going radical to save the seals

going radical to save the seals

As a newcomer to Seattle, I’m enjoying learning about the diverse organizations and causes with roots in the Pacific Northwest. Each month, I will highlight a local group whose radical work inspires me to be more radical in my own work and daily life. -bb

A band of individuals, comprised solely of volunteers, tirelessly protecting seals along the Puget Sound by setting up perimeters and literally babysitting them to protect them from harm? Radical.

From June to September, in the inland waters of the Puget Sound, Harbor Seal “pupping season” is in full swing. The pups “haul out” onto the urban beaches to regulate their temperatures, rest, and conserve calories. They have a limited number of calories to expend while they are learning to sustain themselves, and disturbing them or scaring off their mothers can—and often does—have fatal consequences.

This is where the Seal Sitters come in. Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network is a group of volunteers who do just that: babysit the seals.

Trained by the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Seal Sitters provide rescue services and collect seal health and mortality data, aiding government agencies and biologists by researching the health of the Puget Sound ecosystem as a whole.

Although public education and data distribution are important, sometimes a situation becomes so dire that you must take the matter into your own – carefully trained – hands. The sitters search for seals on their own and respond to calls from the public. They set up safety perimeters near the animal, monitor its health from afar, and sit guard with the pup until it chooses to re-enter the water. If the animal is in need of medical assistance, the sitters take it to the Progressive Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) for rehabilitation and, hopefully, an eventual release back into the wild. The goal is simple: Keep them safe where they are until they are rested enough to return to the water.

Due to harassment from humans, dogs, and boats, the seal population is suffering. Some people simply don’t know any better, and others don’t care. However, the sitters are making the public more aware of this issue through their presence on the shores of our urban beaches. More and more, people are notifying authorities and waiting with the pups until the Seal Sitters arrive. The message is reaching the public, and the seal population will reap the benefits.

To find out more about the Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network, visit the organization’s website and blog.

what is radical?

what is radical?

At Aggregate we strive to be radical in our strategy, creativity, and storytelling—in our work and our lives. For the Aggregate team, being radical in our work means looking at our strategy with a different lens, always ensuring we tell our and our clients’ stories in the most streamlined and effective way. Being radical means: Being brave. Taking a risk. Trying something new or unique.

So, how are we radical? I asked some of my colleagues to tell me of a time they felt the most radical in their work or in their lives, or something radical that has inspired their lives and work.

Amanda: I don’t think I’ve ever actually felt “radical”—I only see my actions as radical in retrospect, like the time I left college because I didn’t feel like I had a clear purpose there; when I returned, I did so on my terms. To me, being radical means having hope. As the filmmaker Cameron Crowe said, optimism is a revolutionary act.

Amy: I spent one summer in college traversing the Chicago neighborhoods that my well-meaning parents lectured me to never visit. While interning for The Chicago Reporter, an inspiring investigative magazine focused on race and poverty, I interviewed dozens of people in the areas surrounding Cabrini Green and other public housing developments that were in the process of being demolished. Getting to know so many people whose lives were changing dramatically, who were being forced to relocate and enduring myriad hardships, was transformative. This experience reinforced my plans for my life and career: I was determined to work toward positive social change.

Barbara: From shipping myself to the Czech Republic at age 20 to study international politics, then to Denver for my grad program in International Development & Environmental Sustainability, to taking a chance on Seattle and landing this incredible job with Aggregate, I have always approached work and life with the idea that while you must make the most of what you have, you must not be afraid to try something new, step outside of your comfort zone, and do something radical to move forward. Whenever I’m stuck personally or professionally, I remember this quote: ‘If you don’t like where you are, then change it. You are not a tree.’ It may be messy and might not be easy, but if it isn’t working, try again and try something different. Look at it from a different angle. Do something drastic to reach your objective. Be radical. You—and your work—are not trees.

David: It’s a good question. I’ve done politically-inspired billboard modifications in the dark of night, linked arms with strangers in the streets of DC at the first WTO protests and turned my home into a sweaty all-ages punk venue. But others had done all of that stuff before, and often better. However, if I think of John Burroughs’ encouragement, “Leap, and the net will appear,” my most radical action was eschewing New York or LA after college and moving back to my hometown of Columbia, Missouri to make movies and start a film series. Eventually that series would spawn a theater and a festival and both would become cultural touchstones for our small community. That feels more real, and more radical, than any street action I’ve ever been a part of.

Josué: One late night, driving home from a show, I was stuck in traffic and noticed a completely inebriated man harassing a woman on the sidewalk. I couldn’t tell if they knew each other or if it was a random attack—all I could see was him violently grabbing and shoving her. As she tried to walk away, he pursued her. As they aligned with my car, I sprung out and interceded. I told the man to walk the other way and made sure there was a bit of distance before I got back in my idling car to rush home and change my pants.

The whole thing lasted 10 seconds, and afterwards I couldn’t believe what I’d done. I’ve never been in a fistfight and squeal at the sight of blood. But there was something radical in that moment. I didn’t think to process my decision, I only knew there was violence happening, and someone had to step in.

Melissa: In June after the Turkish government issued a ban on demonstrations, Erdem Gunduz, aka The Standing Man of Turkey, stood in silence for eight hours in the middle of square in Istanbul. Photos of Gunduz and other silent protests remind me of the importance of finding new ways of getting a message across.

Qui: Our first child is due in spring 2014. This is the most radical thing I’ve ever done.

our annual contributions

our annual contributions

When I decided to start my own company, one of the things that I wanted to achieve was to ensure that the people I hired were proud of where they worked. I figured we could do so in a few different ways: do smart, creative work for great clients, provide a fun and beautiful setting for them to come to every day, enable them to have new experiences (travel, meeting cool people) and be a company that wears our values on our sleeves.

To achieve this last item, we could be outspoken about the issues we care about—in our conversations, via the content we share online—and we could work with organizations that share those values. We could also give to organizations that were working to uphold those values.

We moved into our first office on September 1, celebrated our first anniversary on October 1 and today we are announcing our first annual charitable contributions. We reached out to friends, vendors, family and clients for ideas and they sent quite a few fabulous options. Hopefully next year we’ll be able to increase the number and the size of the donations we make, but this is what we are doing this year.

Boys and Girls Club of King CountyWe wanted one of our donations to go to a group in our home town of Seattle. Haley suggested the Boys and Girls Club because, as she said, they enabled her to afford to ensure her beautiful daughter had after school care when Haley was enrolled in a full time Master’s program. Giving women the chance to further their education—and to inspire their daughters to do the same—is core to our hearts and we love having the opportunity to allow Haley to say thank you and to join her in doing so. We are giving the Boys and Girls Club $500 (actually, we’re letting Haley’s daughter do the honors) and encourage you to consider making a donation as well.

Southern Center for Human Rights: We are proud of the work we are currently doing with the Council of State Governments Justice Center and of the other people in our world who work to address the injustices of the criminal justice system. They need our help. The Southern Center for Human Rights provides legal representation to people facing the death penalty, challenges human rights violations in prisons and jails, seeks to improve legal representation for poor people accused of crimes, and advocates for criminal justice system reforms on behalf of those affected by the system in the Southern United States. We are giving the Southern Center for Human Rights $1,000 and hope you will consider making a donation as well.

Ali Forney Center: On December 17, Spencer Cox died at the age of 44. Spencer was a committed AIDS activist whose passion enabled him to contribute to saving the lives of millions of people worldwide, a fact we should all know and never forget. His family suggested three charities to which donations could be made in Spencer’s name and we selected the Ali Forney Center. The Center, in New York City, provides housing and other services to homeless LGBT youth and recently needed to invest significant resources to rebuild its drop-in center, which was destroyed by Hurricane Sandy. We are giving $1,000 to the Ali Forney Center—in Spencer’s name—and hope you will consider making a donation in his name as well.

Spencer was featured in David France’s How to Survive a Plague and upon his death, David posted the amazing video of Spencer at the top of the page, in which Spencer reminds all of us what matters most: being kind, and being generous. Thank you, Spencer.

getting along is not social change

getting along is not social change

Alison Byrne Fields shares her thoughts on the tough work behind effective collaboration at “Collaboration Central” on PBS’ MediaShift.

Hint: It has nothing to do with “getting along.”

“Too often, we enter into a partnership or collaboration like we’re on a first date. We mask our faults with a coat of makeup or a new outfit, pretend to have interests and capabilities we don’t have, and assign super-human qualities to the person sitting across the table in the hopes that they might just be “the one.”