Thursday, December 4, 2008

Teeter-Totter & Twitter

We are officially in private beta in just a few short weeks! As a result, I have had precious little time to contribute to this blog. As a counter-balance, I thought I'd share some of my recent tweets:

  1. To stay relevant, schools need to keep pace with the rapid changes introduced by Digital Media MacArthur 3yr Study

  2. Banning fast food ads from youth TV programs could result in 18% less of overweight children in the U.S.

  3. 25 young social entrepreneurs around the globe receive grants $300,000+ from Starbucks Foundation

  4. Spell it correctly and raise money for your school! Gr8 challenge for kids grades 3-thru-8. Deadline 12/19!

  5. No surprise to see the humanization of brands because people love brands that show more of a human side.

  6. 87% of online community are participating in social causes that are new to them 2008 Digital Future Project (USC)

  7. "Dedication + Knowledge = Success" New ad campaign to counteract the anti-education messages in media.

  8. "Causism will replace consumerism” Micro-trends for 2009 show that cause marketing will be more prominent.

  9. 68% of K-12 schools offer community service opp'tys Youth who volunteer now are more civic-minded as adults

  10. Free play fosters abstract thinking! w/out it America's youth will be at a disadvantage in the global economy
Follow me on Twitter:

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Strategic Giving in a Down Economy

Today I twittered about strategic giving opportunities that can make an impact in a down-economy. Arabella Advisors – a company which focuses on strategy, insight & analysis to help clients reach their philanthropic goals – produced a report today focused on 7 urgent & under-funded issues in which donors can make a high-impact difference:

1/ POLITICAL ENGAGEMENT (encourage lasting political participation with the Millennial generation)

2/ GLOBAL FOOD CRISIS (Help by improving agricultural productivity, supporting local & women farmers and increasing awareness of agricultural policies in developed countries)

3/ CLIMATE CHANGE (fund green and cutting-edge technological innovations)

4/ CONFLICT RESOLUTION (don’t overlook youth, who have the greatest opportunity to reduce conflict in the future. Consider funding kids programs)

5/ DISASTER RELIEF (Hundreds of millions of people from more than 100 countries each year don’t get enough long-term support after a disaster)

6/ ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT (contributions that impact students & community colleges will have an important impact on the local economy)

7/ GLOBAL HEALTH (Some of the most prevalent diseases are highly treatable at a very low cost. Drive awareness to these neglected diseases and help save 1B of the world’s poorest people who are needlessly suffering).

KooDooZ was founded with the purpose of exposing more families to important causes and bring greater awareness to the non-profits and brands that are actively working in the space to make a change for a social good. I am personally welcoming any and all stories of engagement in this capacity and would like to promote said organizations and the leaders at their helm.


Thursday, November 6, 2008

Giving Thanks/Back

By Christine Guardia

Now that Halloween is over, we start to turn our focus to the upcoming holiday season. I believe taking time to reflect upon what we are thankful for in our lives is important during this time of year. For example, we recently voted in an election with a black candidate for president and a female candidate for vice president. So I suggest we all take a few minutes this holiday season to focus less on the gifts we are receiving (or not receiving) and focus more on the gifts we already have, such as our family, friends and freedom.

I recently toured
A Refugee Camp in the Heart of the City presented by Doctors Without Borders, an international humanitarian organization. A nurse practitioner, who has worked in refugee camps in Africa, led me through the camp, explaining how refugees often travel long distances to camps, have to wait for rations of water and food, are susceptible to contagious diseases and traumatic stress, and sometimes spend years in camps. The organization employs over 25,000 employees around the world and relies almost entirely on support from individuals, foundations and corporations.

During these difficult economic times, supporting nonprofits is more important because the need for their services often increases during economic downturns. I realize that many people may not be able to donate as much this year, but there are other ways you can help, such as through your purchasing power. As U2’s Bono said at the Starbucks meeting announcing the company is joining the
(PRODUCT)RED campaign, “This is not charity; this is commerce.” (Andrea James, Seattle PI, 10/29/08) Every time you go to the supermarket, to the mall or online to purchase something, you have choices because of cause-marketing pioneers, including Newman’s Own, American Express and Ben & Jerry’s. The recent PR Week/Barkley Cause Survey found that 66% of the moms surveyed have purchased a product because it was related to a cause. For example, Whole Foods Markets are selling Aquamantra I AM GRATEFUL enhanced water this month and a portion of the proceeds will be donated to Nourish America.

In addition to purchasing power, we have the power of web 2.0 to change the world. A new book,
CauseWired by Tom Watson, chronicles the emergence of online activism and philanthropy, such as Causes within Facebook and Kiva, which allows users to micro-finance entrepreneurs in developing countries. Philanthropy is not limited to the Rockefellers, Gateses or Buffetts; we can all have an impact and it does not have to be by writing a large check – it can be by adding a cause badge to your social networking profile, buying an item affiliated with a cause or volunteering at a local nonprofit (you can find volunteering opportunities in your community via volunteermatch).

So please take a few moments this holiday season to think about what you are thankful for and how you can give back, including:

  • Purchasing products associated with causes
  • Raising awareness of causes
  • Volunteering

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Think Pink - Think Smart

This latest blog entry comes from our newest KooDooZ staff member, Christy Menefee. To date, Christy's work has been focused on partnering brands with non-profits in support of kid-empowerment events. I am particularly proud of the work she has done for the Boys & Girls Club of Santa Monica at the request of KooDooZ. In a down-economy, fund-raising efforts are not easily rewarded, but she has proven that people care and really do want to make a difference. Way to go Christy! Your energy and zest for life are insatiable.

(Any readers of this blog are welcome to request additional information about partnership opportunities by sending an email request to:

(by Christy Menefee)

There is nothing like the pink of a setting sun to stop you in your tracks -- and give you the pause you need to reflect on life itself.

Have you noticed each October that hundreds -- if not thousands -- of products are also colored pink, emblazoned with pink ribbons, or otherwise sold with a promise of donating a (small) portion of the total cost to support breast cancer awareness or research. That too gives me pause.

Like many people, I have deep relationships with friends (and family) who are linked to breast cancer one way or another. The American Cancer Society estimates that about 178,480 women in the United States will be found to have invasive breast cancer and about 40,460 women will die from the disease this year alone! On top of that, over 2 million women living in the United States will have been treated for breast cancer.

I think the best way to help each other deal with questions or concerns is to become educated on what exactly breast cancer is and how to prevent it from spreading.

There are basically 2 types of breast cancer, and within those types, there are five stages; stage 0 being an early stage of breast cancer and stage 4 being metastatic. These different stages are based on of the size of the tumor found in the breast. There are a variety of elements that can help us detect breast cancer at an early stage.

Here are 10 easy "Think Pink - Think Smart" steps you should challenge yourself to take:
  1. Perform monthly breast exams and encourage others to do the same
  2. Have annual clinical breast exams
  3. Have regular mammography screenings after the age of 40
  4. Get a group of ladies to go out to dinner, work, the park, and event and only wear pink -- even go to the clinic together
  5. Encourage married men, brothers, fathers and sons to get the women in their lives screened -- guys... put an annual date in your calendars, it can be a shared responsibility
  6. Some evidence suggests that rising health care costs and increasing co-pays may discourage women from seeking out testing. The financial burden of curing this disease can not be what prevents you from getting it into remission-- there are people in your life who are counting on you being around for them
  7. Knowledge is power. Don't let the fear of knowing you have the disease be the reason you don't survive it
  8. If you are a breast cancer survivor, mentor and support those who have been recently diagnosed
  9. Free or low-cost mammograms may be available, even for women without insurance. There are state-by-state toll free cancer hotlines that can help point you in the right direction
  10. If your life has been touched by breast cancer, share it out (do you blog?) - many people turn to the internet to understand first how other people handled the disease before they themselves take the first step towards a cure.
The survival rates for women with breast cancer have changed dramatically. Twenty years ago, three out of four women diagnosed with the disease died from it. Today, three out of four women survive the diagnosis.

It is never too early to begin screening yourself. Breast cancer doesn’t discriminate. There are cases of breast cancer from all different ages, anywhere from 20 years of age to 70 and older. And like many other diseases, breast cancer shows no mercy.

As a member of the KooDooZ team, I challenge you "to be aware of what is pink in your life." I personally vow to take the challenge, do my annual screens, and earn the reward of many more cherished moments admiring the crimson of a setting sun.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Reading With Children

In addition to her role as “Cause Cultivator,” Christine Guardia has been the right arm and left brain of the KooDooZ team. I have been impressed with her work, passion and dedication for youth and cause marketing.

Prior to graduate school, she worked as a government consultant for 12 years, holding the positions of Business Analyst, Training Manager & Communication Lead. Christine earned her MBA in public / nonprofit management & marketing. During her graduate studies she assisted family & youth focused organizations including BELL (Building Educated Leaders for Life), BOSTnet (Build the Out-of-School Time Network), and the Guidance Center. Perhaps most poignantly, she had the opportunity to work on JumpStart’s “Read for the Record” – a cause marketing campaign developed to raise awareness & funding for early childhood education. Her first blog entry is focused on “Reading With Children”

On October 2nd, hundreds of thousands of children will read the children’s classic book Corduroy to break a world record as part of Jumpstart’s Read for the Record, a campaign to raise awareness of and funding for early childhood literacy programs.

Working on the campaign for two summers taught me that there is more to reading with a child than simply saying the printed words aloud. When reading a book with my two year old nephew, I ask him to name colors and shapes he sees on the pages, as well as questions about the characters in the book. My four year old nephew and I count items on the page together and talk about the story. For example, last year’s campaign book was The Story of Ferdinand, in which a bull is stung by a bee. My nephew had been stung by a bee for the first time a few weeks before we read the book and he explained to me how much it hurt when we got to that part of the story. He was able to connect the story to his personal experience and now every time we read the book, he exclaims “Ouch!” when the bull accidentally sits on the bee.

I cherish these shared moments and love how my nephews will often put down their toys to pick up books instead. My nephews are fortunate to have many books around their house, but not all children have age-appropriate books at home. A California State University study found that, on average, children in low-income communities have two age-appropriate books in their homes while children in middle-income communities have 54 age-appropriate books in their homes (Jeff McQuillan, The Literacy Crisis, 1998). Furthermore, children from low-income communities enter kindergarten with a quarter of the vocabulary of children from middle-income communities.

By participating in Jumpstart’s Read for the Record on Thursday, October 2nd, you can share the joy of reading with a child in your life, as well as help Jumpstart put age-appropriate books into the homes of the children who need them the most.

There are many ways you can participate in the campaign, including:
· Registering to read
· Buying a special edition of Corduroy
· Building or finding an event in your community

To learn more, please visit

Christine’s 15 years of for-profit and non-profit cause marketing and branding experience have allowed her to quickly add value to the KooDooZ community.

If you are a brand looking to impact kids in a meaningful way, contact Christine:

Saturday, September 20, 2008

How To Achieve Peace

KooDooZ is operating under the benefit of an incredible staff who deliver a wide array of knowledge and inspiration. I have invited the KooDooZ team to share their passion for KDZ by contributing to this string of consciousness. This first entry comes from Monika Zands who is a dynamic, spiritual advisor and family advocate. I enjoy Monika’s riveting stories and ability to bring the unimaginable to life. Her “super hero cape” is oft revealed through her writing, volunteer work and passion for children. Here’s what Monika wrote about International Peace Day:

Celebrating International Peace Day on September 21, 2008 marks another historic day in the quest for worldwide peace. When you think of peace it can be a relatively evasive topic. It may seem a lofty goal for some and for others it is part of their every day existence. The question I propose is, “How do we achieve peace?”

Since I will not find myself in Iraq or even at the next United Nations Conference, I found it helpful to first be clear about how peace is defined. When looking up the definition for peace I stumbled upon 17, yes that’s right 17, definitions for peace. And that does not include the countless quotes and speeches written for and about peace in the last century. If we consider that the pursuit of peace includes (i) the normal, non-warring condition of a nation, group of nations, or the world. (ii) A state of mutual harmony between people or groups, esp. in personal relations: Try to live in peace with your neighbors. and (iii) Freedom of the mind from annoyance, distraction, anxiety, an obsession, etc.; tranquility; serenity, then what have you done in the past year to promote peace either within yourself or within the world?

There are many avenues down which to travel when considering the path to peace. No one way is the “right” way. In fact it may, like the definitions above, touch on a myriad of areas depending on the week, the month, the year, the moment. Peace can be inspired by something you see, touch, hear or feel. I can be a personal search through the body, the mind, emotionally or spiritually. It can be sought after financially or through outreach, advocacy and contribution. Maybe it is a social awareness or involvement. No matter the path, the question remains, “How do you achieve peace?”

Have you meditated in a still, harmonious setting?
Have you meditated on peace itself?
Have you directed peaceful thoughts towards yourself, your friends and family, your community, the nation, the world?
Do you remember to breathe?

What is your practice for achieving peace of mind?
1. This can be praying regularly or writing in a journal.
2. Practicing yoga or Tai Chi, meditating, setting bedtime intentions.
3. It can be the simple consistent practice of taking a deep breath and paying attention to your breath.
4. Repeat to yourself (or think)...."Peace be still" while simultaneously thinking of a place in your mind to a time in your past in which you experienced, "peace of mind" there visually, auditorily, and emotionally.
5. Mentally confess a promise to God and allow the promise to override a negative circumstance.

How do you achieve peace in your life?
1. Work through your unresolved issues using self forgiveness, releasing resent, resignation and resistance and loving yourself.
2. Collaborate, Compromise, and Contribute. This gives you a voice, flexibility and a wonderful feeling of giving back which certainly can soothe the soul.
3. Manage your time and schedule “me” time first instead of last.
Leave time for errands, avoid over-booking, keep your financial life organized and current to provide support and encouragement so you know what you have and what you can do. Pay your bills on time.
5. Learn how to take responsibility so you can recognize judgments and blame and avoid the cycle of victimization.

How do you achieve piece socially or globally?
1. Write advocacy letters or make donations supporting organizations for environmental issues you believe in.
2. Volunteer for an event in support of peace.
3. Educate yourself on the issues that need advocacy in your community, your city, your schools
Celebrate individuals who do make am impact in your community so they may be mentors and role models for our future generations.
5. Send care-packages and supplies to help rebuild the lives of war torn families.
6. Learn about ways you can contribute to the eradication of pandemic disease and the alleviation of poverty and hunger.
7. Read books with your children on topics such as environmental issues, bugs and their value, survival skills, and endangered animals.
8. Prepare food for the homeless or clean the beach.

There are countless creative ways to gain awareness and to being to be the change you wish to see in the world. Being a mentor and opening another person’s eyes to the gift of a shared smile can lessen the rage in the world.

As International Peace Day has been on my mind I asked my five year old son on the way home from school yesterday what peace means to him. I was fascinated and amazed at his comprehension and connection to this concept.

He said, “Mommy peace is when God takes care of the army and keeps everyone safe. The world is smiling and peace makes my heart smile too.” I sat there at the traffic signal like every proud mom might, reflecting on the wisdom of my bright-eyed five year old. I pondered my own answer to that question. I agree that peace really is at its essence that which makes my heart smile, an inner knowing and reassurance that everything is okay. My literal mind went straight to the big issues like the resolution of conflict, the desire for a world of love and optimism, honesty and living a life of truth and integrity, but I realized that would require control of situations that are simply out of my control. So I invite you to continuously ask yourself and your children, “How can each of us find more peace personally, socially, globally and spiritually?”

If you truly believe that peace is a worthy objective, then make peace within yourself. Start talking about peace with other people. Include it in a conversation. Ask questions about how to build peace. Advocate for peace, attend a seminar, a convention, a rally. Write and article or a poem about peace or sit down and draw images that represent peace to you. Make a peace vision board with a collage of images selected by your family and put it on the wall near your front door as a reminder of your stand for peace.

Peace, be it individual or at a community, national or global level, must begin within ourselves. Peace is individual and inspires others. Global peace requires that a large majority of the people in the world want peace, are prepared to act to secure peace, and enjoy, nurture and appreciate peace within themselves.

Beyond her work at KooDooZ, Monika is a Senior Life Strategist at Life Strategies specializing in creating custom solutions in home (and business) for effective and transactional communication, marketing, life (and business) strategies, creative processes, inner focus and accountability and self-reliability. In addition, Monika has spent time facilitating seminar’s and experiential workshops, consulting for numerous start-up companies and is a maven in negotiation, communication and interpersonal relationship building. Her titles include Director/ Producer/ Supervising Video Editor (corporate technologies); Co-Founder / Chief Strategic Officer (software/internet); and Owner (business consultant/ life strategist).

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Educating the next Eco-Generation

It tugged at my heart when I read the words of Mark Gold, President of Heal The Bay, in his latest newsletter. Mark wrote about his son Jake, who had recently stopped complaining about being dragged out to another coastal cleanup day and who shared his dismay over urban decay at a creek. Mark mused over his daughter, Natalie, whom he noticed was enthralled by a sea hare at the local aquarium and excitedly engaged those around her to be equally as vested. And I could detect a swell of pride when Mark mentioned that his oldest son, Zack, had testified passionately at Santa Monica City Council for a plastic bag ban.

Kids care. When we empower them the right way, kids make a difference.

I’m sure Mark will be the first to tell you that the Santa Monica City Council voted 13-0 to adopt a citywide policy that would forbid the use of plastic carryout bags at all supermarkets and retail establishments by 2010 unless the state imposed a 0.25-cent per bag fee. (see more here) Today, California taxpayers spend more than $25M a year to collect and dispose of the 19B one-use shopping bags distributed annually. Because I live in greater L.A., I’m going to single out my “city of angles.” Consumers in Los Angeles use more than 2B single use plastic bags every year.

So here we have three kids, each of who affects change by leveraging three very different resources -- ADVOCACY, SCIENCE and LEGISLATION. Parental skills aside, it’s worth considering the fact that EXPOSURE, EDUCATION and OPPORTUNITY are the tools that enabled these kids to become change-makers (like their dad).

The topic of youth engagement is a complex one. Parents can feel intimidated when they consider the amount of protest they have to endure getting kids to clean their rooms, let alone getting them to bend down and pick up trash off a beach.

When it comes to "giving back to a community," I would argue that the challenge is less important than the reward of an achievement. With volunteering, the ultimate reward is earning essential social skills which will move them ahead in society. Volunteering increases a kid’s understanding of the world around them and it also brings a new sense of confidence and self-gratification.

With that, I want to personally congratulate those kids in Los Angeles county, who last year picked up 92.25 pounds of trash! Some 600-students -- all 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders – were empowered!

I am looking forward to learning how many more kids Heal The Bay will attract with their event, this year on September 20th, 2008. How many more bottle caps will be picked up on a beach? (Since 1985, California Coastal Cleanup Day volunteers have picked up over 1-million bottle caps and over 300,000 bottles). How many more volunteers? (Last year over 11-million). How many more pounds of recyclable debris? (Last year, over 5,500 pounds).

For more information: 310.451.1500 or visit Heal The Bay on the web: (

Friday, June 13, 2008

Corporate Social Responsibility

I was invited to speak to an elite Los Angeles group of high powered CMOs (Chief Marketing Officers) about innovation and corporate social responsibility. Representing an array of organizations (size, demographics, geographic reach & industry focus), the question I wanted to ask the group to tackle was:

  • “Is Corporate Social Responsibility working?
    o If so, “How do you define CSR success?”

Over the last few years, all of us – consumers, employees and business leaders – have been shepherded into the “responsible business movement” without the benefit of true definition and scope.

And the result? Some corporations swear they have earned net-positive triple bottom line rewards: a-la “profit, planet & people” – and other corporate CSR initiatives have been labeled as expensive, “green-washing” failures that have actually damaged a company and/or its brand reputation. What has crystallized, for me, is the obvious need for greater collaboration between organizations and the people in them. We need to do this so that we can define true integrated strategies that address the issues of sustainability and social justice.

The bottom line is, sustainability is not a business issue – it’s a societal concern – in which business is deeply implicated. We share this planet and therefore responsibility to its ecology and people.

Since our current business climate allows voluntary and free-market CSR measures – we are recognizing “niche” successes. Critics are demanding that our government get involved. But were we to mandate CSR through legislative intervention, I think we’d run the risk of stifling innovation around these societal problems.

When evaluating whether a company has a successful CSR initiative, I proposed that the following checklist be considered:

  • At the organization’s helm, is there a visionary leader or a clearly-assigned CSR implementer?
    Achievement of complex sustainability outcomes is related to the attainment of advanced leadership capabilities. While it doesn’t have to be the CEO, this executive has to have the overall responsibility for delivering CSR objectives, and the authority to remove internal roadblocks.
  • Is there complete internal “departmental” commitment to the CSR initiative?
    Suppliers need a consistent message, especially between the sourcing & merchandising departments
  • Does the CSR initiative have measurable goals? (You can’t improve what you don’t measure)
    o Business Ethics / Governance
    o Community Outreach
    o Diversity / Employee Empowerment
    o Environmental Stewardship / Green Practices / Sustainable Development
    o Philanthropy
    o Employee Relations
    o Human Rights
    o Lobbying
    o Transparency / Financial Disclosures
  • What recognition programs are in place for stakeholders?
    o Supply Chain
    o Employees (volunteerism / gift matching)
    o Community in which the business serves
    o Consumer Engagement
  • Are there sound external relationships to engage effective Corporate-Community Partnerships?
    o NGOs, Charities, Non-profits, For-profits
  • Why is the organization engaging in CSR?
    o To enhance the corporate image?
    o In response to stakeholder pressures?
    o Innately part of the corporate culture?

There is a growing body of evidence that links companies which take their pursuit of social and environmental goals seriously -- firms guided by enlightened innovative values -- with superior stock market performance, low employee turn-around and excellent reputations.

As it turns out, my question shouldn't have been whether or not corporate social responsibility is working, but rather "What can we, as business innovators do to make CSR work better?"

Friday, April 25, 2008

Getting in the Spotlight

While this blog has primarily been set up as an informational resource for parents, mentors & families of the kids participating in the KooDooZ beta, I have decided to include a very indepth interview with the founder of REGARD VENTURES, Steve Beauregard, who has been a guiding light in shaping, funding & incubating KooDooZ.

It is my sincere hope that anyone who has the stamina to take their amazing ideas into the public light will have someone as good as Steve to guide them. None of us really does anything completely alone.

There are always helping hands, inspiring ideas and a community behind the achiever.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

To Treat Fair…is to Treat Different

I watched with amusement as my friend broke a chocolate-chip cookie in half, and counted how many delicious milk-chocolate chunks were on one side versus the other.

“What are you doing?” I asked, as she nibbled a jagged edge off one half. “Walking a tightrope,” she said. “No matter how equal I try to make things, somehow the kids tell me I’m not being fair.”

I had to laugh. I’d been there, and had learned that the cookie crumbles differently every time. It’s never perfectly fair, or perfectly equal. Nor is life, for that matter.

A parent’s attempt to judiciously allocate, divide, and share everything equally does not offer balance – it does the exact opposite. Kids are given the false impression that “fair” is synonymous with “exactly the same,” and instead of discouraging sibling rivalry, we accelerate it.

“How often do your kids NEED exactly the same amount of any one thing at the same moment?” I ask my friend. I squint, as though this will somehow bring my pointed question into focus for her, and I punctuate it with the shake of my head. “Almost never,” I answer my own query.

The point is, children benefit from their parent’s ethical act of keeping the needs of the individual child balanced against the kid's (and the sibling’s) perception of what is fair. Alas, so many perceptions are in the eye of the beholder.

"It's not fair" is all too common an outburst of school age children. So ingrained is that sentiment, that it was reported the average teenager will say "it's not fair" 8.6 times a day! (see source).

There's a way to dimish, if not eliminate that statement all together.

Treat your children differently – based on who they are and what they need. In doing so, you will treat them fairly.

Like it or not, your kids are different – from each other, and from you. Based on who they're becoming, and the stage of life they’re in, their levels of patience, stamina, independence, need for approval, desire to be alone, sense of humor, and perception of self… are different. This is what sets them apart as individuals.

As you make decisions about who gets what when and for what reason. Don't forget that beyond our individual drivers, that tricky little quirk known as "human nature,” can occasionally cause actions and reactions which contradict individual values. In certain situations – such as being presented with two halves from which to choose – the instinct to compare and measure what’s offered is inevitable. (And this becomes magnified when the other recipient is a sibling or rival, regardless of want or need!)

Most everyone I know is eager to get the biggest slice of life -- not to mention the bigger half of a chocolate chip cookie!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Soles with Soul

It’s always a pleasure to attend a fund-raiser for a “company of conscience” – and TOMS is just that. Founded just two years ago, the company has been serving children living in poverty by donating a pair of shoes to a child in need for every shoe that is purchased. Derived from “Shoes for Tomorrow,” TOMS has already given away more than 58,000 pairs of shoes and last November the band, HANSON, joined them on their second shoe drop, delivering a whopping 50,000 pairs to children in South Africa.

This year, TOMS plans to give away 100,000 pairs of shoes to needy children in Ethiopia and even more to children in the United States.

TOMS is the brainchild of Blake Mycoskie, known by his peers and friends as the “Chief Shoe-Giver.”

As for the actual shoe, TOMS are modeled after alpartagas, which are made by the natives of Argentina. The shoe is made with a light canvas and is offered in a wide variety of styles. TOMS Shoes has won the “People’s Design Award,” an award sponsored by Target and awarded to the company with the best design as voted by the people.

Keeping in-step with their charitable grassroots efforts, TOMS has a “Style Your Sole” fundraiser across the country at 45 universities, sponsored by Hope For Africa. This gives students the opportunity to design their own shoes with their unique style & flair.

So... if you have soul, support TOMS -- whose “sole” purpose is to give.


Wednesday, April 16, 2008

How To Bridge The Gap

The gap between today’s parent & child is digital in nature.

As long as they’ve been alive, the world has been a connected place. They text, they IM, their iPods are continuously in their ears… if they’re not watching their favorite show on TV, they’re watching it on the net. This is the generation of young people who prefer to learn by doing rather than being told what to do.

Poor parents. Most of us don’t truly “get” the phenomenon that our kids can be standing just a few feet away from each other, and still choose to text or IM rather than walk over to initiate a conversation. Adults are less likely to value an online interaction the same way we would a face-to-face conversation.

Sociologists refer to these kids as “iGeneration” (born after 1996), “Generation Z (born after 2000)” and “Net Gen” (born between 1977-1997). They only know digital, and are growing up with easy access to information.

Even though some of our future “Zeds” have not been born yet, experts understand the key challenges they will face in their life, and can predict their key traits. For example, because this generation will be exposed to marketing at a young age, they will demand relevance.

I recently read an article which stated that babies 6-months of age can recognize mental images of a company’s logo. This means that brand-loyalties can be established at the age of 2-years, and when these children go to school, high numbers can recognize these brand logos. (see article)

But I digress.

The point of this blog entry was to take a closer look at how to bridge the gap.

When it comes to children, any degree of risk is seen as “unacceptable.” Today’s parent lives in a “risk-averse culture” and it has been argued that children’s immersion into the “virtual world” is partly due to the limited encounters of today’s children outside the home. If our kids can’t play alone outside, they shouldn’t venture unaccompanied on the internet. (see “Safer Children In The Digital World") Correct?

Yes. But while aiming to protect our children, we might actually be thwarting their developmental need to socialize and establish risk identifiers, assessment and management skills that can help keep them safe. (see Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Pyramid)

In an interview with Larry Rosen (author of “Me, MySpace and I: Parenting the Net Generation”) he spoke to the importance of proactive parents. The challenge, Rosen said, is that most parents he talks with “have absolutely no idea what their kids are doing. They don’t even understand what MySpace is and what function it plays.” As a result, too many parents skew to extremes. They ban video games based on parental buzz, rather than knowledge. (see full interview)

Few parents believe that online games encourage collaboration among players and provide a context for peer-to-peer teaching. Most are of the opinion that online gaming is addictive and dangerous. Don’t forget, just shy of a year ago, the American Medical Association tried to label video-game addiction as a mental illness. (According to a Harris Interactive Poll conducted last year, the average “tween” plays 13-hours of video games each week.) The “Zeds” look at gaming as a social outlet. They are playing in groups, online communities form around games, and players literally “add to” existing games to share their vision with others. (see more about “Net Gen”)

The reality is, computer-based activities play a central role in today’s youth culture. As parents, what we need to do is find a healthy way for kids to blend these two worlds. And until KooDooZ is ready for you to bridge that gap, there are a few simple things you, as parents, can do:

  1. Knowledge is power. With the internet, 80% of it is going to be parenting, and 20% of it is going to be your understanding of it. Parents need to do their research – just like they would check out any other activities your kids were selected in the real-world. Not all sites are dangerous, not all games are bad -- but some are. Set limits & rules that your kids can understand... monitor them!
  2. Don't dismiss their way of doing things. If your kids text, then use that tool as one way to communicate with them. (See the 04/16/08 article “Text messaging improves parent-teen relationship”)
  3. Play games with your kids – board games and interactive. Learn to appreciate the age-appropriate online games your kids like as much as the board or card games that you grew up with. (43% of parents who have gamer children never play along)
  4. Learn to see the kid in front of you, not the kid you wanted to have. The aspirations of your kids are unique to them. Take a moment to stop & listen to their dreams.
  5. Promote a sense of family by making the kids responsible for specific household decisions and chores. A dinner for example can involve a kid's participation in the shopping and preparation as well as enjoying the meal with you.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Make a Pledge to the Planet

Cities across the world... and the people in them... are getting ready for Earth Hour! Of note is Mayor Newsom (San Francisco) who will "green out" landmarks like Ghiradelli Square, City Hall, Coit Tower, AT&T Park and the Embarcadero Center.

Flex your own power and reduce your annual emissions with these simple ideas:
  • Turn-off / un-plug: When you leave a room, ask yourself, "is there anything I can turn off?" A lot of appliances remain on "stand-by," so it's up to you to unplug things like mobile phone chargers, TVs, microwaves, and MP3 players -- guess what? You'll save on your electrical bill as well!
  • Bright idea: Don't be dim! Compact fluorescent light bulbs use 75% less energy... trade your bulbs out now!
  • Close it up: If you have to run the A/C or heat, keep your doors & windows closed to maximize your expenditure. Don't forget to make sure there's nothing blocking the vents!
  • Bag it: Keep extra bags around to bring to your favorite stores. You don't have to waste!
  • Use less: If you see a leaky faucet, get it fixed. Spend one minute less in the shower! This is not only a good water saving tip, it saves electricity too.
  • Watch what you trash: You don't want toxics, poisons, medications or other chemicals to enter the environment or our food systems. Dispose these products carefully.
  • Eat locally: When you benefit the local economy, you benefit the environment as well! You're also likely to get fresher, healthier eating choices as well.
  • Love a tree: Old forest trees shouldn't be cut down -- you don't have to buy products from companies that are. Remember, one tree can offset tons of carbon over its lifetime. Part of loving our planet is planting a tree.
  • Trade up: You don't have to buy "new" to get something wonderful. You can trade-up for a gently-used item.
  • Green power: Contact your electricity provider and switch to a cleaner, more renewable form of energy that does not contribute to global warming.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Exercise -- both body & mind

Your brain is not a passive recipient of learning.
To keep its vitality, you have to exercise – both the body & the mind.
It used to be thought that aging brain cells dried up and disappeared. But according to Neurobics by doing brain exercises, and challenging yourself with the level of difficulty, you will actually grow and form new connections. (see article) Our brains are composed of different areas and functions, and we can strengthen them through mental exercise – or they get atrophied for lack of practice.

By approaching every day as a learning opportunity, and trying something new, your challenges become your achievements:
  • ALTER: Change your routines every way you can.
  • READ: Studies show that the amount of reading you’ve done over the years is the biggest predictor of cognitive decline.
  • LEARN: Try a series of subtracting or multiplying numbers, learn or foreign language or try to memorize each friend’s phone number
  • PLAY: Pick up a musical instrument and teach yourself to play & read music
  • VISUALIZE: You can reduce high levels of anxiety or stress by visualizing your own achievements

The tree key principles for a good brain are: novelty, variety &constant challenge – pretty much the same ideology of cross-training your body. Physical exercise improves blood circulation, digestion, and provides more oxygen to the brain. Exercise causes the release of growth factors, proteins that increase the number of connections between neurons. This leads to better learning & memory. In humans, exercise improves what scientists call “executive function” – the set of abilities that allows you to select behavior that’s appropriate to the situation. (see article) While people in their 70s typically begin to experience decline in their executive function, those elderly who have been athletic all their lives may experience less loss. Scientists also believe that exercise is strongly associated with a reduced risk of dementia late in life.


  • SKATE: Skating Provides a complete aerobic workout and involves all of the body’s muscles, especially the heart, as recognized by the AMA. It’s easy on the joints since it causes less than 50% of the impact shock to joints as compared to running. (see article)
  • SWIM: Endurance is developed by regularly engaging in any aerobic activity. Swimming is recommended since it is low-impact and engages virtually every muscle in the body.
  • CLIMB: Exercises that help strengthen muscles are just as good as lifting weights.
  • STRETCH: Allowing your joints to stretch will help improve your flexibility. Try combining your stretch with some visualization!

Physical exercise is important because it influences the rate of creation of new neurons in your brain. Mental exercise is important because it helps determine how those new neurons are used – and how long they survive.

So get out there -- challenge your body & your mind -- and get smart!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Generation Green

I’m proud to say that my household is doing its part to keep green. But I wish the experience was more positive than negative. I feel like too many families are expending energy in “ecoanxiety” activities- rather than getting invested in “eco-friendly” solutions.

Here are a few personal examples: After my son’s lunch box got stolen (for the 3rd time), I temporarily moved him into brown paper bags, and he freaked about killing trees. My oldest daughter is now refusing to flush the toilet in order to save water -- my youngest thinks not washing her hands will help with that same consumption problem! (Or is that just a typical 4-year old manipulation tactic?)

At the magical time of life when tooth fairies deliver gifts, and stuffed animals can talk, my kids are stressed by the thought that they (and worse, I) might be contributing to global warming.

As a parent, I don’t want my kids to be brainwashed into thinking that our planet is in imminent peril. (Nor do I want them insisting that to make a difference in global warming, I should keep the car at 55 miles per hour instead of 65 as we putt-putt our way from Santa Monica to Mammoth — even when the speed limit enables a faster passage!) I just want my kids to genuinely love and respect our planet then do their part to help keep it green.

The best way I believe this can be done is by providing our children with direct and meaningful connections with the natural world. That means getting our children outdoors… hiking, biking, camping, gardening, and exploring... so that they can forge their own relationship with the environment at a young age.

A New York Times article entitled, “EcoMoms, Saving Earth Begins At Home” does a good job describing how our current generation of mothers will “green” our children. And while planting the right trees in the right places can do a lot to lower school energy costs, I believe giving a child the opportunity to climb a tree is just as important.

Beyond creating waste-free school lunches and lobbying for green building codes, the EcoMom has to understand that children who grow up without much experience with nature may turn into adults who don’t think it’s important to protect & preserve it. (source: Nature Conservancy)

"One touch of nature makes the whole world kin." ~William Shakespeare

"Man's heart away from nature becomes hard." ~Standing Bear

"Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better." ~Albert Einstein

"Never does nature say one thing and wisdom another." ~Juvenal, Satires

Tuesday, January 15, 2008


Let me quickly address the document that was signed between MySpace and 49 state Attorney Generals on 01/14/08 to introduce an industry-wide set of best practices for the safety of minors on social networking sites.

First of all, it isn’t a traditional settlement, nor is it a compliance agreement. It isn’t even binding. It’s simply a “statement of principles” designed to guide all social networking sites to follow these protocols:


  • site manager to review all uploaded videos & images
  • site manager to review “Groups” content
  • make profiles “private” (especially those of kids under the age of 16) so that adults can not have direct contact unless there is a known connection in the physical world
  • enforce restrictions on age & user registration to protect youth
  • delete registered sex offenders who attempt to create a user profile


  • offer a children’s email registry which parents can use to prevent their children from signing up for an account.
  • provide online safety public service announcements targeted at parents
  • increase communication with consumers who report a complaint about inappropriate content or activity on the site.


  • 24-hour hotline for police.


  • partnerships with entitles such as the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, authentication experts, non-profit organizations, academics, technology companies, and other internet businesses.
  • review of identity authentication tools

Yes, these are additional measures designed to improve the safety of our youth online. But there isn’t a product currently on the market that can prevent a user from falsifying his or her age on the internet. And that means, most social networking sites will continue to struggle with the task of preventing our children from interacting with a “poser” or predator.

I stand (in my belief) alongside State Attorney General Greg Abbott, who did not join the 49 other AG’s in their partnership with MySpace. According to the Texas maverick this “safety” initiative is not much more than smoke & mirrors.