Friday, January 30, 2009

How to Make Your Big Vision Real: Jennifer Lee of Artizen Coaching

"The people I see who are successful in bringing their vision to fruition are people who have a clear vision. They know where they are heading, they are excited and inspired by it, but they are holding it lightly. They don't need to figure everything out, and they are open to having opportunities come their way. They are receptive to how their vision is going to manifest." --Jennifer Lee, Artizen Coaching

Many of you have big visions for a better world and want to make a difference in 2009. I asked Jennifer Lee, founder of Artizen Coaching, to talk about how to find your purpose, make your big vision real, and deal with the fears that can come up when you pursue your dreams.

Jennifer is a certified coach, artist and yogini based in Oakland, California. She is the author of The Right-Brain Business Plan e-Book and the creator of the Unfolding Your Life Vision Kit. She was also featured in the book, The Girl's Guide to Kicking Your Career Into Gear and her art visioning work is showcased in The Vision Board: The Secret to an Extraordinary Life.

Below is the edited transcript from my Big Vision Podcast interview with Jennifer Lee from January 22, 2009.

If someone who you were coaching said, "I want to make a difference. I want to make the world a better place, but I'm not exactly sure what I want to do," how would you help them figure that out? What tips can you offer for figuring out what your purpose is?

Sometimes that feels so big, you know, they feel called to do something, but they don't know what it is. A place where we can start is looking at their values. What is most important to them? What makes them tick? It really shows what brings them alive. When they are in alignment with that, then things will come more easily. If they are clear on what their values are, they can take action from there.

Also, getting in touch with what's their essence? Who are they as a person? What is the impact they want to have in this world? From there, we can translate that into, what might that look like in a job, or a project that they might do in their community, so that they are bringing that out into the world, and serving people in whatever way is in line with their values.

Once people figure out how they want to make a difference, how do you help them figure out the steps to make it real?

A lot of times that is where people get stuck, their vision seems so big that they don't even know where to start, and that stops them. People might get stuck in the "how," and the entire plan. It becomes analysis paralysis. One of the places that we look to is, what's just one thing you can do now?

If they just start taking one step forward, then they can learn, was that the right thing to do? Was it not? How can I course correct? Pick a place to start from. It doesn't have to be the right thing, it doesn't necessarily have to be logical. Once you start building momentum, and you start getting feedback, and you engage people, then you will start knowing, "Oh this is really catching on," or "That wasn't so good," or "That wasn't what I expected." Pick up, move on, and just keep taking the next step.

I try and have them be confident enough to move forward and not worry about, "Is this is the actual right first step that I must take?" because that's what paralyzes them.

I would imagine fear is one of the biggest obstacles that people experience. Usually they're pursuing their dream, something they hold close to their heart. What are tips, exercises, or advice you give them to deal with that fear?

I would say that the fear often comes the loudest when you are onto something that is really big or really in line with what you want. In coaching, we have a term called the "gremlin" or the "saboteur." That's the voice inside your head, or the many voices that say, "I can't," or "You don't have enough degrees," or "How are you going to earn a living with that?" All of those doubts and questions, that is the gremlin. Gremlins like to keep things status quo. They don't like things to change. They don't want to rock the boat.

Of course, if you have a big dream, that's really going to change things in their world, and they don't like that. I often say that if you have these really loud voices in your head, and even in your life sometimes, like real people, it means that you are actually on your path. You are onto the right thing.

A friend told me once, "to move toward the roar." There is a story about lions in the Savannah in Africa. In the pride, the older lions will line up in front of gazelles, or other animals. The younger lions will be on the other side. The older lions will let out this big roar, and the gazelles will run in the other direction, towards the younger lions, who attack them. If they actually went towards the roar, they would have been able to outrun the older lions. I love that idea of "going toward the roar," 'cause it is actually easier.

In terms of other ways to get around the fear, it's acknowledging the gremlin voices, and asking, which you are going to listen to, or where is your higher self in that, and choosing to take action from there. Sometimes there is more than one gremlin. Sometimes there are other players that are in action in your head, or in your mind. Figure out how you can collaborate with them, and tap into them in a way that is going to serve your purpose.

I would imagine these days a lot of people's fears are particularly revolving around money. What advice are you giving to people about that? That's a big roar, right? How do you run into that one?

Yeah, it is a tough one. The reality is that we are facing tough economic times. It doesn't mean that big dreams have to wither on the vine. I think that we need to be smarter about how we spend our time and our energy. Sometimes that means that the project, or the idea that you have might take a little bit longer.

I have some clients who are choosing to stay in their job, and then build things on the side, but because they know they are putting focus and energy on their idea, or their project, they feel better. They are not going, "What am I doing with my life?" They have some focus, they have an end goal in mind, and they are still getting a paycheck.

Other people have taken the risk and said, "I need the time and the flexibility," so they are being more open to their job just being a job. They can make whatever money they need, so that they can focus on what they really want to create. There is the idea of just having a good enough job, being OK with that, and making that conscious choice so that they can focus on what they are really up to in the world.

The other thing that's really important is coming up with a budget. Knowing how much it is that you need to make in order to sustain yourself. A lot of times we think, "God, I don't have enough money," and in reality maybe you do, or you are resourceful and can find ways to get by. Once you know how much money you need to make, it's a lot easier to go out and make that money.

You've created two very interesting products, The Unfolding Your Life Vision Kit and The Right-Brain Business Plan e-Book. Can you start by telling us a little bit about what The Unfolding Your Life Vision Kit is, and how it works?

The Unfolding Your Life Vision Kit is basically all the inspiration, guidance and supplies you need to make a portable vision board. Vision boards are great because they can be a touchstone for your vision, and you have a visual reminder of what you are up to.

This kit takes you through a meditation to help you visualize what you want in different aspects of your personal life, and then guides you through how you would go about making the vision boards,collaging, things like that. Then, it moves into an action plan, so that it's not just this pretty thing that you made, but you actually are taking some steps to make it happen.

It would be great for someone, especially in the beginning of the year, to do some visioning around what their goals are for the year. It's for anyone who wants to have a creative way to look at their life, and to have a reminder of what they want to create. People who are scared of arts and crafts can do it too because it's actually pretty easy!

You've also written and created the Right-Brain Business Plan e-Book. How does it work?

The idea behind the Right-Brain Business Plan is that a lot of creative people, lots of entrepreneurs who are just starting out, get really freaked out by the idea of, "I have to have a business plan." That's the first thing that people ask about, and it's scary, because a lot of us don't know how to do it. Then they end up not doing it, which I think is a big problem. They don't know where they are heading, and they don't know what it takes to get there.

The Right-Brain Business Plan is a creative way to access the vision and get things on paper. I think that's the most important thing, getting it on paper whether that be via a collage, a mind map, anything. This is really giving people permission to plan in a way that's accessible to them, but it's not a scary, horrible, painful, yucky thing. They can make it as fun and enjoyable as they want.

The e-book takes you through a process of visioning for your business and helps you come up with your action plan and goals around your business in a creative way that works for you.

What's the path that brought you to this work? How long have you been coaching? I know you particularly work with entrepreneurs and artists, yes?

I work with professionals; a lot of people are in the corporate world and want to leave. I tend to attract that. Part of my path was being in the corporate world for 10 years doing consulting, doing change management work, and realizing that although it was intellectually stimulating and interesting, and I enjoyed it, it wasn't what brought me alive.

I found out about coaching by having my own coach several years ago, and I really enjoyed the process. It was so eye opening, "Oh, I get to make choices based on what I think is important for me, and then live a more authentic life. Who knew?" I thought eventually I would want to get into that work. It took me a few years to actually go through the training. I went through the training, I guess, six years ago.

I was doing that on the side, while I was in my corporate job, so that was the path I chose to take, building it up on the side. I didn't know where it was going, it was just interesting to me. I knew I had a passion around it, and it was nice to still be getting a paycheck while I was paying for the training. There is a lot of upfront investment.

I decided to quit my job in the spring of 2006. I had just lead a leadership retreat out in Chicago, and it was amazing to see the transformations that people had in just three days. They showed up the first day and were kind of scared like, "What am I doing here?" By the third day of the first retreat, they were so much more alive, and knew who they were as people, and as leaders.

It was just amazing to see that unfold in three days. When I went back to work, it was like the soul was sucked out of me, like, "Why am I here, I'm not making the difference that I need to be making." I had a very visceral reaction and decided, "OK, now is the time to make the leap and really focus on my passion."

What advice do you have for people making that transition, that leap to going full on for their dream?

The biggest thing I think is having a support structure, that goes alongside with having a big vision. Visions don't happen in a vacuum. You need to have people around you who can support you, and can encourage you. I don't have all of the skills needed to run a business. I outsource some things to people.

Two products that I made, my kits, would not have happened without my designer. I am an artistic, creative person. I had visions of what it would look like, but I was having trouble executing it, and I had other things to do. By having help, by reaching out to people and making requests, it's a lot easier to make that leap rather than just feeling like you are out on a limb by yourself.

What advice do you have for people who are interested in becoming coaches themselves?

I would say go for it. The world needs more coaches! The first thing would be, if you haven't already, get a coach yourself so that you can experience what the process is. Like I said, for my own story, that was really important for me to realize what was possible in my life, and to actually have the experience of making that happen, so that I could help others do the same.

There are lots of different training schools out there. I would recommend going to one that's accredited by the ICF, which is the International Coach Federation.

There are lots of different coaching chapters that you can visit and meet other coaches. I think for any job, it's great to go and talk to people who are doing it now, ask them questions, and get to know what their challenges were and how they made the transition. Talk to people and reach out.

What are the most common obstacles you see to people achieving their big visions, and what are the most common qualities that bring success?

The biggest obstacle is people getting stuck in the "how to" scenario. We talked about that a little bit. They want to figure out everything before they get started. Also, not allowing themselves to dream big enough. I see that happen a lot where people are like, "Oh my gosh, do I dare to dream that it's even possible?" They don't believe that it can actually happen, so that is definitely an obstacle. The other obstacle is trying to do it all by themselves, and not asking for help.

The people I see who are successful in bringing their vision to fruition are people who have a clear vision. They know where they are heading, they are excited and inspired by it, but they are holding it lightly. They don't need to figure everything out, and they are open to having opportunities come their way. They are receptive to how their vision is going to manifest.

The other big thing is that they are willing to take risks, and put themselves out there. It's scary, and that's where the traction starts happening. When they put themselves out there, they take risks, and take action. It's not just a thought in their head any more, it's out there in the world, and that's where it starts to snowball and get bigger.

Is there anything else that you would like to tell folks about your work, about achieving their big visions, or anything else you want to share?

I'd like to say that I think everybody has a vision, and to not think, "Oh my gosh, I don't think I know how I want to impact the world." I think a lot of times people think, "What's the change I want to make in the world? Oh my gosh, that's just too beyond me, too big." It doesn't need to look that way. You don't need to solve world hunger.

Or if you want to, great, because we need that, but it can also be, how can you make a difference in someone's life? Maybe it's in your family, maybe it's in your neighborhood community, maybe it's at work where you see a need for people to come together in more connection. Whatever it is, see where there is a need, and align it with what you are passionate about, what your values are, and what brings you alive.

Then, when you are leading that effort, people are going to be very engaged by you, and they are going to want a piece of that for themselves, because isn't it all better when we are authentic and aligned and happy? It can look a lot of different ways.

Related blogs
Jennifer Lee's Life Unfolds
Green Career Central
Commongood Careers

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Cross-posted from

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

From Ashton Kutcher to Soup: Super Bowl Giving

It never hurts to organize a fundraising campaign around an event, even the Super Bowl. I've compiled some Super Bowl fundraiser ideas, celebrity events, and corporate cause marketing campaigns below.

The Following the Equator blog has several ideas for Super Bowl Fundraisers including raffling off a flat screen TV, and setting up a football pool.

The Souper Bowl of Caring's mission is to use, "Super Bowl weekend to mobilize youth to fight hunger and poverty in their local communities."

Celebrities are using the Super Bowl to raise money too.

Corporations are gearing up their cause marketing as well:

What are some of your Super Bowl giving experiences, or ideas?

Cross-posted from
Flickr photo credit: Gingery Sweet Potato Soup uploaded by

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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Download Have Fun * Do Good Book Lists

After I published my list of Favorite Do-Good Books of 2008 with links to my lists for 2007, 2006 and 2005, a reader suggested that I create a PDF of all of the lists for folks to download, and take to the bookstore.

I thought this was a great idea. Anything to get folks to support their local bookstore! So, I opened a Scribd account, based on some Twitter pals' suggestions, to host the list.

Now, you can easily (I hope) download and share the Have Fun * Do Good Book List (2005-2008) for free. I've never used Scribd before, so let me know if you have any issues with it.

Happy reading!

Have Fun * Do Good Book List (2005-2008)

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Friday, January 23, 2009

What Are Your 2009 Have Fun Do Good Resolutions?

I think it's wise to make your New Year's Resolutions a few weeks into January. When you make them on January 1st, you're feeling rested and relaxed after time off, and may have unrealistic expectations of what you can acheive. Waiting a few weeks until your "real life" is in full swing can help you craft more realistic goals.

My six 2008 Activist Resolutions went so-so:

I did . . .
I didn't . . .
  • Increase the number of people of color I interviewed for the Big Vision Podcast. It stayed about the same.

  • Donate 5% of my income. It was closer to 3%.

  • Have more fun while doing good, which gives me pause. Although I enjoyed a lot of the things I did last year, I still felt like I was trying to do too much at one time--which is exhausting, and stressful.
Clearly, I need to do less. In that spirit, I'm making only three 2009 Have Fun Do Good Resolutions
  • Write each month to the woman from Sudan who I am sponsoring through Women for Women International.

  • Participate in the 2009 Indie Resolution Challenge sponsored by my local paper, The East Bay Express. To get involved, I emailed my name and address to In February, they'll mail me an Indie Resolution Journal and information about how to find local businesses.

    Each month they'll have a theme (i.e. February - celebrate local musicians; March - local, socially responsible investing). I'm supposed to write at least one journal entry each month about how I supported local businesses. At the end of the year, I mail it back to them for a chance to win $5800 in local gift certificates.

    They chose $5800 because according to The Express, "Fifty-eight percent more of your money stays in the community when spent at local, independent businesses rather than out-of-town chains."

  • Volunteer in Oakland outside of my home office, and away from my computer. I'm hoping to work with the Reading Partners program at a local public elementary school. Adult volunteers read once a week, one-on-one with two students for 30 minutes each.
What are your Have Fun Do Good resolutions?

Flickr photo credit: Downtown Oakland 2 uploaded by ChrisDag.

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Internet Strategy on the Cheap on iTunes

Last fall, Eric Leland of Five Paths and I presented a session called, "Internet Strategy on the Cheap," at the Craigslist Foundation SF Bay Area Nonprofit Boot Camp.

The presentation is now available on the Craigslist Foundation Nonprofit BootCamp Podcast in the iTunes Music Store. You can see links to many of the tools and resources we mentioned in the blog post, Internet Strategy on the Cheap: Tools and Resources.

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Thursday, January 22, 2009

Be Bold Podcast: Create a Career with Impact Episode #6

Hey Have Fun * Do Gooders!

A new episode of Echoing Green's Be Bold Podcast: Create a Career with Impact is up for your listening pleasure. Lara Galinsky, the Senior Vice President of Echoing Green offers advice for two listeners' questions:

1. What is the best way to identify and screen for appropriate sources of seed capital for hybrid businesses (i.e. social enterprise)?

2. How can I find a career that will allow me to serve the public (perhaps at a nonprofit organization), but also make enough money to support myself?

You can listen to the show online on Echoing Green, or subscribe via iTunes.

P.S. I'm the show's host (:

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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

iPhone Apps for Nonprofits

"Someone should create an iPhone app that allows you to donate $1.99 to a nonprofit," my husband said the other day over lunch.

"Most people are willing to spend $1.99 on an iPhone application, even if they aren't sure they'll like it, or use it. What if a group of nonprofits got together and created an application where you could donate to one, or all of the groups, each month through your iTunes account?"

Seemed like a good idea to me so I started searching around for nonprofit-related iPhone apps. I was surprised by how few there were. Here's what I came up with:
I sent out a request to my Twitter and Facebook pals for more iPhone apps for nonprofits:
This month's Net2ThinkTank question on NetSquared is, “What do you think will be the big changes, new technologies, hot applications, or successful campaigns of 2009?” I predict that one of them will be iPhone apps for nonprofits. For developers looking for iPhone apps for nonprofits ideas, or projects to get involved with:

  • The Extraordinaries is building an iPhone application to help people find 20-minute volunteer opportunities, and needs volunteers.
  • Social Actions will be launching the Change the Web contest next month where developers will create applications (of all kinds, not just for iPhones) using their database of 20,000 "social actions."
  • Mike Dillon of Dillon Media suggested someone create a, "location-based event finder for donors, non-profits and entrepreneurs. Fundraising parties, trade shows, investment networks, etc."
  • Robert Rosenthal of VolunteerMatch suggested VolunteerMatch for iPhone.
A number of people wrote in just to say that they'd like a list of iPhone apps for nonprofits. What other iPhone apps do you know of that have been created for, or would benefit nonprofits.

What other kinds do you think should be built?

Full disclosure: I know many of the people quoted in this post professional or personally.

Image: Screenshot of Seafood Watch iPhone app from the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

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Sunday, January 18, 2009

Win a Trip to Report for the NYT with Nicholas Kristof

In today's Sunday New York Times article, Win a Trip You Won't Forget, two-time Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Nicholas Kristof, writes,

"[I]f you want to save the world, you first must understand it."

It's this belief that prompted Kristof to create his Win-a-Trip contest for graduate and undergraduate students at American universities. The winner will go on an international reporting trip with him to focus attention on the problems of global poverty, and its solutions.

Past winners traveled to Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Rwanda, and Congo. Possible destinations this year are Guinea-Bissau, Guinea, Liberia and/or Ghana. The student reporter will blog and vlog for

For more information, and to watch Kristof's video invitation to apply, go to his post, Win a Trip! on his blog, On the Ground. You must be 18 or older to apply, and can submit an essay or video.

You can watch Kristof's video reports at

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Friday, January 16, 2009

Favianna Rodriguez: Political Digital Artist and Printmaker

"I think about how many times I didn't like the color of my skin, because I didn't see myself in any art. I think about how hesitant I was to become an artist, because I didn't see role models, and even to this day how hard it is for me sometimes to find peers who are women of color, because of how systematically they are pushed out. And I think, I don't want that to be the situation in another 50 years. I think that's something I want to leave with everyone is that we have the ability to do many things, not just what is within our categories, or our boxes."
--Favianna Rodriguez

Below is the edited transcript of a Big Vision Podcast interview from November 13, 2008 with Favianna Rodriguez, a political digital artist and printmaker based in Oakland, California. Utne Reader named Favianna one of their 2008, 50 Visionaries Who Are Changing Your World, and she recently received a Sisters of Fire Award from the Women of Color Resource Center. Favianna is the co-founder of the EastSide Arts Alliance and Visual Element. She is also the co-founder and president of Tumis, a bilingual design studio serving social justice organizations.

For people who are unfamiliar with your work, how do you describe your work?

I'm an artist and an institution builder. As an artist, I feel like I'm breaking boundaries, I feel I'm not the traditional artist that just works in their studio. The kind of art I do is art that gets engaged into the public. Whether it's my posters in the street, or books that I'm publishing that are getting out to bookstores, or workshops, or my speaking in different universities with different young people, I really see art as a way of changing our communities. I think that we have to be very innovative in how we do that, and that includes building institutions, doing actual art, having art jams, and just getting people involved in the artistic process. My favorite thing out of all of the things I do is being a printmaker, and doing a lot of posters around political causes.

What are the issues that you're the most passionate about, and that most of your work revolves around?

The issue that I'm most passionate about, is being a woman of color. As an artist, in the art world, I have seen how systematically many women artists are marginalized, and artists of color are even more marginalized. I think that it's a shame, because art, I think, is a human right for anyone. Everyone is entitled to art in their life. Art is what helps you be a critical thinker.

I really see my role as someone to break into the field and always demand accountability and really look at, "How are these art institutions serving people in this country when the demographics are changing very rapidly?" Yet, the art world does not reflect that.

In my content, I really like talking about the fact that I'm a woman of color, and how it is that through that perspective I grapple with many things, whether it's being in the business world, or being in the art world. Everything from dealing with my sexuality, to dealing with what it means to be an independent woman, and an entrepreneur. I do a lot of things around identity.

Can you describe your creative process?

I'll start with some examples. In 2006, we had these huge immigrant rights marches happening all over the country. Actually, my parents were the ones who told me. My uncles and my aunts, they said, "Favi, we're going to go march. We really want you to come." It was a surprise for me, and at the same time I saw all these symbols of the American flag.

As someone who's kind of an activist, an anti-war activist, I really had a problem with that. And I said, "Well, I want to create a poster around what we, as immigrants, are demanding. Like, we want amnesty for the billions of undocumented workers here that are working so that Americans can have a cheap lifestyle." I did a poster around that.

Similarly, for International Women's Month. I was working with the Women's Building, and they were doing a play around how, as women, we have two sides. We have the side that's constantly struggling with all the media messages we get. And the other side that's just very much around ourselves, and who we are, not caring about any of those things. So, I did a piece, kind of an autobiographical piece, of myself looking in the mirror and just releasing all the messages that I had been conditioned with.

I feel like I get inspired by everything that's happening around me. I think that it's too bad that our stories are not in the common language of arts and entertainment because I think our stories can be very powerful - the stories of an immigrant family, of a single family, of a family who's organizing, or fighting evictions, a young woman who's questioning her sexuality.

All those things, I think, are really powerful stories, so my process is that I like to take those stories and do something beautiful with them, which is a piece of work. I work in multiples. I don't do one painting. That's why I'm a printmaker. I do works on paper so that I can distribute them to schools and community centers, and just post them up in the street.

Who are some of your influences?

When I was growing up, and I said I wanted to be an artist, many of my teachers showed me Picasso and Matisse, and a lot of white European men. Of course, back then, I realized that they didn't look like me, but I didn't quite understand the fact that the entire art world looked like that, and that it was going to be years of me looking at that.

I learned about Frida Kahlo. I learned about artists like Yolanda Lopez from San Francisco, or Ester Hernandez, or even male artists like Malaquias Montoya, who were doing very radical work, and were getting into venues and areas that I really wanted to get into.

Frida, I think, a lot of her work, even though people constantly try to de-politicize it, a lot of it deals with this Mexican identity, it deals with globalization and so, of course, she was one of my inspirations. Many political poster artists gave me the power, and the confidence to know that I could paint, myself. I think that is really important.

If you think of artists like Gaugin, or artists who paint naked indigenous women-- as women it's easier for us to get into a museum if we're naked in a painting. What does that do to a young woman who wants to be an artist? What kind of messages do you get?

I got a lot of those messages, and I decided I want to do things more around how I'm struggling with those messages. I want to do things around people getting pushed out of school and the school system not serving my peers. Or the violence that's happening in my community, or the fact that immigrants are fighting for equal rights. Even stuff around "green."

I feel like, as artists, it's our responsibility to make a commentary on our contemporary society. That is the most powerful art, when you're able to see what's happening around you, and do something of your time.

Can you talk a little bit about your new book, Reproduce and Revolt, what inspired it, who should buy it, etc.

Well, the new book was a really interesting project, because as a political artist, the art that we were seeing for many years was stuff from the '60s and '70s. Even if you think of the hammer and the sickle, that's still a symbol for labor rights, but people are working on computers, they're janitors. They're working in the service sector. It's no longer applicable. It's the same thing with graphics that have to do with social justice. They're outdated.

In the '60s and '70s, you had this huge outpouring of political graphics. We went into the '80s. With the '80s comes Reagan, and people like Jesse Helms, who said that art shouldn't be political, and was actually very repressive, and censored a lot of art.

Then, we move into the post-Reagan era. We move into what happened on 9/11, and you start having this rise of artists responding to the war.

When I started seeing that rise - I think in the late '90s, early 2000 - artists were starting to create a lot more political artwork, but we were all isolated from each other, because we didn't have the social justice movement, like you had in the '60s and '70s, to bring us together.

Every year, after 9/11, you saw increased art. Bush, I think, has been one of the biggest inspirations for artists. The amount of artwork that has been done in response to Bush's policies is amazing, because artists said, 'I'm going to say something about this. This is so bad that I have to say something.' And that created a whole kind of birthing movement of political art.

Around three years ago, my fellow collaborator, Josh MacPhee, reached out to me, and he had this awesome idea. We said, "OK. We're putting out a call, and we're asking people to submit artwork on everything from prisons to military, to the war, to the environment to being vegan, to biotech foods, women's stuff, everything." Every single topic you can imagine was on there.

Initially, we had 500-600 entries, over a few years. Then we decided, "You know what? We can no longer be America-centric. We need to make this bilingual, and we need to really encourage more artists from Latin America." I mean, look what they're going through. How could we not open it up to them?

So, we did. We translated the call. And before you know it, we had over 1000 entries. We selected the best, and the most representative in a way that's gender-balanced, and balanced in terms of what countries it's representing. We created Reproduce and Revolt, which is really a toolbox. The purpose of this toolbox is for activists, and just people, art lovers, to have a selection of images that reflect the 21st century - the politics of the 21st century.

We have images there on transgender stuff, on biotech stuff, on media monopoly, on a corporatized war - all these things that you may not have necessarily seen in the '60s and '70s, but that are issues now, so we have to create artwork around it.

It's a collection of graphics. And all the graphics in the book are royalty-free, which means that you could reuse them. And we're putting them all online so that people can download them and use them at will.

We're also crediting the artists, because another thing that has been a problem is that artists are not always properly credited. Especially in movement work, there is this almost push to be anonymous. But, we didn't want to do that. We wanted users to have a sense of who was creating their art, where they're located, what they do, and their bio.

I encourage everyone to get it, because we also have an essay on the history of the black-and-white political graphic, and tips on how to create design for social justice movements. Everything from thinking about - who is your audience? What is your messaging? What are you trying to say? How is it that you are a responsible political artist? That means that, for example, if I'm somebody who's straight, and I'm doing artwork about a gay community, what is my responsibility in fairly and accurately representing those issues, when I'm not in that community?

It's a great resource, for teachers who are looking for source material for art projects, for activists, and just for people who are interested. Art lovers in general.

You do a lot of work with young people and young artists. Can you talk about why you do that work, and share a success story about how a young person doing this kind of art has created change for themselves, or for their community?

I work with a lot of young people, and it's interesting to me that, at any given moment, you sometimes cannot measure how you impact a young person's life. I know that many of the young people I work with were not necessarily youth that were going to go to college - or even youth that were going to go to art school, for that matter. They were more youth who were on track to go to jail, sometimes, and who were struggling, in and out of jobs, sometimes in and out of jail.

It's amazing to me how much art can give anyone a voice, the ability for them to be able to talk about, and to have an outlet for what they see happening in their community. Many of my young people now say, "Oh, Favi, I'm starting my own little art business. I'm painting murals here on the side," or "I decided to go back to school."

One kid, his name is Bunthoeun Hack, I remember meeting him. He was part of my arts program, and he didn't want to leave his Nintendo. I remember having to walk into his house and saying, "You know, dude, I'm going to teach you how to paint a mural. Come paint with us." He said, "No, no, no, no, no." And I said, "Come on, dude. Just give us a chance."

Anyway, he was very young at that time. He was 15. Throughout the years, he became one of our best artists. Eventually, he helped me open my business, along with my former business partner.

He was such a transformational figure for people in his community that the Dalai Lama came and named him an agent for peace, because he went from being a kid that witnessed, and even sometimes participated in all this violence, to being someone that was an advocate for peace and such a demonstration of what personal transformation is. Later, he became my business partner.

I always look for the young people that have become discarded, if you will, by some institutions, especially by schools. A lot of these young men I feel are unjustly tracked into a juvenile justice system, and later into prison. I think that they can produce some of the best art.

They will, with proper training, mentorship and guidance, be some of the most powerful artists. I mean, that's what happened to me. I never went to art school. But, I had people who gave me skills. and who gave me the self-confidence to be able to have that voice.

Can you talk a little more about the path that brought you to this work?

My parents were immigrants here in the '70s. Of course, like many immigrant families, they wanted their daughter to be a doctor, or a lawyer, or something that would really bring status to the family. Early on, I knew I wanted to be an artist. They were able to put me in free after-school programs here in the neighborhood.

Actually, I'm thankful that, while I was never able to go to those art camps, or anything like that, I was exposed to a lot of community artists, and that formed my ideology around art and how accessible it was.

I ended up going to college, trying to be an architect, because, again, I was one of those honor-roll students. My parents put a lot of time, money, and resources into me and my brother so that we could be excellent students, we could get into all those colleges - that kind of kid. I was that kind of honor-roll kid.

I went to Cal with the intention of doing that, because that had been something that was so ingrained, of being a "professional," if you will. That's the language that is always used - that you have to be something "professional," that you have a "profession."

I started learning architecture, and then I realized that school's really expensive. And I was like, "Wow." I ended up dropping out. I decided, "You know, I'm at UC Berkeley. This is one of the best schools in the country. But, something is not working for me."

I think, at that point, I really decided to actively pursue my art, and actively be an entrepreneur and open my business, because I saw my family always run business and I wanted to do that.

I decided that, "Hey. You know what? I'm not going to," in art school, because, at Berkeley, I wasn't in any art classes or anything like that. I decided that I was going to reach out to the mentors and the adults who I could learn something from.

Little by little, I feel like I got this huge set of skills. I think that now I'm a professional artist. Even though a lot of people don't like to think of art as a profession, necessarily, I feel like I'm a professional artist. I'm able, at a young age - I'm 30 - to pretty much have art sustain me.

When people think of what an artist does, I think there's a big misconception. I think that people think that artists are just creating. In reality, artists are only creating maybe 20 percent of their time. The rest of the time, they're adminning; they're working with galleries, with institutions, with schools.

I think that I am someone who is an entrepreneur, in the sense that I run my own business, and I run a web-design firm named Tumis. I'm able to apply the things that I learn in business, and the connections that I make into my art.

It's such a powerful tool for me, because I'm able to look at, "OK. What works? What doesn't? How do I fail and how do I succeed?" Trial and error. All these things that you actually don't even learn in art school, I feel like I've learned.

That's my story. I know that many people do go to art school. I do see that as a legitimate thing, but at the same time, I think there's something to be said when people take the tools into their own hands and really go after what they want to learn, and go after the people who will teach them that, through mentorship, through apprenticeship. That's really what I did.

What advice do you have for people who are listening and who are aspiring political artists?

Well, first, as artists, I think we have a really bad rep, and I think we have bad habits. I say that because I've gone to so many artists' meetings. I mean, I work with so many artists, and I feel like we almost have this ingrained way of thinking of what an artist is.

We are at a time when arts funding and arts programming is getting cut everywhere, across the board, and so we have to be innovative with our models. We have to think about things like audience development. We have to think about how do you reach people you think you may have nothing in common with, and to really think strategically around our art.

I mean, art is not just something that happens that can be beautiful. Art, like anything, even like math, there's a process to it, and there are ways that you can leverage the most out of it, and that you can engage people you never thought you could have engaged.

But, it takes research. It takes you understanding things like, who's your market? It takes you thinking big, thinking, "If I was to reach the people that I would most want to reach, who would they be? Would they be women? Would they be lawyers? Architects? Parents? Single moms? Greenies? People who do yoga? What are they?" Think about who you're trying to reach, how you're trying to reach them, and think, "What are the steps I can take to do that?"

In business, you have to plan out your next few years. You always have to think ahead. As artists, sometimes we have this thing of, oh, "We have this Bohemian lifestyle," or "This should just be free." It actually ends up really hurting us. I don't think we should think like that.

I think, as artists, just like in any career, you have to be a planner. You have to think about where you want to go with your art in the next few years, and think about how you can reach a larger public. Don't just limit yourself to the galleries. I don't show at galleries a lot. I show in community centers, in streets. My artwork is in many places, including, now, my artwork is even going to go to a youth court. I think we have to be more innovative.

I have always tried to work with my fellow artists to think of ways we can lead ethical lives, which means that we can live the values we talk about in our work as political artists, collaborate with each other. Collaboration is also a big cornerstone of doing political graphics.

And, make an impact with them. If you make this beautiful piece around somebody's suffering, and yet it has no impact on that actual struggle . . . I think that if you're talking about political issues, you have to always figure out how they're going to trickle down to the very communities you're depicting.

Is there anything else about your work or that you haven't gotten to talk about that you wanted to share?

I want to say that I'm a very multidimensional person, because I think the other thing that happens to political artists, and women-of-color artists, even if you're a woman artist, a Latino artist, whatever, you get put in this category, and there are expectations built around what you should produce. I think that that can be very dangerous.

I know that I'm also an abstract artist. I do a lot of things where people say, "Well, where is the political message in that?"

I feel like what happens a lot to us is we get put as two-dimensional characters. Even if you look at entertainment - Latinos are very two-dimensional. And it's not about that. We're a multidimensional kind of people.

I think that the most powerful thing I can do, the most anti-oppression thing I can do is to exercise that and be able to say, "You know what? I don't just do something called political art. I do art that can be very universal, to anyone." I took my artwork to Japan, and to Mexico City, and to places where you think, "Well, you know, I'm not dealing with people in East Oakland." But, art is universal like that. I mean, you can cross so many boundaries.

What I've learned from that is that I really want to think big with where I'm going and what it is, what kind of impact I want to do. Do I want to be somebody like Frida? Of course. I don't think that's thinking too big. I think that we shouldn't think in the context of what things have been done before us. We have to think about how to do things that haven't been done - new models - because those are the things we leave for the generations to come.

I think about how many times I didn't like the color of my skin, because I didn't see myself in any art. I think about how hesitant I was to become an artist, because I didn't see role models, and even to this day how hard it is for me sometimes to find peers who are women of color, because of how systematically they are pushed out. And I think, I don't want that to be the situation in another 50 years. I think that's something I want to leave with everyone is that we have the ability to do many things, not just what is within our categories, or our boxes.

For more information about Favianna's work, go to and check out her blog at

You can watch a talk she gave last spring as part of a panel, "The Political is Personal: Contemporary Women Artists and Political Expression," on the Artists Talk blog post, Favianna Rodriguez on Political Art, Commonwealth Club of California, San Francisco, 2008.

An additional interview with Favianna is available on Ilvox's post, Laying Bricks to Build Social Change: An Interview with Favianna Rodriguez & Josh MacPhee.

Cross-posted from

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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

5 Ways to Participate on the MLK Day of Service

Did you know that Congress passed the King Holiday and Service Act in 1994 making it a national day of volunteer service?

I didn't, until President-elect Barack Obama asked Americans to volunteer on MLK Day, and throughout the year.

Below are 5 ways you can get involved:

1. Volunteer!

To promote and facilitate Americans being of service, the Obama team has launched You can search for a service event on the site, or list your own.

You can also search for volunteer opportunities on VolunteerMatch, Idealist, Social Actions, Network for Good, 1-800,,, Volunteer Solutions, and GuideStar.

2. Spread the Word

Let your network of friends, family and colleagues know that MLK Day is a day of service, and where they can search for volunteer opportunities. has a Faceboook Cause that you can join, share with friends, and feature on your profile.

Vicki of Zazengo shared more ways to spread the word in her Social Actions blog post, Help Promote MLK Day on Facebook + Zazengo.

3. Enter the YouTube Contest is also sponsoring a YouTube contest. Submit your video of 3 minutes or less telling the story of what you plan to do on MLK Day. Submissions are due by 11:59pm EST January 15th, 2009, so you don't have much time!

The winning videos will be featured on, and the creator of the best video will get a phone call from future First Lady Michelle Obama.

4. Read has a blog (which unfortunately doesn't accept comments), where until January 19th they are featuring a wonderful range of guest blog posts. Here's who they've featured so far:
5. Watch (and Share) the PSA

The Inaugural Blog announced on Monday, "New Public Service Announcement Encourages Americans to Step Forward and Serve." You can watch President Elect Obama's message on YouTube, or below. There is a Spanish version available as well.

Michelle Obama also recorded a message asking people to volunteer in their community which you can watch on YouTube, or below:

I'm looking forward to seeing how evolves beyond MLK Day. Will you be volunteering this year? If so, how?

Cross-posted from

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Would You Volunteer 20 Min. of Your Expertise If You Didn't Have to Search for an Opportunity?

Cross-posted from The Extraordinaries: On-Demand Volunteerism by Phone.

When you want to find a way to volunteer, the first step is to search for volunteer positions using services that aggregate volunteer listings, or to search on nonprofits' sites for listings, but what if you could create your own listing of services that you'd like to give to nonprofits, and they could search for you?

For my last post on The Extraordinaries for a while, Jacob Colker asked me to write about how I would use The Extraordinaries. The truth is, when I search for volunteer opportunities, very rarely do I find one that fits my skills and schedule. Instead of searching through "volunteer opportunties" created by nonprofits, it would be great if I could create my own "nonprofit opportunities" where I could list all of the ways I would like to help nonprofits, and they could contact me. There would probably need to be a way that I could click a button on my profile that which would let an organization know when I'm available/Not available to help.

For example, here are some "nonprofit opportunities" I would list on a service like The Extraordinaries:
  • 20-minutes of social media strategy coaching
  • 20-minutes of blogging advice
  • 20-minutes of podcasting advice
  • 20-minutes of career coaching
  • 20-minutes of press release writing/editing
  • 20-minutes of Internet research on any topic
  • 20-minutes of youth anthology production advice
  • 20-minutes of public speaking advice
  • 20-minutes of volunteer recruitment advice
  • 20-minutes online community building advice
  • 20-minute oral storytelling advice
My two questions for you:

1. Would a service like this be helpful for nonprofits?
2. Would you be inclined to create your own "nonprofit opportunities" listing?

Flickr photo credit: Advice uploaded by Laughlin Elkind

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Win a Trip to the Obama Inauguration with Your Commitment to Change

How are the first 8 days of your New Year's resolutions going? Do any of them involve serving your neighborhood, your community, or even your nation? You could win a trip to the Obama Inauguration by submitting your commitment to change to the Case Foundation's online civic engagement campaign, Change Begins with Me.

All you have to do is go to and in 250 characters or less, complete the phrase, "Change begins with me. I commit to..."

If you win, you get:
  • two tickets to the Inaugural Ceremony & the Hawaii Inaugural Ball
  • three-nights hotel stay
  • airfare for you and a guest to the Nation’s Capitol
  • a Flip video camera
The last day to apply is 3pm EST on January 12, 2009. The contest is open to people who reside in one of the 50 U.S. States, the District of Columbia, or Puerto Rico. You can see other contest details at:

Read all of the commitments people have made so far at

This campaign is just the beginning of the Case Foundation's work supporting civic engagement. They will also be hosting an online chat and Q&A series highlighting government and non-profit leaders at the helm of change efforts, and launching monthly mini-grant competitions for individuals with innovative ideas about simple ways to connect with others in their communities, talk about what is needed, and take action together.

You can keep up with Case Foundation news through their blog Let's Talk, or newsletter.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Hospital Volunteering: 3 Things You Didn't Know & How the Web Can Help

Cross-posted from The Extraordinaries.

Did you know that volunteering in hospitals is one the oldest volunteering traditions in the United States? I didn't, until I talked last month with Joan Cardellino, the Director of Volunteer Services for the California Association of Hospitals and Health Systems. She has been in the field of volunteerism for the past 30 years.

When I asked Joan what three things most people don't know about hospital volunteerism she said:

  1. It's huge. The state of California alone has over 100,000 hospital volunteers.
  2. It's one of the longest traditions of volunteering in the United States dating back to the beginning of the colonies. Originally, health committees, made up of volunteers, gathered together to deal with health issues like flu, or cholera epidemics. The committees evolved into dispensaries, which led to clinics, which lead to the creation of hospitals.
  3. Volunteer opportunities exist at every level of organization within a hospital, for every age, and at every service level from being on the hospital's Board of Trustees, to writing letters to patients as a kindergartner.
Cardellino explained why hospital volunteers are important to patient care in hospitals:
"Volunteering is a natural component of meeting the endless need of the human condition. People are always going to be sick, they are always going to be born, they are always going to die, and they are always going to need health care. There is some element of this human condition that requires a personal touch."
She said that there will never be enough resources from current funding sources (i.e. insurance, government, individual's fees for services) to meet this endless need. Communities need to band together to support their local hospitals to fill in where the traditional resources are not enough by providing service, providing funding, advocating and governing (on Boards of Trustees).

According to Cardellino, the greatest challenge hospital volunteerism faces today, is the aging of its volunteer workforce. Hospitals need to supplement the traditional "pink lady," with volunteer opportunities for teens, baby boomers, and people in their 20s, 30s, 40s.

Another challenge hospital volunteerism faces is regulation, and the number of human resource and legal issues that need to be addressed before a person can volunteer. For example, after our conversation, I checked out the volunteer opportunities at one of my local hospitals, the Children's Hospital and Research Center in Oakland. According to the Volunteering: First Steps section of their site, in order to volunteer I need to:
  • Complete a 2-page application.
  • Complete a Health Clearance form which proves that I am cleared for TB, Measles, Mumps and Varicella.
  • Mail in the application and Health Clearance form (It takes 2 weeks for the application to be processed and the background check to be completed).
  • Go for a placement interview.
  • Go to a 2-hour orientation.
Once all of that has been completed, I would need to commit to one 4-hour shift per week, during regular weekday business hours, for six months.

One of the ways Cardellino feels some of hospital volunteerism's challenges can be met is by using the Web to help with:
  • Recruitment (i.e. online marketing).
  • Interviews (i.e interview college students via the web so that they can be interns when they come home for the summer).
  • Recognition (i.e.posting stories about volunteers online).
  • Orientations and trainings (i.e. clinical volunteers can stay in compliance with their regulatory training and certifications through web-based training).
  • Communication (According to Cardellino, "If we needed the voice of every hospital volunteer in the state of California to advocate on behalf of a hospital volunteer issue that is currently in front of the assembly, we don't have a way to do it").
She had lot of ideas for ways hospitals could use a 20-minute volunteering service like The Extraordinaries such as:
  • Call banks for hospital advocacy issues.
  • Call banks for Telehelp and Elderhelp.
  • Immediate phone calls after someone receives a cancer diagnosis from a cancer survivor.
  • Reminder calls for events, meetings, trainings and conferences.
  • Cleaning up databases by calling numbers and looking up addresses.
  • Sending personal messages on behalf of hospital patients.
Ultimately, she feels that "episodic volunteer" opportunities, like the kind The Extraordinaries will provide, are essential to keeping hospital volunteerism programs afloat:
"It's exactly the kind of thinking we need to do in hospitals.

Every time I hear a volunteer leader say, 'We can't use episodic volunteers,' I say, 'Well, you might as well close your doors now. If you don't find a way to use episodic volunteers in today's volunteer environment, you're never going to be able to continue on.'

That's where the field has taken us. They want the traditional 'pink lady' who comes in every Tuesday and sits at the information desk, and that's it. We need them. We have to have them, but we've got to go this road of this 20-minute volunteer opportunity. This is our future."