Yearly Archives: 2009

“The Seven Gays of Christmas”

HolidayLights Festive Friday greetings to all! The countdown has begun– less than one week until I get gift cards from family members!! Oh, and there’s that Christmas thing as well. No matter what you celebrate, I wish you a happy holiday season.

Due to a wonderful concept known as vacation, this will be my last posting in 2009 (pause for dramatic effect and weeping). I thought I would take a look back over this past year and give thanks to the “seven gays of Christmas”– those members of the LGBT community that were newsworthy (or made news) during 2009.

Sing with me now…:

  • On the seventh day of Christmas, my boyfriend/girlfriend/partner gave to me, Bruce Springsteen telling me I can marry.
  • On the sixth day of Christmas, my boyfriend/girlfriend/partner gave to me, Matthew Shepard helping us be hate crime free.
  • On the fifth day of Christmas, my boyfriend/girlfriend/partner gave to me, Houston electing a mayor that’s LGBT!
  • On the fourth day of Christmas, my boyfriend/girlfriend/partner gave to me, Cleveland coming home with a Gay Games victory.
  • On the third day of Christmas, my boyfriend/girlfriend/partner gave to me, Administration on Aging Secretary Kathy Greenlee.
  • On the second day of Christmas, my boyfriend/girlfriend/partner gave to me, two lesbian anchors on primetime cable news TV.
  • On the first day of Christmas, my boyfriend/girlfriend/partner gave to me, my friends and colleagues in the Out Front family.

You have to give me credit for that, folks.

Seriously– it’s been a pleasure blogging with you in 2009. I look forward to 2010 and what it is store for the LGBT community. Until next time, peace to all, and to all a good flight (get it? Good “flight” for those who are traveling over the holidays?!? I’ll stop now.).

Insights from Copenhagen: Hillary Clinton Pledges to Raise $100 Billion for Developing Nations

vox_logo_whiteSecretary of State Hillary Clinton came to Copenhagen today and announced that the U.S. will help raise $100 billion annually through 2020 to help developing countries reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.  Long term finance assistance remains one of the key sticking points between the developed and developing countries.

The money would come from public and private funds mobilized by the United States and other unspecified nations.  But, it will only happen if major emerging developing countries agree to binding emission targets that can be verified internationally.  In effect, the U.S. is tying this carrot of financial assistance to another sticking point in the negotiations–countries like China and India agree to binding agreements that can be independently verified. Clinton stated in very clear terms that “if there is not even a commitment to pursue transparency, it's a deal breaker for us.” 

The proposed fund is on the low end of what the European Union and others say is needed Clinton also stressed that the aid would go only to the poorest countries.  It remains unclear what portion would come from the United States, and Clinton did not specify how much immediate money would be available from America.

Immediate reaction from environmental activists was positive and said the announcement now puts the onus on China to compromise.

Ally of the Year: Cyndi Lauper

RainbowCyndi Lauper's True Colors album was the second record I ever owned (the first being The Bangles, Different Light, which will always hold a special place in my child-of-the-80s heart). Let's be honest, who hasn't spent a night (or two…or four) emotionally belting out “Youuuu with the saaaad eyes, don't be discouraged” along with her?

Being a huge fan, as well as an out-and-proud ally for the LGBT community, I was thrilled to see that named Lauper its 2009 “Ally of the Year,” recognizing her personal and professional commitment to the LGBT community. Her True Colors Fund “seeks to inspire and engage everyone, particularly the straight community, to become active participants in the advancement of LGBT equality to ensure a strong and vibrant LGBT community.”

Working with the True Colors Tours, which have featured performers like Regina Spektor and Rufus Wainwright, the non-profit organization has raised more than $200,000 for LGBT-supportive groups like the Human Rights Campaign and PFLAG. Monies raised by the tour, as well as the True Colors Cabaret series, have also gone to fund the True Colors Residence, the first permanent supportive housing facility for LGBT youth in New York State. Located in Central Harlem, the True Colors Residence will offer 30 new studio apartments, educational services and job training to homeless young people between the ages of 18 and 24.

To all my straight allies (and straight-allies-in-training) out there, while we may not have Lauper's fame, money or incredible style, we do have one thing in common with her: a voice. It may not have won us Grammy awards, but it does give us all the ability to loudly and proudly vocalize our support for our LGBT brothers and sisters. As we approach the holiday season and say hello to a new year, I hope Lauper's dedication, love and overwhelming generosity can serve as examples of the kind of allies we all aspire to be.

I'd also urge the LGBT community to take a moment and tell your straight friends and family how much their love and support means to you and to the LGBT cause. Please feel free to share your thankful thoughts in the comment section of this blog – I can't think of anything more personally rewarding than helping to spread a little more love around. ‘Tis the season!

Insights from Copenhagen: Crunch Time In Copenhagen

vox_logo_whiteMore than 110 heads of state are set to arrive in the Danish capital over the course of the next 48 hours to launch the final summit session. Several will speak to delegates today, including Ethiopian prime minister and Africa's lead U.N. negotiator Meles Zenawi and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

It appears that on almost every point of contention, countries have drifted further apart since the conference began. That's brought home by the latest draft agreement, which leaves, for later this week, pretty much everything that is controversial–how much to cut emissions by in each country; who will pay and how much; how to verify what other countries are doing on emissions; and, how to rectify any climate deal with international trade agreements.

China and the U.S. continue to exchange public barbs.  The U.S. and China are at odds over how much wealthy economies should pay poorer countries to deal with global warming, emissions-reduction goals and how to ensure that countries live up to their pledges to curb climate change.

President Obama is feeling the heat back home too–more than two dozen of the United States’ most prominent manufacturers, utilities and technology companies.  Yesterday, they sent a letter to Obama urging to take a leadership role when he arrives in Copenhagen on Friday and to secure an aggressive international climate agreement.

“This agreement has to include significant near- and long-term emissions reductions targets and strong finance provisions, with a substantial commitment of new long-term finance from developed nations, including the United States,” the companies write.

The letter’s signers include Nike, Dow Chemical, Microsoft and Ingersoll Rand, as well as power providers Northern Grid, PG&E and PSEG. They stress the importance of an international climate agreement for leveraging private investment – a point made repeatedly by investor groups at the Copenhagen conference – and for spurring Congress and governments worldwide to give businesses the regulatory certainty they need to plan ahead.

The letter also states “We must put the United States on the path to significant emissions reductions, a stronger economy, and a new position of leadership in the global effort to stabilize our climate. The costs of inaction far outweigh the costs of action. Our environment and economy are at stake.”

In addition, the group calls for an agreement on technology transfer that is careful to protect intellectual property rights while also providing clean technologies and manufacturing know-how to start poor countries on a low-carbon path to development.

Gordon Brown said in remarks earlier today that there is a potential breakthrough on one of the key sticking points between rich and poor nations.  In a press conference expected later today, Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi is expected to discuss details of a compromise from poor countries that could offer an agreement on long term financial commitment to help poor countries adapt to the effects climate change is having on their countries.

With heads of state descending on Copenhagen, the negotiations are reaching crunch time.

Brazil’s Own Economic Stimulus Plan

Last week I came across a story in Newsweek about a program that has helped Brazil weather the global economic crisis. According to the article, “since 2002, some 27 million Brazilians have climbed up to middle-income status, and inequality has fallen steeply. Most remarkable, the world economic crisis has not derailed this progress. While other countries slip backward, Brazil's poverty and inequality rates are the same as they were 18 months ago.”

As a key factor, Newsweek (see the Dec. 7 issue) credits the success of Bolsa Família, a government program that provides a small monthly stipend to poor Brazilian families that keep their kids in school and vaccinated. Bolsa Família, Newsweek said, is “both effective and fiscally responsible: Brazil spends less than half of 1 percent of its GDP to aid a quarter of its 193 million people.”

After reading the article I had but one thought: brilliant!

According to the World Bank, which provides technical and financial support to Bolsa Família, the program has two important results: “helping reduce current poverty, and getting families to invest in their children, thus breaking the cycle of intergenerational transmission and reducing future poverty.”

But Bolsa Família is so much more than that.

Here we have a “newly industrialized country” trying to fully develop with a program that should be mutually irresistible to all eligible families AND the country.

Benefits to families:

  • Families that would otherwise have nothing, now have access to money, which, according to the World Bank is mostly used to buy food, school supplies and clothes for the children.
  • Children are given greater access to education, and more support from their families. There is a greater incentive for them to stay in school because by doing so, they're helping their families. More education, of course, leads to higher paychecks and improved quality of life.
  • Vaccinations protect not only those vaccinated from potentially deadly diseases, but also those around them. Additionally, according to the World Bank, “ill health is one of the primary causes for an individual or family's slide into poverty.” Vaccinations allow children to attend more school and grow up to lead healthy lives, without costly medical expenses for treatment of diseases that, with vaccinations, should be eradicated.

Benefits to Brazil:

  • Local economies win when families use their stipend to shop for supplies.
  • A more highly educated population allows for a more skilled workforce; greater wealth; and more creativity, entrepreneurialism, invention, and innovation; all of which spur economic growth.
  • A healthier population is one in which workers are able to regularly attend work and perform to their greatest ability. Additionally, healthy populations attract tourism, which benefits the economy as well.

Eradicating poverty is crucial to the development of the world. It is the entire mission of the World Bank and the purpose of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals. With Bolsa Família, Brazil is well on its way to becoming an advanced economy.

According a report from 2006 about Bolsa Família by Brazil's Ministry of Social Development and Fight Against Hunger, the percentage of 5 to 17 year olds not attending school dropped from 12 in 1999 to 8.7 in 2004, while the percentage of people with 11 years of education or more increased from 19 in 1999 to 26.3 in 2004.

Additionally, the number of medical appointments per person rose from 1999 to 2004. As did the number of dentists and doctors per 1,000 people. On the other hand, the number of hospitalizations per people fell. Finally, child labor rates decreased from 16.6 percent in 1999 to 11.1 percent in 2004, while life expectancy at birth rose from 68.4 years to 71.7 years.

As far as innovation and competitiveness are concerned, according to a report by the Boston Consulting Group, Brazil is a rapidly developing economy, with 14 companies on the 2009 BCG 100 New Global Challengers.

Bolsa Família has been so successful that, according to the World Bank, almost 20 other countries have developed their own, similar programs. Even New York City has a version of Bolsa Família, called Opportunity NYC, which provides monetary rewards to poor students who improve scholastically, parents who take care of their kids' health and parents who work a certain number of weekly hours to support their families. Perhaps the rest of the country could benefit from similar programs.

What do you think? Does Bolsa Família make economic sense? Is it something that other countries, including the United States, could and should invest in?


Insights from Copenhagen: The Second Half

vox_logo_whiteLast week had its dramas–leaked drafts, tiny nations walking out, and rifts between the U.S. and China over emission reduction targets.  But, that was a prelude to the real action that will unfold this week when world leaders arrive and the real negotiations begin.  The negotiations are framed around 4 pillars:

  • Mitigation
  • Adaptation
  • Technology transfer
  • Finance & investment

First and foremost, there is the question of how far developed countries are willing to cut emissions by 2050.  President Obama arrives Friday and is expected to take the podium.  But, analysts doubt he can offer much more than the targets he has already proposed–somewhere in the range of 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020.  Related, there is also the broader question of whether the world can keep temperatures from rising no more than 1.5 or 2 degrees Celsius.  Small island nations, most impacted by rising sea levels, have indicated that what's been proposed so far is insufficient. 

Equally contentious is the problem of developing countries like China, India and Brazil and what they are willing to do to help avert climate change.  While all three countries have come out with reduction targets, none is willing to be held legally bound to achieve their stated reductions.  They see these as voluntary commitments and resist any resist any suggestion that they should be subject to international control. 

The big battle, however, is over longer-term finance to help poorer countries adapt to the worst impacts of climate change and help them begin to mitigate their own carbon emissions.  Industrialized countries have proposed a $10 billion “fast-start” fund for immediate needs through 2012.  And, a consensus has emerged among the same countries that the long term investment should be about $100 billion a year. On the other hand, developing countries — and some pressure groups like the World Wildlife Fund–say it needs to be much more, but even $100 billion will be hard to achieve. President Obama will be severely constrained on what he can offer while climate legislation remains held up in the U.S. Senate, and other nations will not want to commit until they see some sign of U.S. intent. 

Finally, there are arguments over the very form of any deal. As reported last week, developing countries are insisting on retaining and improving the Kyoto Protocol, but its very name is a deal breaker in the United States.  And, Russia is rumored to be privately turning against it. The likeliest outcome is a toughened Kyoto Protocol, with a linked treaty covering the United States and developing countries and new agreements made in Copenhagen.

Negotiations could end up being all or nothing–one big package or nothing at all.  And, it may all come down to the last few hours of the last day.  It promises to be a nail biter.  Stay tuned.

Love Actually

Ornament Every Christmas without fail, I watch the movieLove Actually.” I typically force friends, family and whoever else will partake to watch this great holiday romantic comedy that provides countless tales of honestly sharing love with special relationships. ‘Tis the season of love and those we can’t help but live without!

This year many gays and lesbians have seen love in the form of marriage come into their lives or have it snatched away by the popular vote. While the crucial federal recognition of marriage doesn’t remove the love shared between two people, equal marriage rights is and continues to be a primary focus of many couples daily struggles and LGBT communication.

As we look ahead to 2010 and have some free time around the holidays, I wanted to turn your attention to a great communications campaign. From our friends at Queerty, I read about Love Takes Over, a week long opinion piece campaign to America’s long standing influencer, the newspaper industry. For full details of the event, you can check out the organizer’s Facebook page here.

We’ve written here on the Out Front Blog about the opinions and leaders of LGBT organizations and conservative groups on both sides of the marriage discussion. Instead of giving us an opportunity to dissect the communication successes and failures in this ongoing debate, Love Takes Over gives us all the chance to communicate the important message in a unified and amplified voice with our neighbors and communities.

I encourage you, as you reflect on the holiday season and the emotions it brings, to share your thoughts on love and marriage equality. Whether with friends or in a news opinion piece, whether in December or as part of Love Takes Over week, it’s a season of sharing and being out front. If you have stories or write a piece for Love Takes Over, share your thoughts on love, family and marriage with us here at the Out Front Blog.

Because “Christmas is the time we tell the truth.” (from “Love Actually”)

Challenging Orthodoxies to Create Innovation

[singlepic id=293 w=250 h=170 float=right]I’ve been writing for awhile about several key distinctions when it comes to innovation including:

  1. Invention versus Innovation
  2. Instinctual Innovation versus Intellectual Innovation
  3. The importance of Insights versus Ideas

Digging a little deeper into the importance of insights versus ideas, I just have to say that far too often people put too much attention on generating ideas, instead of identifying the key insights they should be building their ideas on. One of the many ways to generate insights that you can build on, is to challenge industry orthodoxies (or the way that things have always been done).

[YouTube]xRBrHR86hp8[/YouTube]I recently came across an article on a bowler from Australia becoming the first person to win a Professional Bowlers Association (PBA) tournament using a two-handed bowling style. When most people think about two-handed bowling, they imagine a kid straddling the bowling ball, drawing it straight back with their arms and heaving it straight forward (usually into the gutter).

Australia's Jason Belmonte however decided to try different methods of two-handed bowling as a kid that allowed him to hold and spin the ball when the bowling balls were too heavy for him. Over time he has perfected a method that allows him to generate spin that few one-handed bowlers can match. And as you might imagine, it is the spin and velocity of the bowling ball that causes the pins to fly all over the place and increase your chances of bowling a strike.

Is two-handed bowling the modern-day equivalent of the Fosbury Flop? Well, Cassidy Schaub recently became the second two-handed bowler to earn a PBA Tour exemption. Only time will tell whether two-handed bowling becomes the disruptive innovation that the Fosbury Flop became.

[singlepic id=291 w=250 h=170 float=right]So, the insight that Jason Belmonte found was that bowling with two hands is easier for people of limited strength than bowling with one hand. After identifying that insight, an individual or a group can start generating ideas on how to hold and how to throw, and possibly even how to design a bowling ball to best support the throwing of a bowling ball with two hands for maximum score. I have no doubt that because of these two professional bowlers using two hands to bowl on television, we will see more people building new ideas off of this insight. Will you be one of them?

I know I want to try it now. I’ve never been able to master the one-handed spin technique anyway.

What other industry orthodoxies might we see challenged in the next few months? Here are a couple of possibilities:

  1. The Google Phone might challenge the orthodoxy of carrier subsidies by using advertising subsidies instead
  2. Apple may launch a touch-screen that connects wirelessly to an iPhone, an iPod Touch or a Mac instead of attaching it to its own CPU and creating a traditional Tablet PC

But the real question is, what orthodoxies from your industry are you going to challenge? And what insights can you uncover when you challenge the way that things have always been done?



Braden Kelley is the editor of Blogging Innovation and founder of Business Strategy Innovation, a consultancy focusing on innovation and marketing strategy. Braden is also @innovate on Twitter.

Insights from Copenhagen: To Be or Not To Be…Establishing a Low Carbon Market

vox_logo_whiteAs COP15 heads into the second and crucial week of negotiations, both Channing and I spent a considerable amount of time talking to individual companies and attending sessions that featured a diverse set of business perspectives on the negotiations.  For those businesses attending the conference, several themes emerged outlining the “gotta haves” for them to make the type of investments that will usher in a low-carbon economy.

  1. Clearer rules: Businesses here are looking for certainty in any regulatory scheme that evolves from these negotiations.  Clearer rules will help give investors the confidence to put money into clean technology.  One CEO told us “clean tech is one of the largest emerging markets the world has seen.”
  2. Level playing field: In climate change terms this means an international carbon market that ensures carbon price stability, as well as unified and reliable measurement, reporting and verification.  This will enable fair competition and a meaningful comparison of companies’ performances.
  3. The cost of carbon: Business is looking for price signals to emerge from the negotiations and the type of emissions trading that will be established.
  4. Clear emissions reduction target: Without clear reduction goals and market mechanisms companies may hold back on investment, despite having the technology and the know-how to deliver the required solutions.

Business interests here at the conference are also actively trying to impact the direction of the negotiations.  In advance of COP 15, the Prince of Wales Foundation submitted to the U.N. a Copenhagen Communiqué on Climate Change that outlined the components of any agreement.  The communiqué was signed by more than 800 global companies, including U.S. companies like Nike, Starbucks and Yahoo.

Additionally, this past Saturday evening, business leaders met at Kronborg Castle, the castle that allegedly inspired Shakespeare to create Hamlet.  Several U.S. companies outlined the current low carbon products and activities they currently have on the market.  These companies have a clear commitment to climate change and have identified the key obstacles they hope are removed during this conference so that they can even more aggressively capture the waiting low carbon market.

That said, there's a sense here that the companies in Copenhagen don't reflect the mainstream of corporate America, where big lobbies like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers oppose the climate bills pending in Congress.  Still, they are hoping that the negotiations at the COP 15 do not turn out to be, as Shakespeare once wrote, “much ado about nothing.”