Category Archives: reflections

Thanks & Good Night

Cherries on Top has been an amazing way to get to know Waterloo Region and the wonderful people and events that make the community such a special place. I bid a fond farewell to Cherries and to Kitchener-Waterloo and thank all for their support in making this blog a success.

Never fear, there are still WONDERFUL things happening in Waterloo Region and I am as big a fan as ever. The people, the events and the vibe continue in full force. I encourage you to explore my blog roll for other local blogs.

Connect with me on twitter @kirstiepaterson (all other accounts can be discovered via About.Me).

See you soon.

Kirstie

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Mashup

Map of the World

Yes it has been a while. Ironically, the sheer mass of events, information and happenings locally and globally have made it very difficult to isolate my thoughts – uprisings in the Middle East, ideas sparked by the TEDxWaterloo experience, my recent vacation to a still Castro run Cuba, my 33rd birthday and, on the same day, the devastating earthquake and resulting tsunamis in Japan. I’ve been questioning the very notion of democracy and freedom and coming to grips with the sometimes cruel realities of  nature. The world is in flux – especially today.

17 year old sailor Abbey Sunderland, who attempted to solo circumnavigate the globe in January 2010,  ended her TEDxWaterloo presentation with, “When your rouge wave hits, what will you do?” At the time, I likened her words more to my everyday “rouge waves” rather than the literally mammoth one brewing across the globe. By March 11th, as I was sitting on a beach feeling really lucky just to be birthday girl me while others were just trying to survive in Japan – it occurred to me that the real question should be, “When a rouge wave hits others, what I am going to do to help?”  Surprisingly, that’s when things got complicated.  I tried to figure out not only how to help, but who to help. After all, there are so many people and places in need of all kinds of things, where do I start?

Does building a better world for ourselves and others start at home or “out there?” Is fighting for arts funding in my backyard just as important as helping people to fight for their right to free speech? Is donating money just as good as time? Is it all for nothing anyway? Is there a middle ground in all this?

In the end I do think that it is all worthly of our time and attention, that “there” and “here” are equally important. That no effort to make things better is a waste of time – period. Focusing our efforts on different things is not a waste, there are simply a lot of things/issues/ideas/people to care about. So pick the arts, disaster relief, human rights advocacy or make your child’s school a better place or your street a little bit cleaner. Discovering what we care about individually and collectively will help all of us to build happy and thriving groups, communities, countries and ultimately a larger global family. One is not complete without the others. And if we’re successful, we’ll get to ride those “rouge waves” together. It will still be a rough ride, you’ll definitely lose your hat and most likely your boom, but it’s always easier when you are not alone.

How to get started:
KW Volunteer Action Center>
The Red Cross>

GAP Adventures Volunteer Trips>
Engineers without Borders Canada>

– More to come on democracy, freedom and all things truly confounding in the coming weeks.

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The Power of One: a cautionary tale

Facebook

I’ve always felt that companies are missing the boat when it comes to social media.  Slow adoption, lack of understanding and fear of the unknown creates resistance and barriers that finds even the best social media team having a hard time functioning effectively. However in my view, the biggest mistake many companies make is not taking the time and effort to build company champions within their own walls. Simply put, people who have reached positive mass with the company – they like it and are not afraid to say so in public.

In the past, negative employee comments didn’t have many outlets that reached a wide audience. Social media has leveled the playing field. For example, my company’s Facebook page gets less views that those generated from the combined total of its employee’s pages. Social media is also instant, so the slight you feel at work CAN translate into an of the moment virtual slap for your company if you want it to.

Case in point, the settlement reached between an employer and their employee over disparaging comments posted to Facebook. Evidently, the employee had an axe to grind with her Manager and expressed it on her personal page, from her home computer. She was fired and being a union employee was able to file a complaint. The company’s defense of their actions hinged on their social media policy which prohibits workers from:

…”making “disparaging, discriminatory or defamatory comments when discussing the company or the employee’s superiors, co-workers and/or competitors.”

The ruling in the employee’s favor stated that:

“Under the National Labor Relations Act, employees may discuss the terms and conditions of their employment with coworkers and others,” the NLRB said in a statement on Monday announcing the settlement.” [Find the Ottawa Citizen story here>]

While I would tend to agree that taking your grievances social media public is not the best way  to deal with workplace conflict, it has been made clear that it is your right to do so. I hope employers are listening.

If you already have social media within your company, ask them what they are encountering. (Make sure you ask your Community Manger rather than a high level manager,  they live it every day and will have the best take on what is happening).  Is there a negative perception of your company? Was it created or being buoyed by employees? Are there concerns that you can address that would help alleviate this? It may feel like a massive pain to do this run down (and do it often), but it will save you in the long run –

  • Recruitment: When I look at companies I want to work for I check out what their employees are saying about them in addition to what they are saying about themselves.
  • Costs of PR and media fixes: Traditional media is listening to what is coming out of social media, even CBC is quoting tweets as sources. The cost of fixing negative PR can be massive and long term.
  • Internal strife: Your Marketing, Communications and Social Media teams all deal with the fall out of online employee negativity. No one wants to fight a battle they feel is unwinable and they won’t stay long.
  • In real life conflict: Know it or not, your employees are using social media. They know what Nancy two cubicles down is saying about her team, or her supervisor or the company. Negativity breeds negativity.

Now you certainly can’t catch everything especially if you are a large company, but much of this equates to simply listening to employees and treating them with the respect and attention that you would like others to confer on you. Your employees have a voice and, with social media, the tools to air their grievances or positive feelings to a massive audience. Don’t underestimate the power of  one tweet or post, the American Medical Response of Connecticut sure won’t.

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Excuse me, do you have a family doctor?

My next doctor?

My recent jaunt to a walk-in clinic in Kitchener went something like this-

Do you have a family doctor? No, but I would like one.
You and everyone else. Have a seat.

I knew that it was hard  to find a doctor in KW, my husband and I had gone to new medical clinics to fill out intake forms and asked everyone we knew who they went to and if that person was accepting clients to no avail when we arrived. It was annoying, but not critical to the now. Until I woke up in pain, and realised that I would have to take a gamble on a walk-in clinic doctor. Someone I didn´t know, who had no knowledge of my medical history. Oh boy.

I got lucky and saw a doctor who at least appeared to be on his game and promptly sent me out for tests. Along the way, I spoke with patients, technicians and other medial folks who lamented the shortage of doctors (and nurses/techs) in the Region. Was  it due to sudden population growth? I asked a nurse. No It´s been like this for a long time, she said. A long time? What?

“In Waterloo Region in 2009, 9.2% of the population 12 years and older reported that they did not have a regular physician. This was up from 9.1% in 2008. The 2009 level was above the provincial level of 8.5% and below the national average of 15.1%.” 2010 Vital Signs Report

With a population of approx. 525,000, this means that 48,300 people in our Region do not have a family doctor – 48,298 if you don´t count my husband and I. And this is not a new problem, a google search of “Waterloo Region doctor shortage” brings up articles from years ago in all of the major outlets. What was even more surprising, was finding out that we are not alone. Ontario as a whole  has a doctor shortage.

Apparently Ontario is not at the top of the list for doctors. It may have something to do with the fact that specialties pay more than becoming a family doctor or the idea that Ontario´s fee schedule does not pay that of other provinces. Regardless, we have a problem.

In BC we paid health premiums based on our level of income. On arrival in Ontario we said good-bye to those payments, happy to have the extra $50 a month we paid as a couple. Those payments are looking good right now.

Do you have a doctor? What do you think we can do to attract more doctors to our Region? Is this a Regional problem or a provincial one?

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