You voted. Now what?

You voted. Now what?

The past two weeks have been a bit of an emotional rollercoaster. I put off finishing the post I had tentatively scheduled for last Wednesday (November 4) with the results of the election still up in the air. Although I went to bed that night feeling much better than I did four years ago. 

Two of my group coaching gigs are winding down now for a holiday/winter break as we all prepare to go into hibernation. This year we know with increasing COVID-19 cases, “hibernation” may take on a more stark meaning. I had hoped to offer weekly small group runs over the winter, but plans are “wait and see” at the moment.  

Saturday morning as election news broke, I was elated. The four years of what in my circles became known as “our national nightmare” would, for the most part, be over. While knowing we must remain diligent about many wrongs that need to be righted, I was overcome by a sense of optimism.  

“It’s good to be a humble winner. Remember when I was here four years ago? Remember how bad that felt? Remember that half the country, right now, still feels that way. Please remember that. Remember that for the first time in the history of America, the life expectancy of white people is dropping. Because of heroin, because of suicide. All these white people out there, that feel that anguish, that pain, they’re mad because they think nobody cares — maybe they don’t, but let me tell you something, I know how that feels. I promise you, I know how that feels.”

– Dave Chappelle (Hosting SNL 11/07/2020)

As the president refused to admit defeat, based on what all legitimate sources agree are baseless claims of voter fraud, things got more tense – even among those who should be on the same side. When Kurt posted on FaceBook about the coup beginning to take shape, I had it. I accused him of fear mongering. My mood worsened as I fact-checked all the claims he had made. I just wanted to celebrate! And he was spot on.

While any actual celebration may be on hold until noon on the 20th of January, I am cautiously optimistic that regardless of which side you are on, true Americans – true patriots – are on the side of democracy and democracy will prevail; our tradition of a peaceful transition will prevail. That doesn’t mean we sit back and stop paying attention. We still have a very important role to play. 

CNN’s Van Jones, in a TED Talk two week’s ago, What happens if a US Presidential candidate refuses to concede, outlined the loop holes in our system that could actually give the current administration four more years regardless of what voters had to say. He also offers some hope.  He explained that it is up to us to get informed, get loud, and get active. For many of us, keep doing a lot of what we’ve been doing. 

Regardless of who you voted for, if you value democracy, if you value a peaceful transition, make your voice heard. Start by making your views known to your elected officials. Let them know you want them to respect these values. Then take to the streets peacefully. This is what democracy looks like.

Some attempt to leave bad stuff in the past. Vernon Hills, Illinois. November 2020.

Being Mindful of Social Media

Being Mindful of Social Media

Have you watched Social Dilemma on Netflix yet? If not, go do that and come back to this. If you have, let’s discuss.

If you’ve been following along, you know I have had a love-hate relationship with social media, FaceBook in particular. My goal was to make 2020 a FaceBook-free year and I was succeeding nicely for three months when the pandemic drew me back. Being the last to find out about a former co-workers death made me feel disconnected (Week One: Bringing theCauseCoach back to Facebook).

In a post last December, I wrote about my issues with FaceBook (I’m leaving FaceBook – here’s why). Although realizing I was somewhat addicted, the issue at the time was more about the disinformation that was allowed to run rampant on the site. I often ignored the threat that social media “has your data” because I thought, “who cares.” So they’re using my data to market products to me – hasn’t advertising been manipulating me my entire life?

And of course there were lots of positives about connecting with old friends and staying in touch with friends and family far away, but at what cost? Sure advertisers have an easier time manipulating your purchasing decisions, but the issues with social media, as I learned from Social Dilemma, run so much deeper than that. Social media uses our need to connect with other humans against us.

“The documentary explains that technology manipulates our evolutionary need to connect with other people and to do that it gives us dopamine. Its goal is to optimize this and cause addiction. It creates a space with our self-worth and identity are tied to their products by dosing us with approval every five minutes that exceeds ten times the amount we’ve received historically.” – Wright, C. (2020 September) “The Social Dilemma”, Medium

Yes, I’m addicted to social media (I admitted to that problem a while ago). Social media is designed to be addicting. The reaction buttons? The photo tagging? – things that give us that dopamine and keep us engaged, checking in, and coming back for more. One of the best realizations from the documentary for me was when they noted only the social media industry and the drug industry refer to their customers as “users.” 

The bottom line on all this? We are becoming a depressed, anxious, divided and angry society. 

5 Key Takeaways From The Social Dilemma Documentary on Netflix

1. We have a social media problem.
2. Social media really is designed to be addictive.
3. Our children are at risk.
4. Our governments are doing little to solve the problem.
5. You can (and must) make the changes on your own.

N. Ugochukwu (2020 October) Echo Warrior Princess

Conspiracy theorists, and a whole of host of bad actors have been given a platform on social media and have taken advantage of those who aren’t at least being somewhat mindful about where the information is coming from. I called out a friend on FaceBook from sharing a Tweet from a right-wing voice featured on far right-leaning media which included a doctored video. 

I said, “Everyone is entitled to their political opinions. What I don’t tolerate is the spreading of false information from questionable sources. Before posting something check the source – who are they and what do they represent? Can I find the story in other media? Three sources minimum. Check against Snopes. I do it with stuff in support of Biden. If it’s from Huff Post, politico or other far left-leaning media, I pass and look to see what New York Times, Wall Street Journal, BBC, etc. have to say. The thing that sucks about social media is that all this crap is flying around and no one is verifying sources. If we can agree on just one thing, can we agree on that? Let’s all be part of the solution.”

Election stress has certainly been amplified by social media. Because of the pandemic, we’re all probably using social media more under the guise of staying connected. I hope before this year is out, we begin to turn a corner on all of it. I agree with those take-aways though – especially #5. I think we may be on our own for a while.

Early voting. Chicago, Illinois. October 2020

If you’re trying to pull away from FaceBook, I wrote two pieces at the beginning of the year you may find helpful:

Why United Way?

Why United Way?

Bergen County’s United Way (BCUW) in New Jersey is where I started my non-profit career 24 years ago this month. It turned into my longest tenure at a job, and I have often wondered why I left.

The experiences I had in the non-profit sector, the people I encountered, and the impact on numerous causes I feel I had post BCUW, proved to be extremely rewarding. So, no regrets. Although now having an opportunity to once again be part of the United Way’s work here in Chicago is truly satisfying.

United Way, for over 100 years, has been helping people and making communities better. United Way convenes other non-profits poised to tackle the issues unique to each community, fosters collaboration to solve problems, and raises the resources needed.

It’s never one issue, one disease, or lack of investment in a single area that causes deterioration in the quality of life for some. And this is why the United Way’s collaborative approach is so needed.

The United Way network is made up of nearly 1,800 autonomous 501c3 organizations, each governed and funded locally. The network spans more than 40 countries and territories and 6 continents. It serves 61 million people across the globe, fueled by 2.9 million volunteers and 8.3 million donors (United Way Worldwide, click on link to find the United Way that serves your community).

I felt very fortunate to be working with United Way in the suburbs of New York City on September 11, 2001 and the days, weeks and months that followed. Our response to our community in crisis was important work that gave me a sense of purpose.

Now here in Chicago, amid a global pandemic that has disproportionately affected our country and more accurately has disproportionately affected low-income families, I feel I can make an impact.

Each local United Way knows it’s community, it’s resources, and what it needs to thrive. United Way is uniquely positioned to bring together community-based non-profits, government leaders, businesses, and individuals to tackle issues.

The United Way of Metro Chicago (UWMC) has been focused on two areas:

  1. Programs and Partnerships that work across our region to provide for the health, education, financial stability and  crisis intervention for our most vulnerable residents;
  2. Neighborhood Networks which focuses our work on a number of targeted neighborhoods.  

39% of households in Cook County struggle to meet their most basic needs. In Lake County it’s 32%, and in DuPage County 30% of households are classified as “ALICE” – Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed. These are the families of four with household incomes less than $28.57 an hour. This is 2017 data, so well before the pandemic.

“ALICE households are the backbone of our communities, working hard but forced to make tough choices, such as deciding between quality childcare or paying the rent, which have long-term consequences not only for ALICE, but for all.”  

(LiveUnitedChicago.org)

Through our Programs and Partnerships, UWMC is committed to…  

…improving access to quality health care by supporting organizations that help people navigate insurance options and connect them with primary care physicians, preventative programs and mental health services.

…ensuring all kids have access to quality pre-K and after-school enrichment programs, prevention interventions, and physical and mental health services.

…increasing financial stability by focusing on job training, financial literacy and tax assistance for residents who need it most.

…working with social service providers to ensure fundamental needs are met—such as food, housing and safety from abuse. 

This is also the population hit hardest by the pandemic. Job loss. Inadequate nutrition and healthcare. Lack of resources for children’s online learning. Lack of childcare for essential workers. Fear of eviction.

United Way of Metro Chicago in partnership with the Chicago Community Trust and the City of Chicago created the Chicago COVID-19 Relief Fund and began making grants before the end of March. In the first three months of the pandemic, thanks to the generosity of foundations, business, and individuals like you, close to $25 million was dispersed to our non-profit partners doing the work on the front lines. For more on the Chicago Community COVID-19 Relief Fund, click here.

One remarkable initiative coming out of the COVID-19 response is Chicago Connected which will assure that Chicago Public School students have high-speed internet access. Not just for the duration of the pandemic but for four years! The COVID-19 crisis highlighted the city’s digital divide and this program will give students the ability to participate in remote learning and increase their digital literacy. For more on this program, click here.

We were able to respond quickly to this crisis because of the work we were already doing within our partnerships and neighborhoods across the city.

Since 2013, our Neighborhood Network approach has been helping targeted neighborhoods solve problems. There are currently ten Neighborhood Networks each led by a “Community Quarterback” – a lead agency already working within the neighborhood with an understanding of the needs and how best to create needed change. 

It’s a “for and by the community” approach that empowers neighborhoods to create the kind of place they want to live and work. United Way provides the resources. We don’t tell them what to do. Only they know what’s best for their community.

“As Chicagoans, we have a great love for our neighborhoods across the city and suburbs. There is plenty to celebrate, but the zip code you live in can have a significant impact on your access to opportunities. By tackling issues—neighborhood by neighborhood—we can stabilize our community and improve the quality of life for all our neighbors across the entire region. A community-led approach, supported by both the public and private sectors, will help ensure all residents can thrive.” 

(LiveUnitedChicago.org)

The United Way’s ability to create stronger neighborhoods, and respond to our neighbors in crisis, is limited only by the resources we can raise. This is where you come in. We cannot do it without the generosity of our communities. When United Way comes to your workplace this fall, please be as generous as you can be. Your neighbors need you!

THANK YOU!

Rethinking my professional strategy…going back to my roots

Rethinking my professional strategy…going back to my roots

If I had one piece of advice to give someone who wants to move to a new city, it would be “find a job first.” When I came out to Chicago over two years ago knowing only two people here, I had secured only a (very) part-time position, and planned to build my business with the rest of my time. It never occurred to me that two people probably wasn’t a sufficient network to do that.

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