A great new workshop presented by the Centre for Innovative Social Enterprise Development (CISED)

30 May

CISED is a new organization whose objective is to create a continuum of support for social enterprise, including access to technical expertise, financing, learning communities, training, and cross-sector partnerships. You’ll find a wealth of resources and links on the CISED website at http://cised.ca/ciseds-community/about-cised/.

Recently, CISED delivered a one-day workshop on social enterprises. The workshop, prepared in partnership with enterprising non-profits (enp), gives a great overview of social enterprise and provides a wealth of information to help organizations and entrepreneurs interested in establishing or developing a social business. The workshop was delivered by Social Enterprise Sector Developer Jonathan Wade. You’ll find his blog at http://cised.ca/author/jonathan-wade/.

What is a social enterprise?

While the existence of businesses formed around social causes is not new, the use of the term “social enterprise” is a relatively recent label that serves to tie a bow around the various types of enterprises that exist to advance a social cause. These can include charities and not-for-profits as well as for-profit businesses.

Here are two definitions:

  • Industry Canada defines these entities as enterprises that are run like businesses, producing goods and services, but which mange their operation on a not-for-profit basis. Instead, they direct any surpluses to the pursuit of social and community goals. (Taken from CISED/enp Build Your Social Enterprise workshop slide.)
  • “A social enterprise is a business firm designed to remedy or alleviate certain unfavorable conditions of life in a community. Social enterprise is used as an umbrella term for any business with a social mission.” (Source: http://www.givetogetjobs.com/social-enterprise.shtml)

There’s a wealth of information online

In addition to the resources available on the CISED site, you’ll find more information to help you plan and develop your social enterprise, including the Canadian Social Enterprise Guide, on the enp website at http://www.enterprisingnonprofits.ca.


Guitar Now, guitar WOW!

7 May

Ottawa’s music scene just keeps getting better. If you’re looking for evidence of this trend, you don’t have to look any farther than Carleton University’s Guitar Now initiative.

Local guitar heroes and Guitar Now founders Wayne Eagles and Roddy Elias, along with Dr. James Wright of Carleton’s Performance Studies program, have woven together the perfect balance of music education, appreciation and performance.

The event spans three days in May at the Kailash Mital theatre at Carleton U. This year Guitar Now brought together 20 local and internationally acclaimed artists, including Vic Juris, Andrew Mah and Don Ross for a stunning series of workshops and concerts.

Julien Bisaiilon at Guitar Now 2013

Julien Bisaillon conducts a workshop in classical guitar technique.

For students young and old, the workshops provides valuable insights into practical and theoretical aspects of performance and composition. For music lovers, the concert series offers a rare opportunity to see some of the world’s finest guitarists up close and experience a broad range of musical genres, from classical to jazz and experimental.

Whether you’re a student of the guitar or simply a lover of fine music, you’ll want to mark this on your calendar for next year. Check it out at http://www.guitarnow2013.com/.

A weekend at the Canadian Guitar Festival

3 Aug

I just returned from a weekend of music at the Canadian Guitar Festival. This was my first time attending and I have nothing but positive things to say about the experience.

The Canadian Guitar Festival

Fingerstyle competitions at the Canadian Guitar Festival

This year, the festival included performances by 13 exceptional players (including Don Ross, Michael Manring, Tony McManus and Vicki Genfan). The event also included guitar workshops, an open stage and the Canadian Fingerstyle Guitar Championship competition. The performances were, of course, remarkable. Michael Manring in particular surprised and delighted the audience with a one-hour performance on his fretless electric hyper bass. A fretless electric bass at a fingerstyle guitar festival, you say? I’d like to describe it to you, but I couldn’t possibly do it justice. You’ll have to experience Michael for yourself.

What’s really remarkable about the Festival is its role as a career enabler for young artists. It’s a place where young and developing musicians can showcase their talents and get to meet successful artists in an atmosphere free of the usual pretense. By attending, jamming, playing on the open stage and performing in the competition, they get a chance access to an entire network of musicians. The competition is fierce. This year, 24 young guitarists from Canada, the U.S. and Australia (and elsewhere?) performed. Some of the competitors, like last year’s winner Ewan Dobson, will return to perform at the festival in subsequent years. Some get invited to future gigs, are offered access to other festivals or find recording opportunities in Canada.

I had a chance to chat with some of the performers about their careers and plans for the future. I wanted to know how they work, how they promote and manage themselves and what their long term plans are. Based on the few conversations I had, a few key themes emerged. Above all, they are dedicated to their craft and passionate about creating and performing. They seem to confirm the theory that success is primarily due to hard work and being in the right place at the right time. You have to have some talent, of course, but even the dullest stone can be polished to a bright luster with enough effort. In addition to selling disks and merchandise, some of the musicians earn money by teaching guitar and giving workshops. Most have a manager and/or a recording label. Promotion is often handled by the record label and gigs are organized by a manager. Those I spoke to all used some sort of social media channel (blog, Facebook fan page, YouTube, Myspace) to build their fan base or simply to share their recordings and schedules with the public. I couldn’t find any who are doing all of this by themselves, although I suspect some of them do. I spoke with the event’s founder and organizer Del Vezeau about factors for success and he agreed that what young artists must have, in addition to drive and talent, is the ability to conduct themselves like professionals — that is, be organized, show up on time and be ready to perform. I can’t over emphasize this point. When offered the choice between two relatively unknown and similar talents, people in the industry will invariably go with the one who conducts himself professionally and can be trusted to meet his commitments. This is an important factor for all emerging artists to take into account.

If you like good music and a great atmosphere (not to mention exceptional value), you owe it to yourself to attend this festival. The Canadian Guitar Festival takes place every year at Loughborough Lake, near Kingston, Ontario.

Looking back at PAB2010 and forward to the Canadian Guitar Festival

30 Jul

It’s six weeks later and I’m still excited about Podcasters Across Borders. Mark Blevis, one of the event’s co-founders, reminded me that many of the folks who attended are there in both a professional and personal capacity: “What I find particularly interesting about the PAB community is that even though (as you point out) it’s about creativity, content, passion and authenticity with a personal flair, among us are PR and Marcom folk, political consultants, journalists, professional video producers, educators and of course hobbyists. The connecting thread is common among personal and professional interests, and PABsters get that.” I hope to take part again next year.

This weekend, I’m headed to the Canadian Guitar Festival near Kingston, Ontario. This event brings together fingerstyle guitarists and enthusiasts from near and far to take part in performances, workshops and competitions. The Festival was created in 2004 by Del Vezeau and the community continues to build. It was inspired by a “guitar weekend” hosted by Canadian guitarist Don Ross in 2001. This will be my first time at the event, and I’m looking forward to it with great anticipation. I’ll post a report on my experiences later this weekend. Until then…

PAB 2010 – Something special happened on the way to the conference

24 Jun

I thought the Podcasters Across Borders (PAB) conference would be different and boy was it ever. I expected a weekend focused on tactics for exploiting podcasting as a marketing and communications tool. I got that wrong. Turns out PAB is really a creativity and storytelling conference. In speaking with a few of the attendees on the first day, it became clear that these people weren’t at PAB for professional development per se.

Group photo of PAB2010 at the National Arts Centre

Group photo of the PAB2010 conference at the National Arts Centre

They weren’t emissaries from government or business. Instead, they’re part of a very special community, initiated online, where the common bond is self-expression. In fact, the people at PAB reminded me more of the musicians and music enthusiasts I’ve met at festivals and music camps than the people who typically attend business and technology conferences. For these folks, the focus isn’t how to sell the next widget, it’s about the content–their own content–and their love of audio. And while podcasting is more than just audio (check out Sylvain Grand’Maison’s site) tied to a variety of online distribution channels, it shares many of the characteristics of radio, which is a very intimate medium and ideal for storytelling.

More surprisingly, PAB is a real-life example of how online communities can manifest themselves in real time and space. People arrived from across Canada and the United States, most of them on their own nickel. These folks have developed an enuring bond through online conversations and a shared love of the medium. I arrived hoping to learn enough about podcasting technology to add it to my own inventory of technical knowledge, with no intention of returning to the event next year. I left thinking about how I could continue to stay connected and looking forward to the next event.

A weekend with Podcasters Across Borders

18 Jun

A few weeks ago, someone tipped me off to this online thingy called Meetup. Meetup is a service allowing people with similar interests to connect with others in real time and space. I attended a meetup gathering called Third Tuesday Ottawa. At that meeting I was introduced to Mark Blevis, who told me about a conference called Podcasters Across Borders. The event is dedicated to podcasting and seemed like a great opportunity to learn about a technology that I haven’t had much of a chance to work with. I’m heading over there later today for the kick-off. I’m excited about the potential for podcasting as a communications tool in not-for-profit and public organizations. Although it promises to be an accessible, affordable and engaging tool for organizations and individuals on tight budgets, podcasting isn’t being used to the extent it could be. My guess is that most people are simply unfamiliar with how to produce podcasts and how it fits into the total communications mix. So come back and I’ll share with you what I learn over the weekend.

An Invitation To Join Me On A Special Journey

18 Jun

Since retiring on April 1st — that’s 72 days ago — I’ve been trying to make the adjustment from the 9 to 5 world to one with very little structure. It’s been quite an adventure. For the first 6 weeks I experienced a kind of decompression and a sense of disorientation. Of course, the temptation is to sit back and relax. But I’m resisting it–although that hammock is pretty comfortable. Like many retirees, I don’t intend to stop working. Retirement offers me the chance to do something of value, but on my own terms. Arts Ally is a natural extension of the type of work I’ve been doing all along. At the Canada Council for the Arts I worked in communications, in particular online communications and managing operations providing grants and services for artists and arts organizations. Before leaving, I spent a significant amount of my time researching online marketing and social media trends. This was a great opportunity to learn, but it isn’t over. I will continue to explore and learn now that I have even more opportunities than ever. As I do, I will share my experiences and observations with you. Of course, my interests remain in the online communications and marketing sector, including social media, mobile and new media. And I will continue to focus on artists, arts organizations, public and not-for-profit organizations. I recently attended an online marketing event in Toronto and will attend a very special event this weekend at the National Arts Centre called Podcasters Across Borders. Stay tuned and you can follow me at the conference!