Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Strongest Person in the World!

The strongest man in the world can drag a plane the distance of a football field.


He is nothing short of phenomenal. This feat made me wonder, what are we truly capable of doing with the right amount of training and support?

Can anyone train to do what he's doing?

If not, what makes him different?

Here's my point.

What can collaboration, leadership, and human-centered interactions accomplish with the same level of strength and effort he's displayed? I want to find out.

Human Policy: A New Theory

Public Policy is when people are in service of laws made by people who came before them. Important, it sets a tone. A culture. History is the backbone of our present day. Yet, public policy as an idea is about following orders and controlling issues.

Human* Policy is when laws are made in service of people. Don't miss it. It is when we listen deeply to those that came before us and begin to consider how can we build on that legacy. Human Policy is about a bigger picture--connecting to the human experience, the human touch.

Human Policy and Public Policy should play together, don't you think?

Monday, June 20, 2011

Dignity: My Name is Not Those People

I can remember the first time someone called me the N-word to my face.

5th grade. I had gotten a pass to go to the bathroom(a.k.a walk the halls) . When I finally got there two boys were there. The older of the two was helping a 1st grader get 'set-up' . As I stepped into the restroom the 1st grader says, "John, look there goes a little N****er). I looked behind me to cover the hurt and maybe see if there was someone else by that name. After 30 seconds of staring at the wall the boy finally walked past with a look of disgust.

Dodging my body as he left the bathroom without washing his hands.

I never felt so ashamed.

I was lucky enough to have parents who taught the beauty of our culture, honored our history, and challenged stereotypes. Yet, the feeling that some part of who I am was "dirty or ugly" made me feel broken. We live in a world where struggling people can feel the same way. Where the inherent worth and value of a person is considered less than with a word.

We are made to feel empty. We are made to feel:

POOR
STUPID
UGLY

Aunt Bertha wants to recognize the complete humanity of each person we engage. Whether that person is at a low point in their life, a social worker, a volunteer, or someone who just needs a hand up. Helping someone doesn't mean that we get the right to judge. Actually, helping is our purpose and mission and we should be grateful to share whatever resource we have to give.

AB is launching in the next couple weeks and we are nervous. Most of the team has seen firsthand what helping can be and become in crisis situations. Especially if we are not careful and compassionate. The challenge is this: how do you help someone without judging who they are or where they come from? Diversity can be this obscure concept of "we love everyone the same" instead of truly honoring the culture and truth of whoever we encounter.

We have decided to make our community of people, friends.

Not customers, clients, or patients, but friends. People we can connect with on an intimate level. People we can trust. People we can share struggles and successes with. Aunt Bertha is our company name, but the hope is that people will see human connection and not an online service.

Service is our Mission.Human Connection the goal.

Here's a video advocating for people to receive services with dignity:

Mozart Guerrier, MSW, is the Community Manager at Aunt Bertha. He is a social worker, entrepenuer, and writer from Syracuse, NY. He is passionate about leadership, technology, and creativity. He is married to a woman from California(raised in Kentucky) and father to a clever little girl named, Ava. He creates a new bio for each post.


Sunday, June 19, 2011

Post Aunt Bertha Survey

If you checked out Aunt Bertha , please complete this survey. All responses are kept confidential.

What do you say to a crack dealer?

What do you say to a career drug dealer on the first day of intervention?


"How could you?... Your evil... You NEED TO CHANGE NOW... You are destroying people's lives."


Yeah, good luck with that.


If social work school taught me anything, it is this. You begin with what people do great.


You talk about his entrepreneurship.

You talk about his ambition.

You talk about his work ethic.


You then talk about how he can re-direct his energy to other ventures.


Blaming does not work. No matter how criminal or difficult.


When we start with the strengths of a community, a person, or an organization we no longer have to start from a place of weakness and shame, "Look at me.. I'm such a terrible drug dealing stupid person".


This can sometimes, work. But, its low energy and doesn't last long.


Building on strengths is hard work. It requires you to look for the light no matter how dark.


It requires trusting that someone can do better.

It requires being honest and hopeful all at once.


If you do this already for your clients or customers. Congrats.


Now, apply it to your family and co-workers.


Change starts at home.


Please like us on facebook. We want to add 300 people in 7 days!



Thursday, June 9, 2011

No Lights. No Maps: Working Without Clues

"[working in human service] is like driving a car at night... You never see further than your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way."
-E.L Doctorrow

There are manifestos and manuals everywhere on how to change the world. By the looks of things no matter where you are in the country, people are doing more reading+talking than anything else... When I first started my job as "community manager" I skimmed and devoured blogs, books, and webinars on how to be a social media consultant(the new buzz job) and building community. Some of it was nice, some of it was cheesy. Some of it downright sleazy: (pay $3,000 and your first child's left toe to access the secrets of Twitter and Facebook).

As a social worker working for a tech company(remotely) it was easy to feel like a fish out of water.The fear gremlins were out in full force, "this isn't your major... you don't know how to write code...you should be feeding the hungry...how can you not watch the clock all day" and the list goes on and on. All of that is true, but I trust the chaos.

Erine(founder,programmer) and I were talking yesterday about online transparency. The ideal that to be anyone on the internet you must provide unique ideals and not just vomit retweets and recycle other people's stuff. Yet, the net also has this desire to see vulnerable and personal writing. That is what makes blogs famous and who doesn't want to be famous?

Team Bertha isn't sure how we want this blog to function besides about technology and human service, and we aren't sure how to be a human-centered business... but I think the goal is to not only trust the process, but trust each other. We want our writing to reflect our values, our team, and serve to expand Aunt Bertha's ideas. As Erine and I talked, it was gratifying to know that he was willing to take off the bullet-proof vest of just having a good ideal and putting something out and see what happens without knowing all the answers.

Courage is contagious. Our conversation sparked this blog.

There is something powerful in working with people that support your mistakes.

The process is personal, but the progress seems to be in our shared action. The belief that "no matter what" we press onward towards a goal that may appear blurry at times, may appear impossible, but worth all the risk. That is what the research shows without reading the books .

My advice on changing the world(even if you don't need it):
Be Open: Don't look for people who are just like you. Look for people that complement you. My wife always says, "If you always agreed with me, I might as well be married to myself."People who are the best fit, don't always look and sound like your typical partner or supporter.

How have you balanced taking risks(experimenting) and doing research(reading books)?


Mozart is the community manager at Aunt Bertha.He went to social work school here, here, and a little bit here. He is a father, husband, and writer interested in workplace culture and innovation. You can e-mail him here.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Why Aunt Bertha?


Mozart, our Community Manager, worked as a social worker for low-income parents who needed a job or training last year in Denver.

He was talking about house chores and time management in a life skills class one day when a small woman in the back of the class, Lydia*, spoke up,"How the heck am I going to do house chores when I've been homeless for 3 weeks... I need somewhere to sleep".

What she didn't say was how she had been eating dollar store snacks with her ten-year old daughter. All of the shelters nearby were booked which received women and kids.

Mozart, got on the phone with a couple of social workers around town. Hoping to find anyone who knew of a shelter with a clean sheets, a hot meal, and that took adults and kids. After a Google search and 2 hours of phone conversations he finally found a place. Lydia got the phone number, address, and contact info for the shelter and it looked like a happy ending.

Proud, he went home assuming that Lydia and her daughter had a warm bed the night before.She finally came back to class 2 days later, hair tangled, face dirty, with a look of hunger on her face. Pulling her to the side, he discovered that she had lost the piece of paper with the homeless shelter info and had opted to stay on the street with her daughter until they could scrounge for bus fare to get back to class.

The shelter wanted to help people, but they didn't have an easy way for people to get in touch. Many times, its takes a professional degree just to get a warm bed for someone in need. Aunt Bertha wants to take the gates off of help. We want to live in a world where people can access needed services via the internet at ease, with the help of a friend or social worker, at the library, their home, or maybe even on their phone. One piece of paper shouldn't be the difference between whether or not someone eats or sleeps in a safe place.

Helping people can be easy.

Aunt Bertha wants to help.. .and ....We need your help!

If you're interested in our project please go to our website at: www.auntbertha.com and we'll send you updates on our progress and information on how you can help.

Thank you!

Sign up to help Aunt Bertha here

How can we make access to need-based services easy?


*names changed to protect the confidentiality of clients