please contact Sarah Moncelle sarah@scsj.org. Not able to use the app on election day but still want to help? Learn more about the project here.

[vimeo]http://vimeo.com/105528834[/vimeo]

Fundraising: The Skill that Stands Out

Students and college graduates across the country know that finding a job, and especially finding a job you like, can be a taxing and difficult process. The problem is the competitiveness of the job markets can put stress and limitations on the opportunities students can obtain. In addition, the social welfare field has strains such as limited job opening, overwhelming responsibilities, and not enough financial resources. Social work students work hard to obtain the necessary qualifications to get that perfect job come graduation. We as students are trying to figure out what experiences and skills are going to attract potential employers and stand out over our competition. One of the most valuable skills that any student looking to go into the human services field should learn is fundraising.

fundraisingFirst, it is important to clarify what fundraising is and the benefits from it. If you think fundraising is simply raising funds, then you do not fully understand it. Many students and professionals dislike fundraising because they are not comfortable asking for money or do not think it is important. Well I do agree that our society sometimes has an unhealthy relationship with money and wealth, fundraising is not just about the money. Fundraising is developing relationships with community members to obtain the necessary support for your organization.

I absolutely love fundraising. My social work cohort does not completely understand why, but I love it. I get the opportunity to connect with various community members, build relationships, and then offer the opportunity that is mutually beneficial. There are opportunities to help businesses market their brand, foundations impact the community, individuals feel a sense of reward, and communities feel the difference they are making. Fundraising has more purposes than making revenue, thus making it a vital skill for many organizations.

Fundraising has been a low priority for many human service agencies since the majority of funding can come from government grants or insurance reimbursements. Even though the amount of money from fundraising initiatives may be a small percentage of the total organizational revenue, it is still important to put effort into it, but could be hard to financial restraints. If social workers knew how to fundraise as well as provide direct care, they become a double asset for their agency. Even if their primary job is providing services, assisting the development team with initiatives can be have a huge impact for the agency. Program staffs that know how to fundraise are valuable and highly honored by nonprofit professionals. Program staffs also have a stronger connection to the agency that fundraising staff at times, making their contributions stronger.

As students, we have the opportunity to expand beyond our roles at times and assist in fundraising efforts. While we volunteer for special events or campaigns, we also develop important skills that will benefit us in our career paths. Fundraising is a valuable skill to know and social work students interested in the nonprofit world should explore options to learn more about it. I am currently a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (Afpnet.org) and it is a great resource for professional fundraisers. I recommend looking into programs provided by the local chapter, or any other professional resources that will help develop necessary fundraising skills. Taking a course while in school or attending some training programs can be payoff as well. Learning to fundraise and learning to enjoy it will make a student stand out.

Social Workers Need to be Social Networkers!

Networking is probably the most important part of anyone’s career, and everyone, especially social workers and students, should be practicing proper networking habits. As social workers, we need to be leaders in our community and build successful relationships with various people, and it is important to connect with professionals in all sectors that can influence the social atmosphere.

imageofsuccessnetworkingcocktailpartyfundraiserNetworking can help build relationships with potential employers, potential clients, potential business partners, and potential personal relationships. Personal relationships drive the way our society operates because we are a social society made up of social human beings. People are more likely to give jobs to people they like or do business with people they know.

Social work students and younger professionals really need to be out there networking to ensure your career development is an easy transition from school and you career develops successfully. We are also the next generation of leaders, and it is good to connect with the current leaders now to understand how we can one day be in those positions.

A few tips you should know about networking:

  • Ask how their day is going before anything else. Don’t be that person that gets down to business right away. This is not a business meeting, and you will be known as that person in the community.
  • Never talk about yourself unless addressed. This is hard, but don’t make it about yourself. People sometimes think about how they can respond to some rather than actually listening. Focus on listening and asking more questions. You will get to a point where you can talk about yourself, but wait until it comes.
  • Always be respectful! Duh!
  • Be sincere. People can tell if you are just talking to them for business purposes. At least pretend to like talking to them.
  • Ask personal questions. Ask about their job, their responsibilities, and their lives. Unless, they are a spokesperson for their company, steer away from company or career specific questions.
  • Only give your contact information if they ask. Don’t just give it right away or stick your business card in their face. If they ask for your contact information, they actually want to stay in touch. Ask for their card if you plan to stay in touch.
  • If you attend the event with friends or coworkers, do not stick with them the whole night. You can meet more people and have more meaningful conversations if you do not have someone who knows you standing right next to you. They can be there for support, but also drag you down. Remember, one person is easier to approach the two or more.
  • Be prepared. Have a business card ready and be prepared to talk and engage.
  • If you plan to stay in touch, ask how. Email, phone, social media. Set up a plan.
  • Have goals for the event. Goals help you stay motivated and push you to talk to people. If you don’t have a goal, then you may just stand in the corner eating the free snacks. A simple goal is meet three people you never met before, or meet someone who can connect you with an agency who can provide you a job. Keep it simple, but have some goals in mind.
  • Never pull out your phone! It’s extremely rude, and should only be answered in emergencies. Everything else can wait.
  • Also, you should wait for them to share with you before sharing photos of your pets or families

One of my former supervisors taught me this method to approach people at a networking or social event. This has been really helpful personally with building relationships with people you may not expect right away would be helpful. The important thing about networking is no matter who you meet, there can always be a benefit of knowing a person. This method uses the acronym FORM and helps you realize potential opportunities to connect with the person in multiple areas than just business.

Family & Personal Life. Ask about the person about themselves before you ask anything else. You are talking to a person, not just an employee of a business. Talk about where they are from, their family, their education, and anything else personal first. Take note, new parents love talking about their children! Also, asking people about their family the next time you see them shows you actually care about the person. Pets are another great way to connect, as well as hometown or cultural traditions. Try to build a connection with someone rather than force it.

Sample Questions:
· Where are you originally from?
· When do you move to the area?
· What are some of your favorite things to do around here?
· Where do you go to school if you did?
· Do you have family here? If so, do you mind me asking about them?

Occupation & Business. After the personal life questions, transition to work. Some people love talking about their job, and some people do not. Our society identifies people based on their occupation. It’s important to know what career someone has, but always remember not to solely associate that person with their work.

Sample Questions:
· What do you for a living?
· Do you like your job?
· What are the best components of your job?
· How long have you been doing it?
· How did you get into that career field?
· What was the best part of your education?

Recreation & Hobbies. People do more than just work. Ask what they like to do for fun. See if they are involved in clubs or associations. People have many interests outside of working, and you could meet someone who likes similar things as you. Also, this is another area to talk about with someone and connect with them in different ways.

Sample Questions:
· What do you like to do outside of work?
· What do you do for fun?
· Do you volunteer for any organizations or causes?
· Do you know of special interest groups or organizations in the area?

Mission & Message. After speaking for some time with a person, this is where you identify what your goal is with that person. Share information about your agency or your career goals. Try to connect with them for professional development opportunities. Identify and plan a way to stay in touch. This is usually the part where us fundraisers talk about the great work our organizations does, and how the person’s support with be helpful or to be involved in the organization. This is a great time because you have demonstrated you actually care about the person more than doing your job.

Sample questions:
· Do you know anyone who could help me?
· Do you have any ideas/advice for me?
· Is there anyone here than you know that I can meet?
· Could we meet for coffee/drinks?
· I would love to stay in touch. Which way is best to contact you?

I have followed this method in the last few months, and met incredible people in the local community. It is truly amazing to hear more about a person beyond their current job, and their personal community service goals. You can figure out many opportunities that person can help you, and how you can help them! Remember social workers should be doing the best we can to ameliorate our communities. The more relationships you build, the bigger your impact can be on the community. Connecting professionals from various sectors can help unite the community in a way to really make a difference in the community. We sometimes underestimate the power of relationship building on a professional level, and it is certainly a priority of social work to advance social justice causes and change the community for good. The more people we know, the more our impact can have.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Eventbrite

Hashtag #Molestation On Instagram Reveals Disturbing Trend

Recently, I went to the #fostercare hash-tag on Instagram to look at the most current foster-care related photos. At the top of the list of images, I saw a very inappropriate nude photo of an attractive young woman. Initially, I was very frustrated that someone would post nude photos in the #fostercare hashtag in which I use to inspire foster care youth and advocates.

Then, I read what she posted and noticed the other hash tags she used: # orphan# liar, and # molestation. This girl was molested most of her younger years and is deeply scarred. Posting nude photos appears to be her way of expressing and fighting back.

ChildMolestationIt is understandable she is trying to take control of what was taken from her for many years, and I can’t really blame her for no longer wanting to be silenced. However, do you know what was the most shocking? When I clicked on the hashtag #molestation, I found something even more disturbing. Almost every other photo that I saw was of someone joking and inappropriately touching someone else. A mockery of what is both a sad reality and the cause of a life-time of guilt, shame and a lack of self-esteem for many.

The 2003 National Institute of Justice report states that 3 out of 4 adolescents who have been sexually assaulted were victimized by someone they knew well (page 5). VictimsOfCrime.org lists that 1 in 5 girls is a victim of child sexual abuse while 1in6.org reports that studies show 1 in 6 men have experienced sexual abuse before the age of 18.

It is no surprise that “as many as 75% of those in #fostercare have been sexually abused.” That makes them a prime target for repeat abuse and more horrendous statistics. According to the website 1 and 6, they report studies in two east coast states indicating that 21 and 28 percent of child sexual abuse cases, respectively, involved reports that originated in a foster home.

Although these statistics reference children, I would like to place emphasis on how one’s traumatic experiences impact adulthood. Anyone who experiences any type of trauma, regardless of socioeconomic status, lives with it forever. AceStudy.org reports that “studies reveal staggering proof of the health, social, and economic risks that result from childhood trauma.”

The above stats are a harsh reality to swallow. Maybe that is why so many joke about it on social media, but never allow the subject to be talked about in public. In our society, it is so easy to joke about some pretty messed up things, yet when someone has something real to talk about people clam up and don’t know what to say.

Well, sometimes you don’t have to say anything. Sometimes you just need to not be scared of the truth, open your heart and ears, and listen. Allowing someone to hurt and express their hurt might be all they need to feel reassured and start to heal; even if it is something as taboo as molestation. We all need healing.

Alternative Funding for Higher Education

My last article asserted that college education is returning to an elitist institution as it becomes more and more unaffordable to low and middle-income Americans. However, I see no sense in simply focusing on issues without exploring solutions. That’s just complaining. There are alternative options to finance higher education for all who wish to attend some of which are routine elsewhere in the world and beginning to be explored here in the U.S.

Free Tuition

HarvardMy personal favorite. Scandinavian countries are big on this and are also frequently ranked high in quality of living. Much of this can be attributed to socialistic practices, which is code word for higher taxes. But let’s be honest, the concept of socialism is fairly taboo for many in this country. However, even in the U.S., socialistic practices are utilized, including free tuition.

One way this is being explored is through the no loan pledge, implemented in approximately 70 U.S. colleges and universities, replacing loans with grants for the most financially needy students. As well, there are some colleges and universities in the U.S. that offer all accepted students free tuition (i.e., Cooper Union, College of the Ozarks, and the military academies). There is also the option for international students (U.S. included) to receive free tuition at some international schools (i.e., Scandinavia again, as well as Hong Kong, South Korea, and Amsterdam).

Almost Negligible Tuition

Supplemented by the federal government but still charge fees. France, Ireland, and Ghana are some countries that operate in this manner. Even with the fees, they’re nominal compared to tuition paid in the U.S. and for those who cannot afford them, some countries offer assistance.

Payment Deferment Programs

This differs from straight up loans in that upon graduation you pay a fixed percentage of your income for a fixed number of years and anything that isn’t paid off is forgiven. Australia has operated in this manner for years and other countries are beginning to offer similar programs, including the U.S. to a certain extent. In 2009 the U.S. implemented income-based repayments; however, depending on what you qualify for you could end up paying significantly more than was ever borrowed. Australia taps out when you’ve paid what was originally borrowed plus the low interest rate. There’s also a company called Lumni that is offering “human capital contracts” to low-income students in the U.S., Mexico, Chile, and Columbia that operate in the same manner as Australia’s income-contingent repayment plan.

However, while these options are ways to provide equal access to higher education as far as tuition is concerned, there is still concern over cost of living. Even if tuition is free, there’s still room and board, food, books, supplies, etc. in which low and middle income students would still have difficulty covering these expenses. There are options that do address this concern offering a variety of assistance ranging from inclusion of these costs in the tuition assistance to grants and scholarships. This is necessary to take into consideration as higher education reform is further explored or else needy students still won’t be able to afford college.

While many college graduates owe their first born to lenders and current/future students worry they’ll have to make a deal with the devil or not attend college at all, the situation is far from hopeless. This is becoming a large and loud national debate and most recognize that change is necessary. Whether the change employs a current approach implemented more broadly or another approach is taken entirely, as long as we continue to advocate for equal access to higher education it is inevitable.

WWE and KaBOOM! Partner to Keep Children Active

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Whether it be on the playground during recess or after school at a community park, children cherish their recreation time. Unfortunately, there are several neighborhoods and schools across this country where such facilities do not exist due to a lack of resources. However, WWE  has partnered with KaBOOM! to build a new playground at Woodland West Elementary School in Harvey, La.

KaBOOM! is a national non-profit organization dedicated to ensuring all children get the proper balance of active play they need to become healthy and successful young adults. Founder and CEO Darell Hammond was inspired to begin the organization after reading a 1995 Washington Post article about two local children who suffocated while playing in an abandoned car.

In his mind, the tragedy could have been avoided if only the children had a safe environment to play in. Since its inception in 1996, KaBOOM! has raised more than $200 million and led in the hands-on construction of over 2,000 playgrounds.

“We are honored to partner with WWE to help give the children of this community the childhood they deserve with this play space,” said Hammond. To kick off the project, WWE Superstar Kofi Kingston hosted a Design Day at Woodland Elementary, where the children were able to brainstorm and design various ideas for their dream playground.

The children will have their final design come to life during WrestleMania Week on Friday, April 4 when WWE Superstars, employees, and community volunteers will spend the day constructing the playground from scratch. Kingston, a 4x Intercontinental Champion, spoke at length to the children about how his adventures on the playground as a child played a significant role in fulfilling his lifelong dream of becoming a professional wrestler.

“Practice, dedication, and wanting to succeed; it all starts at the playground,”  he said. The playground build serves as part of WWE’s week-long lineup of community outreach activities leading up to WrestleMania 30 on Sunday, April 6 at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans.

WWE is utilizing all its assets, including TV, live events, PSA’s, in-arena, digital and social media to generate awareness of the playground build and partnership, and the initiative ties directly into First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign

Since her husband, President Barack Obama, took office in 2009, Michelle has embarked on a comprehensive mission to bring awareness to the health of America’s children.  In addition to healthier eating habits, she cites a lack of physical activity as a major contributing factor to childhood obesity. It is recommended that children participate in at least one hour of moderate to vigorous physical activity on a daily basis.

Recent studies have also shown a correlation between physical activity and academic performance. A 2013 report from the Institute of Medicine states that children who are more active show greater attention, have faster cognitive processing speed, and perform better on standardized academic tests than children who are less active.

HRB Movement: Interview with Keith Meyers

Ladies Kiwi World RPET

I enjoy having the opportunity to show case the innovation and ingenuity of social work students and professionals. It is often assumed that one who seeks formal education in social work does so due to lack of skills and abilities in other areas. When in fact, its just the opposite. The major appeal factor for social work majors is the flexibility and ability to use your skills in many arenas. Social Work is not just a profession, but its the way we see and process the world. This could not be any more evident than when I interviewed Keith Meyers who is one half of HRB Movement.

Located in Wilmington, North Carolina, Keith Meyers and David Pearman created HRB Movement which is a company that sells goods from organic and recycled products. According to the HRB Movement website,

HRB Movement was born from the idea that social progress is a process. Through life experiences we’ve learned that only true and dedicated action can create real change, so in June of 2010 the HRB team set out on a mission. At it’s core, this mission is to cause a mental shift of the masses from the ‘negative’ to the ‘positive’. To do this, we hope to inspire all generations, old and young, with the promotion of sustainable concepts, respect for yourself, respect for those around you, and respect for our World.

I was really impressed as I learned about their outlook on the world, and how these two young men have decided to make their mark on it. Here is my Q&A with co-founder Keith Meyers.

SWH: Tell us a bit about your background, and what led to your work with the HRB Movement?

Co-Founder Keith Meyers
Co-Founder Keith Meyers

I’m from Maryland but moved down to Wilmington, North Carolina to attend college at UNCW, the University of North Carolina Wilmington. Admittedly, that transition was more about getting close to the beach and warmer weather than it was about getting an education. After my freshman year of college I became a pretty serious student and began my social work studies. The internship requirements of social work really appealed to me, because I’ve never been too fond of classroom limitations.

After my first year of studying social work, I took a year off from school and went to Kenya to volunteer at an orphanage. It was an extremely rewarding experience. I built life-long relationships and really had the chance to do some on-the-ground-floor learning.

When I returned from Kenya a friend of mine from high school and I started HRB Movement. The business officially became incorporated on June 15, 2010. My business partner, David Pearman, was attending the University of Maryland and playing on their division one basketball team, while I was busy in Wilmington studying, interning, and working. During the final two years of college, we didn’t get to really buckle down and focus on the brand that started after we were both out of school. Since I studied social work and David studied geography, we don’t have the most formal business education. We like to think that our business stems from those two subjects, however, because when you combine the two you get creating an impact on the world…

SWH: What is the HRB Movement, and how is it different from other apparel companies?

HRB Movement is a sustainable clothing and apparel company. When I use the word sustainable, I don’t use it lightly as it often is these days. There’s no greenwashing involved with our business. We sell clothing that is manufactured with organic cotton, recycled polyester, bamboo or hemp. The inks used to print our graphics are water-based or soy-based. Even our hang-tags, office paper, and shipping materials are made from recycled materials.

David Pearman
Cofounder David Pearman

While those are the reasons why our products are sustainable, the meaning also carries over to our environmental and social impacts. We’ve made the commitment to plant a tree for every product sold. Some of the retail stores that carry our brand also match us on planting a tree for every product, resulting in two trees being planted for certain products.

Our last planting was 1,670 trees in Lake Waccamaw, North Carolina and we have plans to plant a minimum of 15,000 trees in 2014, with plantings already in the works for North Carolina & Jamaica.As we grow as a brand, so will the ways in which we are able to contribute to the efforts of nonprofits. We currently volunteer our time and organize others to volunteer with a variety of non-profits in North Carolina & Maryland.

We’ve worked with international ngo’s in Haiti, Ethiopia & Kenya. Our biggest goal in terms of non-profit involvement is to fund our own projects that will focus on community development through implementing self-sustaining programs. Our goal in contributing to the world is to provide people with the tools to manage their own projects in their own communities because we really don’t want to contribute to cultures of dependence.

SWH: Where do you envision for HRB Movement in the future, and who do you want to appeal to with your products?

To date, we have avoided boxing HRB Movement into any particular industry niche, be it surf, urban, or eco-friendly. Our goal is to fit into all of them while still keeping a focus on positivity and sustainability. We think that organic and recycled products shouldn’t only be affordable to those In the upper-middle and upper classes.

The biggest selling points for clothing are the products look and feel. We’re very committed to producing products that people want to wear because of those aspects. We won’t sacrifice having a shirt that fits fashionably to have a shirt that is sustainably produced. Likewise, we won’t sacrifice having a sustainable product to have one that looks fashionable. Our products have to go both ways, which I think is where a lot of the most sustainable brands have failed thus far.

SWH:  Do you work with nonprofits and others who are looking to incorporate T-Shirts into their marketing strategy, and how does someone locate and purchase HRB Movement products?

We have yet to work to heavily with other non-profits or businesses on t-shirt collaborations. We do, however, have some in the works right now. While we will keep those sort of relationships limited, we are willing to work with other businesses who share similar values of really promoting the good of mankind.

There are various ways that a person can purchase one of our products. We have a easy-to-use and secure online store located at hrbmovement.com and are sold on several other online marketplaces. We are also in retail locations, such as Whole Foods and a variety of local surf shops & shoe boutiques in states including but not limited to, North Carolina, South Carolina, Maryland, Colorado, Georgia, Tennessee, Mississippi & Alabama.

SWH: Is there anything else that you would like to share with our readers?

The biggest thing I haven’t included in the other answers is our involvement in the international reggae scene. We are big fans of reggae music, especially from artists in Jamaica. We have some great relationships with artists and studios in both Jamaica & Brazil. In late July or early August we’ll be heading to Jamaica to continue building those relationships and for some non-profit involvement. We are also sponsors of the California Roots the Carolina Sessions annual festival in Wilmington, NC and work with some great bands local to the United States as well.

My last note is to really try to support companies that support you as humans. I don’t mean only buying American-made or only buying sustainable products. I mean do your research on the values of a company. Buy products, no matter where they are produced, that people were paid fair wages to produce. Buy products from companies that are cause-integrated rather than cause-marketed.

[vimeo]http://vimeo.com/73318848[/vimeo]

Photo Credit: Courtesy of HRB Movement

Hugh Jackman Turns Buying Coffee into a Social Good

For years, Hugh Jackman has made a living portraying larger than life characters such as Wolverine in the X-Men film series and Jean Valjean in Les Miserables. But now, the Australian-born actor is diverting his attention to the world of free trade coffee as the founder of Laughing Man Coffee & Tea which is a brand under the umbrella organization Laughing Man Worldwide.

3022172-slide-s-jackmenThe idea for this venture came a few years ago after Hugh Jackman served in Ethiopia as an ambassador for World Vision. While there, he encountered Dukale, a small-time coffee farmer whose hard work and level of commitment made a profound impression on him at the time. Later, Jackman wrote of his experience in an article on Fast Company, “I also sensed a kinship with Dukale…like me, he was a worker and a father who wanted to thrive and provide for his family.”

Hugh soon discovered that the coffee business was not set up to benefit the small farmer. Upon his return from Ethiopia, Jackman voiced his concern to the United Nations about the need to work with farmers like Dukale, so they could realize a fair trade price for the coffee they produced. As a result of these circumstances, Hugh Jackman partnered with David and Barry Steingard to create Laughing Man Worldwide in order to help create a fair and equitable market for the small coffee farmer.

According to an official statement on the company’s website, Laughing Man Worldwide was established to recognize the power of entrepreneurship, ingenuity, livelihood, and access to such opportunities. The company helps entrepreneurs by creating and developing new businesses, and in return for that help, Laughing Man Worldwide receives some ownership. 100 percent of their revenue goes back to education, community development, and new business development. Laughing Man Coffee & Tea is the first venture under this model.

3022172-inline-menu-image-coffeeIn October 2011, Laughing Man Coffee & Tea opened its first café in the lower Manhattan neighborhood of Tribeca. The tiny, stylish establishment is adorned with wooden shelves displaying the brand’s signature coffee beans and grounds, teas, and hot chocolate, which are also available for purchase on the Laughing Man website. Its products are made with crops from farms in Ethiopia, Peru, Guatemala, and Papa New Guinea.  There is even an espresso blend bearing Dukale’s namesake.

Hugh Jack has often stated in interviews that his charitable work with Laughing Man Coffee was inspired by the late Paul Newman. In 2005, the legendary actor established Newman’s Own Foundation to sustain the legacy of his philanthropic outreach. To this day their business model remains true to Paul’s original mission and values, using only all-natural, high-quality foods and donating 100 percent of their profits to charity.

Choosing the name Laughing Man was no accident. Their official motto is “All be happy,” which is the atmosphere their customers experience when visiting their Tribeca café.

“What I love about this place is their ethos; they’ve created something that makes everyone happy. They’re living and breathing their life philosophy through their business and I believe this is the way all businesses will have to operate in order to survive in the immediate future”, wrote Claire Storrow, who visited on a 2013 trip to New York.

What To Do With Those Unwanted Christmas Gifts

Whether it’s a book that you are never going to read or a jumper that just isn’t suited to your style, the chances are that many of us will have received unwanted Christmas gifts that we have no use for. This isn’t to say that these gifts were not appreciated, but they didn’t quite hit the mark when it comes to the type of gift you were hoping for.

However, there may be other reasons why a gift may be unwanted, though such as being damaged or it could even be a duplicate present. Whatever the reason, here are a few options that you can choose from to help you figure out what to do with them.

Problems with Unwanted Christmas Gifts
Problems with Unwanted Christmas Gifts

Talk To The Giver 

There is a need to tread carefully here. Whatever the gift was, it was given with love. The person giving it is likely to have been pleased with their purchase, so you need to consider their feelings. If you don’t know them too well, maybe they’re a work colleague or the spouse of a distant family member, you may want to avoid telling them.

For closer family members and friends, a bit of honesty can go a long way. Not only will this mean they know your preference for next time, you also have a chance to see if they have the receipt or ask where they got it from.

Refunds And Credit 

If you can get hold of the receipt or you know that the shop the gift was bought from has a more relaxed returns policy, then the best thing to do is attempt to take it back. If the issue is just with the size, then you can always exchange it for one that fits better.

Sadly, not all companies will be open to offering refunds. It is your right to a refund if the product is faulty. If you are returning an item for no other reason apart from the fact that you don’t like it, the shop may have no obligation to accept your return.

However, most places will have a goodwill policy in the period after Christmas and those that don’t offer money back should give store credit, which is still better than something you are never going to use.

Re-gifting 

Re-gifting may be frowned upon by some people, but it’s much better that someone gets to enjoy the gift than it sitting in a drawer for the foreseeable future. If you know someone who would love that jumper you didn’t really want or you know someone with a child that would love the unwanted toy your child was bought, then there is no harm in passing the parcel. Again, it is a good idea to be honest with whoever gave you the gift in case they also know the person you are re-gifting it to.

Selling Online 

Ebay has been a massive success since it was founded in 1995 and this site acts as a great platform for you to sell your unwanted presents. The fees for selling are scaled according to how much the gift costs, and it offers you the chance to give your gift to people who are actively searching it out.

Ebay is not the only site that’s available though. There are specialist websites all over the internet for various types of gifts. Got a new mobile that you don’t need or want or you want to get rid of your old one, try sellmymobile.com. Got some clothes that don’t fit or aren’t in your style, try recycleyourfashions.com. For everything else, there’s always Gumtree.

Charity 

All this talk of unwanted gifts can make some of us feel a little spoilt and so if you really want your redundant gifts to make a difference, you could always drop them off at your local charity shop. Alternatively, you could give any unwanted toys to a children’s hospital or day care centre in your area.

If you want to avoid the embarrassment of giving an unwanted gift, then why not consider gift baskets for the next big occasion in your family. Gift hampers always go down well and can be filled with plenty of goodies, so the recipient is at least likely to enjoy one of them.

photo credit: MRHSfan

Social Media for Social Good 1st in Series: Choosing a Domain

by Thejas Kamath

Choosing a domain name for your blog, business, or organization is crucial to producing the desired results that will drive traffic to your web page. It also requires a lot of effort from your side to find the best suited names for the best outcomes. Choosing a domain name has become quite difficult because the Internet is growing and people are registering thousands of domain names daily. There are several steps that I recommend before buying a domain name. The wrong domain selection can get you into trouble and cause you much difficulty later on. Most importantly, a well thought out domain selection may increase your opportunities for getting better Search Engine Results Page (SERP) rankings. Taking time to research and learn the history of your domain will be imperative to your long-term success. Domain names can make or break your website aspirations.

Check For Trademarks Violation-Checking for trademark violations is an important precaution to take prior to buying a domain name. Buying a domain name that has an existing trademark could result being sued, penalties and monetary damages. It is best practice to always check for existing trademarks before purchasing a domain name. You can check for trademark availability at the United States Patent and Trademark Office located at USPTO.gov or using this free online tool.

I have used the tool mentioned above to check for existing Trademark infringements for the phrase “Google”.  View the screenshot below. If you find the domain of your choice has already been registered for most of the world, you should move to your second choice. Using a domain with trademark protections can be costly and not worth the headache.

Trademark checker tool

Google is very important for the survival of any  blog, business,  or organization because it is the most widely used search engine in the world. Additionally, it offers companion products like Adsense that will allow you to monetize your site to generate income. There are several steps that you can take to review your domains history with Google.

Check Whether Google Has Banned  Your Chosen Domain From Search- If you buy a banned domain name, there is a process where you can request Google for reconsideration. However, this process may take several weeks. In utilizing this option, Google may or may not reconsider removing  the banned domain. Using a domain that has not been banned, it will allow you to navigate the process quickly and more efficiently. Here are several tools to help you determine whether Google has banned your chosen domain:

1) iWebTool

2) BannedCheck.com

Check AdSense Has Banned The Domain – Google AdSense is one of the best and top paying Ad Networks out there. It is definitely worth your time to ensure your desired domain is not on the Adsense banned list. To achieve the benefits of Adsense,  you would have to spend plenty of time experimenting with other Ad Networks to gain the same results. Here are a couple of tools to do this recommended check:

1) AdSense Sandbox

2) IsBanned

Social Media Username Availability- Branding your blog, business, or organization is one of the most important steps you can take in establishing your website as a trustworthy source. Social media is the best cost-effective way to begin creating a brand for yourself. It can generate a lot of traffic to your website. Ideally, it’s always great to have social media usernames to be the same as your domain name. For example, lazy people like may assume your twitter and domain is the same and go to . It would be irritating if the person searching for your page finds some other page which may translate into you losing followers. Finally, check for the availability of Social Media usernames using this great tool, which can search 150 networks at the same time for username availability.

Also View:

Cyber-Law by Harvard Law.

Visit Thejas Kamath on his blog called SayBlogger, and you can also follow him on Twitter @sayblogger.

Educating the Social Workers as Consultant (8th and Final in Series)

The standard social work education curriculum has 5 areas of inquiry: Practice Methods, Policy, Ethics, Human Behavior in the Social Environment, and Social Research.  The social worker as consultant may organize these into two categories: Systems of Practice with Human Behavior and Social Mechanisms.

“Systems of Practice with Human Behavior” describes the systems level the social worker as consultant is hired to impact. The systems level can be individual, family, group, organization, or community. Often, the social worker as consultant is tasked with assessment of one or more systems and observation, intervention or evaluation of one or more systems.  The traditional social work education practice methods informed by human behavior in the social environment can be enhanced with coursework that specifically applies these concepts to behavior change, culture change, leadership, innovation, and mobilization.

“Social Mechanisms” describes the structures that may be used to engage systems at any level. The social worker as consultant utilizes social mechanisms to intentionally support change. Traditional research training can be enhanced with specific techniques for information gathering and sharing. Advanced research can draw on in-depth interviewing, demography, and crowd sourcing.  Traditional policy can be expanded to include skill practice in outlining cultural mechanism, comparative analysis, and case construction. Traditional ethics can be augmented to emphasize economic justice, financial capability, and collective promotion of social good.

NEW TRAINING CONTENT

Toward jump starting the inclusion of content that would prepare the social worker as consultant, I propose a group of competencies. Each competency organizes modules having both skills suitable for classroom practice and connected abilities to be demonstrated in the field. Successful completion of skill challenges, demonstration of the abilities, and articulation of professional ethics would comprise a portfolio of competence.

Social Entrepreneurship

This group of modules explores the concept of social good as a business strategy. It includes concepts of social development, social capital, and social economics. Each student will be expected to master the following skills:

  • Articulate the process of value creation in 4 different business models: Sole proprietorship, B-Corp, C-Corp, and Non-Profit
  • Outline a successful supply chain model complete with holons, nodes, partners, third parties and logistics.
  • Calculate the expected return on investments in market development that includes support for financial capability and asset building of potential customers.
  • Compose a plan for sustainable growth with attention to the long-term health and well-being of human resources.
  • Define mechanisms of venture capital and crowd funding.

Leadership & Culture Change

This group of modules explores the power of a leader to cast a vision, build supportive structures, train staff, inform stakeholders, and manage organizational culture. Each student will be expected to master the following skills:

  • Define leadership for intentional goal achievement in interpersonal, organizational and community contexts.
  • Identify key stakeholders in a change process along with methods to engage each stakeholder group.
  • Outline a competency-based approach to training and education including certification and continuing education.
  • Analyze the compile the learning orientations and change facilitating factors present within an organization.
  • Articulate a process for creating and maintaining a social change movement within a community.

Behavior Change & Influence

This group of modules explores the unique ability of social workers to engage in interpersonal relationships, promote dignity and worth of the person, influence self-sufficiency, and support sustainable behavioral health choices. Each student will be expected to master the following skills:

  • Define complex adaptive systems in the context of emergence, human nature, and the concept of individual will.
  • Operationally define human interaction as a control system.
  • Identify the biological, social, psychological, spiritual, and perception parameters representing individual inputs into Sociocybernetic systems.
  • Model institutional systems utilizing agent-based model techniques.
  • Identify institutional structures that promote, stabilize, and constrain human choice behavior.

USE OF MECHANISMS

Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) policy, state licensure requirements, and typical university operating procedures provide supportive mechanisms for the education of the social worker as consultant. The competency-based structure of the aforementioned modules is in line with CSWE’s own competency-based approach. In addition, CSWE has adopted the concept of “Field as Signature Pedagogy.” This means that field work is the important opportunity to demonstrate skill and assess ability.

State licensure boards require continuing education almost without exception. This mechanism provides an opportunity for social work programs to continue to educate their graduates beyond the confines of their traditional curricula. Content on the social worker as consultant and other specialized competencies can headline continuing education content.

Universities maintain connection with their alumni as a matter of sustainability, but also as a matter of service. As a long-standing institution, universities have unique reciprocal offerings for students. Offerings such as credibility, personal introduction, event hosting, grants management, and others can benefit all alumni including the social worker as consultant.

Field Work

Students are a built-in opportunity for collaboration and capacity recognition when they are connected to the school and practicing in agencies. Enhance campus-community partnerships. Construct a continuum of service learning from volunteerism through project-based learning, to field practicum. Identify and strengthen all collaborating agencies by training them on competency-based education tenets and practices. Track student service contributions including class assignments, service learning, and student government activities. Provide an individualized learning plan for each student—a plan that recognizes the individual career and competence goals of the student. Connect students in purposeful advising with faculty and field instructors.

I propose that schools of social work engage students early, from the sophomore year for undergraduates, first semester for graduates. Identify projects based on the expected skill level of students. For example:

  • First Year: Customer Support, Office Rapport and Data Entry
  • Second Year: Knowledge Management, Training Support, and Client Assistance (Navigation through Service System)
  • Third Year: Compliance Evaluation, Quality Assurance, and Staff Training
  • Fourth Year:  Caseload Management, Policy Drafting, Group Engagement
  • Graduate/Continuing Ed: Supervision, Consulting, Grant Writing

Organize the field supervision model as a consultancy involving field liaisons as consultants to advance the mission of the agencies with which they liaison. Graduate students who are already employed in an agency can refocus on innovation and leadership in order to keep their jobs while growing educationally and adhering to the requirements of CSWE.

Continuing Education

Many schools of social work recognize the opportunity and service represented in continuing education programs. Many collaborate with on-site centers or community organizations to provide the information that alumni desire. Many also provide certification programs or other credentialing. Still others provide courses or supports for licensure examinations.

An innovation would find schools developing centralized training data stores, compiling the information reported from the field, and informing new service opportunities. The repository can be enhanced through agency collaboration creating a knowledge base and training platform for social work practice. Association partners can provide certification and credentialing along with a pool of diverse members. Agencies provide the practice environments for evaluation and available clients for research. The school of social work provides capacity in the form of student and expertise in the form of faculty.

The result for staff and faculty is continuing practice experience, continuing education, and increased relevance in the classroom. The result for students is educational innovation, certification, and a solid ability to contribute to their alma mater as well as the social work profession. For agencies, the return includes increased capacity, research & evaluation services, and continuing education for staff. For associations, the benefit is in the form of increased membership and collaborative research opportunities.

Alumni Services

With little experience, you need connections. Schools of social work often leverage their alumni connections, credibility, and reputation for the benefit of graduates. An innovation would find institutions partnering with associations to provide applied education & practice, networking, and demography symposia that bring together current and former students, agencies, and funders to discuss approaches to community development. Similar to what a chamber of commerce does for local businesses, schools of social work can act as “chambers of social good.” The result is an intentional impact on the community and a boost for students attempting to engage in their communities of practice. Schools can engage with agency boards and offer student representation from among current students or graduates. This maintains relationships between schools of social work and community agencies, but it can also be a model for engaged service to the community.

Schools of social work can engage consistently with local and state governments to outline a clear path for social workers to enter politics and engage the larger political discussion. School-sponsored visits to Capitol Hill, local congressional offices, and city council meetings can provide students with context for what they are learning. School-sponsored “suppers with the state representative” or other such events can engage alumni and current students in important issues and reveal politics as less intimidating.

Defining the Social Worker as Consultant (1st in the Social Work Consultant Series)

Social Workers are uniquely qualified to operate as consultants at all ecological systems levels. Our mandate of individual change and social change ensure that we are always mindful of the consequences of individual creativity and organizational innovation. Our ethical parameters provide a clear process for reviewing policy, corporate decision making, and behavior in the market. Social workers were seeking to operate within the social good well before it was called social entrepreneurship.

The series of blogs I am composing for swhelper.org will begin with a definition of and perspective on the social worker as a consultant. From that point, the series will address practical concerns to be considered as the social worker considers contracting as a consultant.

  1. Defining the Social Worker as Consultant
  2. Basic Skill Sets You Already Have
  3. Organizational Skills You May Need to Learn
  4. Managing Your Consulting Business
  5. Examples of 4 Consulting Contexts (Including “Life Coaching”)
  6. Consulting with Start-ups
  7. Ethics of the Social Worker as Consultant
  8. Social Work Education and Consulting
Defining the Social Worker as  Consultant

The primary difference between the social worker and other professionals is the requirement that social workers engage in individual change and social change. This informs the social worker as consultant. He/she must bring benefit to the organization that represents sustainability at all levels of ecology.

Social workers understand the Person in the Environment. The social worker as consultant understands the person within the organization within its environment. With this ecology in mind let us define the social worker as consultant in the context of leadership.

The Definition

If Edgar Schein, author of Organizational Culture and Leadership (2010) were to define the role of the consultant, he would likely say something like this:

“The consultant is a leader invited in from outside who manages organizational culture for internal integration and external adaptation. The consultant offers skills, technology, and knowledge not found in the organization enabling the organization to cope with new external environments.”

And what would he mean by that? First, as a consultant, you are an invited leader. Consider that consulting is akin to leadership with a negotiated level of authority. Enter leadership through clearly articulated principles. More than goals, these principles inform your ethical behaviors and help you to determine what actions are acceptable in attempting the goals.

The consultant manages organizational culture. This means that the consultant will have to be skilled in influencing culture.

More than training, you will be tasked at least to outline a change process and articulate a path to innovation with lasting impact even after completion of your contract term.

“Internal integration” suggests that you, as a consultant, must engage the employees and volunteers and harness the capacity that is present within the organization. You will start by assessing the capability of the organization, identifying where knowledge is created, and organizing it as a representation of organizational capacity—what the organization can do.

“External adaptation” suggests that you outline an innovation for the employees and volunteers that connects with the social vision of the organization, satisfies all stakeholders, and represents sustainable operations for the organization. You will begin this by reviewing competition, new information on business process and best practice, and talking with stakeholder, including community members and customers.

New External Environments

Coping with “new external environments” refers to your vigilance and attention to the time innovation requires and the economic, social, political, and technological environment your organization operates within. Environments change quickly. Economic pressures are usually present in nonprofit environments. Even in solvent environments, the pressure exists to remain solvent. You will need to communicate clear costs, benefits, success measures, and sustainability.

Social pressures include relationships among staff, turnover, morale, customer relationships, partner organization relationships, as well as relationships with the community at large. You will need to listen to key informants in communities you are not familiar with. Always, maintain transparency and clear lines of communication. Employ marketing as a tool with the dual purpose of information sharing and advertisement.

Political pressures can include zoning, governance hierarchies, licensure laws, bylaws, and a host of other concerns including relationships with the legislature or accrediting bodies. As a consultant, you will want to maintain an awareness of the connection between your suggestions and the political constraints. Also, be aware that political pressure can originate with individuals as well as policy.

Technological pressure relates to the tools available to implement the innovation you suggest. As an effective consultant, you must remain current with the latest and versed in the pros and cons of tools specific to the organizations you consult with. For a given organization, the tools can include computers and cellular technology, or it could be recyclable insulation materials and flame-retardant drywall. Know the tools that fit your expertise.

Negotiated Level of Authority

Your level of authority within the organization will vary with each consultation. Be sure to specify this in your written contract agreement.

Four levels of authority are typical and help to define the range of roles you will operate in as consultant.

Expert: Shares expertise in meetings or other live events. You will need the following skills: Communication, Systems Knowledge, and Visioning/Program Planning.

Evaluator: Research (compare/contrast/review) current systems and report on efficiency, satisficing, innovation. As an evaluator, you will need the following skills: Operational Research and Process Mapping/Flowcharting.

Sub-contractor: Manage a project and produce deliverables for the client. Social work consultants as Sub-contractor will need the following skills: Operational Efficiency (to meet deadlines), Capacity, and Customer Service.

Manager: Lead an organization through a start-up or innovation process. You will need the following skills as a manager: Leadership, Marketing, and Return on Investment Measurement.

References

Schein, E. (2010). Organizational culture and leadership. (4th ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

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