The Power of Disability

In partnership with the Common Good Collective

John and Peter Conversation with Al Etmanski
In partnership with the Common Good Collective ~ April 27, 2020

About every six weeks for the last six years, John and Peter have hosted conversations with community-building social innovators as their guests. For their April 27, 2020 dialog, community organizer, social entrepreneur, parent activist and author of four books Al Etmanski talked about what he learned about making change in the world from collecting the stories for his latest book, The Power of Disability.

Al Etmanski — community organizer, social entrepreneur, parent activist and author of four books — talked with John and Peter and 170+ social innovators about how he goes about making change in the world.

In his latest book, The Power of Disability: 10 Lessons for Surviving, Thriving and Changing the World, Al Etmanski takes us on a journey into a world of possibility and provides practical advice for navigating the turbulent times we find ourselves in. As inclusion activist Carolyn Casey describes it, “The Power of Disability is an instruction manual for becoming truly human and a manifesto for transcending all our differences to create a world where everyone thrives.”

Al brings insight, humility, practical application and, above all, care and love to all he does.



Maggie: Hello, and welcome to The Power of Disability, A Conversation with John McKnight, Peter Block and guest Al Etmanski. I’m Maggie Rogers and thank you for joining us.

  I’d like to start with a poem by Canadian poet Kirsteen Main, who uses a process called facilitated communication, where someone holds her arms while she points to letters on an alphabet board, spelling out what she wants to say.

  “Not being able to speak is not the same thing as having nothing to say,” Kirsteen wrote in the opening of her first book of poetry called The Butterfly. This poem was written to honor her lifelong friendship with Michael Whitman.


By Kirsteen Main

You are the friend

Everyone deserves.

You are a friend I respect and admire.

With you I can be exactly

Who I am.

There is no need to

Feel invisible.

You understand in a way

No one else can.

Silent communication comforts me,

Gives strength to our lives, adds hope for our future.*

  Isn’t that a beautiful testament to friendship?

I’d like to start today with connecting with others who are here. We’re going to break into small groups for a short conversation. What we’d like you to do is introduce yourself, share a word or two about what struck you about that poem, and why you showed up for today’s conversation. You’ll be in groups of 3-4 and you’ll have about five minutes, and you’ll see a notice when you’ll be asked to come back into this room. So Darin is going to set that up.

  Welcome back. Hope you enjoyed that time. You will have a chance to meet a few others after Al, John and Peter have talked for a bit. Then we will come back together as the large group to hear a few reflections and some further comments from Al, John and Peter. And, at the end of the hour, we will leave Zoom open so you can continue your conversations if you’d like.

  Before turning this over, I’d like to introduce you to our team behind the scenes: Leslie Stephen helping in the Chat today and manages the Abundant Community website, Darin Petersen at the controls and our genius organizer and Charles Holmes, master connector is one of his many talents, all are part of Abundant Community and the Common Good Collective.

  Charles, I know many people are now likely quite familiar with Zoom, and maybe feeling too familiar, but could you offer a couple of suggestions to make this experience even better.

Charles: Ann, Leslie, Tammy, apologies for being in a solo room. Hope you had a chance for a little bit of reflection and we’ll try and correct that when we go into the next small group conversation.

  So just a few quick suggestions: In the top right hand corner of your screen, you will see a little square icon that says either “speaker view” or a bunch of little boxes. You can click that. My preference is you click it so you see all the boxes. That way I look really small and not big. If it’s in speaker view, you will see the person speaking and they will be large.

  Down in the left hand corner, at the bottom, is the mute button. We will be controlling you in the background, turning people’s speakers off just to avoid background noise, but if you notice that your speaker is on, just hit the mute button.

  In the middle of the bar across the bottom is the chat function, and can see that a few people have already sent a few chats and you’ll notice that Leslie will be putting information up in the chat bar. The poem that Maggie started with is there as well.

  Then also, there’s a little function that allows you to raise your hand. We’ll speak to that when we come back from the conversation between Al and John and Peter later. If you have any questions as we go, feel free to put them into the chat. You can address them to everybody. If there’s a technical concern that you have, best to send it either to Darin Petersen or to myself and we will respond.

  And on that note, I’m going to turn it over to John, but I do want, as a neighbor of Al and longtime friend, to say Al, thank you, thank you, thank you for being here today. It just means the world to have this opportunity to share this time with you. So I’m going to turn it over to John.

John: Welcome everybody. We’ve got, apparently, one of the largest group of participants we’ve ever had, so it’s an exciting time. We’re really honored to have Al Etmanski with us. Al and I first met 30 some years ago when he and I went out on a venture to try to see if we could create, in a city, a group of citizens who would take on the function of welcoming people who had been marginalized and introducing them to associations, groups, other people, businesses, where their talents and gifts could be manifested. I think it’s still there. It’s in Prince George and it’s called Project Friendship for anybody who wants to follow up on it.

  Out of that activity, I’ve come to follow Al over the years. He led the British Columbian Association of Community Living, and there, they became an incredibly activist group under his leadership, taking the lead on de-institutionalizing the large institutions in British Columbia and also integrating the schools.

  One of the things I remember that was so significant was when they closed the institutions, the money that had been spent per capita on people in the institutions went with them to the community setting where they then lived. That was a way of making sure that the institutions wouldn’t have the resources to re-open.

  Al left the BACL and went on to become a full time creator, I would say, and created an organization called PLAN. [See]

One of the things that developed there was Al and Vickie Cammack, his partner, created a way for parents who were concerned about their children, who were labeled disabled, not becoming re institutionalized after the parents had died. It’s a worrisome thing for most parents. And they invented a wonderful method by which children can be protected after the parents are gone. That was a major, major change.

  Al has, I think, become one of the leading thinkers and policy advocates and designers in all of Canada. He has huge influence and a wonderful heart. Al, you’ve written at least three books that I know. One called Safe and Secure, another one called A Good Life, and the most recent one The Power of Disability. And we want to use that one as a way of starting out a broader discussion of the nature of a good life and a good society. So give us a little background about The Power of Disability and let’s see where that takes us.

Al: Thanks, John, and hello everybody. It’s really quite stunning to see this photograph of so many faces. Thank you for joining us. John, I have to say the book, The Power of Disability, is really a book about life, how to deal with it, how to make the most out of it, and how to change it when it’s necessary. I’d say it’s not like other personal development books or organizational development books or social change books in that the source material are people with disabilities, a group that is often ignored, but who are authoritative sources on love, on sexuality, on politics, on artistry, on science, on technology and social change.

  So what I did was try to chronicle, through 100 stories, the power of contribution, the power of gifts, and the necessity of creating a world in which every gift and every contribution is given, including, or maybe, starting now, with those who have been ignored and who have been invisible despite their contributions for so long. So that’s the essence of the book and why I wrote it. [Find out more about the book at]

John: And as you think about the effect of all of those stories once one reads through them, it seems to me what it does is give us a re-understanding of what makes a good life, that it’s the contributions. I wonder if you could tell us one or two of the kinds of stories you’re telling, which open up new possibilities for our understanding of a better life and a better life for both us and for the people who you’re chronicling.

Al: That’s a hard one to choose from, John. There are, aside from the ones in the book, I’m sure many in the audience as well, there’s so many. Let me just pick one that maybe people are not aware of, although they might be aware of her work, and that is the Japanese artist… I always mispronounce her name, but Yayoi Kusama.

  I don’t know if people know her or not, but arguably… I see some of those head shakes. Arguably, she is the most popular artist in the world today. She’s certainly the most successful and likely the richest, and she started making art at a very young age, when she was seven or eight, when she was walking through a pumpkin field with her grandfather and one of the pumpkins spoke to her. And essentially, for the rest of her life, she’s been dealing with hallucinations and images that have come to her, often that have terrified her to the point where she left the New York art scene and moved back to Japan in the early 1970s and checked herself into a psychiatric institution.

  But every day, and she’s now in her early 90s, she walks across the street and makes her art and shares it with the world. She’s known as the Priestess of Polka Dots. She has designed infinity rooms that help you experience the majesty of the universe, the limitations of who we are and yet the magnificence of what we can do together. [Here’s where to read her story]

  My favorite quote of her is that she says, “People are like polka dots. And like polka dots, people come together.” You’ll see her images everywhere. So I hope if you don’t know her that you go search her.

John: You know, when you talk about the categories of contribution that people who have been labeled make, one of the categories, which I thought was very interesting, is authenticity, that people are offering authenticity. I wonder if you’d say a little more about what you had in mind there.

Al: The leading writer of a TV show called The Good Doctor… And what I tried to do with this book is use examples from popular culture. Anyway, the leading doctor is actually a Canadian who was in a motor vehicle accident in his teens and became a doctor. So he is an authentic senior writer of that show, which has a lead character who has a disability.

  And his argument, his observation, John, is that the world is yearning for reality, for real, for trails of everyday, ordinary people dealing with the challenges and the celebrations of their life. That’s become a bit of a mantra for me is to stop trying to be glossy and to perfect things in a professional way that comes across as slick, but to be who we are in our majesty, if you will, or magnificence, as I’ve mentioned before, but also in our limitations.

  You taught me that originally, John, that the glass is both half empty and half full. It is for all of us. The question is: Which half of the glass do you want to work with when you are thinking of unifying, of coming together, of being with others? That’s the gift part of the glass.

John: I think I’ve seen this in your life. If you see a world in which everybody has the half full, the giftedness, it does something to your life, doesn’t it? Hasn’t this all affected you personally, to be in a world where you see the gift?

Al: Well, just as you said that, it sent shivers down my spine, and I have to be cautious when I respond to you, John, because this is not about somebody else being an inspiration to me.

  It’s actually… It gets at this question of authenticity, of our power as everyday people, as artisans of the common good, just who we are and that source of social change. That’s what it means to me, John, and I was lucky. I hate to think of what I would have become without the birth of my children, including my daughter Liz, who introduced me to the world of disability.

  This is a world that, if we wrote the history of our civilization without their contributions, we wouldn’t recognize the world, yet nobody knows that. Or if they do, the credit is given to somebody else. So this is a silent, invisible force that has made not only just me better, but has made our world better.

John: I’m wondering… When people are thinking about what they might do personally in joining the world that you’re documenting, what would you say would be some things they might consider, do, act on?

Al: I thought you might ask me that question, and the best answer I can think of today, John, is to remember that it’s not a do it yourself project. It’s a do it together project. And by that I mean that there are many people who don’t participate, who don’t get invited to the table, or even if they’re invited to the table, can’t get in the building, let alone the room. And no amount of willful thinking or wishful thinking or the power of positive thinking will get them in that room. It’s our obligations as individuals, as citizens, and as society, to make it possible for everyone to be at the table.

John: I remember that Judith Snow, somebody that you and I both know well, who I think had the power to move her thumb and the muscles on her face and was one of the wisest people I’ve ever met. She said, “The first, the critical issue for me is presence, that I be there, that I am a part of the presence with other people, and until that happens,” she said, “I am in a system, a captive.” And I think that’s the kind of things you’re talking about.

Al: There are multiple gifts, John, and you are exactly right about Judith, and that’s one of many, many contributions that she’s made, and I hope that we can source the books that she’s either written or that people like Jack Pierpoint have written about her.

[Here’s a blog post from Judith Snow: Judith Snow’s Gifts List]

[See also Jack Pierpoint and Inclusion Press]

  I like to think of gifts as coming from two points of view. There are the gifts of doing that we all are familiar with and that we sometimes get too busy with, but there are the gifts of being, just our simple presence, and I think this speaks again to this question of authenticity. And when you’re in the room, even if you don’t say anything, or it takes you longer to react to what’s going on, you cannot be ignored, and there are many, many ways in which our presence is felt. And this whole question of senses, of using all of our senses, and using each one of our senses more deeply than we’ve ever done before is a whole category in my book.

  So presence is so critical, John, and we move so quickly to policy. We move so quickly to program, and we don’t allow enough room for imagination, and imagination is a combination of artistry, it’s a combination of feelings, it’s a combination of presence, and this is, again, the instrumental about it. It’s the architects of the imagination that will help us leap over the status quo that we want to change.

  Programs and policy often just get us to the front of the status quo and our collective power is to implement a vision based on a combination of factors that don’t involve, in the first instance, strategy and policy and data and the like. It’s not that they’re not important, but wait their turn.

Peter: Let me join, if I can.

John: I was just going to ask you. Come in.

Peter: You’re one of the people I know that’s been a huge impact on institutional reform. I think what you’re saying is we go to policy as a defense against authenticity, that’s true. But yet, I’ve heard you say that you decided to work with people who saw the world very differently than you did in government. Could you talk a little bit about why and how you’ve been so successful in changing large policy questions?

Al: Well, if I’ve had some role, Peter, it’s come lately in my life. I probably had the biggest chip on my shoulder of anybody. I’m joking, but I would argue with a stop sign.

Peter: I believe you.

Al: What I learned is that, in every part of life, in every walk of life, whatever role that we have, there is one thing that we have in common, and that is we are involved in taking care of someone else. A family member, a friend, a neighbor, a coworker. That is a unifying factor in all of our lives, and if I go into a system with a chip on my shoulder, I will never discover that. If I go in with some kind of open heart to the common experience that we have of taking care of each other, then we can work together to create a society that readjusts the imbalance towards institutional paid care and move it back to the natural caring that we all do most of the time in our lives.

  In Canada, the statistics show us that 80% of the caring in Canada is done freely, naturally, lovingly, and that the paid care rests on that. This is not an either/or, this is a both/and. So that interests me a lot as a community organizer. It’s the William Blake notion of holding onto the golden string. That’s my golden string that I hope builds a more unified world.

Peter: That’s beautiful. So you’re unwilling to see someone as an enemy. You see them as a caring human being that you have to find access to, and I’m sure you’re not always successful. Have there been things that have frustrated you and you’re still contemplating on what that means?

Al: Oh, I think this is a “don’t do as a say” kind of answer, Peter. Of course I’m disappointed, of course I feel betrayed, but I’m old enough now to know that I’ve disappointed others and likely still am, and I have betrayed others, even though I don’t want to or mean to.

  I’d have to say even in the last three or four weeks as we’ve responded in Canada to the pandemic, I’ve probably made some mistakes that I’d like to take back and I’ve said some things that I’d like to take back, but I think generally, in the main, I do see the majority of people, and I’m noticing others nodding their head as well, as dealing with what I’m dealing with every day, who care about their family and who actually will rise to the occasion with their neighbor.

  In this time now, I think it’s made visible the fact that we know how to take care of each other, whether we work for an institution or work in the community. That seems to be a project worth spending the next two decades of my life on.

Peter: That’s beautiful. It’s occurring in a moment, at least in this country, my country, where we’ve become afraid of the stranger, we’ve become afraid of the other, and you are a testimony that that’s a choice and that no matter what’s going on around you. It’s also a testimony to your own humanity, Al. It’s a beautiful thing.

  We want to give people a chance to talk to each other, and so I think it’s time, if I’ve got my timing right, to break back into groups, and the question is: What’s a question that would help people get connected most quickly? So it might be to have a discussion about your own experience of being an outsider and having been welcomed by someone such as Al or you might want to reflect on your own ability to sustain faith in other people and see their gifts despite evidence to the contrary.

  So what I’d like to do is: Let’s break into groups and just be with each other around the beauty and the difficulty. Al carries it gracefully now that he’s an old man. When you said you’d argue with a stop sign, that opened up new possibilities for me, Al, so thank you. So if we want to break into small groups now, I think somebody, within the sound of my voice knows how to do that.

Charles: [Small groups] are being opened and you have about 15 minutes to be with one another. If you get stuck in a room and you need some help, there’s a little help button that you can click on and one of us will come to the room to be able to help you out. So we’re opening up the rooms now.

  Welcome back, everybody. It’s so wonderful to watch the images streaming back in, and we’ll say apologies in advance to those of you who were perhaps mid-sentence in the middle of a great conversation that got cut off. I think we’re getting just about everybody back in now. We’re at 150 people, 151.

  So the intent of that time was to have a chance to connect with a few others, and we hope that you enjoyed it. We are going to invite Al in just a minute to continue the conversation with Peter and John with particular consideration to what are some of the transformational possibilities that he’s seeing at this time. But before we do that, we’d just love to hear from you. We don’t have a lot of time, so we’d like to keep any comments that you have very brief, to hear from maybe one, two, maybe three people. If you want to speak, just raise your hand, I will call your name. We don’t have the hand raise function as it turns out, on here. I’m going to see if I can see anyone. And if I’ve not called on you and you’ve been holding your hand up.

Peter Pula: Sorry, Charles, I just wanted to see if it was true that my hand raise button doesn’t work, but it turns out that it does.

Charles: It does? Great!

Peter Pula: So you have that function. That’s all I wanted to say, sorry. To more important things now, I just wanted to encourage people to participate by raising their hand. That’s all I have to say, so I’m sorry.

Charles: I can’t believe that’s all you have to say, Peter, but thank you.

Peter Pula: You’re welcome. We’ll come back another time.

Charles: The raise hand button is in “participants” if anybody wants to raise their hand and make a quick observation or comment. Otherwise, we’re going to turn it back over to Peter and Al and John.

Peter Pula: I will say something then, Charles. In our group, what really struck me was we landed on a conversation about the gift of presence and how that seems to be a very powerful way to invite people to connect. If we can be present to them, especially in contemplation of the gift that we know that they are. That’s what struck me about our small group, thank you.

Charles: Thanks so much, Peter, and Peter, thank you for the gift of Axiom news and what you bring to the world. Everyone should know about you and your work, so thank you.

Peter Pula: You’re welcome, thank you.

John: I saw a hand from Carrie [inaudible].

Carrie: Hi everyone. I just wanted to share what Tammy and her partner, whose name I forget, in our group, they shared about their son who knows 400 bird calls, which to me sounds like he knows an entire other language, and they just really beautifully called our attention to the community that’s out there for us to engage with. Then another woman in our group by the amazing name of [inaudible] called our attention to the clouds, so thank you for doing that.

Charles: Thanks so much, Carrie. That’s great to see you here in addition to joining us on the espresso cohort, which we’ll say more about at the end of this delight.

Vickie: Thank you, Charles.

Charles: Hey, Vickie.

Vickie: I can’t find the hand button, but I just wanted to share a question that Hope [inaudible] shared in our group because it’s relevant to where you’re going next in the conversation, which is… What about this change do you not want to see change? So what about this change that we’re experiencing right now do you want to keep?

Peter: Thank you, Vickie. Why don’t we go right to Al?

Al: Okay. That’s… people may not know, but Vickie is my life partner…

  In terms of what we want to keep and what we don’t want to keep. I think it’s too soon to know, and while we’re working hard to flatten the curve, as everybody says, the learning curve is spiking. There is so much going on, it’s almost like reality is leaping over our imagination. So we need to be studying this, we need to be understanding what is making the most sense to the most number of people? What is the most helpful to people? What are the things that they think we need to keep?

  To me, it’s a moment of cultural pause. If you think about it, none of the professional sports teams are going, there’s not the usual kind of distractions that are out there. We can now pay attention to where our culture is going, to what it wants of us in terms of language, in terms of usefulness.

Peter: What comes to your mind as you’re saying that?

Al: One example is this question of caring. We just sat in, most Canadians, and I think this is happening in other forms as well, on an hour concert yesterday, live streamed on multiple channels, and I have never heard the word “caring” said more often. Not care, not paid care, but the natural caring that we’re all doing.

  We are artisans of the common good. We know how to take care of each other, so how do we hold on to that? We need to think about that because that’s coming up in the [inaudible]. Which artists are expressing that in a way that touches our heart so that we just don’t always go to the head? This is so fundamental. Artists have known how to touch the heart before the head for millennia, and maybe the culture is telling us that we need an artist in every social change outpost, if you know what I mean. Is that helpful, Peter?

Peter: It is. I would add time. What’s your reflection on what’s happened to time during this pause?

Al: Well I don’t feel much an expert on that, Peter. The time I like is what Greeks call kairos time. It’s when time stretches and you look up and you realize it’s only 10 o’clock and it feels like you’ve had the experiences of a lifetime. As opposed to chronos time, where it’s clickety clock, clickety clock, clickety clock.

  Yeah, this is another cultural manifestation. The vernacular, which is a really silly word to describe the language that we can use that gets us out of our jargony world. My hero in that regard is Leonard Cohen. He would have been a celebrated Canadian poet, but he chose to become a pop artist, more or less, and found a way to connect with the world. So as a community organizer, I’m very interested in who is doing that now and how can we model that?

Peter: That’s a great example. He left the comfort of a Montreal life and got to know Bob Dylan. That is a great… Maybe it’s an era of de-professionalization, another way of looking at the vernacular that you’re talking about.

Al: Well the social hierarchy has tipped on its head, hasn’t it? So who is now most essential? There’s two groups of people, I think. One are the folks that we rely on to be fed and clothed and sheltered and taken care of, who are paid to do that, and without them doing that, we couldn’t do anything, and the other group are the natural caring ones. Can you imagine getting through where we are now without those two big groups of folks? So the top executives, the politicians, the corporate folks couldn’t do what they’re doing without all of the essential folks.

John: Al, you said in the document that I’m looking at now… You said, “Human rights guarantees an institutional reform will never live up to their potential without addressing the cultural determinants of change.” I’m interested in your thinking about cultural determinants. If you want that kind of change, if you want a cultural change, then where do you start? I understand how you can start with a program, but you want cultural change. Can you reflect on that?

Al: I realize we don’t have much time. Gandhi started with salt, something that everyone in India understood, and the British decided, “We’re taxing that.” So that was the string that he helped. Then in India now, [Vandana Shiva] starts with seed. She is behind the world explosion of seed banks, but it’s a metaphor.

  So for me, the unifying thread is caring. I won’t repeat what I said before, but that’s what I think. Others may have something else. I think the challenge with that, John, is to find something that unifies us that is a reaction to dividing. In my view, the most radical thing we can do in the 21st century is be a peacemaker. We need peacemakers who can cut through ideology and partisanship. This is not about being apolitical, we need to be more political in the sense of our civic responsibility, to be engaged between the periods of casting our vote.

John: You know, one time, Peter helped me with a great breakthrough. We were talking about the good community, and I said, “We want kind people there, in this community,” and Peter said, “I don’t think you’re right. What we want is a community that calls forth kindness.” I’d like to substitute the word “caring.” That’s the cultural shift that I think you’re talking about. How do we get to a community that calls forth caring?

  I live in a suburban area where everybody on my block, even though nobody’s ever said it, cuts their grass before it gets 3 inches long, because that would be a criminal act in my neighborhood, to allow your grass to grow. So it’s culturally defined behavior. And I’m just wondering if, when you think about care, how do you get a culture of care?

Al: We have it, John. It’s becoming more and more visible for a number of reasons. One, we need it, and the other is because there’s less distractions elsewhere. But you know what, John? I think ultimately, we just need to study this. This is a period of intense learning. To be able to answer your question more fully, I think it’s a very important question, I’m only one perspective.

Peter: I would add to see and to solve that John should let his grass grow six inches. That would be a vernacular strategy. Radical change in Evanston, Illinois.

John: That would provoke everybody.

Peter: No it wouldn’t, John, it would make you a hero.

Charles: Folks, Peter, John, Al, we’re at our time, and I’m just so incredibly aware that we could continue this, probably, for hours, and I want to acknowledge the people that are needing to leave, questions that have come up, comments in the chat. We are at time, and we felt it really appropriate, given this topic of care and friendship, that we end in the same way that we start, with Maggie reading the special poem on friendship, and then Peter, I know that there were a couple of things you had to say and a couple of real quick things I have to say as well. So, Maggie, over to you for Kirsteen’s beautiful poem to close us out.

Maggie: Yes, and I think the timing is perfect for that. Leaving you with Kirsteen Main’s poem. “You are the friend everyone deserves. You are a friend I respect and admire. With you, I can be exactly who I am. There is no need to feel invisible. You understand in a way no one else can. Silent communication comforts me, gives strength to our lives, adds hope for our future.”

Charles: Thank you, Maggie. Peter, I’m just going to add you to share a few thoughts about comments about what we call our moon shot with this Common Good Collective and this conversation, and I’ll say a bit about the next one [with David Korten].

Peter: There are, as Al represents, a huge population of people that are doing everything that Al talks about, which is to care for each other, being local, building community. We’re trying to honor that into a discipline. If you want to know, right now, there’s no place to go that will teach you about community building in the sense we’re talking about. It’s a spiritual thing, it’s economic, it’s architecture, it has all of that. It’s called Common Good Collective. There’s a website: Join us, be a part of us. We’re coming up with as many ways to connect with you as possible. I don’t have to go into them right now.

Charles: Thanks, Peter. I just wanted to say that our next conversation like this is going to be on June 16th. I see that our guest who will be joining us is here with us now, David Korten. I know there were a few questions about economy. David’s waving. Wave again, David, so we can see you.

  I also want to acknowledge that Al has committed to be a guide in one of what we call our Espresso Cohorts. The Espresso Cohorts are groups of up to 25 people who make a commitment to join for 75 minutes, once a week for four weeks, to go deeper into conversation, and Al, I’ll be really fascinated to explore this creating communities that call forth caring as part of that conversation with you.

  So if you’re interested, if anyone’s interested, we’re limiting it to 25 people. The 6th, the 20th, and 27th of May and the 3rd of June. You can find the information on the Common Good Collective website. []

  Also, just want to acknowledge that Berrett-Koehler has offered a discount on Al’s book. Leslie’s posted it in the chat. You can get a 30% discount with the code and free shipping in the US. You can also get it as an e-version. And the last thing I’ll say is that we have found that people have wanted to continue to talk following these conversations, so we are leaving the option of going back to a breakout room to reflect on what you’ve heard here over the last hour with others. It may be some of the some people you were with, it may be others, so that opportunity is there.

  I have not been monitoring the chat. Is there anything… Peter, Al, John, Darren, Maggie?

Peter: Al, thank you so much, Al. What a gift you are.

John: Thank you. Your inventions have really powered Canada to a place that we envy.

Charles: Folks… Sorry, go ahead Al. Go ahead.

Al: Oh no, I was just going to say… Let’s stay in touch, everyone. This is so beautiful. Thank you, Common Good. I’m glad that America is heading back to its commonwealthian roots.

John: Amen, brother.

Charles: So folks, I just… Megan Sheldon, who was participating, I’m not sure if she’s still here. I’ve learned more about ceremony from Megan than anyone else, and I’ve asked Megan about ceremony in the context of closing a Zoom call, and she taught me something I’m just going to share with you now.

  This may be crazy with 117 people still on the line, but Darin, could we, in just a second, unmute everyone, and what we’re going to do is just rub our hands together like this, to generate energy, and feel the heat, and just rub your hands, and when you’re ready then send that energy to all 114 people still here.

* To Michael, by Kirsteen Main

Going Further


About the Lead Author

Al Etmanski
Al Etmanski
Al Etmanski is a community organizer, social entrepreneur and author. ( (@aletmanski ) His latest books are Impact: Six Patterns to Spread Your Social Innovation and The Power of Disability: 10 Lessons for Surviving, Thriving and Changing the World. He is a faculty member of the Asset Based Community Development Institute (ABCD), an Ashoka fellow, senior fellow Social Innovation Generation and Co-Chair of BC Partners for Social Impact. Al is co-founder of Planned Lifetime Advocacy Network (PLAN), a family run social enterprise assisting families address the financial and social well-being of their relative with a disability, particularly after their parents die. He proposed and led the successful campaign to establish the world’s first savings plan for people with disabilities, the Registered Disability Savings Plan. John McKnight endorsed Al's book Impact by saying: Impact is a chronicle of the wisdom Etmanski has gained in exploring the keys to long-term social change. His findings lead us out of the past and onto a pathway for progress in the 21st century. Once describing Al as an Abundant Community Pioneer, Peter Block wrote: Al Etmanski is one of North America's best social inventors. He has looked beyond traditional institituions and their failures to create new means of achieving a better life. His analysis of the forms of organization that enable local communities while avoiding rigid hierarchies is groundbreaking. His book A Good Life is a wonderful and practical guide to the potential for neighbors to grow strong through the power of hospitality. Michael J. Fox said of Al's latest book, The Power of Disability: This book reminds us of what we have in common: the power to create a good life for ourselves and for others, no matter what the world has in store for us.

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