At Big Brothers Big Sisters, we believe every child should have the opportunity to reach his or her full potential – both as individuals and citizens. We believe that by changing the course of young lives we can in turn be changing the course of a community’s future.
Start Talking is a place where we want to raise awareness of key issues that face today’s youth. We will sometimes advocate, sometimes educate, sometimes inform, sometimes ask questions and always invite discussion about the pressing concerns that involve the younger generations of today.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Big Data

Two bags of carrots. That’s what I have in my crisper right now, and now need to figure out what to do with them. It’s not because I have a love of carrot cake. Nor is it related to a craving or even an effort to curb critically low beta-carotene levels. Nope, none of the above. This one is unequivocally a shopping blunder. The result of a poorly planned grocery list and, more importantly, an assumption on the part of our family’s head grocery scout (ahem, me). A preventable error had I simply taken time to check if we had any - to check the “data”, so to speak.

What relevance does the contents of my refrigerator have on…well, anything that concerns you? Believe it or not, it’s representative of my topic today: “Big Data”. The term refers to the notion that we are surrounded by vast amounts of data that can be translated into actionable information.

Big data is all about understanding the plethora of information around us to inform our decisions. For profit companies do it regularly – a great example is an e-reader account I have. I recently had a look through some various e-book options that I thought might be a good read but I couldn’t decide and had to run. Several days later I received an email… “Have another look at ___” it suggested. Furthermore it listed a few other books I might be interested in based on my recent purchases/reviews. And you know what? I bought one of them, right then, on the spot. Remarkable. “This company knows me” I thought. They understand what I like and make it readily available. This knowledge translated into a great read for me, and profit for them. Win-win.

I see the term several times a week in my LinkedIn feed, and even belong to a few groups that are specifically focused on the topic. But despite all this chatter I’ve noticed an interesting gap – it seems, in my experience to date, that the not-for-profit sector has data blinders on. During a speaking engagement earlier this year I asked the audience of around 60 not-for-profit employees if they’d heard the term. The response? Not. One. Hand. I was dumbfounded, and it took my session for an unexpected, albeit extremely interesting, conversation.

Interestingly enough I don’t think this is a case of organizations not knowing how they could benefit, rather I suspect the issue is they don’t have the time. While that may be true, one could easily argue that they must find the time. What could we learn about our program participants, supporters, donors, surrounding agencies, etc. if we took time to really look at the information we have about them? I’ve often heard conversations about how we “think” the participants need this or that, and then develop programs around that perceived need. Sometimes it works great - there are many skilled people who are trained to identify such service gaps and address them, and they do an incredible job doing so. But in this day and age, with information at every turn and tools to at our fingers tips to truly dissect it, there is no reason to ‘guess’. If taking time to understand the information means better serving the participants, raising more money, or building better partnerships, then don’t we owe it to everyone around us to do just that? I know time the most precious (and rarest!) element in the not-for-profit world, but just like spending money on a valuable product, spending time to understand can be well worth the investment.

I didn’t, and ended up with a LOT of carrots – all because I didn’t check the data. By the way, do you know any good carrot cake recipes?

Malcolm McAuley
Manager, Dynamics System
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada


Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Over Four Decades of Friendship

by Omer J. Foisy

The year: 1971. The place: my barber shop in the little town of Thamesford, Ontario, about 20 kilometres east of London. One sunny afternoon, I am just sitting and reading the newspaper. A man pulls up in front of my shop. He comes in and I greet him. He sits and I cut his hair. He asks a few questions and the next twenty minutes pass. He pays me and leaves. About two weeks go by and this man comes in again. This time he has a purpose. He asks me if I have ever considered becoming a Big Brother. I tell him I’ll think about it, and leave it at that. He leaves.

My Little Brother, Jimmy, and I were matched on March 8, 1971. I can’t begin to tell you how much that relationship meant to me. You see, my wife and I had five girls during our life together. At that time we had two girls. Jimmy became part of our family, and so did his family. Jimmy had two sisters and an older brother.

In 1972, I was really involved; I was now on the board of directors. Jimmy and I enjoyed many hours together at his home, playing chess, which he taught me. I never beat him in over forty years. He spent many hours with our family, even camping in the northern parks of Ontario. We attended numerous hockey games at our favourite arena, Maple Leaf Gardens. We’ve been to a Tiger-Cats football game and on many fishing trips. We have been a very close-knit family and will always remain so. We have had sad experiences, such as the passing of Jimmy’s mother and my father, but we have had many —and I mean many — good times! Visits at his oldest sister’s cottage in Port Stanley with his family. We have always enjoyed golfing together and also with his brother and his son, Steven. Steven is also our godchild. They call me “the Godfather.” What an honour it has been to have known such a great family for such a long time.

We can be proud to say we’ve never had a bad word among us. My life as a Big Brother has kept our family close together, and today we still enjoy our everlasting friendship.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014


Ever wonder what makes Canada so unique? From foods to sports, Canada is home to many amazing entities! Check out the awesome list of Canadianisms that we’ve combined and be proud to be Canadian.

You know you’re Canadian when…

Timbits are considered breakfast (we will not tell you what they are, if you don't know!).

We consider Poutine a food group.

You eat chocolate bars instead of candy bars.

You drink pop, not soda.

You have Canadian Tire money in your kitchen drawers.

You know that Mounties "don't always look like that".

You are excited whenever an American television show mentions Canada.

You can eat more than one maple sugar candy without feeling nauseous.

You know Toronto is NOT a province.

Back bacon and Kraft Dinner are two of your favorite food groups.

You design your Halloween costume to fit over a snowsuit.

You attend a formal event in your best clothes, your finest jewellery and your Sorels.

You can play road hockey on skates.

You know 4 seasons: Winter, Still Winter, almost Winter and Construction.

You pronounce the last letter of the alphabet "zed" instead of "zee."

and ... You end some sentences with "eh," ... eh?

You’ll only find these in Canada...

The Beavertail


Montreal smoked meat and real Montreal bagels

Maple syrup pie

Nanaimo bars (we made 'em first)

Butter tarts

of course, Poutine!

Ketchup chips

Vinegar on fries


Did you know…

Lacrosse is Canadian.

Hockey is Canadian.

Yes, Basketball is Canadian.

The biggest flags ever seen at the Olympic closing ceremonies were Canadian (twice...and the second one was smuggled in against a rule that was made because of the first one).

The Hudson Bay company once owned 1/11th of the Earth's surface.

The light bulb was actually invented by a Canadian. (Henry Woodward patented it in 1874). The patent was bought by an American named Edison who improved upon the design and took credit for inventing it.

Other Canadian inventions include: the jolly jumper, duct tape, insulin, walkie talkies, roller skates, Superman, air-conditioned vehicles, acrylics, standard time (and daylight saving time), the paint-roller, the radio compass, snowmobiles, jet skis, improved zippers etc.,etc., etc. (there are thousands more!)

Happy Canada Day from our BIG family to yours!