Saturday, August 15, 2009

New Twist on an Old Thing

One of my favorite things about my new home in Little Rock is its proximity to a place called Rivermarket Books. I didn't realize exactly what it was until I put my $12 book on the counter and they charged me $4 for it. After I got over my shock, they explained that the store is stocked almost exclusively by donated books. Most of the books are used, but there is decent selection of vendor-donated, new books too; therefore, they can charge really low prices.
I was familiar with Half Price Books in San Antonio. I like Half Price Books, but I've always been disappointed by the amount they pay for a used book in comparison to how much they charge for it once it's on the shelves. They pay practically nothing for most books and charge significantly more than Rivermarket books. I'd much rather give my books to Rivermarket Books for nothing and pay less for the books I find in the store. I'm curious about other areas in which this business model might be successful.
I've asked myself the same question about Tom's shoes. Their one-for-one business model in which every pair of shoes bought results in a pair of shoes being donated to someone in need intrigues me. The business seems to be successful and helpful, which makes me wonder if the same model could be applied to other goods: other clothing items, computers, food...

Friday, August 14, 2009

Admitting My Ignorance

This morning I read two articles in the New York Times related to the ongoing Health Care reform debate. A few days ago I watched a talk show which hosted two members of the House or Senate talking about the ongoing Health Care reform debate.

Prior to coming to the Clinton School I would have passed over both of those, but I'm trying to broaden my horizons and take advantage of all the school has to offer. One of those offerings is an upcoming meeting with Congressman Vic Snyder as part of the Clinton School's Distinguished Speaker's series. He'll be talking about...the ongoing Health Care reform debate. I thought it would be a good idea to be prepared for our meeting with him.

After reading two articles and watching one talk show, I still know next to nothing about the ongoing Health Care reform debate. Not only do I not get the issue, I don't get methods used to discuss the issue. No one quotes the actual bill. It seems like a series of claims, such as, "They're creating Death Panels!" followed by a series of denials "No we're not!" followed by a series of back-and-forth versions of "Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire!". The point seems to be who can come up with the cleverest insult and hope that it becomes a soundbite.

So, if you're out there and reading this and can point to a good reference which represents both points of view and quotes the actual proposed legislation I'd appreciate it if you'd share it with me. Preferably before our meeting with the Congressman on the 18th.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Year One Project

I'm excited because we recently received our project assignments for our Year One project. I'll be working with two of my classmates and the organization described below.


Targeting our People’s Priorities with Services (TOPPS) offers a full range of services to youth in the Pine Bluff Jefferson County Community that include education, recreation, job training, cultural awareness and physical fitness. This project will concentrate on developing an evaluation plan to determine the effectiveness of all of the organization’s programs. The plan will also be implemented on Changing Steps, TOPPS’ girls mentoring program."

I think there are 12 groups of us all working with different organizations in the Arkansas region. I'm really hoping we get to hear about all of the projects in detail because they all seem very interesting.


Wednesday, August 12, 2009

A Little about the Clinton School

My understanding of the Clinton school is as follows: It's a 2-year program focused on the practical application of public service. Rather than just reading about current theories of public service, we will be "in the field" doing service concurrently with our classwork and studies.

Year One: Regular course load plus an assigned project with a small group of fellow students. This project is designed to push us out of our comfort zones and help us to explore aspects of public service we aren't already familiar with.

Students, this is similar to the Storytelling project in that we don't get to pick who we work with and we don't have much control over the project we are given, but we do control our approach to the project.

Summer between Year One and Year Two: International Service Project. This is an individual experience in which we travel abroad to broaden our perspective on public service and focus on an aspect of public service that we hope to pursue in Year Two.

Students, this is a little bit like your experience travelling to Heifer Ranch. :-)

Year Two: The Capstone Project. The Capstone Project is a service project of our choosing. It's an individual project. In other words, it's a personal Make a Difference project. :-)

Click on the links if you'd like to know more about the Clinton School or Heifer Ranch.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Finished my Summer Assignment

As karmic payback for giving you summer assignments, or just because it's a really a good idea, I too had a Summer Assignment. My assignment was to read two chapters from the book The New Public Service: serving not steering. (I'm pretty sure you're supposed to underline book titles but I haven't figured out how to do that on this editor.)

I'd like to point out that I finished the reading on Tuesday and my assignment isn't due until Sunday. Three cheers for not procrastinating!
Since I haven't read the whole book, I don't think it would be fair for me to summarize it. Instead I'll share a few key quotes from the sections we were assigned to read:

"More and more, we are forced to recognize that the only authentic communication in which we can fully engage is face-to-face interaction based on our recognition of the other as a self we share."

"The ideal of authentic discourse sees administrators and citizens as engaging fully with one another, not merely as rationally self-interested individuals being brought together to talk, but as participants in a relationship in which they engage with one another as human beings."

"The questions we face are at once both simple and enormously complex: How will we treat our neighbors? Will we take responsibility for our role in democratic governance? Are we willing to listen to and try to understand views that are different from our own? Are we willing to forgo our personal interests for the sake of others? Are we willing to change our minds?"

I wouldn't say anything I read shifted my paradigms, but I enjoyed the reminders to listen to and be considerate of others on a political and personal level. I also enjoyed the examples given in the book of how some city governments are doing just that.

Students, between you and me, I'd have preferred to make a collage. ;-)