#OccupyCharity

Your Working Girl can sympathize with her sisters and brothers in the Occupy Wall Street Movement.  And as a close neighbour of Occupy St. James’ Park in Toronto, she spent the day on Wednesday simultaneously hearing the church bells peal on live radio reports and through her open window.  She understands and has herself, impatiently tapped her Nine Wests declaring “I’m not leaving here until I get some answers” or, alternatively, when her children were younger, “You’re not leaving here until I get some answers.”  The world is going to heck in a hand basket and the protesters are quite right to be pointing this out.  And the woeful paroxysms of world leaders who shake their heads, wring their hands and look grief-stricken when they face down their own greed, bankruptcy and sovereign debt has lost its lustre.    (Where is that fainting couch?)
And the charitable sector is providing no nourishment for Your Working Girl’s soul.  Sadly, she felt no relief when news of the University of Toronto’s $2 billion campaign appeared in the Globe and Mail on Monday.  According to the newspaper, U of T “has a hole of more than $1 billion in its pension plan.”  (Those pesky pension plans.)
But to give the campaign context, the university rolled out the requisite students who’ve received $3000 scholarships and university president, Dr. David Naylor, was on message with his case.  “Many of the things that are troubling this hot and crowded planet are very complex, interconnected, transdisciplinary challenges, from urbanization to global health, from sectarian strife to sustainable energy,” he said.
“All these big themes that have engaged the world’s finest research universities have to be built off a base that has some real heft across disciplines.  Happily we have it.”
Well, if Your Working Girl could make a suggestion about what Dr. Naylor can do with that transdisciplinary heft, she might suggest they put their heads together to see if they might be able to solve that little problem of First Nations children having no clean water to drink. 
Or maybe Sick Children’s Hospital can pause for a second while it’s raising $400 million for The Research and Learning Tower which will “stand as a testament to the past, present and future scientific achievements of SickKids [and] be an architectural landmark joining the list of major projects developed by star architects,” according to the campaign website. 
Perhaps it could consider the potential contribution the hospital can make in the community it serves.  How can we do better for children with mental illness who get sicker while languishing on wait lists for example, or how we can help the tens of thousands of children who are living in poverty or violence.
Or maybe CAMH which is limping through its $100 million campaign for a new development on Queen St West, and is celebrating receiving $20 million for its Research Imaging Centre, can think about the irony of its going to court to argue that mentally ill patients should stay in jail while they wait to be assessed at the hospital. 
Meanwhile back at the ranch, organizations are pulling their hair out to raise money to keep a helpline going for people who are suicidal or open an after school program for children who have no one at home to see to their needs or provide a safe place for troubled street kids, housing for the homeless and shelter for women who are abused. 
Your Working Girl, who admittedly has always had a soft spot for the big idea, believes people in our profession have skills that can be brought to bear on enhancing public health and the common good.  So instead of building towers and fortresses and raising money for medical equipment that may or may not be necessary, we can turn those skills to truly making a difference in people’s lives and their chances for success and happiness, especially the lives of children, a demographic for whom Your Working Girl retains a particular fondness.
It’s a time for talking to friends and colleagues about how to influence what’s going in the sector and about what’s important.  AFP’s and Imagine Canada have their big conferences next week.  It’s time to stand your ground and . . . . well . . . . #OccupyCharity. 
One final reminder:  Your Working Girl’s presentation, Shooting ourselves in the foot, is happening on November 28 at 2:00.  If you’re an AFP delegate, you can register for the session.  If you’re not already a delegate, AFP is offering a great deal on a day-rate which does include lunch (and other speakers too). Click on this link:  AFP Congress.
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