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New Radical Revolution: 10 World-Changing Ideas

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"Went to a party down a red-dirt road. There were lots of pretty people there, reading Rolling Stone, reading Vogue..." That line from Joni Mitchell's California drifted through my head as I rode the streetcar down Spadina to the launch of yet another world-changing venture (see number one below).

Later that night, I called up YouTube in search of videos of Joni back in the day. Suddenly my head and heart were filled with images of the people we (boomers) were and how passionately we wanted to change the world. (Watch the video to remember how young and beautiful and full of hope we were.) As I drifted off to sleep, I realized that an unfinished revolution is rising up inside of us. This time, though, we have the knowledge, skills, and resources to do what we once only dreamed of. Plus, it's not just midlifers who are in the revolution -- young people are just as idealistic and charged up as we were.

Here are some profiles of the revolution at work - people and ideas that came onto my radar recently. (New Radicals are people like you and me who've discovered ways to put skills acquired in our careers to work on the world's greatest challenges. For more, please see archived articles.)

1. ClearlySo
Went to the kick off of the Canadian arm of an online marketplace for social enterprise and investment. ClearlySo (founded in the UK) introduces social ventures to investors and to each other -- helping to raise the profile of their world-changing products and services, and encouraging them to trade with one another. They've got a jobs page, too. And they're growing -- more ventures in more countries are coming on board every day. I asked venture capitalist (and emerging New Radical), Peter Tolnai, who was also at the opening, what he made of it. "I'm impressed that there are so many social businesses getting traction with a real chance to survive. In larger terms, this is a way for 'enlightened capitalism' to develop, if large businesses can learn to work effectively with social business partners."

Fittingly, the launch of ClearlySo Canada was held at the Centre for Social Innovation, a hub for social innovation in Toronto. (Hubs like this are sprouting up in cities around the world. Write a comment and tell us about yours!)

2. Racism is so last century/NFB
March 21 is International Day for the Elimination of Racism. To shake things up a little, check out Jaded, a sharp and funny mockumentary that uses role reversal to highlight racial discrimination. It's from Work for All, a joint venture between the National Film Board of Canada and Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (New Radical Innovators!!). NFB films are now available on Air Canada flights (how radical is that?). I've written about the NFB before -- about filmmaker Katerina Cizek and how technology can be used as a tool for social change. Coming soon from Katerina and the NFB: a multi-media, multi-year collaborative project about the human experience in highrise apartment buildings around the world.

3. SpotDocs and TurnAround Couriers
TurnAround Couriers (founded by a former management consultant) recruits only at-risk youth for bicycle courier positions and back office staff, giving young people a chance to gain experience, confidence, and financial means. But TurnAround Couriers is not a charity - it's a competitive (and growing) business. SpotDocs, a company that makes commercials with real people, using real stories (what a refreshing concept in our media-saturated world!) produced this piece about TurnAround as a way to encourage their clients to switch to this progressive delivery service (and, yes, sure, to promote their own business. Nothing wrong with that).

4. Hollyhock
Readers often want to know where they can go to become New Radicals. Here's a resource that offers an incredible range of programs and services. Hollyhock is Canada's leading learning centre for people who want to "make the world better", offering professional (and personal) development in a spectacular setting on Cortes Island in British Columbia. For instance, they've got a conference for people interested in social ventures coming up soon. Check out the site for more details. (I'll be writing about Renewal Partners, a visionary organization that collaborates with Hollyhock, in April.)

5. Deloitte and American Corporate Partners
This one made me stand up and cheer. Imagine you're a veteran (or maybe you are?), you've served your country, and now you want to land a private-sector job. But you're finding it tough to make the transition. Well, Deloitte (yes, the financial consulting firm) is working with American Corporate Partners to help. A team of Deloitte's people will mentor vets in Chicago, San Francisco, and Washington, DC. The year-long program is open to men and women who have served in Iraq or Afghanistan since 2001 - and to the spouses of those wounded or killed in action. For more, visit the American Corporate Partners site.

This is such a great example of people using the skills acquired in their careers to make a difference (rather than, say, organizing a charity event to raise money for this worthy cause). I hope it's a sign of things to come (in fact, I'll be writing more about how people inside big organizations are partnering with activist organizations to help drive change -- and not just by writing a check [though that's important, too!]).

6. Talking Plug/Zerofootprint
The clever folks at Zerofootprint have done it again. Imagine a world where every plug could talk to the Internet. Where your appliances, plugged into their outlets, suddenly became intelligent and could talk, so that you could monitor and optimize their activities and control them remotely. It's not science fiction anymore... TALKINGplug, a new device powered by Zerofootprint, is now available. Already described by Fast Company as "better than the smart meter" and included on Scientific American's Top 10 gadgets of 2009, TALKINGplug is revolutionary and will change the way we measure and manage our energy.

7. Where are the cures?
The Myelin Repair Foundation is asking this vitally important question. It is urging Americans (as a Canadian, I'd say, "people of the world"), to demand medical research system accountability. Scott Johnson, president and founder of the Myelin Repair Foundation put it succinctly, "The country has spent the last year or more focused on how to reform health care without a word about reforming the current system for medical research and drug development, that is failing to adequately deliver treatments."

Before founding the Myelin Repair Foundation, Johnson was a business consultant and serial entrepreneur -- and he has been living with multiple sclerosis for 34 years. "Each year, more than $90 billion is spent by government, non-profit organizations and biotech and pharmaceutical companies on research and development. In 2008, the FDA approved only 21 new drugs. Despite vast increases in funding, this is the same number of new drugs approved in 1958."

According to Johnson, too few companies and organizations who fund and conduct medical research understand the barriers to delivering new treatments. Among those, even fewer are seeking change in a system that costs a lot of money but delivers too little practical benefit to patients. The annual economic impact of chronic disease in the U.S. is $1.3 trillion and growing. Why aren't we screaming for change? Read more about 'Where Are The Cures?' and get involved.

8. Social media primer/Digital U
We've all heard about how the Internet and social media are changing the world. Now there's a primer for folks who are just getting their feet wet. Digital U, a series produced by q media solutions and getinvolved.ca, demystifies social media -- from NASA crowdsourcing to businesses like JetBlue twittering to improve the customer experience. You'll feel in the loop about what's going on around us, and figure out how to harness the power for your own world-changing agenda. Watch it on the Get Involved site.

9. Green Jobs
You know something's up when the Economist hosts a debate on this resolution, "This house believes that creating green jobs is a sensible aspiration for governments." (Oh, what British phrasing! So Oxbridge. Still, Innovators at work - including the fact that the debate is sponsored by Siemens.) Join the conversation.

10. Girlcott Chile.
I wrote a post about how, rather than simply sending donations, we might start looking for products to buy that will help Chileans rebuild their economy after the devastating earthquake(s) -- I dubbed this a "girlcott". A reader from Brazil wrote to suggest I share this website with everyone. It's about Chile - what's going on right now, and what we can buy to help make a difference. So far, I've learned about raspberries, blueberries, fish, and wine.

11. Disability and Dance
(Who said New Radicals could count -- consider this a late-breaking entry to my list of 10!) Check out this documentary about disability and dance, nominated for an EPIC Emerging Artist Award via the White House Project. Produced and directed by Christian von Tippelskirch and Simi Linton. "The film is a personal portrait of my life," Simi says, "And more broadly it is about disabled people's quest for equality, justice, and a place on the dance floor." To view the Invitation to Dance clip and vote, visit the White House Project site.

Now, it's your turn. Share your world-changing idea with us. Tell us about what's going on in your community. Comment below, or, as always, I invite you to email me directly: julia (that familiar symbol) wearethenewradicals (punctuation) (suffix).

Julia Moulden is on tour, talking about the New Radicals. She also writes speeches for the world's most visionary leaders. Her new book will be published, with any luck, in 2011.

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