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Archive for the ‘Bill Strickland’ Category

LECTURE SUMMARY
Changemakers: Make the Impossible Possible
February 27, 2008

SPEAKER
Bill Strickland, President and CEO, Manchester Bidwell Corporation; author, Make the Impossible Possible: One Man’s Crusade to Inspire Others to Dream Bigger and Achieve the Extraordinary

MODERATOR
Nana Watanabe, photographer and author, Changemakers: Social Entrepreneurs are Making a Difference and Changemakers II: Working as a Social Entrepreneur

Armed with his trusty slide show and 30 years of experience as a leading social entrepreneur, Bill Strickland shared his inspirational story to a packed house at Japan Society on Wednesday, February 27. The program began with an introduction by award-winning photographer and author Nana Watanabe, whose serendipitous meeting with a punk rocker-turned-social entrepreneur earlier in her career motivated her to seek out and publicize the efforts made by social entrepreneurs. Inspired by her successful first book, Changemakers: Social Entrepreneurs are Making the Difference, Japan Society invited her to photograph participants in the U.S.-Japan Innovators Network retreat in San Francisco in June 2006, where she met Bill. Deeply moved and impressed by Bill’s work, Nana profiled Bill in her most recent book Changemakers: Working as a Social Entrepreneur.

Bill Strickland describing his organization in Pittsburgh, the Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild. ©Satoru Ishikawa.After being introduced and invited to the podium, Bill, a man standing around six feet-five inches tall and whose presence commands attention, began his presentation much like every other presentation he has given: with a joke. He has one presentation and he knows it and openly jokes about it. He says he feels sorry for those who have chosen to listen to it yet again, but deep down you know what he’s about to talk about is no joke. It’s this disarming and charming attitude that puts an audience at ease and allows his powerful message to reach the hearts and souls of people every day.

Bill began his slide show by describing his organization, the Manchester Bidwell Corporation, and the numerous job training and community arts programs they provide to disadvantaged children and adults. Inspired and, as Bill puts it, “saved” by his high school art teacher, Bill knew from the time he entered the University of Pittsburgh as a probationary student that he wanted to transform the lives of the people in his neighborhood. He knew that the first step in achieving his goal was to build a center worthy of the people he wanted to help. It would have to be a beautiful structure with tons of natural light, beautiful displays of artwork, flowers and a huge fountain in front of the building, because according to Bill, “When you put people in a world-class facility, you create world-class people. When you put them in prisons, you get prisoners.” This was his first step in killing the “spiritual cancer” infecting the poor people living in the ghetto. As a result, he had a student of world-renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright design and build his center, which as we all found out, became the scale model for the Pittsburgh Airport.

The second ingredient of Manchester Bidwell’s recipe for success is the cutting-edge education people receive. Not only are students given a sense of the possibilities, but also a sense of control over their lives through music and arts programs. Additionally adults are learning trades such as pharmacology, culinary arts, and horticulture that can be applied to finding jobs that Manchester Bidwell has smartly identified as hard to fill by corporations in the greater Pittsburgh area. Connecting music and ceramics with pharmacology might seem like an odd paring, however Bill’s ability to see opportunities where others might only see obstacles allowed him obtain funding and expand Manchester Bidwell to the point where it is today. His relationship with the late Senator John Heinz brought his center a million dollar kitchen and top-notch culinary arts program, and contacts with Hewlett-Packard birthed a state-of-the-art computer lab and visual arts program.

Bill Strickland and Nana Watanabe fielding questions from the audience. ©Satoru Ishikawa.After expounding Manchester Bidwell’s philosophy of light and beauty as a way to lift people out of poverty, Bill explained his new goal: 100 centers in the United States and 100 around the rest of the globe. Centers have already been built in San Francisco, Cincinnati and Grand Rapids, MI, and new centers in places like Philadelphia and New Orleans are in the planning stages. Internationally, Bill was recently in Israel and sat down with Jews and Arabs where they discussed a plan for a new center that would target a diverse group of Jewish and Arab children and adults as well as immigrants to Israel from Russia, Ethiopia and around the world. Conversations about building centers have also begun in Ireland, South Africa, San Paulo and Costa Rica

Bill wants his book Make the Impossible Possible to be a source of inspiration and guiding light for people without hope. He wants a number one book for the media attention and financial backing that a best selling book can bring to help him communicate his message all over the world.

The lecture was followed by a Q&A session, reception and book signings by Bill and Nana.

[photos by Satoru Ishikawa]

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Wednesday, February 27
6:30 pm
Japan Society (333 East 47th Street, New York, NY)

Bill Strickland, Nana Watanabe

Over the past 30 years, Bill Strickland, a leading American social entrepreneur, has been transforming the lives of thousands of people through jobs training center and community arts programs at Manchester Bidwell. He and his staff strive to give disadvantaged kids and adults the opportunities and tools they need to envision and build a better future. Keying off his new book, Make the Impossible Possible (January 2008, Currency/Doubleday), Mr. Strickland, a master storyteller, shares his inspirational story from growing up in a Pittsburgh ghetto to running a nationally-recognized organization that successfully balances social action, artistic creativity and entrepreneurial acumen. More recently he has worked with the Society’s U.S.-Japan Innovators Network, a multidisciplinary network of innovative leaders committed to creating a better world. Nana Watanabe, an award-winning photographer and author of Changemakers II: Working as a Social Entrepreneur (in Japanese), which includes Mr. Strickland, will preside. Followed by a reception and book signing.

Tickets $10/$8 Japan Society members/$5 students & seniors
Purchase Tickets at www.japansociety.org

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“I predict that the 21st century will be most effected by a new breed of something we have not seen yet, which is a new form of chapter based organization. Institutions always need to be blown up every once in a while, because even with the best intentions and the great people, new things, you just need ‘new’ to be effective. There’s going to be a whole new breed of organizations like this.”
-Scott Heiferman

When I first heard these words I was taking notes as a relatively new member of the Japan Society staff. Japan Society’s U.S.-Japan Innovators Project was holding its second major retreat in Tokyo and it was my job to capture the overall experience, i.e. atmosphere and important ideas, of the three-day event. Needless to say I was very nervous and anxious to take on one of my first big tasks on the job. I listened and typed and tried my best to record what I could; however, after the retreat I realized nothing really sunk in. There was no time for me to mull over the information that flowed into my ears, through my fingers and onto the screen in front of me. Now, almost six months later I finally got a chance to sit down and go over my notes and transcripts for a purely personal look at what I may have missed. Let me tell you that after re-reading those notes I realized that the wisdom that came out of that retreat was incredible, and I’d like to share some of it with you.

Below is a list of some of my favorite quotes that came out of that retreat, in no particular order:

  • “The high cost of the status quo, well basically what I keep writing down in my notes is SQ > C. Status Quo is costlier than a change. Now that’s a huge idea.”
    -Dan Pink
  • “You know, I’ve kind of figured out how to go from the bandstand to the board room and make it swing. I kind of figured out a way to improvise through that and think of the balance sheet as a set of changes, and never lose that ability say, ‘Why?’ Why do we have to do it that way? Can’t we have some fun with it and play with it? At the end of the year it’s going to be the same numbers. Why don’t we do it this way? And so we’ve been able to kind of improvise our way through it, and still have fun, and keep it going. I mean, that’s the point, is that without the fun part and the play, oh my goodness, I never could deal with these arts administrators and stuff.”
    -Marty Ashby
  • “Start off with the assumption that people are assets, not liabilities, and treat them that way and you will see extraordinary things happen.”
    -Bill Strickland
  • “What we need to do is to create these cycles, and allow innovation to be adaptive and not recreated, because we’re wasting so much money in international reconstruction trying to reinvent the same solutions to similar problems.”
    -Cameron Sinclair
  • “Knowledge that can be expressed by word is available to anyone; therefore that knowledge is losing its value. However, it has become more important for us to have the tacit wisdom that cannot be expressed by words; for example, intuition, insight, imagination and creativity.”
    -Hiroshi Tasaka
  • “I call it innovation acupuncture. The idea is that if you want to create large change, don’t do massive projects and expect a society or a culture to come with you. You have to do these small, little interventions and you put one in and you see if that thing spreads. That little pin makes a huge difference. If it doesn’t that’s okay, we’ll put another pin in. And we’ll keep going until those pins eventually make you feel better.”
    -Cameron Sinclair
  • “Money is the raw material of politics. And politics is either the raw material of change or preserving the status quo.”
    -Ann Rutledge
  • “I am rich in terms of life, which I believe actually has more value, ultimately. I am not personally wealthy. But that is precisely – that actually gives me an advantage. Because when I’m able to talk with young people, particularly students and my staff, I’m able to say that I am not doing this because I am driven by wealth in the conventional monetary sense. I’m driven by a higher order of things that is more in the range of what this Japan-America conversation is all about. I believe at the end of the day, at the last day of your life, you only have your memories. You can’t take the money with you. So the question becomes to make sure that you have memories that reflect a quality experience and reverence for life.”
    -Bill Strickland
  • “We need to examine is what we believe about homelessness and other social challenges…If we think that homelessness is about altruism, then we are comfortable with gestures like giving people money, handing out a bowl of soup. That’s something that makes us feel better. It doesn’t change the situation of someone who’s homeless.”
    -Rosanne Haggerty
  • “I’m here to contend that sooner or later, it does not come down to money. Sooner or later, it comes down to people. And you can call me some sort of a hippie freak if you’d like.”
    -Scott Heiferman
  • P.S. – Check out the August 2, 2007 New York Times’ article Design Steps Up in Disaster’s Wake, by Allison Arieff. The article highlights the struggle of a woman trying to rebuild her and her family’s life in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, and how Architecture for Humanity came to her aid.

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