Tag Archive: Common Change

There have been a lot of words written this last week with regards to #FeesMustFall and it can be quite overwhelming to try and wade through them all.

Sometimes pictures can speak louder than words, so here is a post with some of the better pictures i have found that help to put this past week and some of the related issues into some kind of perspective.

Firstly the Ant vs Cricket scenario we witnessed so effectively in ‘A Bug’s Life’ – how less than 25% of this country managed to keep 75% or so of it in bondage for so long was always going to be a just-a-matter-of-time scenario.


This cartoon i feel sums up much of the white population in South Africa. i don’t know many people who drive past the township on the way to the airport and don’t think it would be great if all those people had better living conditions and a more comfortable way of life. But the moment it looks like i might have to give up some of my comfort or ease-of-life or money, resources or time, it can quickly become a whole different story…


This piece by Iain Thomas was shared across Facebook and i think puts into good words a lot of the sadness that many of us carry with some of the actions and responses [or lack of action and response] we have seen from various people and organisations this last week while #FeesMustFall was happening…


The punchline of this is ‘Most Importantly Africa needs leadership’ which sums up so much of our present condition and obstacles i feel. As does the one statement i heard this past week which went: South Africa doesn’t have a money problem – South Africa has a money management problem’ – i cannot get my head around the numbers i saw posted about Zuma’s cabinet and some of the stats of what they earn and the houses and cars they have that tbV shared with me last night and how that has been allowed so easily to be a thing. Right there there are millions of rands that could be doing good.

But the other statements on this poster help give an eyesight into more of the White Privilege we have been talking about:privilege

This is a repost of one of the more powerful posters i saw which we saw play out in reality this past week which was incredible:anne

And finally this cartoon which i just realised i only posted the first four blocks of in one of my previous posts as i assumed the whole thing came together, which must have confused a whole lot of people, but having the whole cartoon will help give a comparative insight into how privilege can play out in two different life trajectories…cartoon

pencil2 pencil4 pencil6

Above all else, and thanks to Wayne Eaves for this one, take time to LISTEN, to do some RESEARCH, to really try and UNDERSTAND and if you do there will be so many people more than happy to engage with you and hep you to ‘get’ this thing. But above all else, try and not be one of these:


[If you are someone looking for more of the words from last week, there are some excellent links here]


i LOVE that description of Generosity – being open-handed.

We experienced that this week. tbV had a conversation with one of the car guards down the road from us and found out that he had a baby daughter and some issues with getting formula for her. She stuck up a question on Facebook for her paediatrician friends and had a whole host of answers and suggestions [and volunteers of assistance and even resource-gathering] within the hour.

The day before we were seeking a chess set for her gran. We managed to get one from my folks but offers of sets via Facebook were also fast and furious.

My friend Kari shared an article on my Facebook wall today titled, ‘Expanding your Circle of Care in which someone started a Facebook group to buy an old man who frequented Subway in the States a sandwich every day as thanks for his participation in World War II.

And obviously tbV is working for Common Change and if you haven’t yet considered whether that might be a great way for you and some friends to experiment with doing Giving in a different way, then you should connect with her and invite her out for coffee. [Slash sushi!]

i like the idea the article lays out about expanding your circles of care to include those who don’t look like you – finding creative ways to extend generosity across race and culture lines in a way that doesn’t promote co-dependence but rather mutual upliftment, feels to me like one of the ways forward as a country. And especially a practical way for people who have benefitted from previous injustices to act towards redressing the wrongs and working towards greater equality and balance.

Thoughts? Ideas? Any ways you have experienced this working in the lives of those around you?

i have just started reading a book called ‘With Justice for All’ by John Perkins, who was very much involved in the American Civil Rights movement and who i got to listen to at a CCDA conference when we were in Americaland.


This first passage, although speaking about his country, resonated with much of what we see, feel and experience in South Africa. His definition of poverty is one i wish all of those who still struggle with the idea of ‘white privilege’ could hear and really reflect upon:

‘”We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…” With these words the Declaration of Independence of the United States of America holds out the noble promise of justice for all. Yet the very signing of this landmark of human freedom betrayed its own promise. For among its signers stood men who at that very moment owned other men. Justice for all didn’t really mean justice for all; it meant justice for some. The “inalienable” right of liberty belonged only to the privileged.

To this day our nation has not lived up to its goal of justice for all. Would anyone claim that a child trapped in the ghetto [for South Africa, read township – brett] has equal access to quality education as his suburban counterpart? Would anyone claim that the teenage girl in the ghetto has the same chance of getting a summer job as the girl from an affluent family? Or that the ethnic young adult, deprived of good education and job experience, has an equal chance of making it in the American job market?

Poverty, you see, is much more than lack of money: poverty is the lack of options. For millions in our land there is not justice. For them, “equal opportunity” is at best an elusive dream: at worst a cruel taunt. ‘

tbV still works for Common Change, which is an online platform that helps groups of friends to pool money together and then meet needs of people who they know and care about. i was working with them when i was in Americaland as well and one of the stories our boss, Darin, shared with us that was part of the founding of what became Common Change was the following:

When Darin was in Cuba, one day he was sitting with a friend on the sidewalk and they were trying to figure out a definition of poverty. His friend turned to him and said, “Imagine if your bank account was completely cleaned out, you lost your job and your house all in the same day. How long before you get your first meal? How long before you have a place to sleep? And how long before you have a new job?

Darin thought for a minute and then responded, “I would not miss a meal. I would have a place to sleep by tonight. And depending on the economy and the possibilities I would more than likely have a new job in a couple of weeks.” His friend looked at him and asked, “How did this happen?” Darin responded, “I called someone.”

They decided on one possible definition [which I think falls nicely alongside John Perkins’ one] of Poverty as being: When you have no-one to call. The idea of economic and social isolation. 

Both of those probably help us have a better grasp of the limitation of poverty. But what about the responsibility for those of us who are not there? This second passage from John’s book helps me with that, especially as a follower of Jesus. In this passage, John is speaking about a community he moved to that had some strong racial issues:

Medenhall was overrun with the very kinds of needs the church was so strategically positioned to meet. The people had become resigned to their plight: the church could inspire hope. The promising young people were leaving the community while only the unmotivated were staying: the church was in a position to train young leaders. The public schools were struggling to provide an adequate education: the church could create a tutoring program or a pre-school. About the only recreational facilities for youth in Medenhall were the honky-tonks: the church could plan wholesome youth activities.

That was just the beginning. Our people desperately needed better nutrition, housing, child care, employment, and more. Creative, visionary leadership from the church could mobilise the people to tackle each of these problems head on.

To bring true freedom though, church leaders would not only have to be strong and creative, they would also have to be true to the gospel. They would have to stand not for some form of reactionary separatism but for reconciliation with our white brothers and sisters. Howard Snyder is right on target when he asserts:

‘Reconciliation with God must be demonstrated by genuine reconciliation within the Christian community and by a continuing ministry of reconciliation in the world. This means that in each local Christian assembly reconciliation must be more than a theory and more than an invisible spiritual transaction. Reconciliation must be real and visible. Racial and economic exploitation and all forms of elitism… must be challenged biblically. Unholy divisions in the body of Christ must be seen as sin and worldliness (1 Cor. 3.3-4)’

A local church fellowship living out a gospel which burns through racial barriers could bring freedom to blacks and whites alike. With the Spirit’s power and the wholehearted cooperation of the people, our faith could make Mendenhall a different place.’

Nelson Mandela poverty quote

Perhaps the biggest problem with poverty is that it doesn’t affect me. And so it’s not my problem. It’s easy enough for me to look the other way. To pretend i don’t see the man at the traffic light. To choose not to drive past the shacks. To hide behind my walls and my security and indulge in whatever aspect of the-wealth-i-refuse-to-name-as-wealth is my particular comfort and luxury. If i can do it with other people, all the better because surely if it’s not a pressing issue for them it’s not an issue for me.

Unless overcoming poverty is not a task of charity [a bonus act] but a an act of justice [a necessary task]. Unless it is not natural and was actually perpetrated on certain people and not on others. Unless it can be eradicated by the actions of human beings. Perhaps in that case i am part of the generation that is being called to be great.

And so are you.


oh wow, what to leave out this week… there has been a lot of goodness and just importance flying around the internet… i don’t expect you to read all these things but at the very least, please scroll down and pick one thing you missed and then if you enjoy it please SHARE it with your social media people – some important stuff to get eyes on this week:


Abundance > Scarcity: As the procession towards Christmas picks up pace, our good friends @4CommonChange have launched The Generosity Project which calls for 25 days of generosity. With daily articles and creative ideas on how that might look for you and your family over the next couple of weeks.

#generousliving #generosityproject #GiveMoreSpendLess


Before you disagree [on matters of race etc]:Some thoughts i had after engaging with Austin Channing [black woman in Americaland whose writing i really appreciate] on a topic we disagreed on, focusing on listening and trying to hear rather than simply making my point.


An open letter to my White Friends, in South Africa and Americaland: There are people saying a lot of these things much better than me, but this conversation i feel is SO VITAL and NECESSARY and the time for white people to be uninterested, disengaged or apathetic should be long gone.


The Big Read: 16 Days Dead on Arrival: Tom Eaton’s piece that he wrote for the Times takes a look at the “16 Days of Activism Against Women and Child Abuse” campaign and reveals where he thinks the organisers ma have missed the point.


12 Things White People Can Do Now Because Ferguson: This piece i found really helpful as a white person wanting to know how i can be a white ally with regards to the situation in Americaland in terms of racial tension and inequality.


Are we Raising a Generation of Helpless Kids: Despite not being a biological parent, i have a lot of time and respect and love for those who are and so articles like this catch my attention and for some of you this will be an important and helpful post [not by me].


This playful video of me and tbV wishing you the most merriest of Christm-asses will stay firmly lodged in your brain in the very best of ways.


Not a big fan of statistics myself, but this graph don’t lie:



‘Indifference, to me, is the epitome of evil.’ [Elie Wiesel]

‘Two ears. Two eyes. One mouth. [Use them in that order]’

“We are the ones we have been waiting for.” [June Jordan 1970s Poem for South African Women]

Chanting “All Lives Matter” or tweeting it erases the reality that Black ppl die in greater numbers than other races.  [@grimalkinrn]

Justice won’t be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are. BE OUTRAGED  [@peaceforus4ever]

Also i have been investing in a little bit of Hashtag game distraction amidst all the overbearingly serious:

The Foot and Mouth

Brawl the Presidents Men

Scratch Me If You Can

American History Solve for X

Sniffing Ryan’s Privates


What about you? What blog posts or articles caught your eye this week? What has been making you think or laugh or be challenged or go, ‘Wo!’? What have you written on your blog that is worth taking a look at?

Leave us a link in the comments for our weekend reading…

A community of friends who pool their money to meet the needs of people they know.

That is what Common Change is all about. And that is the non-profit that my wife, tbV, and i work with and have been for the last year and a half.

Almost every time we explain the concept to people and they get it, it excites them and they want to know more.

But many people in that boat feel like they are the only one of their friend group who might be interested in that idea.



One of the ways we have seen people really grab on to the idea of how Common Change works is through hosting what we call, ‘Generosity Dinners’.

# Invite some friends round for a meal that you are hosting

# each guest brings a donation to add to the group ‘pot’

# after the meal, each person has the chance to share a need of someone they know

# after a lengthy discussion and whittling down process, a decision is made

# the whole of the group ‘pot’ goes towards the need that was decided upon

# a follow-up email a few weeks later shares some feedback on how the gift went down.

Common Change presently covers groups in the United States and we are working with people in the UK, Costa Rica, Canada and South Africa to see what it will take in those countries to run groups there. But a Generosity Dinner can happen in any country in the world. It really just takes an invitation to some friends, the hosting of a meal and then an evening of sharing some money and meeting needs of people you love.

It is that easy. What is holding you back? This could be the start of a transformational season of you and your friends starting to think a little bit differently about the way you interact with your money and resources.

Contact us now at support@commonchange.com to find out more about how you can throw your first Generosity Dinner or click here for more information.


[Money certainly seems to be a topic we rarely speak much about – for a range of other Taboo Topics different people have shared their stories on, click here]




[Tuesday May 13th]

I am taking a break from a Share conference I am attending as part of Common Change…

I really wish I could capture the heart and essence of the opening remarks and the morning’s sessions, but I imagine I will fail dismally.

But I will try out something together anyway because I really believe this is something we all need to be thinking about, reading up on, talking about and getting involved with.

Especially for those of us who try and follow Jesus and get particularly excited by the picture of the early church in Acts 2.42-47

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = TIME PASSES = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

[Fri May 16th]

So it is a few days later now and the conference thoughts and conversations with kilt-wearing Scott and his lovely wife Jo-Jo and my beautiful wife Val are still resonating in my mind.

Also my head is remarkably pain-free which should be normal but has not been for the last month until yesterday’s root canal which seems to have sorted that all out and which was made possible by a very generous donation from our Common Change group who covered the complete procedure [which would have really been difficult for us to get to, especially with a huge transition and move back to South Africa just around the corner] and so that is bearing physical testimony to the fact that this thing really works. Groups of friends pooling money and then meeting needs of people they care about.

The one idea that jumped out at me at the conference earlier this week was the phrase “Access over Ownership” which is so huge, both in terms of Sharing Economy and a new way of thinking and living, but also in terms of the idea of how the environment is impacted positively when we start sharing the things we have [think four people car pooling as opposed to four invididual cars, think four households sharing a washing machine as opposed to four washing machines largely being inactive etc] and how it encourages a greater or more intentional community as we are brought face to face with the people we are sharing with.

# They discussed six areas of Sharing including money, transportation, accommodation and things.

# Organisations such as Common Change, Lyft, Airbnb and Acts of Sharing.

While this may not present the end to capitalism as we know it, or even possibly the best solution to capitalism as we know it, the Sharing Economy definitely seeks to tweak and adapt the systems that we have so that the person on the street can be more involved in being directly involved in making the money and in both the giving and receiving of different services and items in a number of win-win situations.

For many of the people we interact with, this is already bordering on old school, new way of thinking stuff… but i imagine that for a lot of my friends back home and maybe some of you as well, this could be quite light-bulb illuminating, a eureka moment of why-did-we-never-think-of-this-before? And it’s not like it hasn’t been happening for hundreds and maybe thousands of years in traditional tribes and rural villages and more extended family embracing communities, but as an idea that is starting to affect and inspire and ignite the mainstream into action, it has a strong feel of new to it.



My beautiful wife, Val, has this saying that she has embraced as a life mantra that she found and which goes like this:

‘We’re not thinking our way into a new way of acting; we’re acting our way into a new way of thinking.’ [Katherine Fulton]

And we have done just that. In small ways so far, but hoping for opportunities to do more in the months and years to come:

# Two years ago we joined a group called Relational Tithe [now Common Change] where we gave ten percent of our earnings to a common group fund and then shared needs of people we were in one degree of relationship with to the group and were able to help a whole lot of people in exciting ways. For the last 15 months we have been working full-time with Common Change.

# This year we hosted Couch Surfers for the first time and it was such a great experience.

# During the conference we visited our friends who were renting an Airbnb apartment for the week and got to have a glimpse of that.

One of our shared values is Hospitality and so we are looking to have a place with an extra bedroom in it when we move back to South Africa [like we did here in Oakland, California] so that we can live out that value by hosting people – those we know and are friends with and also hopefully strangers and friends of friends and possibly even people we meet who are in need.

If you’ve never thought about this, please THINK ABOUT IT.

If you’ve never talked about this, please TALK ABOUT IT with your friends, family, work colleagues, sports teammates.

If you’ve never done something about this, please DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT – try something once, experiment, take a risk, explore…

Together we can change the way the world is operated – this is an exciting time we stand at… don’t be left behind [or merely choose to continue working within the old system]



I would love to hear your stories and experiences of any of these things you have tried or benefited from or given a chance to so please leave them in the comments below.




One aspect that strongly defines your character is whether the person you actively are backs up the person you talk yourself up to be.

Another way i have seen that quote above written is like this: What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.

And it is completely true. Another area that this touches on is that of consistency. Is the person you speak yourself to be also the person you are in the day to day of life?

So if you are someone who talks big about the disparity between rich and poor and the need for the wealthy to give up their wealth and look after those who are in need and how everyone at your church needs to be involved in the local homeless shelter… but then you live a completely luxurious life and never spend any time with the poor. People are going to take away the lived out message over the spoken one.


In the letter of 1 John in the Bible, chapter 3, it says it beautifully like this:

18 Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.

Maybe a good way to do this would be to use our voices when we are talking about stories we have been involved with [and also sharing the stories of other people we know] as opposed to things we think we should do. So if you don’t have a story, go and do a thing that will result in a story [don’t do it to have a story – do it cos it is an amazing thing to do] and then inspire others with the stories of real live transformative events.

A second important truth is to be intentional about updating the stories we tell. If the story of the last amazing thing we did is a ten year old story, maybe it’s time we stepped down from the speaking circuit and went back to living out the stories for a while. i know i am tired of telling the old stories – i am ready to be living some new ones [and am with Common Change which is great, and you can be too!] and so constantly need to be aware of this.

How are you doing in this? Is this an area you maybe need to work on? 

[For the next post looking at the words we speak, click here]


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