Friday, September 30, 2011

Friday Burn

::: Where would you invest $1B dollars?

::: Under/Overpass Projects

::: Toxic Nectar Used to Kill Mosquitos
[Think malaria...]

See all the Burn posts here.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

wed pm #theimn2011

rex miller the millenium matrix
eras: oral print broadcast digital
we are in space between spaces - dangerous times
after gutenburg there were 200 years of danger.
this is the time for the Church to discern about digital culture.
'literate' - this word is obsolete.
2018 the massive shift when millenials take over. shift in population as well as thinking.

What it means to be human is the most important question of the 21st century. - Alex McManus

wed am #theimn2011

The future will be unimaginable but God will still be with us.

Great people are all around you. Kensington church has no info on its website about who is in charge.

The Christian church has given Utah to the mormons.

Massive movments exist across cultures.

Your assumptions create your crowd.
Vince Antonucci gave a top 5 ever leadership talk. Verve Church in las vegas.

dessert on fire

intern dessert ember style

Monday, September 26, 2011

Board Mtg #3

Confession: I have no idea how to work with a nonprofit board of directors. So when we ventured to start a nonprofit, working with a board was a topic I didn't give much thought to. Even though there is lots of literature that tells you that you should really think a lot about this. You know the drill, founders just want to work the work and not deal with administrative details like buying insurance or working with a board.

After almost a year, we've had only three meetings. But our last meeting, last weekend, was so electric. You know the feeling - when a team you are on is on the same page and fired up about it. Reviewing 2011 so far and seeing what's next - it IS exciting.

Here are some of the catalytic topics from the evening:
+ Overcommunicate - I send a weekly email to the board, most every week, especially when there is a lot going on. A big win.
+ What would you spend $10K on? - My answer was based funding projects that would help students grow in their social entrepreneurship abilities.
+ What drains you the most? - Of course, this question is all about strengths based leadership.
+ Failure and risk - We want to build a culture in which people are allowed to fail in order to grow. As someone who is highly risk averse [yes, its true] this is a healthy push. One day, there will be projects that are run by someone besides me.
+ Pipeline - We are gradually building a bigger pipeline of which to identify and resource global student leaders.

One year later, I'm more challenged and encouraged at this team's love for the students we serve and the future that they will impact. This board is resolute about our students' growth, leadership development and ability to mark human history. I'm also more confident than ever we have the right people on the bus and they occupy the right seats.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Friday Burn

::: The Transformational Index
Link via TSK

::: Migrations Map
Where do people come from and go to for a given country.

::: The ROI on studying abroad

::: The Great Famine - Horn of Africa

::: More Than You Think - The Shipping Container
What the shipping container has done is just about entirely take away geographical distance as a determinant of freight costs. It really doesn't cost much more to ship something from China to Europe than it does to ship something inside Europe. Beijing, Brisbane, Brindisi and Birmingham, they're really all just nodes on the container shipping routes and getting from one node to another costs about the same amount, wherever in the world they are.

::: The World's Rudest Hand Gestures

See all the Burn posts here.

Thursday, September 22, 2011


I spent a little bit of time on twitter the other day tracking the Social Good Summit, hosted by Mashable, 92nd Street Y and the United Nations Foundation. The Summit is "where big ideas meet new media to create innovative solutions." This recap from Day 1 has some good stuff including content from charity:water, the director of the One Laptop per Child, and stats on global literacy.

Here's some interesting, intruiging and inspiring ideas that I pulled:
+ USAID released open source maps of the famine in the Horn of Africa and their FWD [Famine, War and Drought] site, which has a fantastic resource for anyone who wants to learn more and get involved in the drought.
+ 80 miillion Livestrong wristbands sold since 2004 - the first social network around a cause.
+ 100 M kids from grades 1-8 are not in school because of poverty.
+ We have a business model problem in health and education. Technology is going to dramatically lower the access barriers. - Jeffrey Sachs [you know about him right?]
+ Every child in Uruguay has a laptop.
+ Skype CEO - Our goal is to connect 1M classrooms.
+ 99% of the way there in eradicating polio. Only the second disease to be eradicated on the planet.

[And my favorite two...]
+ 84% of today's young people believe that it is their duty to change the world for the better.
+ The 21st century is a lousy time to be a control freak [speaking about the decentralization of power and information.]

Bound to be lots more great stuff the rest of the week. This is not your parents model of charity and philanthropy any longer. Mobilizing people for a cause is now a different ballgame.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


Yes, I turned 42 yesterday. I will have the world know though, that a few weeks ago, I played one of those guess your age games at an amusement park. And I won in a big way when the guy guessed that I was 24 years old.

Monday, September 19, 2011

9 Languages in One Hour

This is Joe, the tour guide we had when we recently toured the Capitol building in Washington, DC. We were impressed with his knowledge of the city and the building, his hospitality and ability to greet strangers [yes, he's probably a woo], and his knowledge of facts about our country. But the hands down best thing was his ability to converse in multiple languages. I don't mean just greet, I mean have a conversation. In one hour through our tour, he conversed in Polish, Turkish, German, French, Hebrew, Chinese and the languages for Northern India and Southern India. You read that right. He said he's been studying languages since he was 8 years old. A few weeks ago, he was practicing Kazakh, hoping that someone from Kazakhstan would show up, and they did. Amazing. If you go on a tour, you should ask for him.

In the grand spectrum of God's story, since most of you live within an hour of Washington DC - the nations capital, a city unique among the world, where people from almost every nation routinely come to, why oh why would God put you so close, for this time in human history?

Friday, September 16, 2011

Friday Burn - Epoch 2011 edition

The first ever Epoch 2011 Missions Gala happens this year in Atlanta at the end of October. It's a one night black tie gathering to celebrate global missions and looks to be like an amazing event. Ember was honored to be nominated for an award and although we didn't make it to the final nominations, just getting on the nomination list is humbling.

For this Friday's Burn, check out organizations, definitely playing out of the box:
The Trash Mountain Project

Surfing the Nations

The Beltline Bike Shop

And read from Tim about the genesis of the gala. Great case study about idea to execution.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Book Notes - The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni
Lots of people have been recommending this book for years and I only picked it up because someone gave it to me. I should have read this much earlier. These specific notes are right on target.

1 - Absence of Trust [which leads to]
2 - Fear of Conflict [which leads to]
3 - Lack of Commitment [which leads to]
4 - Avoidance of Accountability [which leads to]
5 - Inattention to Results

#3- Lack of Commitment
The two greatest causes of the lack of commitment are the desire for consensus and the need for certainty:
Great teams understand the danger of seeking consensus, and find ways to achieve buy-in even when compete agreement is impossible. They understand that reasonable human beings do not need to get their way in order to support a decision, but only need to know that their opinions have been heard and considered. Great teams ensure that everyone's ideas are genuinely considered, which then creates a willingness to rally around whatever decision is ultimately made by the group. And when that is not possible due to an impasse, the leader of the team is allowed to make the call.
: Certainty
Great teams also pride themselves on being able to unite behind decisions and commit to clear courses of action even when there is little assurance about whether the decision is correct. That's because they understand the old military axiom that a decision is better than no decision. They also realize that it is better to make a decision boldly and be wrong - and then change direction with equal boldness - than it is to waffle.
Contrast this with the behavior of dysfunctional teams that try to hedge their bets and delay important decisions until they have enough data to feel certain that they are making the right decision. As prudent as this might seem, it is dangerous because of the paralysis and lack of confidence it breeds within a team.
It is important to remember that conflict underlies the willingness to commit without perfect information. In many cases, teams have all the information they need, but it resides within the hearts and minds of the team itself and must be extracted through unfiltered debate. Only when everyone has put their opinions and perspectives on the table can the team confidently commit to a decision knowing that it has tapped into the collective wisdom of the entire group.

The worst enemy of a team that is susceptible to this dysfunction is ambiguity, and timing is one of the most critical factors that must be made clear.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Clarity of Talent

I would like to think that Ember treats talent a little differently than most. Values that I think our organization should embrace include ideas like "In every apple, there is an orchard" [from Alan Hirsch, meaning every Christ-follower is capable of world transformation] and "the best way to find leaders is to grow them" [from a lot of various people, I think]. Deliberately unleashing people is a learned skill.

There's also a high value in knowing these leaders have talent built into them already - they come to us with skills, experience and knowledge. That's why we take our interns through the StrengthsFinder assessment. If you've read this blog for a while, you know what a big fan I am of the assessment [here, here and here for instance.]

Ember is incredibly fortunate to have the resources of Dale Swinburne, one of our board of directors, who coaches people and teams through the assessment. He's done this kind of coaching for hundreds of people and teams in the nonprofit and faith based world and if you know him, you know this kind of stuff is generative to him, based on his, ahem, strengths. Believe me - it's like he's using a crystal ball to look into your life.

That crystal ball, along with other experiences with Ember and without, hopefully informs our students with some clarity into their gifts and passions and talents. The StrengthsFinder is fast pass into leadership self awareness and understanding your team better.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Decoding Culture - Demographics

To celebrate our 17th anniversary, Deanna and I spent a weekend at a hotel in downtown Winchester, VA. Quite a difference in cultural context. Small town, nestled in the mountains, with an emerging fringe artist population. It was a slow weekend and good for us.

Sometimes, the first step in decoding culture is to understand demographics. How old are the people that live there, what do they do for work, what kind of economy exists there, what kind of income is there, how dense is the population. Compare this kind of info to where you live. Right when we got there, I happened to find a magazine devoted to the business community. All of this info - right here for the taking...

The next best step - what do these demographics tell you about the people that live here?

Friday, September 09, 2011

Friday Burn

::: Giving $10 a day away, every day
Most of you will love this.

::: The Camel

::: Ten Things You Should Know About Time
My favorites:
we live about 80 milliseconds in the past, when you remember an event in the past, your brain uses a very similar technique to imagining the future, and we have about one and a half billion heartbeats.
Link via Hacker News, which is one of my favorite new news feeds [yes you Activators and Starters...]

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

East Africa Famine Response

Most of you readers have probably heard of the desperate situation in East Africa right now in terms of the famine - the worst drought in 60 years [Justin has a good summary]. Grace Church decided to contribute a small part to the relief efforts by working with Stop Hunger Now to pack meals and help fund the delivery of those meals. In unprecedented fashion, the whole church, from 2-3 year olds all the way up to families, were invited and mobilized to be a part of this project. The project was a major marker in the history of our church.

When I heard about this opportunity, I immediately signed up our Ember interns to be a part of helping out. Our role was to float during the middle and high school packing times to help people out - a 'May I Help You' role. [Like every internship year, this event is a good example of a valuable learning opportunity that pops up that I would have never been able to predict.]

I wanted our interns involved to learn a few things. First, a church like Grace is an anomaly among churches in America. Combine the resources of a megachurch with an effort like this and you experience something highly unique. Secondly, the task of mobilizing every person in our spiritual community is huge. We had over 900 people serving - but that's still not everybody. Finally, pay attention to the backdrop and logistical details of setting up for something like this. If not everything runs well, 900 people show up with nothing to do.

163,080 meals packaged, Stop Hunger Now has a great set up if you and your group is looking to do this same kind of thing. They do 2 or 3 of these kinds of events every week and the set up and logistics is really well done. Rough approximation - for about 200 students doing the meal packing, we were doing about 1000 meals every 10 minutes or so.

More images here, especially if you are interested in how the packing was set up.

Monday, September 05, 2011

Re-Entry in 2011

When Spillane treats injured seamen offshore, one of the first things he evaluates is their degree of consciousness. The highest level, known as "alert and oriented times four," describes almost everyone in an everyday situation. They know who they are, where they are, what time it is, and what's just happened. If someone suffers a blow to the head, the first thing they lose is recent events - "alert and oriented times three" - and the last thing they lose is their identity. A person who has lost all levels of consciousness, right down to their identity, is said to be "alert and oriented times zero." John Eldredge, quoting The Perfect Storm in Waking the Dead

Re-entry seemed to be a theme for Ember this summer. Three significant people in our circles experienced this kind of culture shock and these are people who have spent a good amount of time traversing cultural and physical distances.

Andrew and John both experienced re-entry shock and I was significantly worried about Andrew. When we had dinner, he had scattered thoughts, was somewhat disengaged and very confused about his time in history and here in suburbia. John fared better, although when I saw him right after his trip, he was really jet lagged. Fortunately for them and me, I needed a house sitter two different times this summer. They helped me and Phoebe the dog both of those times and they told me that the quiet of an empty house was a gift for them to think. Kind of like a neutral location, a key debriefing concept if you have the luxury of making something like that work. Michelle had a little different experience, telling me that she never experienced culture shock in South Africa, but did experience it in Italy while there meeting her family. All goes to show that re-entry shock is something to expect and not to dismiss out of hand.

For these three, re-entry meant processing their experiences about poverty, race, the Church, community and God's unique call on their life. You know, the easy stuff that marks milestone events in someone's life. The other difficult thing about re-entry is finding your voice. Although lots of people think they want to hear about your experiences, you know 2 minutes into telling your stories who is really interested and who thought they were interested.

Two small but important roles that a mobilizer plays: help people reenter their home culture well and help them find their voice from their experience. Both are vital for empowering the next generation of global leaders.

Friday, September 02, 2011

Friday Burn

::: Birds Eye View of 6000 airports

::: Plastic Water Bottle Light Bulb

::: Tunnel to the Other Side of the Earth

::: Great interactive map about People Groups

::: How Long Do Countries Have Until Their Populations Disappear?

::: When Not To Quit: Man Revived After 96 Minutes

::: From Church Planting Success to Genocide
via Rudy

::: October 31 - The Birth of the 7 Billionth Person

::: How Old Is your Globe - or When Did Those Countries Appear?

::: The Waffle House Index

:::Test for Malaria? There's an App for That
via whitney johnson

Missions Debriefing Tips Tweets

i shared a debriefing tip on twitter every weekday in August - here they are summarized. Probably too late to use with your teams this summer... but who knows...

+ august is missions trip debriefing. i'll be sharing some tips through the rest of the month.
+ write 3 summaries of your experience you can share in 20 secs, 2 mins and 20 mins.
+august is missions trip debriefing. i'll be sharing some tips through the rest of the month.
+ write 3 summaries of your experience you can share in 20 secs, 2 mins and 20 mins.
+ Seths Great 30 questions.
+ let them talk and talk and talk. most don't get to talk about their trip enough and hardly anyone really listens.
+ signs of culture shock-disillusionment, lack of motivation, withdrawl. happens with reentry more than you think.
+ let someone else run debriefing for your team. at end of the trip, your willpower might not be enough to get it done.
+ journal journal journal. get your thoughts, no matter how scattered, on paper. you will value this later.
+ list new things: people, experiences, concepts, ideas about the world.
+ three opps for debriefing: instant, daily, post-trip. if you look for teachable moments, be ready to debrief instantly.
+ debrief in a neutral location if you can. extra day in layover, airport meal, tourist spot, hotel lobby, flight home
+ wait 30 days before making major commitments or decisions. [not many people besides me like this one]
+ be patient and challenging to yourself. post mission change isn't easy. but its why you went.
+hang with someone from you team after you get home. talk about one thing that changed you
+ send your supporters a letter with your 2 minute summary. try to get invited to dinner.
+ find a patron of missions at your church. buy them coffee.
+ take the perspectives class.
+ identify environments of different cultures where you live. spend an evening there.
+ keep in touch with your hosts and let them know how you have changed.
+ offer your talent, time and finances to someone doing what you did.
+ start a missions book reading list. start following missions thinkers on the internets.
+ think about your future involvement in missions with the filters of 'teams', 'sustainability' and 'indigenous'.

[Related - student missions advice tweets]

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Hello Sept Ember

Despite not posting, August was a very full month. And like every year, I'm looking forward to the fall and September, my favorite time of the year. Here's some other random August stuff.
+ I broke my addiction to blog statistics after 2 weeks of not posting. One of the very good side effects of not posting. What's best about blog stats - finding out who the sponges are.
+ Lots of meetups with people. Including one of two new experiments for Ember, catching up with college kids in and out of town, and a church planter coming back to the DMV.
+ Had two very interesting meetings for the missions leadership team, of which I am still an advisor to, at our home church. Getting things done in this context has not been about generating ideas or the diligence to execute. It has completely been about the structure of the organization. Not only a case study of getting the right people on the bus but how do you get the wrong people off the bus.
+ Obvious fact that we know but don't act enough on: The wrong people on the bus will turn future talent away.
+ Biggest takeaway from lunch with one of Ember's board members: the concept of tentmaker is not only flexibility for funding but a physical mobility as well. The Gospel comes to us on the way to someone else.
+ A friend snagged me a ticket to see the very last session of the Global Leadership Summit. I loved the concepts of Erwin's talk but think the odds of organizations making that happen are low.
+ Had a brilliant phone call with the director of mobilization for the US Center for World Mission after he found Ember on the interwebs. Model mobilizer because he was doing this kind of stuff 20 years ago.
+ Dea and I had a fabulous anniversary weekend at the end of July. Em loved summer camp. The girls spent two weeks at their grandmothers hanging out with their 18 month old nephew. Our girls started 8th and 5h grade earlier this week.
+ Thanks for still reading this blog. Lets get to it.