Archive for June, 2012

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RECEPTION STATIONS and PRESENTATIONS DESIGNED to the Nines!

June 14, 2012

In the end, what a rewarding experience I had working with Lisa Brenna, MIntahoe, and the Boat Club for the June NACE Meeting!

When Lisa asked me to take part in the program, I was not so sure what my contribution could be, as the unique space, Lisa’s creativity and Mintahoe’s skill at combining their primary event product – the food and beverage- into an outstanding visual experience did not seem to need my help.  Those elements were in good hands with Mintahoe.   And who needs décor, with a view of the river and city of St. Paul behind it?

Time availability on both our parts limited what we could do in terms of some of the interactive ideas I threw out to get the guests to engage and participate…and the things Lisa hoped I could help on did not happen.  How simple should it be for me to get a bongo player for the ceremony circle- or a little soft seating for the program portion of evening?  Well, I didn’t deliver on those either!

So as we went forward, I was feeling pretty useless, until I realized, she had planned her menu around something I said about interculturalism, and that she did not view my response to her request for linens and centerpieces  as laziness when I agreed to source them, but then questioned at the same time WHY she wanted them.  This was a meeting, not an event, I reminded her.  White linens were appropriate, and why did she want to detract from message of the meeting and the WOW of what she was doing, with “cool looking new linens”?  Fortunately for me, she agreed, and as I wandered around fairly anonymously in the crowd, I did not hear one comment from any of the NACE people criticizing the white table covers .  Good, saved again. 

As we were approaching the meeting date, it finally became clear that what she was looking for from me was a few minutes in the program to share my event perspective on a topic of my choice with the audience.

And now, I was really worried.  Oh yes, I have a LOT of thoughts and strong opinions on events…I just hate public speaking and do not do very well at it!  Yikes, now I certainly was in trouble….my logo was all over that invitation as a partner with Lisa…Like it or not, I had to put together 10 minutes of something!

I took what I thought was a gamble, but it nevertheless  reflected my current thoughts on events, and put together a few comments about collaboration, multi-generational events, and most importantly, intercultural audiences and what that means to all of us that represent the event world and the changes we have to start making right now in how we approach our business-if we have any desire to be players in this industry a decade from now..

And off I went to the site to see if I could help with the set (silly me, I KNEW it was in good hands). Other than filling some votives with colored salt to hold the mashed cones,  I had nothing to do for a couple hours but WORRY about what I was going to say, how I was going to say it, would I remember the key points, and would the audience relate, or think Lisa was crazy to have asked me to participate.  I spent  the set-up and event time, mentally  changing what I was going to say – over and over. 

And then, there I was, mike in hand – no podium to help me easily reference my notes, with a room full of people staring at me.  Ask me what I said, and which things I remembered, or forgot, and I could not tell you….but I did start to notice people smiling and nodding …so it appeared a few at least were following what I had to say.  I got a few questions, and a bit of discussion going at the end with audience joining in the discussion, so I knew that I had at least SURVIVED the ordeal.

But the end of the evening demonstrated how really gracious these NACE people are!  I lost track of the thank yous, and the brief comments about the appropriate topic and next step suggestions-I only know however badly I may have delivered the message, this group of people “Got It”!   It was worth every moment of worrying beforehand!

 

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CALLING ON THE POWER OF THE PRESS

June 12, 2012

So many positives in the STRIB today….

The Minnesota Manpower Survey predicts 22% increase in hiring in the third quarter, based on surveys of Twin Cities employers; United Healthcare takes the lead, and others followed, by stating they will continue to offer several features from the Healthcare bill  no matter what happens next  to the bill; Honeywell  Building Solutions  announced  a new Smart Grid division to better manage energy  as demand grows  at an expected 40% in next 25 years; MSP will have free wi-fi;  Apple’s new software may help the Facebook IPO; Granite City will open more restaurants; and the continuing story of the outreach suggested by the Governor and House Speaker of Canterbury to the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community  that resulted in a win-win for both.

Note:  I am not be a gambling fan nor advocate of either casino or horse racing, but I was pretty impressed with the process that creatively found a win-win for both entities; and, because of my interests in Telling Native River Stories, the Reconciliation, and some exposure to MIGA last year, I was especially pleased to see Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community step up, negotiate well, and be an integral part of the solution.

But I am only cautiously optimistic about what of this good news will survive until this evening’s news cycle, and how much will be diverted by the not-so-good news and the “doomsday is coming” negative spin that will be put on it. 

First, the report by the Feds that family net worth fell to levels of early ‘90s:  Of course, it is not a plus, but we need to think back to those immediate days after the crash in the summer of 2008 of Bush administration.  For a very short period of time, there was almost a coming together and acknowledgement that of course, the boom of the 2000s was not sustainable, adjustments had to be made, and we would need to work together to define and establish the “New Economy” going forward.

Yup, that spirit of cooperation quickly vanished when the establishment of the time lost to the upstart and signaled we all were going to be playing in a new sandbox.  With no way out, we heard just six months later, the rallying cry of pouting GOP leaders …block Obama at all costs. …and we were off on a reckless ride that has left us in a mess four years later.

Second, the continuing coverage of the “unified, in-your-face, across-the board rejection” of the Equal Pay for Women Bill as the GOP openly admitted – they think women are worth less than men are: Yes, I admit, this one has me wondering what my life has been all about.  We had made such strides….why did we not anticipate that an out-foxed animal with no path to retreat ATTACKS!   I know the only way I can address this one for now  is to simply pretend it did not happen – so of course, I would prefer we would quit talking about it unless we can ENSURE  that all women in the country will unite, intercede, and get these fossils from a bygone era safely back in their cage.

My pleas to the press today is that we all NEED  just one good day of focusing on the positives to give us a little strength to keep going on our journey through all the negatives.  Please help!

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TEDDY ROSSEVELT’S GOLDEN POND

June 12, 2012

Is there a way to find a win-win in this very complex scenario? 

As I read the STRIB article Sunday, my immediate reaction was YES! Make it a national monument to Teddy Roosevelt to commemorate his role in establishing our National Park system….and get it moving so it can become a part of the NPS 100th Anniversary in 2016.

But as I read on, it became an increasingly complex situation…with oil wells pumping crude there for decades; the government purchase that did not include the rights to oil and minerals below the surface ; a second government turndown to purchase at a later date; the plan for gravel pit to supply needed  gravel for new roads to support the oil boom (and employment); and an in-process evaluation of that permit request to determine project effect on air quality, water quality, and wildlife-not to speak of noise and dust.  And then an additional wrinkle of its impact on a proposed $15 million bridge over the Little Missouri to connect two highways and cut off 100 miles of travel off some commutes – also in the midst of a developing environmental impact statement regarding various crossing locations near the ranch.

 All this, but there is no mention of impact/ thoughts from the residents – indigenous people,  the whites and other immigrants that settled, and call the area their home.

By the end of the article, it seemed pretty obvious, there was no RIGHT answer.  There are issues/advantages and rights on all sides of the dilemma…and most likely, a lot of emotion on all points. 

A lesson, I guess, for those like me that have strong opinions on many topics…this situation is a great illustration that there often is no single RIGHT solution for issues we face in our complex world….and yet,  it is  one  more example that arguing right vs wrong will not work and why we as a people need to hone our collaboration skills to learn from each other and craft new ways going forward.

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PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER

June 10, 2012

It was our final workshop for Plan-It Hennepin, the city-making initiative primarily funded by the National Endowment of the Arts.  Since March, we have Talked It, Planned It, Tracked It, and yesterday, in the workshop at New Century Theatre we did our best at “Putting it All Together-Naming and Claiming”.

Drawing on a past workshop in which we went out on the street with our photographers from FAIR School to record the YES and NO elements currently found along the avenue from the river to the Walker, yesterday we addressed the NOs in the four defined districts. 

As we gathered around our large working model of Hennepin Avenue, we viewed the major zones we have become so familiar with, now marked with pictures and explanations of the NOs we identified in May.  Then, led in song by Mankwe  Ndosi , we returned to the theatre for a final planning exercise that  was designed to address the activity and dynamic mix of people in public space.  Networking to share educational experiences, and vital businesses represented in each group, we then turned to our task – to identify design and development initiatives (stressing function before form) and finally, to define public policies that support a vibrant, equitable public realm in a city.

This week, we were allowed to choose our area of interest, so my May comrades and I gathered around our work table with the dynamic Harry Waters  to start the discussion of HOW we might get rid of the NOs from river’s edge to the LRT; captured our thoughts on flags which were stuck in  small green balls if they pertained to architectural changes, places or ideas and in yellow cones if they pertained to people or events,  Once these visual symbols were complete and placed on the model of the entire street, we  joined together with the other teams to share  results.

 Aside from all the individual projects and thoughts, two things stand out about the day…the link of the three “sisters” – Nicollet for commerce, Hennepin for arts, and First Avenue for dining and entertainment – which all can come together at the Gateway and the river….and at the other end, the ideas we heard to conquer the “divider” of the freeway with remarkable creativity including the vision of disguising it with an amphitheater that turns the vision back upon the city.  Woven through-out was a concern for interculturalism as well as a feeling that a new “community” had been formed- driven first by our own personal interest, and then strengthened by the collaborative process to which we had been exposed.

Gathered together in a closing Declaration Circle, we each were asked what one thing we would commit to do on our own   (and be held accountable for by our co-participants) to keep what we have begun in these last four months  continuing to move forward as the project  moves into final three months of planning.

Talk about engaging…interacting…and being held accountable for our actions!

Again, this has been the most amazing event experience I have ever participated in.  A world of thanks to Tom Borrup and his hometown team of Ta-coumba Aiken, Mankwe  Ndosi, Leah Nelson, and Harry Waters, JR – all  supported by a talented cast of international and local experts  from Seitu Jones, Chancee Martoreli, Don Mitchell this past Thursday  to  Candy Chang, Charles Landry,  and a great group of locals who kicked the initiative off last March and of course, the inspiring  FAIR School students  and the several other youth groups in the city that participated separately and shared their visions.

Borrowing on some thoughts from Landry, we are on our way  to becoming a  world-class city based on cultural literacy, healthy (physically and mentally) urban planning, eco consciousness, and creative city making that empowers people to use their imagination and to rethink  planning not just in terms of hardware, but in terms of facilitation interaction and interculturalism.

Many of us expressed the same thought. We are sorry to see this phase of the year-long project end.  But judging on our Declarations, I am sure I have not see the last of the many new friends I have made as we share our passion for  MSP and its future!

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2012 EXPO – Yeosu, Korea

June 8, 2012

And so it began on May 11…without too much fanfare thus far.

I am cautiously optimistic about the new ideas that will filter out through the world because I cannot imagine it topping my fascination for the Shanghai EXPO two years ago and the hours and hours I spent pouring over pictures and descriptions of pavilions there.  My office was filled with clippings and “post-its” of new ideas that were triggered by something I saw in EXHIBITOR Magazine in 2010.

So I am glad this Minnesota-based magazine is once again on top of it and Travis and his team are in place in Yeosu to capture it all, judge it, and report back.

Since I am a Midwesterner, the theme of the oceans and their coasts is not immediately appealing, but as I watch our partner in the US pavilion – Phillippe Couseau,, Jr.- describe in the video that the pavilion was a way to share, at the grass roots level, the story of the US, I became intrigued and am now looking forward to more news and reports from Korea!

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CHARLES LANDREY ON WAL-MART

June 6, 2012

DISCLAIMER:  I am not a Wal-Mart fan.  Originally, the look and feel of the shopping experience kept me away. Then rumblings from vendors of business practices not to be emulated or encouraged reinforced my opinion.  But it was “Nickeled and Dimed” and its story of attitude and treatment towards employees that moved me to commit to singularly supporting its main competitor and a “home town” business rather than ever contribute even a dollar to the support the Wal-Mart practice I view as practice of profit over principles.  I simply cannot place the value of a “deal” over the value good business ethics. So I boycott the place.

Yes, I know, that’s business.  Yes, even today I remain a bit of a Pollyanna about values and ethics in the business world, and so I still believe one can make money without sacrificing the “soul” of the seller and the buyer.  And yes, I know, that the spin at least, touts a new Wal-Mart philosophy– one that recognized the error of its ways (or the pain of business lost) and initiated a renaissance within their organization.  It included an initiative to make them “hip”; a PR campaign to dispel the rumors of poor treatment of vendors and employees; and the implementation of a practice of routinely doing select item cost comparisons between its #1 competitor and Wal-Mart to point out to a naïve public that Walmart is more cost effective.  But still, I hold to my commitment to boycott.

And so, of course you can imagine the glee with which I read about their recent Shareholders Meeting.  

Entertainment included Celine Dion, Justin Timberlake, Zac Brown, Taylor Swift, Victoria Matlock and Juanes…a little something for everyone and some pretty incredible fees and production costs, including talent riders.  Yes, they all do it to some degree, and since I am often on the delivery side of this practice with other corporations, I had best not be too critical so I will leave it to the reader to form their own conclusions on that one.

“The Curse of Convenience

But it did remind me of something I stumbled across when reading the ART OF CITY-MAKING by Charles Landry.  Landry uses the big four supermarkets of Britain one of which is Wal-Mart, to demonstrate how their practices hurt cities…draining life out of the streets, cleansing a city of its diversity, and are “space eaters”.   He points out that looking at their activities through a broader food miles and sustainability perspective, they are pretty inefficient.  They use a wealth of expertise and resources at their fingertips to lobby, to change minds, and to get their way.  They exert immense power and “in sum, they pull the wool over our eyes so we do not understand the underlying dynamics of their operations and their impact on real life.”

And then he supports his comments with factoids (most date back to 2006 for Wal-Mart) as follows:

Not only do the big four including Walmart control 75% of food retailing in Britain, consumers spend  about 13% of net income in supermarkets.  But, a research experiment showed consumers spent the SAME AMOUNT whether they shopped at a big box or frequented and supported local stores!

The PERCEPTION that the big four are good value stems from a concept referred to as KVI   (comparison of known value items).  It relies on fact that we, the consumer, know the cost of only a small number of goods and these are the very items the big four price check against their competitors and keep as low as possible… then are frequently higher than local stores on other items to make up the difference.

Wal-Mart is the world’s largest retailer and the world’s largest corporation, employing 1.4 million workers worldwide and with over 1 million employees in the US, it is the largest private employer here. And yet:

  • More than half of Wal-Mart US employees leave the company each year
  • Average earnings of $19,000 are well-below poverty level for average family of four
  •  There is no defined benefit pensions and still has inadequate healthcare
  •  660,000 employees  are without company-provided health insurance, forcing workers to  seek taxpayer-funded public assistance
  •  A US Congressional study found Wal-Mart costs the Am. taxpayer up to $2.5 billion in public assistance to subsidize its $10 billion in profits
  •  Wal-Mart is sued once every two hours, every day of the year and consistently list 9400 of those cases as “open”

 

But change may be coming.  Despite their early 21century “re-invention” a film you may recall entitled “Wal-Mart:  The High Price of Low Cost” seems to disprove the PR campaign.   It focused on and reflected those same old issues….”conditions of workers, the company’s intimidation of employees, its power over supply chains and the culture of fear it induces”.  In addition, it showed with clarity what the coming of Wal-Mart to local towns does to the community…with great footage of deserted towns and main streets all across America – much of which can be linked to the arrival Wal-Mart.   Slowly, we are seeing Wal-Mart building proposals carefully reviewed and debated  before permits are approved, or as in Chicago and Vancouver, denied.

We can only hope it is the beginning of a new trend.

 

 

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CAUSE FOR CELEBRATION

June 4, 2012

For the first time in ten years, I ventured down on to the lower trail through Pillsbury Park today! YES!

 In those first years, I couldn’t even think about it…access by wooden steps that meander down the bluff to dirt pathways along the river bottom…definitely were OFF LIMITS when I survived and stayed mobile only with the help of my “cart”. 

And then I moved…so my ability to even catch a glimpse of those secret “falls” that appear on the bluff above the East Channel during high water was limited.  Some years the timing was right, and I could glimpse them in the distance, and some years not so much.

But last week I saw them from the Stone Arch and made up my mind,it was time to try to head down…then a week went by as I thought of every excuse I could for why I could not try it that day. 

So today, knowing the river is settling down and will soon not be quite so wild, I knew I had to chance it-despite my fear.  Oh, I knew I could conquer the fear of going down – after all, I have been in training for six months,..14 floors at at time here at Churchill.  But I was really concerned about getting back up again, considering the on and off flair ups of the sacroiliitis I have had all spring.

But armed with phone and my walking “whistle” in case I ran into trouble, I headed out..and am happy to report, the decade-old memory of climbing back up was much exaggerated.. I did it, it was so worth it, and the trip back up was a piece of cake.