Three Seasons to enjoy - and bonus episodes to watch for Summer 2023
Something Different This Way Comes
Nov. 15, 2022

2.7 Love Love Hive Mind - bite size revolutions

2.7 Love Love Hive Mind - bite size revolutions

Loving community revolutions, one bite at a time; the Saul Alinksy vs. Paulo Friere recap; perfect is not on the picklist; Wendy Smith’s paradoxical problem solving; Margaret Mead’s how to change the world; Henk Ovink’s rebuilding by design in Rotter...

Loving community revolutions, one bite at a time; the Saul Alinksy vs. Paulo Friere recap; perfect is not on the picklist; Wendy Smith’s paradoxical problem solving; Margaret Mead’s how to change the world; Henk Ovink’s rebuilding by design in Rotterdam & New York;  John Warner’s Beyond Benign & Green Chemistry; peer education in Thunder Bay is getting the homeless housed; basic needs met - connection & inclusion - every student graduates; Ceres Community Project’s food is medicine; block parties and Sunday School.

words & lyrics to Love Love Hive Mind by Heather McLeod

(E) Bring together our (A) hive mind - 
Buzz together and (E)be kind
(B7) Never perfect yet we move the line
Towards what (A) good looks (E) like
(B7) Love love love love, love love love
Towards what (A) good looks (E) like

Happiness is good
(E) It’s something we should
(B7) Make easier in our hood
(A) Happiness is (E) good

Connecting is good
Reach out respecting we should
Include us all in our hood
Connecting is good

Giving and sharing is good
Ideas & efforts we should
Find ways of helping our hood
Giving & sharing is good

Learning & teaching is good
Figure things out yes we should
Get in the know in our hood
Learning & teaching is good

Making things happen is good
Help make a difference we should
All lend a hand in our hood
Making things happen is good

Referencing:  Meet Flint, Peer Educator for Elevates rehoming program at Thunder Bay encampments. Made me cry. The circle of priorities developed by Thunder Bay Community Service providers The Ceres Project in Northern California Ceres home page Manuel Pastor, Social Economist Green Chemist Great video about innovative sustainable urban water


Welcome to to the Love Love Hive Mind edition of Something Different This Way Comes. After the conversation that I shared on last week’s edition - the Paulo Freire Two Step edition of Something Different This Way Comes, my Mom and I kept talking. My Mom Dr. Fay Martin - expert in community development. She gets me thinking! Lots of things get me thinking

And lately these thoughts keep bringing me back to love.


In our conversation after the podcast conversation one of the things Mom  said that I kind of wish made it into that recording is that The Saul Alinsky community organizing strategy can make things happen for up to five years. Its effectiveness is limited, it runs out in five years or less. That is a key point.


In case you missed the Paulo Friere Two Step edition, and want a refresher, here’s my Cole’s notes on Saul Alinksy’s Rules for Radicals according to Dr. Fay Martin. Saul Alinsky wrote Rules for Radicals, the application of which basically got Trump into power and informs all kinds of radicalization organizations. Powerful stuff, that can be used for good - or bad. Alinsky advises we follow the money, to be clear on whose interests are being advanced, which Mom notes risks replacing one problem with a new problem that looks all too much like the one it replaced. The piece of Saul Alinsky advise that Mom swears by is:  you need a goal that is specific, immediate and realizable. Specific, immediate and realizable. Revolution by bite size pieces. 


Then there is the Paulo Friere Two-Step, which also takes it one manageable step at a time. But here you and your group first spends a lot of time clarifying what kind of change you want, what  do you mean by whatever words are key to this change you have agreed you all want to see. Dig into those words & their meaning. Maybe the word is connection, or education, justice or equality, access or shelter. Start with the words, reflect on them, then on what action you first want to take. Then you act.  And the act need not be perfect, is not expected to achieve all that they want to see happen in one fell swoop. It is do-able, it gets done, and then the group reflects again - what did they learn, what might they now want to do differently, what do they want to do next. The Paulo Friere Two-Step: reflection upon action, then action upon reflection. Once that dance gets going it need never stop. It can just keep going and going, as a community works together to shape their world to better meet their needs and better reflect their values, never perfect but ever better.


Perfect is not on the pick list. That is another of my Mom’s catch phrases. And it is powerful. Perfect is not on the pick list. Whatever you do, it can’t be perfect. That is a given. So imperfections are to be avoided but also expected, forgiven, learned from, reconciled to.

Anyway, Mom and I were trying to come up with a way to know whether a community organizing goal was good or evil, and we weren’t getting anywhere. So I kept on thinking and I think that’s because good looks like love. And love is messy. It has no real rule book except that perfect is not on the pick list. Reconciliation, forgiveness, honesty, appreciation, inclusion - those are necessary ingredients. But love is alive, changeable and unpredictable. Love does not fit well for long with rules or assumptions or even habits. Love needs care, attention, and commitment.

Love is a free agent.


And we humans are really good at love. We don’t always give ourselves credit. We are good at learning, giving, doing and connecting. That’s what makes us happy! And we are good at love

Messy, unpredictable, uncontrolled and trusting - love.


I heard Manuel Pastor talk on a Bioneers podcast, he wrote a book called Solidarity Economics. 

What really struck me as I listened to him, was what we lose when we exclude people. When we put people in jail, when we don’t fully integrate them as immigrants into our society but keep them from voting or working, when we exclude people from education or health care because they didn’t get a grade or don’t have health insurance through an employer, or just can’t afford it

When we exclude people from our economy - we lose so much more than we save. We lose what they would otherwise contribute. The work they would do. The taxes they would pay. The conversations they would add to.


And that made me think of Gary Mack. When he was campaigning to be Mayor this fall and was asked how he would lead this City through our overlapping crises of drug overdoses, gangs, bad policing, hunger, homelessness and racism - Gary Mack said he would do what he did when he was leading Shelter House and the street-outreach program SOS needed funding. 

He gathered together people who had expertise on why this program mattered, and good ideas about how to make it work even more effectively and efficiently. Their expertise was first hand, These were people who were directly connected to this program, they provided services or used services. So they all gathered together to share their ideas, to clarify why and how this program was needed, to agree on what they needed most and why. Then & only then did they start looking for resources that might fund or support their proposal. And they got that funding, they got that program back up and running, with no trouble at all. Gary Mack focused on that collaboration, not just consultation but collaboration for their success. And I think he is bang on.


In the All Give Our All edition of Something Different This Way Comes. A couple of weeks ago

I talked about Wendy Smith, the psychologist I discovered through the Podcast Hidden Brain. She said generally dilemmas do not have right and wrong answers. It is tempting to simplify them, to manage them with a list of pros and cons but actually real dilemmas can’t be solved with a choice between two things because they have many good answers. Which is both a paradox, and an opportunity. But if you take the time to look and see where those good answers overlap, or compliment, or build on one another, you can map your way through a complicated but necessary change. It won’t be simple, but it will be easier than you might at first think, and it will be better. You need to be willing to embrace the messiness, to dare to love.


I think that might be key to figuring out whether a community organizing movement is for good or for evil. Does it look a bit like love?  Messy, inclusive, and building habits of engagement and action that could just keep creating change, an everlasting engine of reflecting on action, then acting on that reflection,  then reflecting on that action, and acting on that reflection 

- chugga, chugga, chugga and the wheels go round


Or does it seem to be feeding divisions? Judgment? Exclusion or blame? Fear and anger can feed action, but it also shuts down both brains and hearts. But there I go again, trying to come up with a rule of thumb, when I already said Perfect is not on the Pick List, so going by rules is for fools. Except when they are not because - that would be a rule again!


So Dr. Fay Martin last week quoted Margaret Mead the phrase that has been pinned up on the wall by her desk always, my whole life long: Never doubt that a small, thoughtful, committed group of citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.


So that’s interesting - groups of citizens change the world. Not powerful leaders, not presidents or CEOS or Admirals. Thoughtful, committed citizens change the world. Conversations and concerted actions. Kitchen tables - and autonomy. If we flex our muscles as citizens, there is so much we can do. We have power. Not just to vote but to talk, to suggest, to lead, innovate, experiment and demonstrate. As citizens. Each with our own experiences, perspectives, skills and expertise. Together any small group of us can figure out how our venn diagram of good ideas overlap, what we all actually mean by the words we are using and decide where those good ideas can best work together, reflecting until we are ready to decide on our first action, 

then reflecting again before taking another action. Thoughtfully, committed to changing our world, as citizens. We already have all the authority we need. Learning & teaching is good


I heard on a Bioneers podcast Henk Ovink this week and had to go look him up and read more online. I have put links up for you 


Henk Ovink is from Rotterdam, Holland. Rotterdam was built on a river delta eight hundred years ago, more than half of the city below sea level and it is right on the coast. Ovink is a specialist in Coastal Infrastructure and he talked about how the city is preparing for Climate Crisis extremes by working more respectfully with water, letting it do its natural thing right more and artificially controlling it as slow. Building marshes and wet lands and reservoirs rather than viaducts and storm sewers. And we’re not just talking land that was already wild. Rotterdam worked with people who had used the land they is now a marsh or a reservoir As a farm, or an industrial work place, or their home, for generations, sometimes hundreds of years. Rather than imposing these changes on them, they invited them to the table as both stakeholders and as experts to help inform and shape and agree upon what change would work better, and how to put that change in place. Because that made for better solutions. Solutions that did not just recompense the people whose businesses or homes or farms were lost to this change. But solutions that allowed them to remain rooted in that land, in a new way but happy with this solution. Happiness was part of the goal, and engagement, time spent collaborating on a solution, was the way to go from worried to happy.


Which made me think again of my Mom - Dr Fay Martin  - in last week’s Paulo Freire Two Step edition she talked about how the institutionalization of Community Development has made it ineffective. That mandated, forced councils of organizations with shared or overlapping goals do not make things happen. Each organizational representative there has the power only to report, but not to act. Too many controls, too many conversations whose goals have been imposed, 

too little autonomy. Too few free agents. What would have to change to make those councils effective again? To empower the front-line experts in our communities to not just talk but also act? Imagine the power within such a group of caring, informed, skilled people if they could collaborate and implement the change they know would be good. Not just Eyore and Nay-Say the bad they know should stop, but act to change the world into what they know Good Looks Like. How easily could we unlock those engines? Do we just need to hand them some money, some autonomy, let them be free agents entrusted to make things happen? I think it could be that simple - Less checks and balances, more autonomy and accountability


Mom has another expression: Sometimes it is easier to apologize than get permission. Talking about a revolution here folks How do you know if it’s for good or evil? I think you look for messy, trusting, love or worried, condemning, rule-loving fear Fear feeds evil. Love feeds good. And love is a pretty efficient agent for change. Ask any parent.


Ten years ago New York City responded to Hurricane Sandy by entrusting innovative experts to collaborate in rebuilding. It was a game changer.  Henk Ovink, the coastal infrastructure expert from Rotterdam in Holland was invited to help that City rebuild, and he said rather than deciding what we want to do first, then hiring people to do the job, let’s start by asking people to share their ideas. They put out a call for designs, then they hired a whole bunch of the people who spoke up, all those with good ideas. Because a dilemma can have more than one good solution,

And the best solution is often a mix of many good ones. So New York City hired all of these problem-solvers, designers and inventors, engineers and scientists, to come together and collaborate. Not negotiate, not compete, but collaborate, respecting and including one another, 

They compared their ideas and built on them, where they overlapped or complimented one another. Their solutions cost less and worked better than anything that had been tried before. 

That’s what good looks like. I’ve got a link to the ten year anniversary report on the Hurricane Sandy rebuild in New York City, and to the city of Rotterdam’s plan to improve their resilience to Climate Crises over the next ten years, plus a link to the international organization to help Cities build resilience that Henk Ovink leads called Rebuild By Design - so inspiring. You can find them all 


It can be hard to see what we are not looking to see. And oh what opportunities we can miss because of these invisible blinkers we all wear. Like last season when I told Sam about the experiment with a picture of an Elephant in the Savannah. Ask people what they see and they say elephant. Ask them again and they look harder and say: elephant. A third try: elephant.

 Somehow the Savannah is just not what they see, because it is not what they are looking for.

They call it Nature blindness. And Sam told me about watching a video that told him to count 

how many times something happened - a ball was tossed or something - then asked if he’d noticed the giant gorilla dancing.  Which he would swear was not there - until he went back and watched the video again. We do not see what we are not looking at. Even when it is right in front of us.


I discovered this week John Warner, again on a Bioneers podcast, then I dug up more about him online. John Warner is a chemist, who had two revelations that are kind of like that: what we don’t see because we are not looking at it. What opportunities there are right in front of our noses We just need to see them.


His first revelation sprung from tragedy. John Warner’s son was born with a rare condition and died as a toddler. He was already an acclaimed academic and chemist by then. And someone said the cause of this fatal condition might be an yet unproven toxic compound. And John Warner thought - I could have created the compound that killed my child. And would have to kill or harm many many more people before sufficient proof is collected to fund the testing of this theory and maybe, eventually, identify that compound as a toxin. 


I was telling Arno this and he stopped me, thinking of all of the training on toxic substance management he knew well as a manager at the Bombardier plant. He thought John Warner must have had this revelation a long time ago. Because we know all about toxicity now - right.

But nope. The toxins we manage in manufacturing plants now adays are reactively identified,

Not proactively. Newly invented compounds are generally used without screening for toxicity

The screening only happens once enough evidence is gathered to convince the regulators to start testing for it. I found an article in National Geographic that summed up the system concisely: and I quote:

Each year the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reviews an average of 1,700 new compounds that industry is seeking to introduce. Yet the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act requires that they be tested for any ill effects before approval only if evidence of potential harm exists—which is seldom the case for new chemicals. The agency approves about 90 percent of the new compounds without restrictions. Only a quarter of the 82,000 chemicals in use in the U.S. have ever been tested for toxicity. David Ewing Duncan wrote that article. Find a link to it


But back to the grieving chemist John Warner. He realized that as a Chemist, a guy who taught chemistry, trained fellow chemists, And developed new chemical compounds all the time - 

he had never learned anything about toxicology. The idea of pro-actively testing new compounds for toxicity had never come up  in all his years as a Chemist. And he decided to change that. 

He got some people together, ran the thought by them, listened to their thoughts about what good looks like, avoided or quieted the Eyores and the Nay-sayers and founded  Beyond Benign, which is putting toxicity testing into the education and culture of chemistry. That’s what good looks like.


Then John Warner had another epiphany. He took a moment to consider his lab, where he practiced chemistry and deveops new compounds. And he saw for the first time, like noticing the Savannah in that picture of an elephant, that chemists make molecular compounds by force. 

Using heat or cold or pressure, molecules are made to bounce hard and often off one another until they are forced to bond. His revelation is that chemistry happens in nature, but force is not required. Chemical bonding happens at ambient temperature. No pressure. Unforced. He said in nature molecules first kind of check each other other, and if they find another attractive they might start snuggling, cozying in, until there they are bonded. Love makes the world go around! I tell ya. Anyway, gently, maybe not quickly but certainly energy efficiently, chemical transformations happen naturally all the time. And with that revelation John Warner pivoted into Green Chemistry. Figuring out how chemistry happens naturally, and applying that transformative tendency to our own ends. An example he gave was hair colour.


If you want to colour your hair chemically you bombard it, you strip it and force it to bond, using that old-school artificially efficient school of chemistry. But when a bug changes colour, when it outgrows its exoskeleton, once the now too-small hard dark casing cracks and falls off, the new stuff underneath is soft and pale. Then over a few minutes it darkens and hardens. Chemistry in action. At ambient temperature. Nothing forced. By studying this natural chemical reaction John Warner and his team have developed a product  that turns hair that has gone grey or white back to the colour of that head’s youth. Without force, or stripping. As naturally as a newly exposed exoskeleton growing dark and hard.


Green Chemistry - what an amazing tool for us to wield as we regreen and renew and reclean our world, from crisis back to sustainable and healthy. In fact I am super excited about a presentation tonight - November 15 - at Lakehead University as part of their Science Speaker series. Dr. Hind A Al-Abadleh from the University of Waterloo. Her presentation is titled: Chemistry’s Role in Global Resilience to Climate Change -from molecules to policies and regulations. How on point is that!


I think it’s time for this week’s composition. Then I will bring this edition home to here in Thunder Bay What is going on, and what more we can make happen now


I’ve calling it the Everloving Hive Mind or love love love love

I hope you like it:


There are so many people with good ideas out there,  with expertise and experience and front-line insights. So many thoughtful, committed citizens who can change the world, first with open and productive, respectful conversation,  that leads to action, back to reflection, and then more action. The Paulo Friere Two Step as a engine for on-going, positive change starts with autonomy, engagement, asking people to the table.


I went to the United Way fundraising kick-off breakfast a few weeks ago and was blown away by a video. The video showcased Elevate Northwestern Ontario’s work at homeless encampments in town. It featured Flint, a resident of one of those encampments. Flint had become a member of Elevate’s Peer Education Team. He was still living at an encampment, but he knew he was more approachable than outsiders for other people living at that encampment with him. As a member of the Peer Education Team he learned what help was available, and helped people get that help, and he shared his expertise into what help his community most needed. Flint brought so much to this role, so much thought and care and effort. It made me cry. Because you could see how much it fed his soul to be able to do something, to give and to learn, to teach and to be connected, to be valued and empowered.


A few weeks ago in the Oh The Places You’ll Go edition of Something Different This Way Comes, Paul Berger spelled out the four keys to happiness according to science researching what actually makes us happy.  It isn’t power, or wealth, or fame. What makes us happy is being connected to other people, that’s #1 - connection, #2 is being able to do things, to act. Third is being able to learn and to teach and the fourth key to our happiness is being able to give, to be generous. That makes us happy. 


That is what Elevate asked these homeless Citizens to do when they asked them to work for the Peer Education Team. That is powerful, effective community development work right there in action here in Thunder Bay.


The other thing that really struck me from that United Way breakfast, was an image they used to share what they have identified as the key priorities in Thunder Bay to make us a stronger, healthier, happier community. It was a circle, with three colours overlapping around the rim. 

One for Basic Needs Met. We need to make sure every citizen in our city is fed, sheltered, has the healthcare they need. The second goal is Connection and Inclusion - the more connected we grow to be to one another, including everyone, the better off we will all be; And the third goal the United Way identified as a key priority for our community - is:  every student graduates. A less than perfect pass rate is just not good enough. 


This circle of interconnected goals was not imposed on our City. It was not our response to a funding opportunity or initiative. This came from a respectful, collaborative conversation.

The United Way invited all the organizations that they fund. Community organizations that try to fill the gaps, meet the needs and serve the unserved in Thunder Bay. They all gathered together in mutual respect and decided together first what they mean by those words: basic needs; connection; inclusion; graduates. Then they put their best ideas on the table and looked for where they overlapped, where they complimented, how they could be made greater than the sum of their parts. This is powerful work. This could start a two-step never-ending dance towards What Good Looks like in Thunder Bay.


I listened again to a Bioneers podcast that introduced me to Cathy Couch and the Ceres Community Project. It started in Northern California but has got on to be emulated and adapted in communities all over the world. Spelled Ceres. I’ve got a link to a 6 minute video about them, as well as their home website on my website. The Ceres Community Project in Northern California started when Cathy, who is a chef, learned a friend of limited means had cancer. 

And she decide to cook for her healthy, organic meals to help her heal. Attractive meals that she would be tempted to eat even when her appetite failed her, because Food is medicine, she knew this. We all know this. And her food really did help. And Cathy Couch was inspired. She started to create change. She put together a kitchen that brings healthy, attractive food to people who are sick, and need that good medicine. But she did more. She got young people to not just help in the kitchen, but actually cook the food. And not just cook the food but grow the food, they have a huge organic garden whose harvest they serve to the sick people they are helping heal. The adult experts are there to help these teenage and youth works, not the other way around. And they people they feed felt the love. That was the feedback time and time again, when they ate their food they tasted the love.

And though they may have been fed with love by family or friends as they went through their treatments and healed, the fact that the love in this food came from strangers, from young people in their community who cared. That was really important, that was something they really needed to say Thank you for in person. So the Ceres Community Project makes sure that every young person working in the program gets to hear those Thank yous. For weeks at a time recipients of this gift of good food in a time of sickness, are invited to visit the kitchen and say Thank you to these young, learning cooks and gardeners. And the impact on both sides of that connection, is huge. Love is powerful medicine. Love makes the world go round.


I think this podcast is both a reflection on action and an action on reflection for me. But honestly it is more of a reflection - so I have been trying to move out of my reflection into action. Knowing that perfect isn’t on the pick list, any action is good enough, and committed to doing better the next time.


So this summer I organized a Block Party. I think I have mentioned this before. I called up a couple of neighbours and together we came up with an action plan. Picked a date, and a venue, a time of day and a way to say - come join us. We made an invitation. Sam drew the words Block Party out of brightly coloured blocks. Ben drew people standing around chatting, snacking and getting to know one another. They delivered to mailboxes, I and my friends who had cooked up the plan with me, made a few phone calls, knocked on a few doors. We made sure everyone on our street was invited. Everyone was included. Not everyone came, but everyone was included. And it was great. Easy once it got rolling. That much easier to do better next time.

And worth doing because now when there is a storm and I worry about power outages, I know who to check on and who might check on me. Next time I spot a bear or a lost dog or an icy patch that’s spin you into the pond if you drive it before its sanded - I know that much better who to tell and how to reach them. Next time I think maybe we should put in our two cents about how our road is sanded or graded or culverts or power lines or whatever - I can that much more easily talk it over first with a neighbour, improve the idea and get some backing too.


One of the four keys to happiness is connection with other people. Another is action and a third is giving. Check, check, check. Changing the world one thoughtful, committed act at a time. 

Bite size pieces can add up to a nourishing meal.


Another act I did was to gather a new class of students at Lappe Lutheran Church Sunday School. Ben and Sam and the children who grew up going to Sunday School with them had kind of outgrown it while we were closed down due to COVID. No children at Church on Sundays at all, some weeks. So a few of us put our heads together, we decided to spruce up the space 

We put out a survey on Facebook, made a poster and more than a few phone calls. We listened to learn what would work for families that wanted to join us and made a new changes. And this September when we started Sunday School again, we had students. A wonderful group from 3 to 9 years old. Together we are writing our Christmas Pageant they will perform at our December 11 service. They will be great. I hope you come. Lappe Lutheran Church on Dog Lake Rd. Service starts at 11. You are very welcome to join us.


So I started by saying love is too messy for rules. And love is the way to distinguish good change, from unsustainable, bad change.  But I do have a bit of a choreography for you

To help you find your partners for your own Paulo Freire Two Step. Your own love love love love Everloving Hive Mind Small Group of Thoughtful Citizens committed to act to change the world.

First gather a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens. Then think about what change we all agree we want to see. Decide on an act to help make that change happen. Do it, then reconvene to learn from it and decide on your next action. 


Reflect on action and act upon reflection and do it again. Margaret Mead and Paulo Friere say you don’t need to wait to be organized, you can be the organizer. I’m Heather McLeod. I write, compose, perform, record, edit and am responsible for every opinion I express on this podcast. I represent no one else, this buck starts and stops with me. If you like this podcast, if it makes you think or brings you hope or entertains you. Please help it be heard - help spread the word

And come back next Tuesday for the next edition