thestoryofmeaningfuluse

A Magazine Capturing the Story of Health- For People, Environment, Economy & Habitat

Archive for January, 2012

No Child Left Behind: Can Business Step In?

Can corporate social responsibility help bridge the gap between educational empowerment and economic stability?

By Lavinia Weissman

@WeCareHealth545454

New York, New York

original date of publication in CSRWireTalkback 01 December 2011


The redefining “No Child Left Behind” act was passed exactly ten years ago on January 8, 2002.  Today, however, there is real question on its value.

The EdWeek.com performance in review puts it succinctly.

So “What does it really mean to leave no child behind; and is this a social issue that can be addressed by CSR?”

There is no denying that the future performance of our workforce depends on the quality of education available to our kids. That the U.S. has fallen behind in assuring access and funding for quality education is not news either.

Educational Standards: Are We Up For the Challenge?

Current curriculum and education standards do not assure the best possible education to prepare our kids for careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), let alone help them embed this knowledge into careers that provide sustainable value.

In an economy where jobs are scarce, corporations believe that they are at an advantage, perpetuating the idea that there is not enough competent talent. To build the best workforce possible, CSR principles must be embedded in all aspects of the STEM curriculum. And EMC’s Kathrin Winkler isn’t the only one endorsing this.

The Role of STEM in Sustainability…

Ellen Weinreb’s recent research in CSO Back Story revealed that several of the country’s sustainability chiefs have educational backgrounds in STEM, helping them become critical, system thinkers.

Part of the challenge in insuring that a future workforce is prepared for careers in sustainability lies in integrating the foundational values of CSR with a set of values based around work. Consider, for example, the Swedish word for “work”Narings Liv. Literally translated, it means “work that nourishes you for life”—a value system that should be at the heart of the CSR movement.

By integrating this value into our work culture, companies could examine a new system for defining work—one that could be translated into a functional educational system for children and adults.

It is time to declare an opening to an examination of workforce values and the question of how we prepare young people to sustain themselves both through their work and when they cannot work.

…or WorkEcology

I see this as a creation of a CSR workforce eco-system that I describe as WorkEcology. We know that our current employment systems, workforce development and all that this implies—including benefits and compensation—are broken.

The tradition of education for employment and professional development is no longer a sustainable model. We know that it no longer assures ongoing professional development, wages that assure a sustainable lifestyle, or support of benefits that assure protection for disability, health care and retirement.

In preparing a young person for the realities of this kind of world, what kind of work are we preparing them for? What system of education will meet those needs? And how can corporations that advocate corporate social responsibility serve that preparation?

From Thought Leadership to Practice

As part of my thinking on these questions, I have begun mentoring a gifted 11 year old young woman, who is motivated and passionate about biology and other disciplines in science. Together we have uncovered a range of topics for discussion from bullying and dumbing-down to negativity and claiming personal power.

Thanks to Disney’s ABC Studios and my affection for Extreme Makover, we watched episodes about how to heal and counteract bullying, and I began to introduce her to the power of social media at its best as an educational tool.

At a New Year’s Eve party, my friend was put to the test. Overhearing her talk about global warming, a man in his late 40s approached her and, in front of the party crowd,  informed her that her passion for global warming was useless, and that there was no definitive evidence.

Explaining CSR to an Adolescent

As I listened to this young woman the following day, I realized that all I could do for her is what I do in my career—provide a bit of education to inspire her, and identify networks of educational resources that will inspire her self-esteem and learning.

I pointed her to:

Where can this investment come from?

A 2011 Standard and Poor’s analysis featured in the Wall Street Journal reported a total of $1.08 Trillion in corporate cash reserves.

Can corporations redirect a portion of their cash reserves and philanthropic foundation investment to assure no child is left behind and moves into a narings liv approach to work?

What would this imply for human resources, educational institutions and financial approaches to funding and sustaining access to quality STEM education that embeds sustainability and CSR?

Readers: Can social organizations and business effectively target No Child Left Behind by investing in  organizational design,  academic curriculum and targetting funding to educational institutions?

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Women’s Secrets on the Economic Battlefield

A Systemic View

By Lavinia Weissman

@wecarehealth54545454545454545454

New York, New York

“We seek only to give words

to those who cannot speak

(too may women in too many countries)

I seek only to forget

The sorrows of my grandmothers

Silence”

 

– Anasuya Sengupta,  India

Last week, I offered a post (part 1) in a private subscribed conference,  Monday Circle of Prayer, Walking About Rather than Walking From.  It focused on a more personal experience with respect to how women cope with the realization they have no choice but to walk away from dysfunctional employment and other related activities and what that implies.

This article is a  second installment to that reflective inquiry from a more systemic view of women’s participation in the workforce.

Part 2- A Systemic View – When Walking Away is Your Only Alternative

It has been 30 years since, Gro Harlem Brundtland, M.D., launched the sustainability movement by convening the Brundtland Commission Inquiry in cooperation with the United Nations.  One of the worlds most remarkable female leaders, Dr. Brundtland is the former prime minister of Norway and former Executive Director of the World Health Organization and continues her work out of the United Nations community to this day.

What is happening for women in the economic system in which the work of the Brundtland Commission dialogue was to influence change?

A company culture that embeds corporate social responsibility implies that this culture has worked or is working on issues of transparency and materiality that invite an end to secrets. To assure acceleration of the women’s agenda in the workplace, this is a solid beginning but one has to ask why with such remarkable leadership among women, is this movement so slow to accelerate?

 

Conditions for Women Today

A few years back, I came to recognize living a life of spirit and faith was also key and not engaging dysfunction. As the economy became more challenged, I found myself on a battlefield of toxicity for work that has brought me to a downward spiral that many health people share with me.

On an ongoing basis, I am reminded of how exceptional women have been good at retaining secrets from public view, e.g. health, marital abuse and discrimination in the workplace to a degree of complicity that underlies why there is so little progress for women in a country that has complicated the lives of so many now by the cost of education, the diminished number of jobs available and the increasing number of jobs available for a wage that no one can live on, let alone support children.

Somehow in the United States, women forgot to speak for and in support of their peers. The spiritual movement in the US grew into a focus of self-care and personal intention and the issues that trapped or harmed so many were forgotten that can compromise any woman’s health or access to education.   We make people personally responsible to heal the obstruction and wounds that have been imposed on them that they did not cause.

Living and working in this kind of environment can result in the adoption of behavior that is dysfunctional when we feel all we can do I fight back on the battlefield by declaring war or simply protest. Some woman cannot free themselves for socio-economic reasons and need access to constructive options of employment, education and housing, especially if they have children.  They need a form of protection that can overcome the harm they had to endure personally or to their children if they speak up or make the “secret known.”

For me this week, I can own the cost of freeing myself from walking away from systems of obstruction and not looking back to my Sodom and Gomorrah.

For many years, more than I care to think, I have found the courage to walk forward with my wisdom and my eyes to in minutes note an elephant in the room that is not right.  I like many offer compassion and no remedy and keep walking or support as I can. This week, I became very clear, I will not perpetuate or enable anymore secrets and I will not engage in any conversations that bring me into a form of triangulation that perpetuates the secrete. Yet as women in this country we continue to perpetuate secrets and to me this has become as harmful as keeping the secret.

Over the past 3 decades there emerged a new set of systemic challenges at a rate of acceleration that the Earth Charter and UN Global Compact Principles have been designed to counter act all this.

These systemic challenges have form into many secrets that can become the ground of a battlefield of tension and obstruction we cannot speak about in public. For a few who experience this they have the protection of wealth, position or marriage to reduce the harm, but the wounds from these battles can be life long.  I know this personally and discovered I was not alone in this experience in a very pronounced way in 2004.

The Hidden Story

In 2004, I attend a private by invitation meeting in Boston, attended by over 200 women who had MBA’s and worked successfully in the Financial Service industry. Success in this instance is equated with title and financial success. Most of these women were graduates of a top 10 MBA programs. This particular program by 2004, had over 900 female graduates working in industry.

As a journalist and business writer my invitation was extended with a strong request for non-disclosure. This group wanted my participation and I had to promise not to report any panelist personal story or report on the overall event to a public audience.

What I can say now is that the meeting focused on report from Catalyst, a non-profit established in 1962 that conducts research on the progress for women in business. The 2004 Catalyst presentation focused on the question,  “Why fewer than 7% of women had advanced to C-level positions in the Fortune 2000?”

This report has popularized and been presented to a public view over and over again. What I did not expect was to listen to testimony of female leaders in the financial industry that offered “secrets.” These secrets included that 85% of the panelists suffered from chronic illness and had compromised life circumstances that led to the deterioration of their own health when they are parents, elderly caregivers, or witnessed first hand corruption.

A panelist at the time of the conference was working in venture capital investments. She reported that she had witnessed when employed by a securities firm of fame,  an “indiscretion.” Her husband’s response to her was, “Resign immediately.  I am glad I can support us and assure your resignation with dignity because you don’t have to work.”  She also indicated her resignation was just on time to see her husband through his own health challenges while caring for her young children at home, which she was not anticipating and needed the freedom of her own company. She ended her presentation stating, “I do not know what single women did to protect themselves from this kind of association by employment?”

The most dramatic presentation was last from a woman of status and achievement in the financial service industry, who announced that she let her career destroy her life – marriage, relationship with her children and friends. This is not news.  How many articles and reports have there been through the years on women who sacrificed a “life” for “career.I found comfort in recognizing and end to my ongoing feeling of an isolated experience.  I had just met women like me who had lived through similar experiences.

I noticed by the end of the event that women,  I respected the most was no longer employed in industry, but served industry.  These women structured their businesses so they no longer had to personally absorb or perpetuate harmful corporate behavior they could not control.

Forbes journalist, Meghan Casserly wrote, Millennial Women Are Burning Out by 30, Great for Business.  This is truly not news. Casserly points out more women are becoming entrepreneurs and starting their own companies as an alternative.  In my experience the women succeeding are doing that with the education and knowledge of sustainability and corporate social responsibility. What does that imply to women today?

As someone, who has worked at the frontier of sustainability and csr, for nearly two decades, I have seen the freedom that these woman claimed that was across the board empowered by family and friends. It was clear to me if you did not have that kind of support, it was a long hard road with no guarantee for successful outcome.

Is Change Possible?

 

Elaine Cohen, a recognized authority on HR and corporate reporting in the movement of change for Corporate Social Responsibility, recently reviewed Women and the New Business Leadership by Peninah Thomson with Tom Lloyd.

Thomas and Lloyd reported that one mentee interviewed pointed out

” Women tend to want to get everything on the table, because they
believe it is only when all the sometimes painful facts are on the table
that the truth of the matter can emerge “

This fits with my view that  “women rarely want to disregard the “elephant in the room.” Yet we have appeared to often organize our view of the most “difficult,” as a secret.

I believe until women find a spiritual foundation and new form of strength that has them begin to see strife as strife of many rather than getting lost in their own strife to intend a miracle of repair. This is critical as a principle of uniting and forming a credible movement of change from which to claim their power and influence the acceleration of change.

I do not see this happening as rapidly  without women learning to weave networks in which they can safely claim their power and also generate solutions to generations of abuse and harm to their health and economic status and social position that no one asks to be imposed on them.

Margaret Wheatley, a leadership thought leader and change agent, points out how critical it is for any change agent (man or woman) to exercise perseverance.  In her book titled Perseverance she writes:

“Perseverance is a discipline—it’s a day-by-day decision not to give up.  Therefore, we have to notice the moments when we feel lost or overwhelmed or betrayed or exhausted and note how we respond to them.  And we have to notice the rewarding times, when we experience the joy of working together on something hard but worthwhile, when we realize we’ve made a small difference.

A Personal Action Plan

I know many competent, leadership quality women, who did not chose the adversity that was imposed on them.  Often the only solution for them was to accept roles of care giving, patient or simply walk away from a job to protect their health.  They wisely recognized that to envision repair and change for a scale of outreach that goes beyond what they can know personally and it implied now walking away, but walking in a high degree of uncertainty with perseverance to form something new for which there was no guarantee of outcome or assurance of a happy ending.

My chemical and environmental sensitivity and chronic illness has pushed me to care about the impact on this to people because so many men, women and children suffer more than me. Drawing from this perspective I learned how to formulate ideas that assure lasting social impact. I did not ask to live life with this challenge and at the same time, this challenge has pushed me to integrate a spiritual practice and take on life in forms that are ordinary but not anything that anyone could teach me.

And I have created my own form of empowerment and remedy:

1.   Formulating a course the redefines network so anyone person can benchmark and define their personal social network and its assets;

2.   Gathering group of women and men  in my life that I can interact with virtually on a daily basis to empower me to overcome the obstacles that I and many of my peers and colleagues face in challenging economy.

3.    Shaping my presentations and coaching  to inspire this change, for which I can speak with passion, credibility and spark engagement between women in local community.

Every person in my sustainable reflective  prayer community knows a variation of challenge. The question remains in taking care for yourself and those you love, how you move from hero, heroine or victim to claim a life of repair and solution with other women to accelerate that change and claim our power?

I regret in 2004 with this alumnae group of  women with Wall Street related careers, we did not follow-up with another meeting to look at these questions.

While articles like what Meghan Casserly wrote for Forbes portray a bright picture for the millennial women, we have millions of other women, who are able to step up to learn a new way that I teach that can empower and accelerate a global economic change that has not been fostered by the traditional institutions and industries where women continue to burn out or wait for a pink slip and then what?

Come to one of my programs or host one for your community through a local “green” incubator.

____________

Author’s Bio:

Lavinia Weissman is sustainable leadership coach, health advocate, capacity builder, and publisher/editor-in-chief of thestoryofmeaningfuluse.com.

For More information on Lavinia’s Coaching, Workshops and Presentations or to obtain an invitation to Monday Circle or Prayer Community Conference,

Contact Adriana Hill  in the US by phone 516.204.6791 or  at mydestinyjourney ampersand gmail.com.

The Intangible Value of Sustainable Prayer

By Lavinia Gene Weissman

Moving Beyond Today’s Spiritual Vacuum

@wecarehealth525151515151

New York, New York

This past week, I have been exceptionally frustrated. My frustration grew out of  an observation that many of the men and women, I know, have become unconsciously resigned as a result of the today’s economic challenge or the do not break from the mechanical nature of doing more of the same – looking for a job or living simply in response to stress, to find a point of transformation to shift local economies and learn new approaches to problems they share with their friends that can impact the health of the economy, people, environment and habitat to measure lasting social impact for the welfare of all.

Author, JK Rowling has taught us so many times, in how she lives and has lived her life while imagining every Harry Potter chapter, success grows from failure and recovery from failure grows from imagination.   Her learning took form from her own journey as the daughter of a chronically ill mother, who became an abused wife.  Freedom from abuse took her with her imagination through the journey of an impoverished single mom, living on services with her daughter to becoming a teacher, and then magic beyond words shaped her life today growing out of her rich inner childhood imagination that birthed Harry Potter and friends.

I see many woman using spiritual practices of being positive and expressing and claiming gratitude as a way to accept a diminished life and circumstance for which they are unable to abound.  I have organized a prayer group for numerous of my acquaintances called Monday Circle of Prayer. Many members of this group have very compromised life experiences due to illness, single parenting, job loss, declined sources of income, care-giving sick family members and more.

Each week, I offer a prayer to these women through a private group on Facebook, called Monday Circle of Prayer.   It is my way to inspire myself by inspiring others by building a new view of who we are and what we represent.  It’s about creating a faith practice that inspires hope for those of us who carry a burden that the socio-economic authorities have served to us a cloud of resignation that has translated into a life challenged by poverty, poor health and economic strife. For me I have survived by finding the faith to persist at my own life and work in these difficult times and find a new path that improves their capacity to sustain themselves.

I curate this group and invite conversation and contribution. I archive the prayers in a protected group on Facebook, so as to assure privacy.  I have introduced some of the women to each other and some have begun to talk by phone to each other about problems they may share in common, perhaps to seek a new view.

Last week the conversations with a number of these women fueled my frustration to see how to easily they are using their spiritual practice to fuel a form of resignation and not work to alter their life, but to use the positive ways and expressions of gratitude almost like a form of accepting this diminished form of life.

This group has helped to alleviate isolation many feel when living in poverty or challenged.  The group has not yet found the courage or imagination to author a new view that is fueled by all its members and not driven by me.  All I can do at this time is author a reflective prayer each week or an link or two of inspiration.

There is a change in this country over the past six months, since the stand by Occupy Wall Street. A much greater number of people have moved the pervasive denial that pushes so many to do more of the same and not recognize the need for change that the 2008 Global Financial Meltdown implied.

As part of my own grappling about the lack of understanding in our economy of what is implied to care about the welfare of others, I decided to read Hillary Clinton’s autobiography, Living History, written in 2003

Reading this bio has prompted me to rethink what it means to embrace your own personal power.  I continue to believe that power is inside every potential leader at birth and if prompted in by family, educators and friends, it can mushroom into something remarkable over time that has nothing to do with position or authority.

Embedded in Hillary’s life story is this kind of pattern.  Yet while reading the book, I had to ask myself how does she lift herself beyond failure and difficult times, which for Hillary like many woman in my prayer gropu have been numerous, brutal and life altering.

Hillary discovered the power of intangible prayer during her first month as First Lady.  This was to carry her through her first 6 months as First Lady of the United States, which were filled with loss, disappointments, failures and infringement of her family’s privacy.

By the end of six months, the task force she chaired for health care reform failed. She experienced numerous significant deaths of her father, mother-in-law and her close friend and law partner committed suicide as a result of clinical depression.  The Clinton living quarters had been searched with out notice.

In April of that year, Hillary was invited to make a speech at the University of Texas as her father lay at death’s door. On the plane to Austin, she found an article authored by Lee Atwater, Age 40, political adviser to Presidents Reagan and Geroge H.W. Bush, who was dying of cancer. Hillary embedded this passage from the article in the speech she gave in April 1993 at University of Texas, Austin.

Atwater wrote,

“Long before I was struck by cancer, I felt something striring in American society; it was a sense among the people of the country— Republicans and Democrats alike—-that something was missing from their lies, something crucial… I wasn’t exactly sure what the “it” was.  My illness helped me to see that what was missing in society is what is missing in me:  a little heart, a lot of brotherhood.

The 80’s were about acquiring — acquiring wealth, power, prestige. I know. I acquired more wealth and, power, and prestige than most. But you can acquire all you want and still feel empty. What power wouldn’t I trade for a little more time with my family? What price wouldn’t I pay for an evening with friends?  It took a deadly illness to put me eye to eye with the truth, but it is a truth that the country, caught you in its ruthless ambitions and moral decay, can learn on my dime….

I drew on different sources to put together a statement about the need to “remodeled society by redefining what it means to be a human being in the twentieth century, moving into a new millennium.

We need a new politics of meaning. We need a new ethos of individual responsibility and caring. We need a new definition of civil society which answers the unanswerable questions posed by both the market forces and the governmental ones, as to how we can have a society that fills us up again and makes us feel that we are poart of something bitter than ourselves.”

Who will lead us out of this “spiritual vacuum?”

After reading Lee Atwater’s perspective, Hillary answered Atwater’s  question for her audience, stating, “The answer is all of us.”

The answer remains unchanged today from 1993.   But shifting our behavior as a country from the individual, political, business and citizen perspective has to integrate an understanding of what is implied by the word, “welfare.”

This requires a new understanding and view, voice this past September by Jan M. Morgan, President of CSRwire, LLC.  Jan offered this statement in a publication,  GLOBAL COMPACT COMMUNICATION ON PROGRESS, September 2011, prepared for the United Nations Global Compact:

 

 

I am terribly ambitious where the world is concerned and feel a personal responsibility to contribute to the welfare of all. I try to take responsibility for my own actions and I believe the work we do at CSRwire benefits society and communities all over the world.”


Whether a commercial enterprise, a government activity or a non-profit initiative, it has always been my belief that within those institutions that people can take the kind of responsibility that Jan Morgan describes can be done by anyone by   investing time, energy, thought and funds to measure a return on investment of lasing social impact.

We can no longer afford to think of “welfare” in the context of charity or government services that only serve to diminish people and obstruct their capacity to sustain personally and empower their children to do the same by redefining the idea of, “No Child Left Behind,” to mean educate, inspire, mentor and encourage intelligence and health.

As of late, my own belief and values in this regard have been challenged and I have been trying to find my way out of my own spiritual vacuum from a very reminder personally of what it is life for anyone when difficult times are imposed on you  that you could not counteract or protect yourself from.

Since last June, a few event in my life have had me reach out to numerous friends, leave behind some old friends and make some new friends.

My outreach has been primarily to women, who are also experiencing challenge.  Before the 2008 financial meltdown, I usually knew 1 or 2 women challenged by illness, lost job, challenging social circumstance. But in my life at this time, I now know over 14 women experiencing a combination of challenges and the size of the group continues to grow rather than decline.

In Living History, Hillary describes her introduction to the National Prayer Center, founded by Ken Wilde. This non-profit invites participation of people of all backgrounds and political representation to offer the gift of service to others in need. After Hillary’s first month as First Lady, she was was presented with a book of messages, quotes and scriptures give to her to sustain her tenure by members of the National Prayer Association. Hillary joined with a prayer partner to pray for her as she prayed for others.

The National Prayer Center, located in the Beltway of Washington DC, reached out beyond the Washington divide to anyone in need of support by providing gifts that are intangible and so meaningful – discernment, peace, compassion, faith, fellowship, vision, forgiveness, grace, wisdom, love, joy and courage.

Prior to Thanksgiving, when my own situation of challenge escalated, I only had prayer left and then I realized as I talk to more of and more of my friends, prayer was all that many of us had left.

While at the present time, I do not have many answers or ability to impact concrete measurable change that assures intelligent hard working women jobs or single mom’s the ability to care for their family or cures for children suffering from chronic illness and disabilities that overtake the day of a family trying to care for itself in these stressful times.

I know the unity and benefit of what can serve from prayer. Whether you believe in G-d or not, I know combining higher thought and sparking a direction of goodness that can impact a societal change that assures the health of people, environment, economy and habitat is something we need now.

You are all welcome to contact me at lavinia@laviniaweissman.com, if you have interest to join a group of people in prayer in this way or join our virtual group, Monday Circle of Prayer and support it with a modest donation or simply as a sponsor.

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As I return to reflecting on the progress that so many have fostered, globally in #csr, #socent, #sustainability and #health communities of men and women, who are not resigned and have formed this tipping point of change to accelerate and translate practices through out the world, I am reminded each other them also works each day like me to grow beyond the difficulties that impose personal challenges to each of us. Prayer is the foundation by which we can each inspire ourselves and others to do our best to just continue to do our work for the greater good and the welfare of all. Prayer can open our channels to discover new ways to talk and work with other people.

Prayer is an intangible when offered in the presence of others as witness and partners, can inspire a change we could not see during times of great uncertainty, like how we are living now.

___________________________

Author’s Bio:

Lavinia Weissman is sustainable leadership coach, health advocate, capacity builder, and publisher/editor-in-chief of thestoryofmeaningfuluse.com.