TOM's Shoes... what's on your feet?

Thursday, December 02, 2010

On Tuesday night I attended a pretty cool event organized by the Telfer Student Council about Tom's Shoes. I am going to stop right here and play my "full disclosure" card. First the event was organized by Danielle Perrault (a former employee of mine). Second, it was a teaser event for the Sustainable Business Conference, for which I am on the organizing committee.

But none of that should matter because the event was really cool for a couple of reasons. One, I had no knowledge about TOM's shoes before that night. Two, the event was followed up by a pretty good open forum talk that included Guy Laflamme (the VP Communications over at the NCC and a prof at the Telfer School). And three, about half of the event was conducted in French, making this event a pretty bilingual event.

The night started up by a documentary viewing of TOM's Shoes. The movie actually didn't rub me the right way at first. It really started out as a bunch of rich people playing polo and taking the typical "We need to save poor people" approach which can sometimes be perceived as pretty condescending. But the tone shifted and I can of started to think to myself, "Well at least these people are actually doing something positive". I would recommend this doc to others.

Then the movie was followed up by some comments by Danielle and Guy, and an open forum discussion by the audience. A lot of talk circled around two themes - is there a model that teaches impoverished people to metaphorically "Fish fro themselves" instead of making them depended on yet another handout? - and, "why didn't I get to learn about this stuff when I was in school", a sentiment expressed by several students who were just finishing up their degrees.

The night ended with an announcement about the Sustainable Business Conference (February 11th... tell your friends!!!) including the giving away of 3 tickets for the event, and one lucky participant won a pair of TOM's shoes. Now I have purposefully not mentioned much about the TOM's shoes concept because I do want you to go find out more and maybe see the movie or attend an event. But the principle is simple, if you buy a pair of TOM's, another pair is donated to children in need. It is a 1 for 1 deal. And so that means that a child in need will receive a pair of shoes because of the event on Tuesday.

I think the best part of the whole event is summed up in the little things, you know... those things that seem insignificant but that are actually the most important.

1) Danielle served free food for the event (to get more people to come), but she didn't cop out and get a plate of cookies and some coffee. Instead the event was catered by Krackers (a catering company that employs people with developmental challenges and serves healthy foods)

2) Everything was compostable... in fact there were no garbage bins at all for the event

3) The event was moderated by bilingual individuals. The conversation jumped from English to French effortlessly and it was a pretty cool environment.

4) Guy Laflamme, one of the 'moderators' had actually done some pretty cool social outreach projects himself. His students started the whole "Le Niger, c'est notre affaire" project

Kudos go out to Danielle and her volunteers. She has certainly raised the bar for the Sustainable Development Conference.


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