Monday, August 31, 2009

Getting to Know our Revolutionary Thinkers

Ready to be inspired? Meet our Revolutionary Thinkers, some fascinating people who will inspire you to think big!

He feeds thousands of people from two acres of inner-city land in Milwaukee. How does he do it?

Will Allen is a pioneer in the urban farming movement and the founder of Growing Power. His programs transform the lives of low-income families by working to provide high-quality, healthy and affordable food for all residents in the community. Allen cites a simple but life-changing goal: to grow food, to grow minds, and to grow community.

Allen was recently featured in The New York Times magazine – read the article here.

This 32-year-old woman has generated nearly 100 million dollars for worldwide micro-lending. Want to learn more?
Jessica Jackley is a founder of, a non-profit microfinancing website that lets you lend as little as $25 to a specific third-world entrepreneur, empowering them to lift themselves out of poverty. She is revolutionizing personal giving and inspiring a new generation of philanthropists through technology.

Learn more by checking out here.

A brilliant futurist believes genetic sciences will radically change your life in the next 20 years.

Are you ready for it?

Juan Enriquez is one of the foremost authorities on genomics and the life sciences. He focuses on the ways in which scientific advances will impact business, technology, politics, and society.

Watch Enriquez’s TedTalk, one of the ten most popular on the site, here.

This renowned sociologist is changing the way we think about possibilities after age 50. Want to know more?

Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot is one of the nation’s leading educators and a Harvard Professor, whose most recent book, The Third Chapter: Passion, Risk, and Adventure in the 25 Years after 50, envisions a cultural shift in our attitudes toward youth and age.

Check out Lawrence-Lightfoot being interviewed by Bill Moyers on PBS here.

Full panelist bios and additional links will soon be available on our website. Stay tuned!

Revolutionary Thinkers
takes place on Friday, October 2, 2009 at 8PM at The Bushnell in Hartford.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Remembering Teddy.

Growing up in middle class Massachusetts, The Kennedy's was as common a phrase as The Sox. My grandmother would often mention Jack n' Jackie, and my mother's bookshelf was filled with books about Camelot. Visions of a strong, white haired man named Teddy, smiling on a sailboat or speaking strongly at a podium were on the news, it seems almost every night. As a young child, I didn't understand who the the Kennedy's were, or what they did. I just assumed they were famous people who happened to live on the cape.

That would change the first time my mother told me about the day President Kennedy was assassinated. She described in detail exactly where she was, the devastated reactions of those around her, and the quiet stillness of my grandparents glued to the television when she got home. So many years later, you could see very clearly the impact that that day, that man, and that family had had on her life. This intrigued me.

In 1999 I was on vacation at Coast Guard Beach at the cape the morning after John Kennedy Jr.'s plane disappeared. As I played with cousins, the adult family and friends I was with spoke of John Jr. as if he were one of their own, their faces painted with worry. I couldn't believe that this had impacted them so much, how personally they were taking it.

As I advanced in school, I developed a fascination with media and politics, and the role history has had on both. It seemed only natural that with that, I also inherited my mother's interests in the Kennedy's. I read books and articles, and listened more and more closely to the stories told by my family, and the evening news.

I learned that Teddy was more than just a Senator. I learned that he was 'The Lion of The Senate" fighting for those who did not have a voice. I learned that despite much tragedy, scandal and hardship, he never faltered on his beliefs, and never gave up on the fight to bring them into fruition.

This spring, I had tickets to the Sox home opener at Fenway. A lifelong, die hard fan, I was elated to be there, and on the T I was gushing about how Beckett was going to annihilate Tampa Bay and get the revenge we so deserved...then I heard the man in front of me say that it had been confirmed that Ted Kennedy would throw the game's first pitch. I had heard rumblings of this the day before, but I didn't think that it was possible given his physical state. I knew right away that this was going to be a game I would never, ever forget.

Beer and hotdog in hand, we made it to our section (standing room) and got ready. A few minutes later after some pomp and circumstance, music began to fill The Fens, and from left field, he appeared. In a golf cart driven by Hall of Famer Jim Rice, Teddy circled the entire park waving to fans with a smile that could be seen all the way up to the bleachers. By then I was standing in the aisle, speechless. I looked around me-the entire stadium was on their feet. Some were crying, and most shared my awestruck expression.

This is when I fully understood Teddy, and the Kennedy legacy. It's something that I could have never learned from a book, an article in The Globe, or any news broadcast. As I stood in that aisle at Fenway, I was surrounded by 40,000 people who quietly in their minds, were saying goodbye to Teddy, and to The Kennedys.

Teddy is my generation's Kennedy. While I respect and admire the accomplishments of his family, I was here to experience his, and feel directly impacted by him. No matter what side of the aisle you stand on, Ted's enthusiasm and compassion were contagious, he motivated you to care, and in many cases, take action.

Thank you Teddy. Thank you for all that you have done for History, for the Nation, for Massachusetts, and for me.

"We know the future will outlast all of us, but I believe
that all of us will live on in the future we make."
-Senator Ted Kennedy

Monday, August 10, 2009

Struggling to Understand Health Care Reform: Some Thoughts From Forum President Richard Sugarman

The CT Forum staff, along with a few volunteers and one YOUTH Forum member, had an impromptu mini health care Forum in our office last week in an attempt to understand all of what is meant when we talk about health care and the proposed reform. However, when it was all over we still felt like we had more questions than answers. In the days that followed we kept returning to our questions, sharing articles that we each found helpful, and continuing our discussions.

Yesterday, Richard shared the following email with the rest of us - it's his working out of his thoughts on paper. It stimulated more discussion here at the office, so we thought that others might be interested in reading it too.

Let me try to clarify my understanding of the difference between health care reform and health care insurance reform.

Health care insurance is a business, just like any other business, with business models and profit as the incentive. In this case it supports many large industries: Pharma, Physicians, Hospitals, Medical Equipment and Suppliers, Insurance... oh, and Lobbyists. All of these industries are structured to reap the greatest financial return - profit for themselves. ALL the incentives in this model go toward greater profits and revenues. Outcomes are measured by financial returns. There is often a disconnect, or at least a poor connect, between the customers of this model and the industries in this model. The customers fall into 4 general groups.

1.) Uninsured 47m people. They typically only use emergency rooms and hospitals and have limited access to physicians or clinics for services. They tend to be much sicker, wait longer for care, are under-served, and suffer real pain from rather ordinary illnesses - dental problems, colds, diarrhea, etc.

2.) Underinsured This is a very large group, possibly most Americans who have insurance of some sort and pay for some or most of it. The insurance includes large deductibles, co pays, and limited coverage.
This group has the "illusion" of coverage, but when they get sick often realize how little is covered.

3.) Those who are insured and are either paying for it personally or sharing costs with their employer, are reasonably covered for care, especially serious illness, but are scared about the future. Paying for their annual total health care costs has become a burden and any little financial problem could tip them over into the first or second group. They are often dissatisfied with the quality and timeliness of care but they at least are covered. This group is also very large.

The first three groups share in common a frequent and purposeful denial of claims, fear of the loss of coverage, having to fight with providers over coverage, frequent over-medication and unnecessary treatments. This is all a part of the business strategies for the industry.

4.) The final group is those who have coverage, pay for it or share costs with employer, and are truly satisfied, content, and at ease about their coverage. They don’t worry about getting sick or about any financial problems affecting their coverage. They have great doctors, and easy timely access to any and all care as needed. The system is working great for them. I don’t have any idea how large this group is, but I suspect it is very small.

It seems to me that the current reform plans are generally about this group of businesses and customers. The reform seems to be limited to tweaking some of the costs/revenues/profits of the industry players. Hospitals are giving back $80 billion over 10 years, Pharma is giving back $100 billion over 10 years, and insurance is giving back...? This is only tweaking, something like offering a 3% discount to a customer or in this case many customers. There is nothing reformist about that - every business in the world is giving discounts to its customers today and has become the way to do business.

If we want true reform…a reset of the health care insurance industry…we will have to look fully at the incentive system that is so firmly in place and introduce new incentive models that reward things other than fees for service, tests regardless of need and effectiveness, medication that is way too expensive and way over prescribed, and insurance that denies coverage as a business strategy. How about incentives like the Mayo Clinic where all physicians are paid a salary, work as collaborative teams with true continuity of care, and are judged and rewarded based on quality and effectiveness of care not frequency of tests and treatments? Even with a public option, if we continue the current old incentive business model, not much will change and we will find ourselves in a worse spot in 5 -10 years.

Now about the other piece…health care reform. This is not a business model full of industries and for-profit companies. This is all about health: healthy people, healthy practices, healthy reinforcements, a healthy society made up of healthy communities. In this reform effort health care prevention is not a lost, diluted message; it is a central value. Good health and health practices are everywhere, for everyone. Schools offer healthy good food to children, the workplace is not just the provider of health insurance and a source for unhealthy lifestyles, but rather includes many healthy lifestyle elements that employees expect and value. Healthy becomes the norm - it is everywhere for everyone. In this health care model good care is also available to everyone for no or low cost. Care is not a business, it is a core part of life in our country. Care services are offered in a coordinated collaborative system. When people get sick they all receive the highest level of care and service. Treatment is based on what is needed, what works, what is effective. Look again at the Mayo Model. The dynamics of costs, incentives, and profits are viewed totally differently in this system of health care.
My only other thought for the moment is: who is satisfied with our current system of health care -- insurance or care -- and who is dissatisfied? I would love to know.

A few articles we've been sharing:
Atul Gawande on health care payment reform in The New Yorker.

Jacob Weisberg's article in Slate, surveying health care across the world

We'd love to hear your responses.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Shark Free is the Way to be: Alice Waters Vows to Skip the Shark Fin Soup

Alice Waters found herself in some hot water following our May 14th Forum, Food for Thought, when she shared that she would like her last meal to be shark fin soup.

This surprised fellow Food for Thought panelists Anthony Bourdain and Duff Goldman as Alice is best known as the revolutionary leader of the Slow Food movement. "That's not local," chuckled Bourdain.

But, there is some good news for sharks around the globe this weekend, as the New York Times has reported that Alice recently signed a No Shark Fin pledge, promising to never to consume or serve shark fin soup or any product containing shark fin.