Sunday, November 29, 2015

Organizing Syrian Refugees

I am sure by now, everyone knows I am involved in bringing in 50 refugee families.   Many other people have approached me asking how this can be orchestrated.  It is not difficult but it does involve organization.

As with any project - start with the goal.  "To successfully integrate refugees into our society which includes allowing them the opportunity to be self supporting contributors to our society".  So the exercise is not simply to give them money for a while so they can go on welfare.  Rather, give them a hand so they can build their lives back.

I approach this problem as I would any business problem.  Forgive my clinical organizational approach but that is needed before the good can be done.

And as with all good business, we will need constant improvement.  This system is not proven so I welcome any suggestions on how to improve it.

So how are we doing it?

We have the following roles with the following responsibilities.  This is 100% volunteer.  We have 8 teams which is a good number for span of control.  Each team is lead by a director and an assistant director.  This gives us the redundancy we need should someone drop out.  We are aware that volunteers can be keen to start but enthusiasm can fade so we need our backup plans.

1 - Director of Mentors - This person organizes the mentors(and in many cases it is a mentor family - not just one person) and assigns families.  Each refugee family is assigned to a lead mentor who orchestrates the group of mentors for them.  The lead mentor is responsible for scorecarding their families on scales including Health (mental, physical, dental etc.), Education (everything from English skills, schooling to job training), Adjustment, Housing, Transportation and Finance.  These scorecards are used to report back to the other directors and to allow those teams to jump in where needed.

Each family has an Arabic speaking mentor and an English speaking one.  Usually these mentors are usually full families.  The mentor team tries to match the mentor families with similar families.

So the set up is Lead Mentor (who monitors about 5 families), and 3-4 other mentor families per family.  So each refugee family needs about 3-5 local families to support them.

The mentors draw on the other groups for the support they need so they are not expected to do it all themselves.

The mentors have a checklist of things that must be done for each family.  Again, the lead mentor goes though the checklist and sees that it all gets done.  The checklist includes things like taking the bus with the family and showing them how to use the bus system, getting health card, getting library cards and showing them where the internet computers are, taking them to their initial medical and dental check up and even mundane things like showing them how to use cleaning supplies and where the grocery store is.

Mentors have a mentor the mentor program to guide them through the process.

2 - Director of Finance - monitors all the money including the in-kind donations.  Frugally gives out the money as needed.  Also works with the mentors on the financial health of their families.  Each family needs a financial plan.  We are bringing in families that will support themselves - we just help them become self sufficient.

The Director of Finance has the donations team reporting to them.  This team collects and sorts the offers for help and does the asking when more help is needed in an area.   One thing this project allows is for people to give back and allowing people that opportunity makes them better people.  We give them that privilege.

3 - Director of Education/Training.  This person works with the mentors to orchestrate ESL, get the children in schools, and sets up a volunteer run summer school to catch children back up to their grade level.  The children will have a language disadvantage to start and will have missed some shool so will be behind.  It would not be fair to have a 12 year old have to be in school with a bunch of 9 year olds as a result.

This team also looks at the adult training needs for job skills.  In many cases credentials from Syria will not be recognized so they need to upgrade.

4 - Director of Health.  This person orchestrates the team to arrange everything from doctors, dentists, chiropractors, occupational therapists, to psychologists and sociologists.   They work with the mentors to monitor health in all areas and work to provide the support needed.

5 - Director of Food and Meals.  This person orchestrates a team to see that everyone gets fed.   To start this means knowing where they go to get a meal so organizing places to feed groups of refugees.  Then it moves to helping billet families out if needed by supplying meals or food.

The need for this food will fade fairly quickly as they become settled into their own houses and have have jobs.  We are simply bridging them to self sufficiency.

This team also orchestrates continuous weekly pot luck feasts (that is what we call them) not only for the food but as social events.  And these are not only for the refugees but for the volunteers and community.  They help build friendship and community.

6 - Director of Jobs.  This team maintains the list of jobs available and helps match people with appropriate jobs.  And this team looks at job satisfaction to ensure long term successful employment.  In some cases it will be part time work.

We are organizing a coop daycare.

7 - Director of Transportation.  This team organizes drivers for everything from meeting people at the airport to delivering meals and food, driving volunteers to help,  to picking up furniture (so yes, we need some people with trucks and to help them we will have positions where we offer free workouts (moving stuff)).   This team keeps a roster of drivers and assigns them as needed.

This team organizes bus passes for everyone.  And figures out how people can get to work.  They will even arrange for cars in some cases which will allow someone to take a job where there is no bus or allow them to live in a house that is outside of the city.  So we are looking for people to donate cars or the use of a car (and we can issue a tax receipt)

8 - Director of Housing.  This team figures out and orchestrates everything from the very short term where do people stay for the first week to where do they settle long term.  The plan is to have refugees stay for a few days or up to  two weeks at local hotels and retreat centers.  This allows time to assess to figure out what housing solution is most appropriate.

From there, many will be moved to live with a billet host family.  We have a roster of host families willing to do this but we could use more.  We are looking for people to host for 4-8 weeks.  This allows longer term housing to be solved.

From there families are moved to houses and apartments.  We have a need for more long term housing.

Some families will skip the billet step an move straight into a house or apartment.  If this happens, they will need more intense mentor help to make sure they are comfortable with how to get things done.

The housing group also arranges all the furnishings, housewares, linen, cleaning supplies etc. for the family.  They will orchestrate move in parties and work parties to clean, repair and paint housing to make it ready to move in.


There are tasks that are missed in this organization so those fall under the "other duties that may be assigned".

And yes, as with any organization there is a lot of overlap and cross helping.  So just because someone works on the education team does not mean they might not help the housing team with a painting project or do some driving etc.  The Finance team orchestrates donations but the Housing team might also solicit some themselves (while informing Finance so we can track it).

The resources we put together for our 50 families are not just for "our" 50.  We open this up to anyone who is bringing in refugees that would like help.

I will follow this up with other blog posts on FAQ's on each position, the checklists and forms we are using and updates on tweaks to the system.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Simple Rules and Busking

I recently listened to a book - Simple Rules - How to Thrive in a Complex World by Donald Sull.

It is a great book that explains not only why simple rules work but how you can develop them.

Simple rules work because:

1. They save resources, especially time and energy.
2. They can be adjusted the given circumstances.
3. They help to eliminate confusion and consequent hesitation.
4. They provide a framework within which to improvise.
5. They allow flexible collaboration, especially under duress.

One thing I like about the thesis is it ties well to Daniel Pink's studies on willpower being limited.  Simple rules can be a way "around" willpower.

One of my simple rules is to always listen to audio books while I am in the car.  Some are so captivating, I even go for longer walks so I can listen more.

Some very complex things are best NOT handled with simple rules, rather a checklist works best.  For example - flying a plane.  Perhaps the simple rule is to use the checklist.

I know one of the best geniuses for writers or marketers is to simplify and Sull does that well in this book.  It is a good insightful book that will provoke thought and likely action.

And a picture of my grand daughter busking.  She (and he brother) play songs as long as you keep throwing money in the case.  If you don't for 10 seconds they stop.  So of course this goes through the change fast.  Fortunately, they do not seem to mind if I reach in and use their own change to tip them.

Very entrepreneurial.

And a beautiful winter has arrived.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Life Lessons by Elizabeth Kübler-Ross

I had read Elizabeth Kübler-Ross and David Kessler's book - Life Lessons - what 2 experts on death and dying can teach us about life and living.   Recently I attended an event where the book was discussed.  I ascribe to Stephen Covey's 7th law - Sharpening the Saw - take the breaks needed to rebuild.  For me, attending seminars does that.

You would think the obvious lesson would be "life is short" (and I was tragically reminded of that last night when I attended the funeral visitation of Kate Waterston, a 34 year old who died of a brain aneurysm) but that is not the focus of the book.  Rather it is about how to live.

Some of the lessons:

1 - Be happy now.  For me, part of this is having a habit of being grateful.  The more grateful I am, the more content I am and that, for me, is happiness.  I do have a great life.

2 - Fear limits life.  What could you do if you had no fear?  Fear creates limits.  Approach life from that view.

3 - Forgive.  To not forgive limits your life and to be perfectly selfish often is irrelevant to the person you are not forgiving.

One quote from the book:

"Great people don't have something everyone else does not - they've simply removed a lot of the things that get in the way"

It is a good book and was an inspiring event.


And a Huffington Post article by my friend AJ on being or not being an entrepreneur.

Thursday, November 05, 2015

Red Notice by Bill Browder

I just read the most fascinating book by Bill Browder - Red Notice - a True Story or High Finance, Murder, and One Man's Fight for Justice.  Yes, most people think I only read boring business books but I do read some other books too.

It is the story of a business person/investment banker/hedge fund guy who buys assets that Russia sold in the privatization.  He was wildly successful in a dangerous environment.  

In Russia, there is a large underworld that seeks to steal anything they can.  And since Browder's company had money, they figured out how to steal it and use it to embezzle over $200,000,000 from the Russian government.  And then they tried to pin it on him using extreme methods including prisoning and ultimately killing one of his lawyers.

This turned Browder into a activist.  He funnelled his energy, passion and time into getting justice.   He became a human rights activist that brought down much of the corruption in Russia (although there still is a lot).  He ended up getting legislation passed that barred criminals from Russia traveling and seized their assets.  From the book:

"The less people know about how sausages and laws are made, the better they sleep at night"  (Wonder why I never eat sausages?)

Browder was savvy.  He knew how to use the press (including youtube) to his advantage.  See one of the Youtube's he did.

The crooks (including Putin himself) ended up targeting him.  Although he was successful, to this day, he has to watch his back so is he really successful?

As an entrepreneur, I could identify with him which I think made the story so compelling.

This book is truly a page turner.

It ranks up there with other recent true books I have read like Unbroken and Escape from Camp 14.  I like true stories.

And on the more positive - laundry anyone?

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Linkedin as a selling tool

One of the best ways to learn is to teach.  Another great way to learn is to write about something.

I am a big advocate of Linkedin as a selling tool.  So, one of my Danby marketing people is moving to a sales role.  So I suggested she teach a seminar on how to use Linkedin.  Then a book came across my desk and I suggested she write a review on it.  The following is her review:

Looking for ways to build your own leads and sales pipeline? LinkedIn the Sandler Way and LinkedIn Sales Solutions recommend social selling done the right way as the non-adversarial way to go.

Linkedin is about making the right connections.  Easy to do - simply search for them and do an honest and personal outreach to them.  Then adding value but sending 90% value added updates for the benefit of the reader.  Add value first.

What is social selling?
There are various definitions to “social selling”. But as LinkedIn simply puts it, social selling is about leveraging your professional social network to find the right prospects, build trusted relationships, and ultimately, achieve your sales goals.

Many sales professionals struggle with the task of social selling… but why?  Most organizations and sales professionals think that they can succeed in Social Selling by leveraging  a few sales professionals who skim the surface by setting up LinkedIn accounts, share content here and there, and do some prospecting. But organizations and sales professionals are doing so without coordination or consistency.

The Sandler Training and LinkedIn Sales solution works to close the gap that many organizations and sales professionals struggle with.  In LinkedIn the Sandler Way, Sandler Training and LinkedIn Sales Solutions team up to share 25 secrets to uncover big ideas from prospecting and selling online without having to be a LinkedIn “wizard”!

Sandler Training and LinkedIn Sales Solutions encourage organizations and sales professionals to follow the 9 Commandments of Social Selling to make it easier to become an affective prospector:

1. Provide a solution that doesn't involve buying anything.

If you really want to show sales prospects you care, put your experience to work on a problem that doesn’t have a sales solution. Wouldn't it be great if your prospects were asking how they could buy from you, instead of you asking them to buy?

2. Be mindful of their time when sharing content.

Keep it simple. Status updates, blog posts, and InMail messages require brevity to be effective. A great tool for sharing content is Hootsuite. You can pre-set your updates and timing for these updates, continuously staying in your prospects news feed, 

3. Send a detailed agenda in advance of your meetings.

Tell your prospects what will happen in the meeting, and what you both expect to accomplish – set an agenda. Nothing is more feared by prospects than a salesperson wasting their time with a boring presentation.

4. Make your demos specific to the prospect's problem.

A buyer-centric demo is more useful and less boring for the buyer, which means it’s more likely to elicit a favourable response.

5. Lead with insights.

When reaching out to a prospect, start the conversation with insights you have learned from LinkedIn and something your prospect cares about.

6. Make your prospect look good.

There is no dislike button on LinkedIn. Make sure you are sharing updates and posts that are positive and make your clients and prospects look good when they like and share it.

7. Make them feel understood.

Listening is the most important thing you can do on LinkedIn. Take the time to listen to what they hope to gain from a purchase or what hurdles they are facing.

8. Share their content without pressure to reciprocate.

By liking and sharing your prospect's updates, you show them you are paying attention and listening. Everyone notices who likes and shares their posts, especially who comments.

9. Play matchmaker.

Use the broad network you’ve built to spot people who aren’t connected yet but could mutually benefit from being introduced. Seek to make introductions that are mutually beneficial, and more introductions will come your way.

To receive a free copy of LinkedIn the Sandler Way, please visit https:/


And some Halloween pics.  I told them they did not looks scary to me but...