London Free Press, June 27, 2012

Quoted in “Battle on to save Lorne Ave”. An article regarding the ARC review and battle to save our public school from closure.

Battle on to save Lorne Ave


Metro London, July 23, 2012: Social media connects involved Londoners

Social media connects involved Londoners

Social media has become a stomping ground for anyone with an opinion, including those engaged in municipal affairs.

Jo-Anne Bishop, 39, a self-described “politics geek” who has a degree in political science from the University of Windsor, was out of the loop until three years ago when she joined Twitter. It’s led to her involvement in Munch, an innovative program run by Civics 101 of the Urban League of London, as well as Citizen Corps. *****

“What drives me is getting the word out and helping some people get informed and eventually vote,” she said.



Bishop, or ‘@j0_mAmA’ on Twitter, is not alone. A daily scan of the London hashtag (#LdnOnt) can find Tweets from Jesse Helmer (@jesse_helmer) of Better London, Stuart Clark (@StuartClark) of This Week in London podcast, James Shelley (@jamesshelley) of City Symposium, and other involved folks.

“There’s no question that these new groups fuelled by social media are a good thing,” said Andrew Sancton, a professor of urban politics and local public administration at Western University. “The question that the councilors are always asking, though, is: What about all the people who are the silent majority?”

For at least one councillor, Ward 7’s Matt Brown, social media opens up another channel of communication to the engaged.

“One thing to remember is that social media and technology doesn’t replace other avenues of connecting with councilors,” Brown said. “But, it does augment them, and I find it very useful.”

Recently launched online initiatives concerned with municipal affairs:

• This Week in London Tweets podcast (launched in 2011)

• #LdnOnt TV show (2011)

• London Civic Watch blog (2009)

• The McLeod Report blog (2009)

Tune into AM980 on Monday from noon to 1 p.m. for a panel discussion on citizen engagement in the Forest City


****An important correction to the above story:  MUNCH is not run by or affiliated with the Urban League of London. The idea for MUNCH was inspired by a Civics 101 program run by the Urban League in 2011, and hatched by several people. An important one to note, who is not noted in this story, is Michael McAlpine. Due to low attendance at the Urban League “Civics” events, it was thought perhaps a lunchtime chat would increase participation. The Urban League has no involvement in MUNCH, and has only provided a bit of inspiration.

How To Be a Pollyanna – Ignite London, November 2011

My presentation on “How to Be a Pollyanna” – Ignite London, November 2011.

Video:  How to Be a Pollyanna – Ignite London

Original transcript:

A best selling novel in 1913 and 1960 Disney movie, Pollyanna is a story that changed my life. An optimistic, idealist Pollyanna always found something to be thankful for. She focused on the good in everyone and everything. This is how I came to be a “Pollyanna”.

I watched the movie as a little girl, but first read the book after a suicide attempt at age 15. Life is made up of choices, and every choice we make is like a ripple on water. The choice to be happy and see the good is one choice that has far reaching effects, and can be inspirational.

Life can be overwhelming to the point it seems that you are drowning in a sea of negativity and rotten luck. This is the story of my life. But acceptance of the things that are out of our control – death, illness, accidents and other random, fated events – is key to being a Pollyanna. There is no greater reminder that we are human than pain and loss.

It’s easy to say, “I hate my life!”and throw up your hands in defeat, but it’s important to remind yourself that somewhere, someone has it much worse than you do, and that somewhere, someone dreams of having your life.

While we are losing a loved one to illness, someone, somewhere is losing a loved one to war. While we complain about a meal that was overpriced and undercooked, someone, somewhere is wishing for a loaf of bread and fresh water. While we complain about the cost of house repairs and how we’ll make ends meet, someone, somewhere is sleeping in a box, dreaming of a house and a means to an end.

Research shows that our minds focus on the optimistic at the subconscious level, and negative at the conscious level. Being a Pollyanna means digging deep into that subconscious when you feel consumed or overwhelmed, and pulling positivity to the surface.

Do not be slave to your own not so pretty life experiences, or to anyone else’s. Do find empathy though. Empathy is like a mental hug: recognizing a person’s feelings – happy or sad – and sharing those feelings to some extent or another.

Too often we forget what a hug or kind word can do for someone. Empathy is about seeing through another person’s eyes for a moment, or trying on their shoes. Sympathy is living life through those eyes, or wearing those shoes.

One of my favourite paragraphs from Pollyanna says: “What men and women need is encouragement. Their natural resisting powers should be strengthened, not weakened…. Instead of always harping on a man’s faults, tell him of his virtues. Try to pull him out of his rut of bad habits. Hold up to him his better self, his REAL self that can dare and do and win out!… The influence of a beautiful, helpful, hopeful character is contagious, and may revolutionize a whole town….

People radiate what is in their minds and in their hearts. If a man feels kindly and obliging, his neighbours will feel that way, too, before long. But if he scolds and scowls and criticizes–his neighbours will return scowl for scowl, and add interest!… When you look for the bad, expecting it, you will get it.”

See the good in each other, do good for each other, and also for yourselves. To be a Pollyanna, it is important to let go of your personal hang ups and release any skeletons that may be lingering from your past.

 Holding on to negativity will consume you. Your past does not define who you are, but rather speaks to who you have become. Your today does not define you, it only sets in motion who you have the potential of becoming tomorrow. Your past is your history. Learn from it, don’t dwell, and move forward.

 Be kind, to yourself and to others. Every person has a story, and is going through something at some time or another, and your kindness has the potential to change a life. Be an inspiration.

 Every one of us in this room have blessings we can count. Be thankful for everything, big and small. Just as someone else has it worse than you, someone else has it better. That’s okay. Accept what you have and appreciate it.

Appreciate every finer moment in life. Those moments of just being and doing with the ones you love. Appreciate the earth we share and it’s inhabitants, the air you breath, and the ground you walk on.

Don’t be discouraged, or afraid to take on new challenges, and encourage others to do likewise. If the worst that can happen is a new learning experience, than there is nothing to be afraid of. A wise, strange little green man once said, “Do or do not. There is no try.”  

Life is not a trial run. We live it or we don’t. That means accepting what we have, what we are given and what we create for ourselves. Living is not just breathing, or a duty to be fulfilled. It is an experience and an adventure to be lived to it’s fullest, most ecstatic potential. Life is an adventure. Explore it.

It isn’t always easy to be a “Pollyanna”: to stay positive and find the good in negative situations or change negative minds. It takes practice and for many, it means a complete retraining of the way they think and react to situations. But it can be done, and once you start I promise you, it is so fulfilling.  

I have had a very rough month that left me questioning how I would get up here tonight and speak to you about staying positive, when I felt anything but. However, I couldn’t imagine a better way to end such a horrible month than to show you that it is possible to smile, even through adversity. And for that, I am thankful.

As you leave here tonight, remember: You have the potential to live a happy, positive existence. The choice to see the good lies in you. The choice to project good around you, also lies in you. Choose happiness and be glad for all the greatness life gives you. This is how to be a Pollyanna.

Thank you.