Project Post – Week 1 Part 1
My street, Gordon Drive, was special. All the parents were friends, all the kids walked together to our local Catholic parish school, Holy Family. Most families participated in Christian Family Movement (CFM) groups, and my parents were even the “President Couple” for our diocese. Dad was a quiet carpenter, but always the leader, tough as nails, and cooler than anyone else’s dad. His mom, my Italian grandmother, lived with us until she died when I was 14. We were forever planning and promoting events. We hosted Big Wheel Races, Bicycle Parades, Carnivals, Concerts, and the annual Block Party. We published the Gordon Drive Times regularly throughout the summer, served huge banquets at church, and went to the national CFM convention each year. My parents took us out of school every January to go on ski vacation with other CFM friends from the parish, and my Dad put in an in-ground pool when I was about 11, making us the coolest family on Gordon Drive (at least I believed we were).
My dad passed away from cancer in 2000, when he was 63. The funeral was huge, and everything changed. Suddenly this strict, all-powerful living conscience was with God, and I learned to live as though he were still here, watching over my every move. And, I had to make sure my mom could live as he wanted her to live, comfortably and happy. She did, for a long time..
Fast forward to today… Now mom is 80 and lives with my husband and I, along with my father-in-law (89). We run a retirement community of sorts, and our focus is on respecting their human dignity as long as we possibly can. Our home is a “common space” that allows them to age gracefully, with love and companionship at all times. I am still close friends with my pals from Gordon Drive. We see one another regularly and still play music together, still plan events, still share our faith, and still know how good we had it growing up. Our families were whole. We had two parents at home, they were faithful and taught us to be. I inherited spiritual capital that serves as a foundation for all I do and will ever be able to do.
Today that spiritual inheritance manifests itself in an academic career as a professor of marketing in the business college at John Carroll University, one of 27 Jesuit universities in the U.S., part of a network of 200 universities globally. I am able to balance my research, teaching and service in ways that allow me to do whatever it is that God is calling me to do at any given moment in time. The best part is that the Jesuits, a 500-year-old religious order of Catholic priests, focus on my continued formation, and my ability to ‘find God in all things.”
After completing a fruitful career holding executive level marketing positions in multinational firms, I still have absolutely no regrets about jumping from corporate America to academia. The finances worked themselves out, with God’s hand for sure, and I did not lose any of the material ground I had gained. I still consult for for-profit firms, but much prefer non-profits or NGOs. Thus, I established Inspired Foresight LLC to serve the marketing and research needs of other non-profits, especially Catholic and Jesuit ministries, and NGOs serving refugees at the margins. To promote my messages of faith and justice, we have Inspired Clams, our musical group (saying it’s a band still feels silly). It is my husband and I, and several players from, you guessed it, Gordon Drive. My husband is also an audio engineer. He has toured the world with many top artists, which is a huge advantage to ensuring the message in the music makes it clearly to the ears and hearts of our audiences. One of my former students, now alum and close friend, sings backup vocals. Sharing in music facilitates an economy of love.
My vision for a consistently thriving future includes the ‘promotion of faith that does justice’ as the Jesuits would say. Namely, I will continue to research, teach and promote the Integrative Justice Model (IJM), a normative ethical framework for fairness in marketplace exchange. It is “normative”, meaning the way things ought to be. The IJM is based on five essential tenets with underlying decision principles that can be measured to assess justice in varied contexts. These are 1) authentic engagement with non-exploitative intent, 2) value co-creation 3) interest representation of stakeholders, 4) investment in future consumption, and 5) long term profit management rather than short-term profit maximization. An additional latent variable that has surfaced in our research is “amplifying the voice of the (impoverished) consumer.” I teach the IJM in my courses in the US, and online with refugee students of Jesuit Worldwide Learning in the context of entrepreneurship (Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Kenya, Malawi). My colleague, Fr. Nicky Santos SJ, PhD (a Jesuit) and I have presented the IJM in many settings and countries including Ghana, South Korea, Philippines, Sweden, Switzerland, Scotland, England, Ireland, Germany, Mexico and Belize. I have also presented this work at the United Nations Higher Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) and work with the UNCHR/Worldbank Joint Data Center on Forced Migration. Pre-lockdown, we were headed to Columbia and Portugal, but those opportunities await.
Now that I have taught over 1,000 students about the IJM over the past 10 years, and used it to measure justice in homeless shelters, parishes and refugee camps (N. Iraq and Lebanon), it is time to pull these experiences together in a way that it can be sustained in a shared economy. I envision an active research and consulting firm with the existing non-profit structure of Inspired Foresight, but that employs alumni and vulnerable consumers (trained as social innovation researchers). We will work in a collaborative learning environment with action oriented, advocacy efforts and policy recommendations grounded in the voices of the impoverished consumer. Also, I am currently designing an online global classroom course for American students and international refugee researchers who will earn the credential of Certified Social Innovation Researcher. These areas are where I most want to invest my time, talent, and treasure.