Posts in Social Ventures
A surprisingly amicable self-interview Part 1: Ristening, hurricanes, DACA and an alternative metaphor.

She was talking about how some of the metaphors that working moms rely on like “a juggling act” serve them so poorly because who would ever want to live a life of constantly throwing the things you care most about in life up in the air and then trying to catch them again.  The alternative she proposed was “composing a life," which right away made me wonder if I could ever approach my work as composing or maybe creating a big art-project.

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Pantophobia

This summer, on our annual visit to Cedar Point (a rollercoaster park in Ohio), I rode something called The Gatekeeper (you can virtually ride it here) which turned out to be an ideal apparatus to get better acquainted with my growing fear of heights. 

I, honestly, don’t get my fear of heights. Back in junior high, I seriously considered making a career out of getting girls to scream at me by standing at the edge of cliffs or ledges.  I once solved a lost key problem and impressed my now wife by scaling a 3-story apartment building and going in the skylight.  And enthralling as this fear may be, it doesn’t always pre-register in the cognitive part of my brain, which means I could look at The Gatekeeper, and think, goofily, sure why not.  It wasn’t until I was locked in and making the 170 foot initial ascent, that both my body and brain registered an entirely different take on the situation.

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On Suffering and Giving

I send updates about Syria or Sudan or C.A.R. in our Twitter and news feed, but I’m not always sure this is wise or healthy.  While I believe that bearing witness can both honor and protest suffering, seeing without responding can also make us callous or nihilistic or afraid or depressed.  Reduction to 140 characters (!) sent or read while walking the dog  (and intermixed with pictures of what Uncle Joe ate last night) threatens to trivialize.  Yet deep compassion without action or interaction can sometimes shake us. 

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Interview Part 3: Sweat, Elephants, and an Acrostic Poem

I grew up in a war.  I also trained as a fiction writer.   What both experiences have in common is they nourish an impulse to park the mind in a different place than the body and live with some inner distance or disconnect.  With war it’s basic survival.  Fiction writers just feel compelled to apprehend or explore or comprehend experience—which leaves some part of their brains observing at a distance.  Great for being reflective.  Not so great for being in-the-moment. 

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Moving right along (Interview continued)

One reason I’ve been drawn to building a social venture is because it invites us past the 6:30 news.  If you feel concerned about refugees, then you can do something concrete.  It might be as small as buying a granola bar, but it’s something that connects you personally.  And something positive.  I can enjoy eating something made by someone who enjoyed making it, in part because it was a step towards greater belonging in a new community.  And the connections come along the way. That’s why farmers’ markets work so well for us.  Or home deliveries.

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Building an airborne vehicle mid-flight

I’ve heard start-up entrepreneurs describe their job as trying to build an airplane while it’s in flight.   Yeah, that feels about right too.  Maybe airborne vehicle.  Capable of crashing.  It would have been nice to design and build this thing on the ground first—but that would have taken the backing of a well-funded non-profit.  Or a functioning business could have shifted its mission from primarily making money to primarily training.  But these two sectors [small business manufacturing and non-profit adult ed agency] don’t typically cross paths.  They don’t think alike.  So they don’t tend to fund big initiatives that might be outside their primary mission.  Yet the only way I could imagine us being effective in our mission [to jumpstart refugees into the job market] was at their intersection.  So we’re a hybrid and we’re building and we’re in flight.

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Ten reasons why PGP should fail (and why we don't intend to).

Every time you buy a bag of granola you are making an impact.  Every time you stop by a farmer's market and chat with one of our employees you are extending hospitality and helping teach English.  The donations, the encouragement, the tweets, the referrals, the advice, the gifts (like free table space at the Holiday Market), the access to resources (like Amos House), the Facebook mentions, the articles (and reporters who seek us out) and blog posts, big and small.  We've wanted to grow and move forward in a way that keeps us connected to the people who make it possible.  Talk about "watching out"!  Your involvement is watching out for us.

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Fledgling

The idea for this non-profit grew out of the experience Geoff Gordon and I have had creating the Providence Granola Project and assessing it’s strengths and weaknesses as a vehicle to provide first jobs and job-skills for newly arrived refugees settling in Providence.  We hope to develop an efficient and effective method to help at-risk populations with significant barriers to employment find steady, meaningful jobs. While our intention is to focus on refugees, our ultimate goal is to create a model that would be transferable to other locations and at-risk demographics.

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