Tag Archive: Common Change


nekbatmanate

It started with a #neknomination [well, let’s be honest – it likely started with a drunk Australian feeling like this was something he thought was a good idea for more people to do?]

an online video’d drinking challenge game where you “film themselves drinking a pint of an alcoholic beverage, usually beer, in one gulp and upload the footage to the web” [wikipedia] and then nominate two other people to do the same, paying it forward so to speak [where “it” was a silly drinking game that has caused the death of up to four different people so far] with the resulting nomination needing to take place within 24 hours.

then it hit South Africa and, in particular, a guy named Brent Lindeque who started out his #neknomination driving in his car and then turned the whole thing on his head by driving up to a guy begging on the side of the road and passing out a sandwich and a cooldrink to the man. the challenge was transformed into RAKnominations and South Africa responded in a big way by filming videos of themselves doing Random Acts of Kindness and challenging others to do the same.

inspired by my mate Howard Fyvie who went and sang to a group of senior citizens and handed out cake and had polaroid pics snapped with them and then being nominated myself by Jono van Deventer who Howie had passed it on to [after he paid for some random lady’s shopping and then serenaded her in Spanish at her car] i endured a hectically crazy busy day trying desperately to make my #neknomination happen to no avail until at 11.15pm i stumbled upon an idea that might work, filmed it and got it edited and uploaded by 7.45 the following morning with minutes to spare.

in my #neknomination that eventually happened, i had a brief conversation with a mate of mine, Richard Bolland, who had expressed some hesitation, particularly to the random and once-off nature of these acts of kindness, seeing them as a great start, but really feeling like if they just happened and were walked away from that maybe they were not the most helpful thing and how do we encourage people who are stepping up and doing great acts, but challenge them to get more deeply and long term involved to be agents of long-term real change?

MAKING A  DIFFERENCE vs SIMPLY MAKING A VIDEO…

this morning i awoke to find two that seemed to have longer term effects at least so it feels like we are getting closer:

Ashton Hayes joined in and his #neknomination stepped it up a gear, inviting the whole of South Africa to get involved in rebuilding the burnt-down roof of a house for a woman who looks after 14 children in a local township.

South African fast food chicken join Nandos joined the #neknomination train by renovating the kitchen and dining area at the Sithandiwe Disabled Day Care Centre just outside the Alexandra township.

DAVE GALE

My friend Dave Gale shares some of his hesitations with the whole RAKnomination vibe:

My main concern with the RAKnominations that have arisen as morphed versions of the drinking dare Neknominations is about motivation.  I’m not objecting to them or wanting to belittle the effort that people have gone to, just questioning what lies behind and drives the actions.

It’s a reaction to a public dare, so it naturally has elements of pride, fear and guilt as motivating factors. People are not so much called to act as they are driven.

Granted, it does force you out of your comfort zone, make you reach into your wallet, challenge your creativity and cause you to look someone less resourced in the eye while you bless them.  But then, most likely you’re gone, back into your world, apart from ‘theirs’.  If it changes you, causes you to linger in ‘their’ world, to get to know them, begin to share resources between you (who says it has to be only one-way traffic?), reduce that economic isolation gap between you, it is a whole different world.

The filming of it and publishing that film adds another dimension.  You need it to prove you really did do something and have earned the right to dare someone else to keep it going.  I understand that, but it feels a bit chain-letterish. Chain-videoish? There’s a new word for you.  Matthew 2 comes to mind.

It should not be about you or anyone else other than the people you feel God is calling you to bless.  It’s about relationship. It’s about resources God as father has placed in your hands. It’s about living in a manner as close as possible to what you’d imagine God would like his Kingdom to operate like.

So, a question I am asking myself of late is: “What does this kingdom of God look like and what is the commander’s objective in this whole kingdom-building deal?”

Best I stop criticising what others are doing, no matter what motivates them, and look to my own heart and actions.  Common Change for me provides an opportunity to begin changing my world, need by need. [where Common Change is the non-profit organisation i, brett, work for where groups of people share resources to empower people in their groups to walk alongside and assist their friends who are in need]

God bless Brett, and keep challenging us to question our motives and live this kingdom life to the full. 

RICHARD BOLLAND

I asked my mate Richard to write some thoughts on this:

“This week I have been sick with the flu. If I didn’t know any better I would walk to the medicine cabinet, pick 2 or 3 random bottles/pills and swallow them in the hope that it would cure me of my illness. Luckily I am wiser than that and have been taught which medicine to take or to visit a doctor and get a medicine prescribed to me.

We often view the poor in the same way and attempt to solve their problems without any knowledge of the consequences of our actions. We give diarrhea tablets to people with a cough and wonder why they’re not getting better or we give a panado to someone who’s broken an arm. Sometimes we even get offended when people correct us and in return shout: “But I gave them medicine, surely it helps in some small way!”. We don’t realize that sometimes we can be doing more harm than good or not solving the problem at all.

I’m hoping that my metaphor is working here and we see that we need knowledge before giving and if we don’t have that knowledge we need to seek it out. The ‘oath to compassionate service’ has really helped me gain that knowledge before giving out the “medicine”: We should never do for others what they have (or could have) the capacity to do for themselves. We should limit one-way giving to emergency situations. We should seek ways to empower through employment, lending, and investing. We should put the interests of the poor above my own self-interest even when it means setting aside my own agenda. We should listen closely to those we seek to help. My hope is that if we follow this oath we would do no harm to the people we are trying to help. “

Richard then referenced the first South African #neknomination video of the guy handing the food to the man on the corner:

The idea of basically handing out food to anyone who seems poor with absolutely no intention to build relationship or understanding. Its a good example of something being very good on the outside, but potentially damaging with no long term help. It’s such a grey area because it makes me feel good watching that video. But we’ve got to ask ourselves how much good it does.

Another good analogy I can think of is the starfish metaphor. Often people think ‘giving’ is like throwing a starfish back into the water. “but its making a difference to that one” When in actual fact all you’re doing to throwing a glass of water onto the starfish and saying that you’ve saved it.

NEKNOMINATE THIS

i don’t think Dave or Richard or myself are trying to slam people who have taken part in #neknominations [well except the drinking game people – stop being STUPID – you might be fine at it, but somewhere along the line you are going to challenge someone who isn’t and they will try and up yours and another person will be seriously injured or worse!] or at least the RAKnomination ones… but what we are saying is examine the motivation of the videos and the effect. even with something as amazing as helping rebuild a roof or fixing up the kitchen for a home – stay in contact, build relationship, look for where that person can help you , share stories, get invested and do whatever you do for a longer period of time.

let’s face it, at Common Change, which Dave referenced, we have a saying which goes something like this: It’s not that the rich and the poor don’t like each other, it’s that they don’t know each other. Get to know someone, hear their story and then suddenly you are not faced with random homeless guy, but Peter who is your friend. I tend to want to help my friends and walk journeys with them. Then we will start to see real change.

let’s face it – i am extremely proud that South Africans took a stupid drinking game and added life to it – the acts of kindness have been great, BUT it would be even so much greater if we were able to shift the momentum that has been grown through the RAKnominations and transform it into longer term acts of change that will benefit individuals, families and even whole communities… instead of a 24 hour timeline for creating a video, what if people started committing themselves to get involved volunteering for six months at a place of need in the community… and what if that spread?

i VFSMnominate you South Africa, let’s show the world one more time, that we can lead the way…

[i just watched this clip today which seems to be a lot closer to how these things can look – evidence of relationship already plus also partnering with an organisation that has long-term involvement and knowledge of the community and is made up of people living in the community – more of this please: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-MfpfEgJQ_s]

updated 21 Feb: Here is an incredible clip by Shane Vermooten which gets to the heart of what I’m speaking about in terms of inspiring to long-term change and transformation – come on:

change

a friend of mine is in serious need of dental surgery… another friend who has a really tight budget has a car that is in serious need of tyre replacement before something goes horribly wrong… someone else i know has their house taken down by the latest hurricane to hit the states and are just needing a bit of a boost to pay a deposit and first month’s rent on an apartment for them and their child… a couple who are having quite a tough time due to the regular circumstances of life could really just use a bit of a weekend break away to be able to focus on their marriage…

as someone who is operating on a fairly tight budget, what do i say to these people? what can i do?

“I’ll pray for you.”

Not that praying for someone is wrong or bad, but if it is all i am able to do, then it does feel somewhat inadequate.

Especially if i can do much more. And the book of James in the Bible seems to suggest that we should:

15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. [James2]

Enter Common Change… the non-profit tbV and i work for… and the group we have been a part of for about a year and a half.

The needs mentioned at the start of this post are all ones that have been met by the group we are part of. Although not necessarily all personal friends of ours, we got to play some part in empowering their friends to walk alongside them as some or all of their need was met.

Here’s how it works:

# you register to Common Change and then either create a group [with a bunch of mates, work colleagues, small group at church, indoor hockey teammates] or join an existing group and start contributing usually a monthly amount to the group common pool.

# when someone in the group knows someone [one degree of separation] who has a need they present the need to the group on behalf of their friend.

# members of the group then respond by giving creative suggestions or asking deeper questions to try and figure out the best way to get involved in meeting the need [so drawing on the wisdom of the group]

# when the group has weighed in, a gift is sent to the person in need and the person who shared the need with the group is encouraged to walk the journey with their friend

it is that easy… and it can start small [ten people each giving 10 dollars suddenly have 100 dollars to be able to put towards a need] or be really huge [some people give fixed amounts, others give a percentage of their salary]

the aim is to eradicate economic isolation – instead of simply throwing money at needs or at organisations we are committing to get personally involved in relationships we already have where need exists and hopefully be part of making a long-term difference in someone’s life.

sound doable? interested in learning more or getting involved? email me at brett@commonchange.com and we can get this ball rolling…

Also, if you like the idea it would be great if you could share this link via your social networking vibes… thank you.

cchange

i was listening to someone the other day describe how being part of a non-profit organisation would guarantee them tax benefits and it made me both sad and angry.

kind of like i feel about ‘Worship Song of the Year’ awards and sports stars [and others] who are paid ridiculous amounts of money…

moneytax

don’t get me wrong [well maybe do a little bit cos it makes for a more interesting comment section below] i am not saying that i have a problem with the fact that in many countries you get some sort of tax break when you give money to charities and non-profits and maybe even religious institutions still… my problem lies in using ‘tax benefits’ as the main, or even a major, pull in trying to get you to give.

 

because, if you are giving to something because of the money you get back, you are not really giving. not if that’s your motivation. then you are just using the organisation.

whereas if you give to a thing you have decided to give to and then at the end of the year the government gives you some money back then whoohoo, bonus… if the amount of money you gave to the charity/non-profit was the amount you had chosen to give them, then you should give them the tax back money as well, right?

give to the thing because you think the thing is worth giving to. don’t miss out if there are benefits to be had [and as mentioned maybe add that to give extra to the thing] but let your motivation be that you really believe in the work that you are supporting.

[or better yet, become a part of Common Change and collaborate with a group of people to give towards people you already know who are in need and so add relationship to the whole aspect of giving – let’s make giving personal!]

i would love to get some discussion going on this, and try not trip over the fact that i still think it’s a travesty that this club paid 40 million pounds to that club to get that football player.

A father had seven children of which two were step-children from his second marriage.

He decided to take them out for a meal and so they went down to the local restaurant. He told his oldest son that he could pick anything off the menu. His son decided to go for a giant steak with a baked potato on the side. He ordered it and they watched him thoroughly enjoy himself wolfing down his meal.

Then the father invited his oldest daughter to do the same and she chose a seafood platter. Again, they all watched as she really enjoyed her food.

This continued down the line until his five children had all eaten. 

Instead of turning to his step-children, the father then turned back to his oldest son and invited him to choose something else off the menu. The son chose a steak kebab this time with a gourmet salad on the side. His daughter went for a three meat pizza. And so it continued down the line.

After the five children had eaten, the father turned to his children and asked them if they wanted dessert. His two step-children were looking a little hungry as well and so he made sure that their water glasses were replenished so that they had something in front of them. He then proceeded to buy ice-cream and cake for his five children. 

crustyAs they were about to leave, one of his step-children asked if they too could get something to eat. Moved by compassion the father asked his daughter if it would be okay with her if the two of them shared the bits of pizza crust she had left behind on her plate? She enthusiastically agreed and so everyone left having eaten something. A great night out.

THE IMMORAL OF THE STORY

I mean that would be fine, right? You would have no problem with that if it was an actual story? We would be able to make statements like ‘Well the five are his real children and the two should be glad that they got something, right?’

Or not? Would we be absolutely disgusted that five of the children got to pig out and two were left with the remains of the meal? Would it not be okay that there was enough money and resources to give everyone a good meal and yet the decision was made to give some people a great meal while some had hardly any meal at all? 

I think if this story was an actual situation where you knew the people, it might be a lot different. The reality of the world where rich and poor live very much like this is a lot easier to turn a blind eye to or even celebrate sometimes, perhaps because the situation of the poor seems so metaphorical [until we actually start to meet them and they become ‘real people’] that it isn’t actually real [as long as we can keep them out of sight, right?]

‘The world has enough for everyone’s need, but not enough for everyone’s greed.’ [Gandhi]

I can’t do anything personally about sports and movie stars ludicrous salaries. But maybe I can start with my own greed. And that of those who I am in close relationship with. Through conversation [it’s not guilt that is going to win this battle, but imaginative creativity might get us places] and wrestling over these things. Mutual accountability. Goal setting and experimentation. Living better.

For people in America in particular, one way of starting to align yourselves to something better might be joining a Common Change group and, together with a group of friends, start meeting some of the needs in the lives of the people you know.

For others of us it might be taking on board the stories of people around us who are doing inspirational and creative things like the Albrecht family in the UK, or Nigel and Trish and their family in Hillbrow, South Africa and asking how that might look for us in our context. For parents of young children, it might be reading some of these stories and seeing if there is anything in there we might be able to take on or whether they inspire us to figure out how our story might look.

It might require us taking a moment to stop and do a stock take of our lives and ask if we are currently living out the values that we profess to have or should we be taking a leaf out of Calvin and Hobbes creator Bill Watterson’s book and simply walking away from the place we currently find ourselves to have landed and being more intentional about choosing the place where we decide to set up camp.

Maybe a small part of not feeling overwhelmed by what is happening in Syria right now could be by being intentional about the things I have the ability to change in my life and context right now?

I mean it’s just step-kids right? They’re not even his real children… 

twocents2

Two Cents is the blog associated with Common Change, the non-profit that tbV and myself work for. It is a blog site which we are hoping till become a hub for conversations, dialogue and media sharings on the theme of where FAITH intersects with ECONOMICS [with a healthy measure of JUSTICE added in] and it is starting to gain momentum. Here are a selection of some of the top articles from the last couple of weeks that people have been particularly interested in. We would love for you to pick one [or all of them] and go and read it and leave your thoughts [your two cents?] in the comments section…

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http://twocents.co/features/the-amish-and-economic-innovation

‘What can we learn from this case study about finding imaginative and innovative ways to stay true to our own principles in the modern economy?’

http://twocents.co/articles/moving-from-a-minimum-wage-to-a-living-wage

‘The principles and foundations Nigel expresses have deep significance across geographic contexts. What does it mean to pay a living wage in our context? What will paying a living wage “cost” you and what are the potential effects doing so will have on the individuals and societies you find yourself engaged in? Is it worth “finding a bargain” on wages that impact people’s ability to live?’

http://twocents.co/articles/a-pontiff-for-the-poor-is-there-any-other-kind

‘In his short tenure, Pope Francis has redefined and breathed life into the papal office. As a result, a office that many saw as dead and irrelevant; is now brimming with life. While we at Two Cents applaud much of what he has done, we are especially interested in how he views the intersection of faith and economics.’ 

http://twocents.co/features/the-liturgy-of-abundance-and-the-myth-of-scarcity

‘Can we, like Jesus, imagine a new reality, an economy of enough, a liturgy of abundance? “When the disciples, charged with feeding the hungry crowd [as told in Mark’s gospel] found a child with five loaves and two fishes, Jesus took, blessed ,broke and gave the bread. These are the four decisive verbs of our sacramental existence. ” But our taking, blessing, breaking and giving – our sacramental expression of our fundamental belief in “creation infused with the Creator’s generosity” and our call to express this same open-handedness to our neighbors – cannot exist if we continue to believe in the myth of scarcity. With that all we can do is  hoard, profane, accumulate and keep to ourselves the richness of God’s abundance.’

http://twocents.co/features/the-not-so-simple-life

Below are three points I want to remember as I attempt to gouge entitlement out of my own life. I suspect, like pulling weeds, it’s going to be a life-long exercise:

1. I have enough.

2. People matter most.

3. God simplified.

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So there you have it – just a glimpse of what we are trying to do at Two Cents and we would love for you to get involved which you can do in a number of ways:

[1] Visit the site, read the articles, comment on them – share them with people who you know that you think they will resonate with.

[2] Send me articles/videos that you feel are relevant to the theme of where FAITH meets ECONOMICS [with a generous helping of JUSTICE] – I won’t be able to use all the ones I get but if you find something that is particularly challenging or encouraging then please email it to brett@commonchange.com and give me the option of using it.

[3] Suggest a writer – if you know someone that writes well on that theme who might be up to writing an original piece for the site, please send them my way.

[4] Volunteer – we are looking for a team of 10 to 20 people who will donate an hour or two a week to Common Change by committing to visiting Two Cents a few times a week and commenting on at least one but preferably two of the new articles we post. If this sounds like something you’d be up for or if you know someone who has a passion for this theme of stuff then email me at brett@commonchange.com and sign up.

changeA little bit of a catchup on how tbV [the beautiful Val] and my work is going at Common Change

Things are going pretty well – we have moved from a space of setting things up and getting them ready to having them ready and seeing people start to slowly come on board and so it is an exciting time but also feels a bit like a time of pregnancy [no, we’re not!] in terms of something has happened but the main event still feels a little bit in the future.

I have moved from doing a lot of bug fixes and testing on the new site to a space of marketing and sharing the vision of Common Change and seeing people take steps to sign up. We had a really successful online webinar a few weeks ago and most of the people who were part of that have started or continued a journey with us at Common Change. That is a great way to get started and have some of your questions answered and we will be doing two more on Tuesday the 6th of August so if you are interested then check out the event and sign up.

Val does a bunch of stuff involving policy and procedure but is also largely involved with moving people from being interested parties to joining Common Change and becoming part of functioning groups [when a group is fully active and functioning it gets passed on to me to keep an eye on and walk alongside] and there are a bunch of groups at the moment that are close to full on launching stage and so that can be really exciting although hugely-patience-enducing too as we just want to see them jump and get going. She does a really excellent job at managing that side of things and staying in touch with people. She has also recently jumped into the finances side of things as well so learning and contributing much there.

So the online phone call is one way to get involved. But we have recently added another which is a great way for people who are excited about it but maybe have not got a group of people around them who are interested or at the point of jumping-in’ness yet and are really wanting to get moving. We have started a group called CONNECT [with a monthly contribution of $25 asked for] and one called MOVE [monthly contribution of $50 required] as a 6 month commitment for anyone who is wanting to try this Common Change thing out and see how it works and get started with it. The hope is that as you take part you will have some stories to share your friends or colleagues and that after the 6 month participation you may have found the people in your life to be able to start your own group with. So a great way to get ones feet wet with a fairly low input.

Another part of Common Change that we are excited about is the Two Cents blog we have going which looks at aggregating [collecting] and also creating articles and other media looking at the intersection of where FAITH and FINANCES [or economy] meet up [with a healthy side order of JUSTICE] and so we have three to five articles added there every week and are inviting people to get involved in the conversations and discussions that emerge as people engage with what is going on around the world. We would LOVE for you to stop by there and add your two cents. Bookmark it and visit it regularly or simply subscribe to the blog to stay in touch with what life-transforming conversations are being had.

At the moment Common Change is set up [from the money perspective largely] specifically for American groups but we have had a lot of interest from countries as varied as Costa Rica, South Africa and Holland and so people are wanting to get going with this and we are definitely investigating ways in which people from other countries can more easily become involved.

So ja, exciting but looking forward to to when the groups that are processing take the final leap and start presenting and meeting needs and we will have more stories to celebrate together.

For those of you who may not be familiar with how Common Change works, in a nutshell it is about connecting resources to people in need through already established relationships. The idea is for a group of people to commit to contributing a certain amount of their finances each month into a common pool. At any point anyone in the group can then share a need of someone that they know [a person they are in one degree of separation of relationship with] and the group will share wisdom and ideas on how best to meet the need long-term and then vote to approve the need. The question we generally hold on to is not whether or not we will meet the need but how will we meet it. This is based on the early church in Acts method of everyone sharing their resources and no-one being in need and feels like a really healthy way of helping us to be intentional in stewarding that which we have well.

For more information check out the website at commonchange.net, jump aboard one of the phone conversations on Tuesday 6 August or check out our blog at twocents.co.

hope for south africa

#1. you have a reason to go somewhere else – i understand for some people if they are living in fear and feel like for family and children’s sake that they need to be somewhere else then sure, maybe you need to do that. Val and i went to the Simple Way because we felt God was leading us there and we are now part of Relational Tithe/Common Change as we feel like it is a God thing to be doing – but apart from that, if it was solely up to me i would choose to be in South Africa and even now, the stuff we are involved in i know will benefit South Africa/South Africans [at first via internet/ideas/stories but hopefully directly at some stage]

#2. if you’re a whiner. i get SO tired of hearing people whine and moan about South Africa. If that’s you and it is the overwhelming sense of your current attitude or state of being, then maybe you need to leave and go somewhere else. Chances are you will find something to whine about there, but it may be that you can find a place where you won’t be helpless or paralysed because of all the negativity you see or experience.

Those are the reasons. For me, anyways, and i know other people may think differently and that’s fine, but i really believe that if you are not going somewhere else for a specific reason then stay in South Africa. But be part of the solution.

I really loved being back in South Africa for the last two and a half months even more than i thought i would. i was inspired by the churches i visited and the people there and hearing some of the initiatives that were being done. i was encouraged and inspired by meeting people like Marci and Nathalie from Common Good [NPO linked to Common Ground church in Cape Town] and by chatting to my friend Godfrey from TheatreSports and hearing about his involvement with Sea Point High School and the Darling Project as well as hearing what is happening with uThando leNkosi and iKhayalethemba and a whole bunch of other projects, initiatives, relationships and so on. all around me there are such tremendous signs of hope and so it bummed me out when everyone got so caught up in the Oscar Pistorius saga to the point of celebrity obsession when there is so much greatness happening to be able to put ones life into.

everyone doesn’t need to do everything. but everyone needs to do something. and if each person starts connecting to one person, or family, or a project or ministry, then suddenly the news starts to change. it really is possible and positive momentum breeds more of the same.

so if you are already part of doing something, invite someone else to hear about it, to come visit, to get involved. and if you’re not, then find a person or a place to get involved – something that connects with your gifts and skills or maybe just your heart and time…

but please stop the whining, or really, just go. this country needs to be filled with people who believe.

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