Opinion of the JB Review: Why I Don’t I Agree With Pathways in Specific Terms

I’ve already explained why I don’t see the need for a new program in my first two posts. Check them out here: JB is Local and Why I don’t agree with Pathways Conceptually. In this post I will examine the specifics of the proposed program and some arguments I’ve heard on the subject already.

Section 7. Pathways will integrate youth into the governance structures of CISV throughout the organization. Arguments can be made for and against this. Some say this is good because in the past they’ve been blocked from taking on roles in their chapters. Some say this is bad because after finally making it into these positions organically, they will lose respect. In the US, I see youth taking on roles that they feel prepared for in the organization. I see adults encouraging youth participation in management and governance too. It also seems to be that way in Canada and Sweden.

Section 7.1. Requiring Chapters and NAs to come up with detailed role profiles for every opportunity seems like too much work for volunteers. As someone who has worked on the local level in 2 chapters, I’ve never seen a formal role profile for a position.

Section 7.2. How can I argue with this? This is what JB offers right now.

“In Pathways, participants work towards this set of learning goals. All opportunities will contribute to the work and development of CISV and will:

  • Allow you to explore and develop your interests
  • Provide you with facilitation, leadership and decision-making experience
  • Offer you an insight into organizational development
  • Prepare you to apply CISV’s approach to active global citizenship”


Section 7.5. “Regardless of their Pathways involvement, CISV will continue to offer a variety of ways for youth to meet.” Who is going to organize these meetings? What will the agenda be? Most of the time the youth organize meetings with help from adults and the youth decide what they will do (run activities, have a board meeting, volunteer in the community, etc.).

Section 7.6. “We feel future Regional Training Forums should provide creative ‘think tank’ spaces for all CISVers to meet and share ideas.” Cool. So this would kind of take the place of regional JB workshops such as AJBM, APJBM, and EJBM. That’s a cool idea. I like how Conferences and Events is included here. Shouldn’t Educational Programs be part of the conversation too (assuming Pathways is a program not its own committee)? At every RTF, there is a youth side for creative thinking. In the Americas, this currently only happens at 1 RTF per year (I’m not sure how the other regions are organized).

Section 8. Thank you for re-introducing an age range and thoroughly backing it up with outside sources! It was quite surprising when JB had an issue about that a few years ago.

Section 9. I start to get a little worried in this section. As an “adult” in my chapter, I don’t even love going to our board meetings. I can’t imagine having teenagers sitting at the table. This was an issue when discussing this aspect on Facebook. Sarah said it best, “I like the idea of younger CISVers taking an active role in governing CISV, but the fact is that you are more confident and prepared to do so if you have a safe space to do that in JB first. Even if that is a system within a system, it is so different to be 14 or 17 and on a big board with adults and 14 or 17 on a small local JB board with your peers.”

Alex was concerned about room for failure, “Practically speaking, I think getting 16 year olds to attend board meetings will be a hard sell, but more importantly, I think we’ll lose the educational content on the local level this way. This is definitely a US-centric point of view, but the less independence our youth have, the fewer opportunities they have to fail. And you know what? Failure is a WONDERFUL opportunity that CISV provides. Growth, persistence, learning how to improve… All those things come from failures. I was so proud of what I accomplished in JB while I was in it, but looking back, I learned so much more from the activities no one attended and the concepts that flopped than I did from any restructuring that was successful the first time around.” This concept is often referenced with the expression, “JB is a playground.”

kid falls off playground

When did JB, as it stands now, stop working toward the goal “to educate and inspire action for a more just and peaceful world”? Everyone in CISV is working toward that goal. The report presents it like there was a shift that they are correcting with Pathways.

Section 11. This says that it is a comparison between JB and Pathways but I only see one side. Am I missing something? I like the ideas in part 7 and 8. I also feel like these could be tasks for the current JB to deal with. If you take out the IJB team, you might have a better chance at avoiding duplication of work (see part 1).

  1. Pathways is a framework that fits into the overall organization of CISV, avoiding parallel structures and a duplication of work and effort.
  2. It aims to contribute to the organization as a whole, strengthening CISV and achieving our purpose in a unified way.

Appendix 1, pg. 14. I suppose the Pathways coordinators are adults taking the positions that used to be held by JBers (LJRs, NJRs, regional teams, and IJRs)? Those are hard positions for anyone, why can’t they be held by Pathways participants?

Opinion Of The JB Review: Why I Don’t Agree With “Pathways” Conceptually

In the interest of writing posts that are short enough to read, this is part 2 out of 3. See part 1 here. See part 3 here.

It’s broke, but don’t fix it.

Instead of fixing something that we’ve had in the organization since the 1970s, we’re going to dismantle it and start again. When a project gets a bit unwieldy, you rein it in. Redefine it and move forward. Most people will buy in and if they don’t, they don’t. Even though its CISV, not everyone needs to agree.


Real solutions to make JB less ambiguous: There should be specific things that all JBs have in common (e.g. a local board, monthly board meetings, monthly educational activities, working with the local chapter to help support sending and hosting programs, communication with national or regional team member). Specify an age range. If we look to other non-profits with youth sides of local chapters, we will see best practices for requirements.

It’s a lot of the same but different.

Alex said, “I just think this is going to be another example of changing structure instead of solving problems.”

The Name “Pathways”

The name would only make sense to CISVers (much like Step Up). Here’s what I think about that. We already have a name, “Junior Branch,” that makes sense to people outside the organization and one that our members have used for over 40 years.

The Junior Branch Review Team (JBRT) + Data

The JBRT’s perspective is very much one of individual experiences in CISV with long *recent* histories of lots of international involvement. Some are active in their NAs too and maybe some on a local level. I know that not many people wanted to help on this task force but this lack of diversity cannot be overlooked. Thank you JBRT for taking so much time to put this together. It is really nice to see a well thought out proposal even if I disagree with it.

Additionally, the data collected, which supposedly helped JBRT make recommendations, is weak. They tried to have JBs fill out a survey but got incredibly low results. They took information from the Governing Board’s recent survey but again, there was a low response rate. This isn’t JBRT’s fault but more a reflection on our organization’s lack of desire to take surveys (perhaps due to not enough volunteer time, email overload, language barriers, or getting the survey to the right people). JBRT conducted workshops at RTFs too. That’s a great idea. I personally don’t believe that most NJRs represent local JBers super well (their national JB, yes, but local JBs not so much). Some NJRs are good at being in touch with local needs but, my belief is that the majority of NJRs care more about national needs. Having these people participate in regional workshops is good, but again, not local. Local is where chapter members (including JBers) make JB happen.

Time is Not a Free Resource

I can imagine all the (volunteer) time and energy it will take to implement this new program. Also, it will cost chapters money to update all of their marketing/recruitment materials. Is it really worth it? I think no. Maybe we just introduce Pathways as a new segment of how JB needs to work in the future.No time...

Opinion Of The JB Review: JB Is Local

This is an opinion piece on some proposed changes to CISV, a nonprofit peace education organization I belong to. I’m taking a look at the Junior Branch Review which will be discussed at Regional Meetings this Spring. This is too important an issue to not weigh in. I prefer to use this blog because it is more public and better synthesized than Facebook discussions. I value your feedback so please use the comment space below to weigh in.

In the interest of writing shorter posts, this is part 1 out of 3.

Hopefully people have some time before Regional Meetings to think through this proposal. I won’t be at any of the Regional Meetings this year so I’ll be interested to hear how the discussions go.

cisv logo

Basically, the Junior Branch Review Team (JBRT) suggests we get rid of JB and introduce a new program called Pathways. The rationale is that JB has become too separate, too ambiguous, and too varied throughout the organization. On this, we agree [shakes hands]. What we don’t agree on is a *path* to remedy the situation (sorry guys I had to do it).

What is JB to me?

It is a group of young people who can get together locally when they are not at an international program. They plan and run educational activities for each other. Sometimes they participate in community outreach. Overall, it is a place to gather young people with similar experiences (through CISV programs) and values (a more just and peaceful world).

JB National Planning Meeting 2007

Did you notice anything there? I didn’t once mention anything about the international JB. Nor did I say anything about the Regional JB. I didn’t even say anything about the National JB. For your average JBer, they don’t know or care about those things. They care about local. It turns out, most of the adult side of the organization feels like this too. How are we going to secure a campsite this year? How are we going to find enough staff? How are we going to find enough donations to feed 80 people for a month?!

What we forget about when working with international committees, regional delivery teams, etc. is that working at the chapter level is hard. It doesn’t matter if you are a youth or an adult. As a JBer, it is hard to get people to your activity. It is hard to secure a site for an overnight activity. It is hard to run fair elections for your self-government. It is hard to get people to show up for end of program clean ups.

My Experience in JB

I started in JB in the Detroit Chapter when I was 12 because my mom forced me to go to the JB meeting which was at the same time as the adult board meeting. I had been to Village at age 11 (which I LOVED) and missed having deeper conversations about things that mattered. I didn’t say much at those JB meetings but I loved hanging out with the older kids (14-18). I started going to local activities. It was amazing to me that these older kids were planning cool (educational) things to do once or twice a month and I was invited!

I knew that there were other JB groups around the world like ours. I didn’t know that there were national, regional, and international meetings until I was probably 15 or 16. I started to get involved with national JB in the US as soon as I realized I could be part of it. However, I still had a great time with my local JB until I graduated high school at 18. I didn’t go to an international JB event until I was 21. At that point in the US, you’re considered an adult and you don’t participate in JB activities anymore. So how helpful was that? I did pass some of what I learned to younger JBers at trainings I supported but for the most part, I was done.

Looking Beyond

I know that young people stay involved in JB longer in other countries sometimes until they are 25 or older. Arguably, people in the US go to university farther from home and thus leave their home CISV chapter. I know that the European countries and some of the South American countries are close enough that they can have events together more freely (which certainly counts as international).

My point is, the lessons you learn in JB about leadership, CISV’s educational content areas, and volunteerism doesn’t happen at an international level. It happens at a local level.

Looking Forward

CONTROVERSYIf we really want to mix things up, why don’t we dismantle the IJB Team? Keep the IJRs and the regional teams (AJB Team, EJB Team, and APJB Team) to run regional workshops like AJBM, EJBM, and APJBM which are important meetings – especially for small or single chapter NAs. Stop putting so much pressure on international and regional task forces to make challenge projects for each other. Get rid of IJB– we don’t have anything like that at an international level for the rest of the organization so why should JB get it? Let’s stop looking up and start looking around.

Focus all the attention on local JBs, i.e. chapters. Stop flying the international team members around the world and let chapters have that money for JB activities. Finally, only host IJBC every 3 or 4 years and host it at a different time than the Global Conference. JBers should be fully involved in the GloCo. Having a parallel meeting only physically and mentally separates them. At the GloCo, don’t have JB national representatives (NJRs) from every country, instead have local JB representatives (LJRs) from every chapter of every country.

What do you think? Please comment below.


Mindfulness According to Jeffrey Sachs

I read the 2011 hardback version. A new, updated, paperback version came out in 2012.

I read the 2011 hardback version. A new, updated, paperback version came out in 2012.

I just finished reading The Price of Civilization: Reawakening American Virtue and Prosperity by economist Jeffrey D. Sachs. It was a New York Times Bestseller in 2011. If you want to learn about the complexities of how American society is and came to be, this is a fantastic place to start. I skimmed through some chapters but that’s only because I like reading non-fiction about “society” (a term I was never allowed to use in any high school English class). Sachs has a way of blending what you know to be true with facts and figures of what is true. The book covers politics, economics, social psychology, and the natural environment.


My favorite part of the book was chapter 9: The Mindful Society. This is the chapter where Sachs takes a good look at the social psychology of making choices, health, productivity, leisure, and my favorite- ethics.


“We will need, in short, to achieve a new mindfulness regarding our needs as individuals and as a society, to find a more solid path to well-being. Mindfulness, taught by Buddha, is one of the eight steps on the way to self-awakening. It means an alertness and quiet contemplation of our circumstances, putting aside greed and distress. Through sustained effort, mindfulness leads to insight and to an escape from our useless cravings.”

He proceeded to write a list of “dimensions” crucial in our lives:

  • “Mindfulness of self: personal moderation to escape mass consumerism
  • Mindfulness of work: the balancing of work and leisure
  • Mindfulness of knowledge: the cultivation of education
  • Mindfulness of others: the exercise of compassion and cooperation
  • Mindfulness of nature: the conservation of the world’s ecosystems
  • Mindfulness of the future: the responsibility to save for the future
  • Mindfulness of politics: the cultivation of public deliberation and shared values for collective action through political institutions
  • Mindfulness of the world: the acceptance of diversity as a path to peace” (p165)

I think these ideas capture the feel of the book. It is unapologetically complex yet clear. These ideas aren’t new to me but the way he writes it is too good not to be shared. Moderation and not participating in mass consumerism? Check. Balancing work and leisure? Hello, #lifeofleisure. Work hard, play hard. Acceptance of diversity to reach a more peaceful planet? Ding ding ding! I’m there.

What do you think? Is there anything missing? Did something go too far?

November’s Trip to Seattle

Seattle Trip Nov 14 (35)

I finally went to Seattle. And I finally got around to writing this blog post! I visited my college roommate and she showed me all the best stuff around town. My first day there, it was pouring rain. All day. But that didn’t matter because I assumed that it would rain while I was there. I traveled via the Link Light Rail from Sea-Tac towards the city then transferred onto a regular city bus to my friend’s apartment in Capitol Hill. Google Maps is great for dealing with public transportation in major cities. After I dropped off my stuff, I walked towards the central tourist attraction: the Public Market. It was about a mile, mile and a half walk. But again, it was raining so I had to drop into a store for an umbrella. I took some good pictures.
Seattle Trip Nov 14 (2)

Then I stopped at Rachel’s Ginger Beer and oh my god it was so good. I love ginger beer. Its refreshing and healthy. It was the perfect refreshment after walking around for several hours. The shop was right next to the Public Market and had a super hip feel- lots of deep, hard bench tables and a large high-top table down the middle with stools. I highly recommend stopping in here for some ginger beer on tap.

I met up with my friend and we checked out the other sites I “needed” to see. We even had a sunny day on Sunday!

Drinking beer at Elysian:


Watching the locks fill up:
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We shopped in Fremont. This is a display in front of a salon (they do lots of waxes haha).
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Saw the planetary installations around town…
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Walked next to the dinosaur bushes…
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Saw the Fremont Troll under the bridge…
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And even visited Stalin!
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We went to the water and had seafood. We walked around and saw some great views too.
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It was sad to leave but all good things must come to an end I suppose.

Comedians Now Write Books

female comedians book covers

An exchange on Twitter recently got me thinking. The discussion was about books written by comedians and whether or not their audio books were much different from the written format. I find it amazing that books written by comedians are so in demand at all. To me, audio books are a medium similar to podcasts- they’re all about performance and have small, yet captive, audiences. These audio formats should be where comedians excel not necessarily in the book format.

First on the books: Even though show business is all about performance, having show biz folks write books means big money for the publisher and the comedian. I’m surprised that so many comedians get paid to write full length books yet it seems like most big comedians have a book deal. My main hang-up is that a great performer is not necessarily a great writer. I’ve heard that a lot of them will work with a ghost writer or rely heavily on an editor to complete their books. Comedians often complain about how hard it is to write a book within their books too. But hey, if someone is offering you a five or six figure advance to write a book, you’re going to make it work. Out of the 10 or so books I’ve read by comedians, I’ve never thought “oh that wasn’t interesting at all.”

Next on the audio: The audio versions of those books sell well too. I don’t know the statistics about how many people digitally steal audio books but I bet that the majority of people pay for audio books. So not only are publishers making money by selling real hardcover books and e-books, they’re also making money with the audio book format. I think that most listeners buy the audio version of a book because they enjoy listening to the performance of the storytelling.

How this relates to podcasts: Comedic audio books and podcasts are popular of course because people want to be aurally entertained by the writer/comic (I’ve written more about podcasts here and here). I think the rate of people listening to podcasts and the rate of people listening to audio books must have a positive correlation. It seems like more and more people are listening to podcasts, creating podcasts, and appearing on podcasts. What was once thought to be almost a dead medium in the early 2000s has gotten a lot more popular and has revitalized its often more-well-thought-out big brother the audio book. The options available now in both podcasts and audio books are just amazing. I feel like every book gets an audio version now. And every comedian you like is featured on at least one or several podcasts each year. Overall it’s creating a smorgasbord of new media to digest (or binge-listen) and I’m okay with that.