Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Earth Day 2015: Caring Ecosystems

Also posted @ LinkedIn | Dena's Blog 

An ecosystem is defined as "a biological community of interacting organisms and their physical environment."  We humans are part of the ecosystem. 
Within each ecosystem there is a web of connections and relationships, the proverbial "web of life. " When an ecosystem is healthy, there is a balance between the inhabitants and the resources available to them. This balance ensures the survival of the inhabitants and the environment itself.
When you stop to consider your local ecosystems and environment or the global environment, do you feel good about it? When you see images of fracking and factory farming, BP's devastating oil spill in The Gulf of Mexicofood waste contrasted with hunger and poverty, and how we as a species have literally trashed our oceans and land…doesn't it feel wrong how cruelly we treat the environment, other creatures, each other, and ourselves?
The driving force for this cruelty is the quest for control of resources. 

Resources = money.

Money is meant to be a tool, not a value. Our economic and financial systems should reflect our values as a society. Instead, money has shaped our values and has itself become a value system, the primary focus and priority in our lives.
In order to get more money, we compete, seek to dominate and, quite often, exploit in this quest for more money…more, more, more of everything. This quest destroys not only the security and well-being of the global environment, but the security and well-being of individuals, families, communities and even nations.

We can, as a citizenry, do better. We can start by having a conversation about prioritizing our values as a society.
One of the fundamental elements of Caregiverism is Care over Capital.
On this Earth Day 2015, what if we were to apply Caring Values to how we approach being better stewards of the environment and find solutions to the myriad problems we face:  Compassionate, courageous, inclusive, optimistic, wise, and integrity-based values. 
COMPASSIONATE CARE – Instead of an arrogant, cruel approach, what if we made decisions based on genuine care, compassion and empathy, not only for ourselves and loved ones but for the Common Good, and the planet which we all call home?   
The Dalai Lama's words from 1991 speak to this beautifully:

The earth is not only the common heritage of all humankind but also the ultimate source of life. By over-exploiting its resources we are undermining the very basis of our own life. All around, signs abound of the destruction caused by human activity and of the degradation of nature. Therefore, the protection and conservation of the earth is not a question of morality or ethics but a question of our survival. How we respond to this challenge will affect not only this generation but also many generations to come.

In the case of such global issues as the conservation of the Earth, and indeed in tackling all problems, the human mind is the key factor. Whether they are problems of economics, international relations, science, technology, medicine or ecology, although these issues seem to be beyond anyone individual's capacity, where the problem begins and where the answer must first be sought is within. In order to change the external situation we must first change within ourselves. If we want a beautiful garden we must first have a blueprint in the imagination, a vision. Then that idea can be implemented and the external garden can materialize. Destruction of nature resources results from ignorance, lack of respect for the Earth's living things, and greed.

In the first place we must strive to overcome these states of mind by' developing an awareness of the interdependent nature of all phenomena, an attitude of wishing not to harm other living creatures and an understanding of the need for compassion. Because of the interdependent nature of everything we cannot hope to solve the multifarious problems with a one-sided or self-centered attitude. History shows us how often in the past people have failed to cooperate. Our failures in the past are the result of ignorance of our own interdependent nature. What we need now is a holistic approach towards problems combined with a genuine sense of universal responsibility based on love and compassion.
COURAGEOUS CARE –  Instead of operating from a place of fear, which often leads to apathy and indifference, what if we had the courage to act upon what we intuitively know is a more nurturing, less destructive way of being and doing? What if we had the courage to believe that there are those among us who are brilliant and who are developing creative, innovative, alternative solutions more in alignment with a Caring Society? What if we had the courage to believe that we have the power to change the trajectory we're on as a species, and how we're impacting other species?
INCLUSIVE CARE –  What if we as individuals, communities and nations made decisions based on awareness of our interconnectedness (Interbeing) and the bigger, long-term picture which requires robust diversity and cooperation in order to thrive? What if we were to consciously pursue more harmony and balance in our lives and the world around us, rather than more money? 
OPTIMISTIC, ACTIVE CARE – Instead of anger-based cynicism and skepticism being "cool," what if hope, optimism and even visionary, care-based thinking were supported and encouraged, not demeaned and disrespected? (Egads, what if it were funded?!) Caregiverism refers to informed, creative, aware optimism; active optimism rather than the hopelessness and despair so many feel.

(I am encouraged to see a rise in a faith-based focus on Humanity's role as caretakers not "rulers" of the Earth.)
INTEGRITY-BASED CARE –  What if we were to have more respect for ourselves and all life and not accept that the way things are is the way they shall remain? What if we each were to stand up and speak out more often against corruption, destruction, exploitation and bullying in all forms and demand truth and integrity from our institutions, those leading our institutions and those on the public stage? It seems that before we can demand that of others, however, we must start by being honest with ourselves. 
WISE CARE – Wise care is balanced, thoughtful, mindful and sustainable (aware of "enoughness"), informed via collective wisdom and a multidisciplinary approach toward the nurturing of our collective well-being.  


What might a world compromised of individual yet connected societies and cultures look like if Caring Values were embraced and acted upon by the majority? 

What might our local and global ecosystems look like with such care? 

Monday, April 20, 2015

Apathy Kills: Who Cares?

(Crossposted from LinkedIn)

This wasn't the post I intended to write today.

I thought about creating a video to express what I'm thinking and feeling after reading a news story this morning, but I haven't been able to stop crying long enough to speak clearly. I am writing this through tears of anger and frustration, but also tears of determination, perhaps belligerence, and an overwhelming sense of the fierce urgency of now.

I hope you care enough to take the time to read this.

Please know that I do understand how most people today feel overwhelmed with the constant bombardment of news and information (often negative) and pleas for help swirling around as most of us are doing our best to get through each day. It becomes what I call white noise. I understand the tendency to shut down and turn away, and turn inward, feeling helpless in the face of it all.

Yet I'm asking you to not turn away.

Earlier this morning I saw a Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch article entitled:  "Despondent couple found dead in their Bellefontaine home"

Neighbors said they seldom noticed the couple in the little house at 225 W. High Ave. Yet the two were desperately reaching out for help. In a listing on this year, Jodi Speidel wrote that both she and her husband, Randy, had chronic illnesses and had been living without gas heat all winter and without water for a week. With $33 in savings, she said, they were eating one meal a day and didn’t have scraps left for their two cats.
“I have turned in every direction possible and don’t know what else to do,” she wrote. “If you can help, we will be forever grateful and will even pay you back once we get back on our feet.”
No one responded on that website or a similar post on
On Tuesday, the Speidels’ landlord found a pink note on the front door of the one-bedroom house warning visitors about carbon monoxide inside.

The reason I'm so heartbroken about Jodi and Randy Speidel's story is because I know that, while they likely felt alone in their struggle (which is heartbreaking in and of itself), they were not alone in what they were experiencing. I know all too well that there are millions of people, in the United States alone, who feel the same sense of isolation, despair and hopelessness, for countless reasons. It's an epidemic.

Many of these same people have found their way onto my path over the last eight years through my work at Wishadoo; people of all ages, backgrounds, belief systems, in every corner of the United States and even around the world. (Please note that Wishadoo is currently on hold; more on that later.)

The number of people who feel they cannot afford to exist in this world is growing. 

It wasn't that long ago that I felt much the same. Too many find themselves contemplating the brutal reality that their loved ones may have a better chance at sheer survival if they were to leave -- and leave loved ones with life insurance funds. In our predatory capitalistic society – a society in which money IS our value system -- money is at the root of nearly every decision made throughout each day.

It's not hard for such thoughts of despair to creep in...thoughts that proceeds from our deaths may be more helpful to our loved ones than our struggles to keep a roof over our heads, if we've been able to maintain those payments, that is. (I know, I know…the mere mention of suicide brings up so many deep-seated feelings and opinions, and I'm aware suicide can negate life insurance payouts, but if you're focused on that tidbit, you're missing the point here.)

I have persevered because I know I have worth and value in this world; more importantly, I know everyone else does as well. I'm here to remind others of this simple guiding truth:

There are thousands upon thousands of people feeling this despair, in a country where wealth and income inequality are staggering. Quite frankly, it's obscene and shameful. Such despair is not only unnecessary and avoidable, it's unconscionable.

I contend that most of our systems are FUBAR. We are increasingly criminalizing poverty and inequality, while simultaneously decreasing employment opportunities and destroying social safety nets.  Quality of life is quantified by the numbers in one's bank account.

I empathize with the Speidels and the untold number of others in despair but, more importantly, I care. I recently wrote about how and why I have come to firmly believe that, first and foremost, we must CARE: care about, in order to care for, and ultimately care with.

No one should feel isolated and alone, not unless they consciously choose such a life. This is precisely why I created Wishadoo! (a Community Good Social Network) eight years ago. As I wrote in my story of how Wishadoo! was born:

I believe there is an underlying truth that remains unsaid as we turn away and struggle on our own each day:
We intentionally create walls. We don't trust, we fear humiliation, we fear being taken advantage of, we fear judgment, we fear rejection. It feels as though it is easier to just "get by" on our own. There are so many walls between us.

We can break down these oppressive, destructive walls – individually and systemically -- if we simply make the choice to care.

We can drill down later on the specifics which lead to tragic choices such as The Speidels' -- the healthcare system, the economic system, the social systems and the personal stories involved – but, for now, I'm asking you to simply care about their story.

I'll end this by asking you to imagine a community, similar to Facebook, where people are there to share and to listen; to share joyful, celebratory aspects of their lives as well as struggles; where there is a better chance of connecting and not feeling alone and hopeless. Or helpless. An inclusive community which encourages genuine, deeper connections and respectful dialogue. A community which is a catalyst for outreach and provides meaningful support to create and cultivate these connections, both online and off.

A community which can provide hope and support, perhaps even empowerment and meaning, all of which so many desperately need.

A community where people truly care. 

Thank you for caring.

~ Dena

Monday, April 13, 2015

First and Foremost, We Must Care

(Crossposted from LinkedIn)

I believe sharing our stories is critically important now. In my first long post here on LinkedIn, I am sharing a bit of my story with those of you who don't really know me, to bring you to my now, curious to know your thoughts and whether or not you resonate. Because my life journey and work journey are integrated, not fragmented, my sharings tend to be lengthier than most. I realize this is unlike most other Pulse posts, but I rarely do anything ordinary. ;)

Over the last 18 months I've had several life-changing realizations as it concerns the community-building work so many of us have been doing for decades. I recently wrote about my personal journey in three essaysincluding an essay based on my social entrepreneurial journeyin an attempt to share my "why" – why I do what I do, feel what I feel, and am Who I Am – and included these realizations.
To summarize the last 10 years, I have had an almost laser focus on compassion and empathy as a means to cultivate genuine community. Even when my work -- specifically Wishadoo! -- was spotlighted on Glenn Beck's Fox News program in 2010, leading to months of harassment, I did not veer from my focus on compassion, empathy and the Common Good. In fact, I'd say I doubled down, not allowing such harassment to affect standing in my truth and integrity; nor did it lessen my faith in Humanity.

As I more recently turned my attention to explore the cultivation of authentic, deep community very specifically within the "new economy" movement (a movement I've been a champion of for decades), I began to notice a striking lack of diversity in the various coalitions within the sharing economy, gift economy, cooperatives, etc.

In my mini-bio essay, I share in great detail my experience of a racist, bigoted environment having shaped me as a young child, so I am perhaps hyperaware of anything resembling segregation and "othering." When I drilled down on both the privilege involved and lack of diversity I observed in many "new economy" initiatives I tend to champion, the reason for it came down to one simple truth:  In our society, people tend to not trust, and we certainly are less likely to trust anyone who is different from us – the "other."

I realize it's something most of us are aware of at some level; still, the depth of this lack of trust and its direct impact on advancing my community development work was jarring.

That's when I knew that, before I could continue cultivating compassion, empathy and authentic community via projects now assembled under the banner of Our Good, I must immerse myself in the work of nurturing bonds of trust.

However, in the early stages of exploring how best to foster trust, I came to my third realization, the most significant of all:  We cannot trust one another unless we about.

We must start where we are and allow ourselves to care.

We must care about one another -- care about our well-being -- and have an engaged interest in creating a more just, sustainable world that works for all.
The foundation of our collective well-being is care. No relationship or system of relationships is sustainable without a foundation of genuine care...caring about, caring for and, ultimately, caring with.
After deep dialogue with diverse groups of people about a wide array of issues impacting us as individuals and as a global society, Caregiverism was born (click here to read about my journey to Caregiverism).
     Caregiverism is a grassroots model for cultural-spiritual transformation and systems change, expanding the definition of 'care' and 'caregivers' beyond current role and gender limitations. It is the foundation and framework for a Culture of Care – wholistic care of and for ourselves, other people, communities, non-human animals and our environment. 
     Caregiverism cultivates a nurturing, compassionate, optimistic, creative, courageous, harmonious, collaborative way of being and doing -- inviting communities to prioritize their collective values, which allows for thriving rather than merely surviving – in sharp contrast to the current corrosive, competitive, exploitative, cynical, domination-based worldviews and institutions.
     Caregiverism explores, prioritizes and gives voice to our highest values and priorities. It is a model for transformation which complements and works in harmony with other models, projects and initiatives which mirror these values.
The underlying intention with all of my work  -- existing projects and those waiting in the wings – is to catalyze transformation, individual and systemic, toward a caring consciousness, caring communities, and more just, harmonious, sustainable societies via Caregiverism. I have chosen to do this by focusing on the development of these six sectors:
Caring Culture  |  Caring Democracy  |  Caring Economy
Caring Ecosystems  |  Caring Education  |  Caring Organizations
Even though I only recently assigned this "way of being and doing" a name, I've essentially been creating opportunities to raise awareness of and implement Caregiverism in our daily lives most of my life, certainly throughout my activist-entrepreneur life. Having this more basic yet deeper focus on care as the base to build upon in moving forward provides a clearer road map and blueprint for creating the more beautiful world our hearts know is possible (h/t Charles Eisenstein).
The journey begins with opening to and deepening our capacity to care; with care comes trust; with trust comes compassion and empathy; with compassion and empathy comes justice and healing; with justice and healing comes peace; with peace we are able to create meaningful, sustainable lives and societies
Currently, Our Good offers the following projects which support the movement toward more caring, sustainable communities and meaningful lives:

*  Offering the space to connect and put caring consciousness into action as a community is why Wishadoo!, the Community Good Network was created in 2007. To connect as individuals and as communities and networks and as a Caring Citizenry. Can you imagine the impact if Facebook, Ebay, Craigslist and other popular platforms were created with these express intentions? Wishadoo is a social network platform which combines all of these features and more, built upon a foundation of respect, integrity and care.
 Offering hope, inspiration and care-based solutions by sharing examples of Caregiverism is why the online Community Good Magazine was created. "Local Good" will be an exemplar for a community-based, community-owned "good news" multimedia enterprise.
*  Providing a truly comprehensive directory where one can find existing avenues of care and assistance, as well as find inspiring projects and ventures which are examples of Caregiverism is why the Community Good Directory was created. 
All of the above projects exist – I am not speaking in hypotheticals whatsoever. They are global projects, with an initial national focus (US), and each complement one another and are symbiotic. (See video below.)  In addition to fostering more caring, compassionate action, they serve the purpose of integrating the many fragments I perceive in my area of work and activism (fragmentation and the resultant inefficiency is something which drives me a bit crazy). The projects and initiatives are in various stages of development, with Wishadoo! having achieved proof of concept over the last 8 years, through several incarnations. 
Other initiatives waiting in the wings under the Our Good umbrella have all been designed to cultivate and support our evolution toward a caring consciousness and Culture of Care.

All projects are currently on hold as I seek a team of support – A Coalition for Good – in moving forward, as I cannot continue to do this on my own. I am currently exploring partnerships and funding opportunities for job creation to support expansion of my vision of Doing Good. 
Please note that collaboration in support of other organizations, projects and endeavors has always been central to my intentions and vision. I am especially passionate about social enterprise, cooperatives, and women-owned ventures. Because I feel cultural transformation can be accelerated via the global online community, transforming online culture is a top priority for me. 
While I am most definitely a grassroots, "boots on the ground" activist-entrepreneur, I have also always been a systems thinker. To use Caregiverism terminology, I address problems with a triage approach:  Identify the most critical wounds and assign treatment in order of priority based on suffering, while also seeking to identify and treat the root cause of the wound or illness.  
Because of this awareness of our systemic problems, combined with an unwavering belief that we have both the solutions and resources at our fingertips when we realize we are all in this together and thus must work together, the new Next System Project is of tremendous interest to me regarding collaboration.  
I believe wholeheartedly that we have it within our power to do much, much better as a society. And when I say "do better," I do not mean get more, more, more money or more, more, more stuff. I mean we have the capacity and means to reduce suffering and increase joy – our own and that of others.
I hope to inspire others through practical action and mindfulness of the bigger picture and the interconnectedness (Interbeing) of it all.
The word cloud shown above is comprised of words and phrases that are my focus in nearly everything I do. Maybe you'll see your focus and passions and find you care about what I'm sharing here. If so, please let me know! Maybe you'll want to reach out to connect and collaborate?
Thank you for reading. 

~ Dena

PRACTICAL COMPASSION | Sharing thoughts, ideas, and visions of a more caring, collaborative, joy-filled world.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Six Degrees of CARE

Q:  How can we support one another on a journey toward well-being, interconnectedness and joy, sustaining ourselves, each other and our environment in the process?

A:  By starting where we are and allowing ourselves to care. 

We must care about and have an engaged interest in creating a more just, sustainable world that works for all.

Yet before we can have a sustainable, meaningful existence, we must have peace.

Before we can have peace, we must have justice and healing.

Before we can have justice and healing, we must restore our compassion and empathy.

Before we can deepen our capacity for compassion and empathy, we must trust.

Before we can earnestly cultivate trust, we must care.

First and foremost, we must care. 

The foundation of our collective well-being is care. No relationship or system of relationships is sustainable without a foundation of genuine care...caring about, caring for and, ultimately, caring with.

We are catalyzing transformation to 
caring consciousness & caring communities
and more just, harmonious, sustainable societies via CAREGIVERISM:

Caring Culture
Caring Democracy
Caring Economy
Caring Ecosystems
Caring Education
Caring Organizations


Wednesday, January 28, 2015

An Introduction to Caregiverism

The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” Socrates

In working on an essay to introduce the vision of Caregiverism, a model I have been implementing most of my adult life through various social enterprises and endeavors, I've gradually developed a summary statement which is shared below. I realize many people dislike neologisms, but no existing word properly encompasses this vision and most come with heavy baggage attached.

As the first blog post here, I offer a glimpse into the transformative concept of Caregiverism:

Caregiverism is a grassroots model for cultural-spiritual transformation and system change, expanding the definition of 'care' and 'caregivers' beyond current role and gender limitations. It is the foundation for a Culture of Care – wholistic care of and for ourselves, other people, communities, non-human animals and our environment. Caregiverism cultivates a nurturing, open and honest, compassionate, optimistic, collaborative way of being and doing -- inviting communities to prioritize their collective values, which allows for thriving rather than merely surviving – in sharp contrast to the current destructively competitive, exploitative, cynical, domination-based worldviews and systems.

Caregiverism is about our collective empowerment, acknowledging our brokenness (personal and societal) and our courage to heal. 

Fundamental to Caregiverism is an awareness of our Interbeing (interconnectedness). With this awareness, decisions and choices are made with integrity, respect and courage in consideration of our inherent equal individual worth and the Common Good.

A Caring Society does not value money and material wealth, winning and competition, domination and control over all else.

A Caring Society does value empathy, reverence and wisdom, including the wisdom of balance and “having enough.” A Caring Society strives to live these values via true partnership, embodying them in all aspects daily life and in all institutions and systems.

Caregiverism offers a path of conscious evolution -- a path which intersects with many others -- toward living in compassion, courage, and connectivity. It is a path which puts compassion into action: personally, collectively and systemically.

In the context of Caregiverism, we care about, for and ultimately with one another. How we care may differ according to personality type, individual capacity and resources. Even those of us who are natural caregivers go through times when the responsibility of caring for others becomes overwhelming; we can, however, always care about even if our ability to care for may be limited.

Yet when we care with...cultural transformation can begin in earnest.

It takes courage to contemplate the hard questions and explore possible solutions and potentialities, to ask "What if?" It takes courage to not only envision a new way but to take the first step toward it, with integrity and commitment.

This introductory post is the first step onto a new pathway called Caregiverism, a path which supports and guides Humanity's conscious evolution. Yes, that is a bold, perhaps lofty assertion, but just imagine...what if?

It is important to note that Caregiverism isn't really new; it is an amalgam of my own theories based on personal experience, as well as a lifetime of exploration into many other practices and theories -- some ancient, some rooted in other "isms" familiar in modern history. However, the idea of acting with integrity and compassion and putting core values into action throughout all sectors of society has, sadly, become a peculiar, bizarre concept. In that respect it is indeed a very new proposal.

The model of Caregiverism is significantly influenced by the work of Riane Eisler (Caring Economy Campaign and Partnership Way) and the Charter for Compassion, two organizations with whom I have worked closely over the years, personally and via Wishadoo! and now Our Good. I consider them cornerstones of the Coalition for Good.

"From caring comes courage."  Lao Tzu

This short video clip of actor, Rainn Wilson, speaking of a Spiritual Revolution briefly touches upon and echoes the sentiments and intentions behind Caregiverism. I do wholeheartedly believe we need to truly open and expand our hearts and minds; to embrace the interconnectedness of all life; and to deeply care. To me, that is a spiritual revolution in and of itself.

Thank you for reading. More information is coming soon!

~ Dena