‘Sexting’: A New Crisis for Relationships?

‘Sexting’… So what is it anyway? ‘Sexting’ by definition is sending or receiving sexually explicit messages or photos by mobile phones or other social media. This is a trend that has increased steadily through the years as more and more people have utilized phones as their main method of communication. In fact, 88% of adults have engaged in some kind of ‘sexting’ within the context of a relationship according to a paper called: “Reframing Sexting as a Positive Relationship Behavior.” 2Is ‘sexting’ more common than we believe or are these research studies just turning up coincidences with this type of behavior? Emily Stasko, at Drexel’s University in Philadelphia, surveyed 870 heterosexual individuals and found that more ‘sexting’ was associated with a higher level of sexual satisfaction. 2These are just two studies, you might say, and don’t represent the population at large. Well, another way to look at this is that technology is something that most people (in larger cities or suburban areas) concentrate on daily. People are very involved with social media on mobile phones, computers & tablets. They are using these social media applications for various reasons (i.e. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, WhatsApp, Tumblr, Vine, Snapchat, etc). Is there any reason to think, even for a minute, that people are not using technology to date or enhance their present relationships? People all over the country (and the world) have access to texting/messaging, social media, and video chatting (Facetime, Viper, etc.). It is extremely easy to use any of these modalities in the context of a relationship.So how do people view ‘sexting?The problem is that not everyone defines ‘sexting’ the same way. Is it the sending of sexually explicit or provocative messages? Is it primarily the sending of sexual images? Some people see it as one, the other or even as both. This has been unclear because there have been various opinions about the subject. ‘Sexting’ may not be limited to just messaging but could also include the use of Twitter, Facebook, Skype and Facetime, as well as, other social media platforms. This could also mean sending sexually explicit video or showing nude body parts while video conferencing. This complicates matters even more and broadens the current definition.Most people have really warmed up to the idea of ‘sexting’ and according to the research, previously cited, a very high number of people have engaged (and continue to engage) in this behavior. These research studies and surveys have focused on how ‘sexting’ can improve relationships and rekindled sex lives. However, there is a darker side as well. This article focuses on those individuals that use ‘sexting’ as a way of seeking excitement, sex, and/or attention outside of their present relationship. The lines are sometimes blurred with regards to virtual or internet relationships because they are not viewed as being “real.”Is ‘Sexting’ outside of a relationship considered cheating?That is a good question. We already know that ‘sexting’ or sending these sexually provocative messages can really enhance a committed relationship. However, what happens when people send these types of messages outside of a committed relationship? How is ‘sexting’ viewed among the general population?”A 2013 Huffington Post article of 1,000 U.S. adults found that 85 percent of women and 74 percent of men consider ‘sexting’ a form of cheating.” 1′Sexting’ outside a relationship can be exciting especially for those individuals that are looking for ‘that extra something’ in their lives. Perhaps these individuals love their spouses or partners but seem to have ‘lost’ the passion or excitement in their relationship. For other individuals, maybe they are looking to find someone else online or in a virtual sense (i.e. via texting, online websites or other media) that they can flirt with and is considered “safe.” That could fall into the “grass is greener on the other side of the fence” scenario. A person may be very happy or mostly satisfied with their partner but think that they might be able to find something better outside their relationship.Other scenarios could include men or women that seem to feel as if they are invisible to their partners or spouses due to over demanding careers, children, mental illness, physical illness, alcoholism, etc. These individuals may find that through ‘sexting’ with a 3rd party that they can feel loved, desired and even sexy. It is through this media (and possibly other reasons) that people justify their actions and tell themselves that they are not cheating because there is no physical relationship.Is this behavior wrong? Is it cheating? There are various reasons why an individual may decide to engage in ‘sexting’ outside of his/her relationship but what is the intention exactly? Some people may believe that due to the virtual nature of ‘sexting’ that it isn’t necessarily wrong. ‘Sexting’ doesn’t have to involve physical contact and it could just be chalked down to a simple fantasy (or something that they don’t intend to pursue). It may have started as something very innocuous (like work-related messages sent to a colleague, coworker or fellow student) but then it moved forward to a more sexual type of relationship.However if a person is deleting texts, hiding cell phone bills, or being secretive about this virtual relationship then it seems that he/she has become more involved with someone other than a spouse or partner. This person is now thinking about another person, sending pictures to that person, and possibly wishing he/she could spend time with that other person. If we are looking at the health of a marriage or relationship, any time someone else becomes involved, that health has now been compromised. We could also argue that the commitment toward the relationship or marriage has waned because of the 3rd party that is now part of the equation.Case Examples:Maria and Thomas (not their real names) have been married for 3 years but have been together for about 12 years. Thomas had been dealing with anxiety issues for his whole life but had developed a drinking habit to numb the intense feelings that he dealt with on a daily basis. This drinking problem had become so bad where Maria had found him passed out on the couch a few times after work and he spent a good amount of time drinking with colleagues. This situation caused her to feel very detached and distrustful of Thomas. She didn’t feel as if Thomas loved or desired her and that his drinking had become his new relationship. Maria decided to contact a former male friend from school with which she began a ‘sexting’ relationship. She never sent any sexually explicit photos of herself to this other person but the messages they shared were very provocative.Maria never had any intentions of actually cheating on Thomas but she just felt lonely and unattractive. She sought companionship with someone that showed interest in her and chose to continue this ‘sexting’ relationship for a couple of months. She mentioned that this person made her feel sexy and desirable. She also felt good that someone was interested in her and although this person requested to meet her in person, she never did. Maria had some guilt that she was busy sending messages to someone other than her husband yet she continued. She got so frustrated with Thomas that she even ‘sexted’ this friend of hers while her husband was next to her on the couch.Now, although this behavior of Maria’s was not having a physical affair it was an emotional affair. Maria was tired of trying to get through to her husband about his drinking and lack of interest in her. She spent a good amount of time looking for affection outside her relationship because her husband was not available to her. When Thomas found out about this ‘sexting’ relationship that Maria had started, he was devastated that she would do such a thing.Maria made the decision to seek therapy to discuss her concerns and disappointment in herself and her relationship. Obviously she realized that while her marriage was not in the best state that she needed help to put things into perspective. After a few sessions, Maria wanted to bring her husband to join in the sessions. These sessions were spent having both of them discuss their feelings and how they were each disappointed with one another. Maria was able to discuss how she felt undesirable and lonely while Thomas received validation for his anxiety issues. Thomas was confronted for his alcohol abuse and how that was affecting their relationship. This couple was able to communicate, forgive each other and move forward.—A second couple, Julio and Gabrielle (not their real names) were not so lucky. Julio started ‘sexting’ with another woman he met online just after the birth of his daughter. He had been unhappy with Gabrielle for some time however just didn’t know how to communicate his feelings. He had come from a family in which communicating feelings was highly discouraged. So while his wife was pregnant and tired a good portion of the time, Julio was online looking for some attention.At first, things were very mild. He sent a few texts here and there just looking to see if other women were interested. However, once his daughter was born, Julio spent a lot of time on his phone. He ‘sexted’ with a particular woman with whom he had a connection at work and in the car. He also deleted all of the messages because he didn’t want his wife to become suspicious or to find them ‘by accident.’ So he was able to keep up this front for some time…a good 6 months.However, one day he wasn’t so careful. Julio forgot to delete some messages and his wife looked at his phone while she was up in the middle of the night feeding the baby. She was appalled and devastated at what she found. Gabrielle chose not to say anything right away because she wanted to see if she could catch him or get him to admit to this behavior. And one day she was able to do just that. She found him in the bathroom taking pictures of his genitals and sending the pictures & messages. She confronted him on the spot and but he denied ever meeting up with this woman. Gabrielle realized that they needed some serious help and sought therapy.She communicated that she loved Julio and wanted to keep their marriage intact but was not going to accept this type of behavior from him. Julio was able to finally, after some encouragement, to communicate that he had been unhappy with Gabrielle for years. He stated that he only married her because she had become pregnant with his daughter but he didn’t feel that the two of them were very compatible. She also found out in therapy that Julio had lied about meeting up with the woman that he was sending messages to and that they had been dating. It was at this point that Gabrielle and Julio decided to separate because their relationship was not reparable.So what should you do?If you have found yourself interested in finding attention outside your marriage or relationship, it is important to ask yourself some important questions.What do you want to accomplish? What are your intentions? Have you found that you are not interested in maintaining your marriage or relationship? What is the reason you are trying to connect with someone else? Are you looking for some attention because you are not getting it at home? Are you seeking out something more exciting or compatible than your partner/spouse? Or is your relationship salvageable with the help of someone who can encourage better communication and engagement? Are you just looking to make you’re your partner/spouse jealous? These questions need to be answered before the relationship deteriorates past the point of no return.If you decide that you are simply not interested in continuing with your present relationship, then some honest dialogue needs to occur with your spouse or partner. It is important to communicate your feelings and to allow this other person the opportunity to hear that the relationship is over. This allows your partner to start the process of grieving the relationship and eventually moving on. Hopefully, you are able to provide some support and compassion for your spouse or partner and allow for a more amicable separation.————-However if you have recently found out that your spouse or partner has been involved in a ‘sexting’ relationship, it is important for you to maintain composure. It is completely normal to have intense emotions regarding the situation however it will not help in the communication process. Please ask questions about this other relationship and find out about your partner’s intentions. It is important to know if your spouse or partner is interested in continuing with your relationship and ending the other one or not. It is helpful to have an objective 3rd party there to help both of you to determine in which direction you both want to travel.Emotions will be high in either situation especially for the person that has just found out about this outside relationship. If you are too deeply hurt by your spouse or partner’s ‘sexting’ relationship to stay with him/her, then this must also be addressed. Each person deals with highly emotional situations in different ways. One couple might be able to communicate effectively even in difficult situations while another couple might not be able to be in the same room together. So it is important to know how your spouse or partner will react in this situation and find a way to come to a workable conclusion that best fits both of you.ConclusionSince ‘sexting’ has become such a popular activity among adults in monogamous relationships and with those that are dating based on the research provided in this article, it is important for everyone to be more knowledgeable regarding the topic. The research shows that ‘sexting’ can enhance a monogamous relationship. The case examples show two different scenarios that can ensue. If people are unhappy in their present relationship and choose to utilize ‘sexting’ to find excitement with another person, the end result could be relationship or marital dissolution.Couples are encouraged to seek out help. A counselor, therapist or psychologist can help couples to find their way through this situation. If a relationship has been extensively damaged by ‘sexting’ (through which a physical relationship may or may not have begun), there are important feelings on both sides that need to be addressed. Depending on the desires of both people involved, these relationships can be saved but does take time to rebuild trust and confidence. Since most of these relationships consist of one (or both) persons seeking out someone else, it is vital to encourage verbal communication about the things that each person views is lacking in the relationship. Feelings need to be communicated and each partner or spouse needs to have the opportunity to express him/herself. Forgiveness plays a HUGE part in this type of situation. Each person has to ask him/herself if forgiveness is an option and if so, they can proceed toward creating a new relationship together. They can do this by spending time together and discussing how to satisfy each other’s needs. Only after these important issues have been brought up can the couple begin to move forward on a new path toward happiness.References:1. Rebecca Adams, “A Look Inside The Insidious and Adulterous World of Sexting,” Huffington Post, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/12/02/sexting-cheating_n_6185288.html?utm_hp_ref=sexting2. Rachel Zimmerman, “Sexting Among Adults May Be More Common Than You Think, Survey Suggests,” WBUR’s Common Health Reform & Reality, http://commonhealth.wbur.org/2015/08/sexting-adults-relationships

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Black History Month And The First Black Republic: A Link Long Forgotten

In February each year, Americans of African descent join all other Americans to celebrate Black History Month. In many quarters of the United States and other parts of the world, celebrations of this historic event take place. Accordingly, the significance of observing a black history for a full thirty days should be viewed and manifested in many more ways than merely recalling the Emancipation Proclamation that “freed” black people from the shackles of slavery. Certainly, “a black history” in its entirety transcends the Civil Rights Movement that legally “ended” black-white segregation particularly in the United States.Even more so, the emphasis of honoring a Black History Month must be placed far above President Barrack Obama’s assumption of the presidency of the United States as the first African American to do so. Although a well-orchestrated “million-man” march on Washington in 1963 marked a pivotal point in the black man’s liberation struggles, it does not nearly define the essence of observing a full month of black history as an end in itself.It is common knowledge that the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s headed by the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was at the height of the black liberation struggles. As significant as this historical event may seem, it was but a part of the global picture of the black man’s struggles for freedom.Therefore, it must never be seen as a cut-off point where the battle for ‘equal rights for all’ ended. It goes without saying that to assume so would equal to a presumption that with the passing of the Civil Rights Act, the struggles for equal rights and justice was over for all people of color. The truth is that to this day, there remain many more challenges for descendants of freed slaves. Lest I be misunderstood, this is not to argue that the achievements of Dr. King and the likes of him do not hold very significant place in the annals of black history. They certainly do, to say the least.My concern here, however, is about perception, especially on the part of those who were (and still are) direct beneficiaries of the resulting effects of those great movements and concepts. Take (for example) in contemporary America, how does the average African American relate all of his rights guaranteed under the Constitution of the United States to an opportunity for success? How does the average African American utilize his god-given ability to learn and sharply compete in a world plagued by rivalries and fierce competition? How do the legacy of Dr. King & the Civil Rights Movement on the one hand and the legacy of Dr. Carter D. Woodson & Black History Month on the other, influence the ambitions of black people to attain formal education and other technical skills? What necessary measures are needed by descendants of free slaves that will ultimately gravitate them to better paying jobs and other luxuries of life? Working towards conclusive answers to these inquiries will go a long way in making Black History Month the single most proficient way to immortalize all liberation movements that fought to attain equal rights and justice for all people. Besides accentuating a commitment to perpetually keep alive the legacies of Dr. Carter D. Woodson, Activist Frederick Douglas, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and many others, this will ultimately keep their heavenly spirits in absolute balance and unending joy and happiness!Black HistoryIt is in this respect that I strongly believe that in paraphrasing the history of black liberation during programs marking the observance of Black History Month, the story must be told as accurately as possible by, at least, highlighting significant details. As the old adage says, “that which is not done legally, is not done at all”. In much the same way, a history not completely retold is, at best, a history not told at all! More often than not, stories after stories of great black heroes in nearly every aspect of American and world history are told each year as we observe Black History Month. Interestingly, mentions are never made of the significant transition from slavery to freedom and the subsequent demonstration by the early freed men to self-govern.A case in point here is the display of magnificent skills and bravery by a handful of the emancipated slaves who, using their god-given talents, institutionalized a nation state and subsequently declared a free and independent state nearly a hundred and sixty-five years ago. In consequence of the repeated failures of keynote speakers at Black History Month celebrations to dwell on the single most important achievement of blacks, the number one success story of those noble men and women are hardly bought into the spotlight. It is appalling that at programs commemorating Black History Month, we repeatedly hear of a few great black inventors, singers and the likes but black political geniuses who founded and declared political independence of a sovereign black state as early as the mid 19th century are never mentioned for once. I am uncertain of what the opinion of my readers might be on this, but I sturdily feel that the quest and subsequent attainment of political independence for an all-black republic nearly two hundred years ago, supersede all other achievements in all black history. I stand corrected!The gravity of this arduous achievement may be better understood when one considers, for example, the establishment of the first Negro Republic of Liberia in the first half of the 19th century (J. Horton & L. Horton, Slavery And The Making of America, 95). Following this remarkable achievement,it took more than a hundred years for the first set of black nations on the continent of Africa to gain political independence from their European white colonial masters. Here in the United States, it took unreasonably longer before the first civil rights act was singed into law. Ultimately, when it came to the pursue of happiness and the right to liberty for the early black man, what more could be more fulfilling than the right to self-governance? Regrettably, emancipation accounts are repeatedly narrated during these great black national events far short of this indisputable account.

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I hesitate not to argue further that this (outright) failure by renowned speakers during Black History festivities to make mention of The Declaration of Independence of a free & sovereign black state on the West Coast of Africa by emancipated slaves is like an attempt by a serpent to move past its head. What this does invariably is making an attempt similar to presenting a specialized profile of a region without reference to the inhabitants of that region. What other achievements could be greater than the attainment of political independence for a people held in bondage for hundreds of years? Just as they remained fully cognizant that generations after generations of their ancestors were held in oppression for nearly three centuries in the Americas, many of these black heroes got first-hand experienced of slavery as well. Pursuant to their personal experiences of the greatest human tragedy in all of history, the freed men never took for granted the right to freedom and the pursuit of happiness.It is out of this concern that as America observes Black History Month each February, I wish to bring into focus an often ignored (but the single most significant) achievement of the black man in the post emancipation era. I have spent a number of years working in public related institutions where the observance of Black History Month is taken seriously each year. Institutions and individuals at all levels in society often attend programs commemorating these events. Many invitees at these functions participate in activities ranging from singing church spirituals to celebrities performing popular stage shows. Often, top academia are called to present “professional” research papers on various topics in black history. It is astonishingly disgusting to note that even at such well organized and intellectual events, the attainment of self-governance by free black slaves are never indicated, much less discussed. Until the meaning of Black History Month fully encompasses the single most significant achievement of freed slaves, the salinity of the observance itself will remain far-fetched.The more I ponder over the inept approaches used by heirs of those great black heroes and the failure to duly memorialize their ancestors, the greater I sense some irresistible urge to bring into the spotlight the forgotten link between Black History Month and the early successes of people of color in their fight for equal rights and self-governance. Overall, the first and foremost agenda item for those black pioneers was a genuine quest for self-governance and the pursuit of happiness that would include the right to freedom and justice. By way of emphasis, I reiterate here again that it is important that the history of the African American is not told until someone forcefully and truly tells the entire story. While the intent of this brief article is not to retell black history, I shall endeavor to speak briefly to the necessity of bridging a significant link (long broken & forgotten) between Black History Month and Liberia, the first black republic.As I do so, some efforts will be made to expound on the extended determination for freedom by an oppressed people and the glaring similarities between the former and the latter. To enhance this review, let us slip back into history for a short while.The oldest recorded history of what is known today as Black History Month dates back to 1915 when one Dr. Carter D. Woodson and Rev. Jesse E. Moorland co-founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, acronym ASNLH (biography.com/blackhistory: 1/20/2011). Primarily, the objective of the Association was to research and bring awareness to the ignored but important and crucial role blacks played not only in American but also in world history. In just one year, Woodson published his findings in the Journal of Negro History. The intent of that publication was to cast out all misconceptions about the Negro. Additionally, it attempted to educate black people about their cultural background and to instill in them some pride in their race.Carter Woodson himself, who was the second black man to receive a degree from Harvard University, was the son of a former slave. He understood the importance of education and advocated the preservation of one’s heritage. A fraternity group called PSI Phil created Negro History & Literature Week at Woodson’s request in 1920. In just six years later (1926), Woodson changed the name to Negro History Week. He then selected the month of February primarily to honor two men whose actions radically (but positively) changed the future of all (black) Americans. The one was President Abraham Lincoln, born on February 12, who issued the Emancipation Proclamation and the other was Frederick Douglas who was born February 14. Douglas, too, was a tireless advocate to end slavery.Woodson and the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, provided learning materials to teachers, black history clubs, and the larger community. In 1950, Dr. Woodson died but his legacy continued as cities and organizations through out the country adopted the celebration of Negro History Week. During the Civil Rights Movements of the 1950s and the 1960s, the observation of the week gained prominence as the focus turned more and more on the significance of black cultures (biography.com/blackhistory: 1/20/2011).This, in effect, moved the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH) to change Negro History Week to Black History Week. The ASNLH is now called the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASAALH). The week was extended in 1976 to a one-month long observance.It is little wonder, therefore, that today Black History Month is celebrated through out the United States by not only school kids, but also by everyone in the USA including teachers & university professors, doctors, lawyers, paraprofessionals, economists, politicians, men, women and everyone in between.When President Abraham Lincoln signed into law the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863 (J. Horton & E. Horton, 187), major revolutionary changes ensued which brought some level of freedom and sanity to enslaved Africans for the first time in over two hundred years. However in the decades following, the freed men were left with daunting challenges including the need for food, adequate shelter & clothing, and (perhaps more importantly) the natural urgings for self-governance.The Founding of Liberia: “Land of the Free”I was born and raised in Liberia; a small West African country with a population of under four million people. As a child, I attended public school where I learned first to write and then speak English under American English instructors. All through grade and junior high school, my instructors were American volunteered teachers (Peace Corps) who were exceptionally inspirational and who proved to be true fountain of knowledge for kids of my age. We learned to write and (tried) to speak the American version of English as opposed to the British style. We were taught the American way of doing arithmetic. We studied American literature and read great American folktales such as those of Paul Bunyan and Gulliver’s Travel. In grade school, we learned and recited the four seasons and other climatic conditions of the United States. Exclusively, we used American textbooks and learned a great deal of everything American, though we were not American children.Outside of our academic milieu, we again tried to do everything American, from soul music to soul limbo on the dance floor, for instance. When we honored calls from our teachers to perform a chore after school at a teacher’s house or when we were asked simply to complete a special assignment, we were always given something to eat or drink as some form of positive re-enforcement.In a way, this helped us as kids to acknowledge American generosity. At grade school level and with limited English vocabulary, these gestures gravitated us to our American tutors and allowed a bond of relationship that did not exist between some of my peers and their biological parents. Some children my age and some older kids went the extra mile and dressed the American way as they spent their last dollar (allowance) to purchase fancy baggy pants and go-go shoes. With the passage of time and as we became little more fluent at speaking and writing English, the bonds of teacher-student relationships between our American teachers and some socially ambitious students became stronger. Our utopian view of America broadened as we grew older. A substantial number of these kids later married to their former instructors who now live happily as couples in the US today.I have deliberately drawn my childhood experience into this discourse simply to draw attention to the conspicuous similarity between the cultures of Liberia, the first black independent state, and the people of the United States as viewed from the perspective of the African American community. Prior to the overthrow of government in 1980, the official currency of the Republic of Liberia was the United States dollar. This reality is rooted deeply in the fact that Liberia was founded by former slaves who shunned mediocrity and rose above pettiness to establish a sovereign state. Since independence in 1847, nineteen of Liberia’s twenty-two presidents were emigrants who were sons and grand sons of former slaves from the United States. As a nation state, Liberia has played and continues to play pivotal role in international relations. As a founding member of the United Nations and the Organization of African Unity (now the African Union), Liberia helped champion the liberation struggles of many former European colonies in all of Africa.If part or all of the essence of observing Black History Month, therefore, is to be interpreted to mean honoring the achievements of a segment of God’s creation who were held in bondage for centuries, then why has Black History Month been so distinctly unable to link to Liberia as a shining example of black achievements? If Liberia, in the history of humankind, was the torchbearer of black freedom, independence, and self-governance, then why do planners at Black History Month festivities pay death ears and play blind eyes to the crucial relationship between two sisterly establishments that are so culturally interwoven?According to Dr. Carter Woodson, co-founder of Black History Month, the number one goal of observing black history is to bring awareness to the crucial roles blacks played in both American and world history. Incidentally, a major part of such roles was played decades earlier by the establishment of the first Negro republic. Hence, if the organic laws of Liberia have anything to do with proclaiming equal rights and justice for people of color everywhere, as they certainly do, then the ASAALH as parent organization of Black History Month Festivities, must step up to this challenge by calling a spade a spade. Let each annual observance of Black History Month include public proclamation about the founding of Liberia (Land of Liberty) as the first significant step of the Blackman’s march to freedom and equality. It is not enough to argue, as some may be tempted to, that because Liberia is not a part or territory of the United States, due credits for successes of the black liberation struggles should not be extended thereto. Under whatever canopy, such argument would not hold air because, as indicated supra, the first written account of self-governance by a group of blacks was that occasioned by the establishment of Liberia, a nation founded by former slaves from the United States. I am strongly convinced that the resolve of an oppressed people to meander their way out of slavery and established a constitutional democracy is a milestone worth emulating, even so at all commemorations of Black History Month. In essence, when it comes to the political achievements of black ancestors, there must be no boundaries even as to politics, economics or other non-political occurrences.

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Now let us return to the brief review of the establishment of Liberia as the first black independent nation founded solely by African Americans with support from the American Colonization Society, ACS. The ACS was co-founded by Henry Clay, John Randolph and Richard Bland Lee and officially established in Washington D.C. on December 16, 1826. This was nearly fifty years before slavery was outlawed in the United States. According to Wikipedia, the ACS was principally founded as a vehicle to support the return of black people to what was considered “greater freedom” in Africa. With support from prominent activists including Paul Cuffe, a mixed race and a wealthy New England ship owner, the ACS received support from many black leaders and members of congress for an emigration plan. “Under the protection of Captain Paul Cuffe and his crew of seven, eight adults and twenty children crammed aboard the seventy-foot brig headed for their new homesteads” (Paul Cuffe, Black Entrepreneur and Pan-Africanist, Thomas 101). From 1811 to 1816, Cuffe financed and captained successful voyages to Africa. Between 1820 and 1822, the ACS in conjunction with prominent black leaders and activists, founded the nation of Liberia with the sole purpose of repatriating from the United States all freed men of color. Eventually, the dreams of Entrepreneur Cuffe became a reality (Thomas 119).Superficially, the role of the American Colonization Society in the repatriation efforts of Africans appeared genuine with a purported claim of giving black people the opportunity to live “fuller lives” in Africa. However, as it played out, no sooner did it become evident that nearly all of the advocates for the repatriation of blacks who participated in the resettlement arguments did so for motives far unrelated to genuine concerns for the black man’s right to life and liberty. For example, the American Colonization Society and the Quakers or various Christian leaders who supported the abolition of slavery in collaboration with ordinary slaveholders, saw the resettlement of freed slaves to Africa primarily as the safest way to abort perceived threats from free blacks to the (American) society. Although members of the ACS officially denounced slavery in all its form, many were openly racists as they argued that blacks would be unable to fit into the white society of America.As we observe Black History each year, it is important that we soberly reflect on the colossal controversies in history that have attended the denial of the rights of the black man to live freely, independently and happily. Unlike the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and the 1960s, the resettlement efforts in the pre-revolutionary civil war era resulted from a variety of motives. As mentioned above, many slaveholders and some abolitionists held strong views that blacks could not achieve equality in the United States, no matter what. In addition, there were those who became progressively more apprehensive that increasing number of free black slaves would eventually encourage slave revolts, while others out-rightly perceived the Black man as a burden to society and a threat to white workers because they (black) were paid much lower wages. As above mentioned, some members of the ACS who denounced slavery in all its form, were openly racists. They, too, argued likewise.In consequence of these pathetic accounts in the archives of black history, it is my fervent opinion that the concluding paragraph of this article calls into focus the broken & forgotten link between the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASAALH) and Black History Month on the one hand, and the Republic of Liberia on the other. Besides being a torchbearer of freedom for people of color, the Republic of Liberia was founded for and by African Americans nearly two hundred years ago. When Dr. Carter Woodson and Rev Jesse E. Moorland co-founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History back in 1915, they did so to spotlight the many roles black people played in the world that were often ignored or never referenced. In black history, therefore, Liberia was the first symbol of black freedom and independence and if Black History Month annually recollects eminent black achievements in history, then the former and the latter are closely related. They both exemplify the success stories of all black people. The two are directly related. Link them!The End

Take Charge at Telecommunications Schools

Instead of taking off work to wait for the phantom cable guy, or pleading with your Internet Service Provider to change your fiber-optic cables back to copper so you can get DSL service, why not take your telecommunication experience into your own hands? Telecommunications schools can show you how.Your FieldIn a world where families and businesses are spread across the globe, telecommunication (communication at a distance) is no longer a luxury — it’s a necessity. Where would you be without your cell phone? Or your BlackBerry? Or your TiVo? All of these are facets of a telecommunication career, which encompasses voice, video, and Internet communication services.In your telecommunication career, you’ll be entering an ever-evolving industry that is continually introducing new technologies and services. Fiber-optic networks bring lightning-speed communications to residential customers. Wireless providers are increasing the capacity of their radio networks and introducing improved portable devices that transmit voice, data, e-mail, and video. And, some wireless phones now use VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) technology to make phone calls through local wireless Internet networks.

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Your TrainingThat’s why, if you want to succeed in this competitive industry, you’ll need postsecondary training from telecommunications schools. There, you can acquire the knowledge and skills you need in computer programming and software design; voice telephone technology (telephony); laser and fiber-optic technology; wireless technology; and data compression.The good news for graduates of telecommunications schools is that steady employment is available in almost every community. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the telecommunication industry provided one million wage and salary jobs in 2004.Your CareerWhat exactly will you be doing in your telecommunication career? Fifty-five percent of all telecommunication workers are employed in administrative support occupations or installation, maintenance, and repair occupations.Here’s a telecommunication career overview: Telecommunication craftworkers install, repair, and maintain telephone equipment, cables and access lines, and telecommunications systems. Line installers and repairers connect central offices to customers’ buildings. Telecommunication equipment installers and repairers install, repair, and maintain complex communications equipment and cables. Cable installers travel to customers’ locations to set up pay television service so customers can receive programming. Telephone operators make telephone connections, assist customers with specialized services, provide telephone numbers, and may provide emergency assistance. And customer service representatives help customers understand all the services offered by telecommunication providers.

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Graduates of telecommunications schools can expect to be well-compensated for their efforts. According to the BLS, average weekly earnings of nonsupervisory workers in the telecommunication industry were $853 in 2004, significantly higher than average earnings of $529 in private industry.Quit waiting for the elusive cable guy, and boost your career competence at telecommunications schools today.

Systems Thinking in ‘ORGAN’-Izations

What is systems thinking? Systems thinking is the process of understanding how things influence one another within a whole. That definition and many like it are found all around the internet, but do we know what it looks like in action? I found it confusing in many cases due to these same resources stating that a systems thinking approach is the opposite of breaking a larger system down into its parts to be analyzed and/or improved. It is my opinion that using a systems thinking approach in an organization is a balance of both.I’ve read a lot about tearing down these functional areas as if they are some kind of barrier standing in the way of a systems approach. I am going to disagree with this and state that we simply need to work with them differently. I strongly agree with the need for these teams, but the information within should be openly available to all other teams and the communication paths should be directly available.In every business we have a product, service, solution, etc… to provide to someone and in many it is important to have expertise organized into functional teams within the organization. These functional teams need to be in place for organizations to provide important pieces such as expertise, accountability and responsibility. Building a culture of relating these functional teams to systems that are part of a larger system and promoting collaboration between these systems is how I would describe getting your organization to a systems thinking approach.A systems approach provides many things from efficiencies and cost savings to feedback loops and product improvements. It can even have a positive influence over morale.After recent discussions on systems thinking I was looking for an example of an organization that utilizes a systems approach effectively. What I realized is that not only is the human body a great example of many things working together for a common goal, but that we study and teach on this subject recognizing each of these parts as systems working together.If you were to look up the Human Organism and write down the highlights, you are probably going to write something like skeletal system, muscular system, nervous system, etc… See the common factor?

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Now hold that thought and let’s look at the human body as we look at our own organizations. Imagine a standard org chart with organ systems breaking down into each system (nervous, muscular, digestive, etc… ), then to the organs themselves (heart, lung, liver, etc… )From atoms to molecules to organelles that form cells which form tissue which leads to organs that make up an organ system and results in an organism.If the body worked vertically it probably wouldn’t function let alone be what it is today. The body maintains our functional groups that allows for expertise, responsibility and accountability; but still has many interworking systems.Notice that when we speak of the functional teams that make up the body, we refer to them as systems. The body has 11 major organ systems, but what you cannot display in such a standard org chart representing the body is the overlapping of these systems. Nearly all of the major organs of the major systems have other organs from other systems connected to them. Notice that I said there are 11 ‘major’ systems. Choose your belief here, but whether fantastic evolution or a genius creator, the need for interworking systems was obviously not overlooked. I listed some organs that fall under their organ system, but what happens when I ask you where the hypothalamus resides? It is a gland so let’s say its functional area is the endocrine system, but it’s function is being responsible for the activities of the autonomic nervous system. This happens to us everyday right? Your software developers are not writing software to develop software.We’ve decided that with the org chart of the human body if you will, it needs a system to link the system, hence we have what is known as the neuroendocrine system. This is found again and again throughout the human body where functional areas overlap. The muscular and skeletal systems work so closely and are dependent on each other for optimization of movement and support that we have a musculoskeletal system. Genius right?The musculoskeletal system is not a whole new functional area of the business with new management, etc… Consider instead that it is a space where representatives from both systems come to collaborate on their ideas of how to reach the common goal and then returns to their own system.Aside from not addressing dependencies from multiple functional areas to optimize the outcome, silos cause other issues in the organization. Regardless what your functional area is, it is better than the others right? If you are an installation tech, you could meet your goals if development had it together and if you are in development your product is fine if only your installation guys were smart enough to implement it.We’ve got to tear down these silos and interact. Every decision made in a functional system is going to change the overall system. If your change is not matched and/or countered by other changes the result has changed. What a standard org chart (silos) doesn’t do is help us identify where a problem is or visually instill the idea that what one does has a greater consequence to the common goal. As an example, let’s assume you have hypoglycemia.Well, hypoglycemia is a condition that occurs when your blood sugar (glucose) is too low. Now you have double vision, fast heart, nervous, shaking, sweating, etc… Each system is reacting. If you take medicine to rectify the symptoms without understanding the true cause you could damage your pancreas or cause other systems to work harder to counter the new effects while not actually curing the problem.Hypoglycemia can be caused by medications or alcohol so it could be the fault of the mouth. If not the mouth maybe the overall digestive system for not breaking down the carbohydrates or back down in that functional system to the pancreas for not producing insulin. Maybe it’s the blood stream and maybe it’s that the liver and/or muscles aren’t storing glucose properly. It very well might be a digestive system problem, but unless we understand how systems overlap you might of just replaced your director of digestion when in fact the problem could of been any one of circulatory, muscular, or endocrine systems.Similarly, defects in the muscles and bones can be the result of neurological problems, metabolic or vascular disorders, nutritional imbalances, etc… If any one of the systems that make up the human body were to over/under produce or change what it does all together, it can drastically change every other system and the overall result of what they were previously working together to do.

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The body has 5 vital organs being the brain, heart, lungs, kidneys, liver, and pancreas. Scroll up if you need to, but I’ll just tell you that the blocks are red and each resides inside of a functional system. What?! The brain isn’t higher than bones? All of these systems work together and due to this the information uses the nervous, muscular, circulatory, and other systems to share information where they overlap and transport it to another system it interacts with. If you were to put your hand on a hot surface the body reacts by sending signals to other parts of the body. Your muscles contract to pull away, it notifies your brain of the incident, your blood pressure increases while you breath heavier, your pupils dilate, and you start releasing hormones like adrenaline.Many systems in the body just worked together to notify, react and rectify and it did so by communicating within interworking systems rather than all information leaving the critical areas and coming back via the same point it went it out. Good thing or you might just still have your hand on a hot surface waiting for that single point of communication to be available.Any living organism is amazing, but remove any one system or even tamper with it without proper communication to the others and if you are still alive, you’ve just caused cancer.To do this an organization needs to instill a culture of collaboration and team building so that the vital organs can work together while the functional manager acts as a servant leader to keep his experts focused, trained, and with the tools they need to do what they do.With all of the communication that the body has going on, you can provide it with the right nutrients and not only is it healthy, it becomes self healing when the unknown arises. Shouldn’t your organization be self healing?

Fashion and Accessories Home-Based Business

If fashion is what your language is, then you can be good at fashion and accessories making home-based business. The world is thrilled with the enhancement that fashionable items and artistic outputs can do. Life could be dull without fashionable clothes, creative beads and pieces, beautiful shoes, nice costume jewelries, and modern bags. Young and old individuals are more open-minded in carrying what’s in. Women have become trendier while men have started to dress for the day-with or without occasion.

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To start a fashion and accessories business, you must be aware of latest trends in dress and apparels. Be aware that your competitors are malls and shops that are mushrooming everywhere but be challenged to provide what they cannot which is house-to-house transaction. Your clients need not spend money for gasoline just to travel to the shops to get a new pair of accessories or dress. There are two options you can choose in venturing into fashion and accessories business. First is that you can get good deals from wholesalers and producers of signature and non-signed brands that are sellable. Second is that you can create your own line of jewelries, accessories, bags, shoes and watches. Whatever products you will be specializing on, you must zero it down to establish a more specific identity as a company.

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If you will be creating your original clothing pieces and costume jewelries, you must be largely creative in terms of fashion and jewelry designing. This could be a greater challenge and test as to what extent you are capable for producing. You might need extra hand to create multiple products to suffice multiple orders. Always be ready to set reasonable prices for your customers.

Use of Drones in Aerospace/Defense

The development of unmanned aerial systems, or drones was initially for military purposes. As these aerial systems did not require an onboard pilot, they were seen as a useful weapon on the battlefield. Not only does a drone decrease the mortality rate of the soldiers, it also provides the military a chance to spy on the enemy in a discrete manner.Drones have become an important component of national defense for the following reasons.· A drone is an unmanned vehicle, that is, it does not require any one to be on it to be controlled. This is possible because it can be controlled using a remote control. Though it is mandatory that it is still controlled by a trained pilot, it does not require the pilot to go with it.

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· The US military has been using drones to search for terrorists in Afghanistan and have proved how useful they are for conducting covert military operations.· Drones can be used for various purposes such as searching for hidden terrorists, gunning the terrorists down in their own areas and searching for the hidden landmines using hyperspectral imaging sensors.· Keeping an eye on the air space of the country.· Keeping a check on the borders of the country without threatening the lives of the most precious soldiers.The use of the US Army’s Global Hawk in the combat field of Afghanistan has already made news. This has triggered a race between countries to own and develop this technology as soon as possible. Countries like UK and China and India are already way ahead in the research and development of drones for their respective defense forces.The use of drones even by the army is not only for combat and espionage purposes. This technology is largely being developed for the times when a crisis hits the nation. The military is trying to use drones in areas that have suffered fire or earthquake where the military and air force is called in to rescue people. This is the humanitarian aspect of the use of drones. Drones are sent in difficult to reach places to search for survivors. When the images from a drone shows the presence of any survivor, special teams are sent in to carry out rescue operation. This has saved many lives and is sure to save a number of lives in future too.

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The countries that are trying to be the controlling factors in the world need to have this technology soon. UK has started by bringing together all of its top engineers to develop homemade UAVs and there were news about the flight of their first UAV named Taranis.The use of UAVs cannot replace the fighter jets or the satellites, however, they can be used for surveillance missions that can’t be performed by fighter jets as they are too big and therefore can be spotted quite easily by radar. Drones are definitely one of the “must haves” for any good army in the future.

Hoodia and Alli – Product Reviews

Obesity is a growing concern in our generation. Millions of Americans who buy diet products are diagnosed as obese or overweight, with a lot more in other countries. This phenomenon was caused by a mixture of a sedentary lifestyle and an improper, fat-filled diet. As we grow increasingly interconnected, many people can now work in the comfort of their own homes. While this has proven to be an advantage, these same people can become obese if they’re not careful.Because of the prevalence of obesity worldwide, several companies have produced diet products that claim to help in weight loss. Some of these products are chemical in nature, while others are simply herbal supplements. One difference that isn’t readily apparent is the fact that herbal supplements like hoodia don’t have to get approval from the Food and Drug Administration. Because of its nature as a supplement (as opposed to a drug), the FDA simply has to make sure that the substance is safe for regular use. It doesn’t have to be approved in terms of effectiveness.

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Patients who buy Alli, on the other hand, can be sure that it has FDA approval for diet products. It wouldn’t be released otherwise. It is marketed as safe and effective, and the official Alli website partners the medication with a comprehensive weight loss program that encourages a change in lifestyle and eating habits.How these two substances work are vastly different. Hoodia was discovered during the mid-30s when anthropologists noted that African tribesmen ate the plant to prevent hunger. Pretty soon, the plant was being studied for its applications to diet products. This particular diet supplement works on the body by suppressing appetite. Specifically, it tells the brain that the body has already eaten enough, and thus a person who ingests it doesn’t feel hunger for a longer period of time.When you buy Alli, you’ll notice several key differences. One of the most major differences is that it doesn’t do what hoodia does to the brain. In contrast to sending signals to the brain, this weight loss drug instead disables the primary enzyme that helps the body digest fat. This allows the unabsorbed fat molecules to be discharged through the bowels. In other words, they aren’t stored in the body like they normally would be.Like all oral medications, both of these substances have side effects. Those who buy Alli may experience diarrhea and frequent bowel movements. This can be attributed to the drug’s work with the fat in the body, and a low-fat diet will help minimize this side effect. Hoodia has been reported to have negative effects on the liver. Because studies haven’t been adequately done on this supplement, there are no official reports about its side effects. As a safety precaution, diabetics, pregnant or breastfeeding women, and hypertensive patients should avoid taking it.

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With the availability of diet products on the market, we’re making headway in the battle against obesity. Whether it’s a chemical drug like Alli or an herbal supplement like hoodia, modern medicine has given us some of the tools to fight this condition. However, a complete victory really can’t be declared without the appropriate changes in lifestyle and diet. Supplements alone aren’t going to keep us healthy.

The 7 Pillars of Branding

Although the question of branding has always been essential part of marketing and has been approached with multi-dimension models, sometimes these studies have been made without systematic approach or with full of redundancy or ad-hoc views. Unlike marketing which has the widely-known and usable, practical 7P-model, branding still misses such a sort of basic structure which makes the skeleton of all branding story.Here I am making an outline of such a simplified model to help people in successfully designing brands and also to better understanding the already existing ones. I collected 7 layers of the branding with 7 different tasks to be completed in everyday actions. I hope this can be useful for the readers, too.Right before entering this syllabus, we need to define what brand and branding is: in our view brand is a vision that is related to a specific company, product or any specific entity which lives in people and materializes to them. Branding is the art of deliberate control over the whole process.First pillar: Publicly knownA brand always defines a smaller or bigger group of people who are somehow aware of the product or the service in question. This is the prerequisite or trivial condition of all brands: if you are the only one who knows a specific service or uses a specific product and no information is publicized, the service or product is unable to evolve into a brand. This is the primary task of all marketing efforts, making our specific product or service (along with its whole branding costume) widely known on the addressed market: the majority of the marketing budget is used for this purpose. At this point we normally pay attention to the details of the publicity of all brands: target segment(s), its content, geographic, demography, media, communication methods, timing etc.Task 1: design and make your publicityHowever, the fame of a product or service is not exclusively based on the publicity gained (mostly depending on the money available for promoting the brand) via frontal, push-type of promotion. Money spent on communications is a very important factor to reach the second stage of publicity: the people involved in the communications flow will probably share the information with each other and start a – sometimes very simple and few words – discussion about the product or service heard. The act of sharing the information with each other happens or has happened with all known brands. Suggestions, opinions made in public are very important in articulating brand and thus creating or strengthening/weakening brands. This is why the importance of Facebook in contemporary marketing cannot be overestimated enough, or, with similar effect, the customer service/problem handling has always been focal point of customer satisfaction and branding, too.The publicity of branding therefore incorporates all means of sharing the information related to a specific brand or service. There are two basic type of publicities: there is of course the strictly controlled information sharing method (typically: marketing communications) and we also have to face a second publicity, the huge uncontrolled means of communication. When we are thinking on designing a new brand or just examining an existing one, we have to enlist all the ways how the specific brand gains publicity and sort them by relevance with regards to the public coverage and effect, making special attention to the uncontrolled ways of publicity.The success of controlling publicity is a key to profit from branding, however, public control will never mean information monopoly over the media and over the outcome: even situations when a company has theoretically 100% control over the situation (e.g. customer care desk at the office or shop), it is always a challenge to control what is exactly happening there, what is going to be told or heard. Thus, from micro to macro level the publicity always carries a huge uncertainty factor with regards to reach, direct effect and future implications.Second pillar: Associative and narrative – stories aroundThe discussions initiated and information shared publicly about a brand (or a branded product or service) would show up the next major characteristic of brands, that is, the power of the coupling or association related to the branded products or services. In other words, branding means that we create stories around a brand. Brand identity or personality, brand vision, brand promise are the official stories reflecting the narrative of a generic brand on different levels. Marketing creative planning is exactly doing the same around a specific product of a brand (e.g. ‘The environment friendly Toyota Prius’ as a story), while general brand stories (I mean the Toyota brand in the example) or associations are on higher level only. We therefore have to consider several layers of brand stories or narratives when examining them. It is very useful when these stories are consistent and formed professionally and are not contradicting to each other.

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Brands are incorporating many stories and ideas not just from individual products and services determined by the company but stories and ideas also coming from the public. Unfortunately – as we mentioned above – we cannot control the majority of the perceptions of our brand. Individual opinions, perceived qualities, good or bad experiences are building the narrative universe, or more simply, the stories of a brand.Task 2: define and drive brand storiesNotwithstanding the above, we can drive these brand stories and narrow them to the desired ones on at least two-three different areas. The mission statement of a company/organization is the very source of official brand stories and determines the branding direction via its written values and operational reasons. Secondly, the slogan or the tagline of a brand (like LG’s Life’s Good) is meant to embody the driving narrative story and works like a magnet: collects all the associations around a brand. The third layer of story comes along with specific products or services: repeating the slogans, taglines while inserting the logo of the brand on individual products/services makes the specific product or service painted with the general brand’s associations and qualities. The individual story of a product or service is like a topping on the branding cake. Pure brand campaigns on the other hand are always aiming outlining and fixing the desired main stories and narratives of qualities in the customers.Controlling publicity cannot be done without controlling the stories attached to a specific brand and seems the major task of all branding and communications managers. Here, we have to highlight a related issue which behaves like the blind spot of the branding: rebranding. Rebranding campaigns are to change the very basic story of a brand. This is the reason why these campaigns fail many times and real rebranding is a very seldom event.Third pillar: Concrete and multiplicative formIn real life we always give tangible forms to brands because we want to make profit from our money spent. Brand without concrete product/service to buy (or without a related person when we talk about personal brands) is useless or just a promise (like the newly planned Jolla mobile OS with only a demo video). The embodiment of a Brand is an essential part of its very nature.Normally we use the power of a general Brand Name for many individual products. An already existing brand hands over its potentials (its stories of qualities, usage, value etc.) to specific, individual products and even when we see a new product of an already known brand we are already having a presupposition or sense of certain expectations towards the brand new product. A VW car is perceived for many as a reliable one; however, it may happen that a much lower quality is introduced in a new model than what the brand had fulfilled at its predecessors.Task 3: make several appearances to utilize brand powerMost times we may say that a brand is transferred into several products and therefore it is multiplicative. It is very seldom that an earned reputation of a brand represented in only one product or service. For example the perfume 4711 seems to be transferred only into one product for a long time, but the brand’s product portfolio today consists of more than one item: after shave or even shower gel is also produced. Start-ups typically own only one product and normally the first product is the one that determines and forms the brand later on. Initially, the brand is typically built upon on only one product or service and this is why it is very sensitive when entering a market with a new company and a new product: it also determines the future brand and products the company assessed with.Personal brands, seen superficially, are not multiplicative: a person who has double face (see politicians) and therefore not able to form a consistent and concrete personal brand, are subject to lose their reputation and their face rapidly. This is because brands can have only one concrete (credible) story, without major contradictions. The multiplicative nature of personal brands should be investigated from another perspective. In case we regard a person’s appearances in public as concretizations and multiplications of his/her brand, we are closer to the truth and we understand better why celebrities and politicians are so keen on public appearances.Fourth pillar: Unique propositionThe history of branding is stemming from the wish of making a producer’s goods identifiable. This is not just to ensure the identity of goods but also to prevent from copying and forgery. The brands around us are still carrying these old attributes: the logo of the company/brand is expressing the uniqueness of a brand (supported by law as trade marks) and helps us to identify a specific brand in the universe of brands and signs.Sometimes it is very hard to make distinction based on the products/services alone: Pepsi and its rivals put in a neutral glass next to each other are unidentifiable, so the use of branding techniques is crucial for gaining profit for both companies. Just like in the cola case, the technological industry also heavily relies on the branding when selling its products or services: PCs, laptops, smart phones or internet accesses are very similar to each other. Or, a tax advisory service consultant firm is facing real challenges to provide specific brand vision.Task 4: find and use the means of brand differentiationsThe unique proposition of the brands has to be built up and shown for the public: the individual logos of brands on devices for example help the company to make distinction from their competitors and help the customers to identify different market players in order to make a personal choice of preference. Most times companies heavily rely on the unique brand distinguishers, like stories about their unique market segment, tailor-made products, additional services they provide etc. Sometimes, when stories among a group of competitors are very similar or compatible (like the Big Four Auditors) and even their service is similar, a common story may evolve around them focusing on more the similarity and indirectly expressing the exclusivity of the group members.Fifth pillar: ValueWhen we identify a brand on its telltale signs (e.g. design) or logo we do not think on what we see first (the product itself) but rather we focus on the brand value represented by the specific product or service. We may say (even without seeing the product) that if you are having Martin Logan stereo speakers that is very cool, but if you are having Philips that is not so awesome. Different brands represent different values: there are low-end and high-end brands with many in between. Start-up companies have to position their brand value on the axis predetermined by the existing market players. Making decision on positioning the companies’ services or products on the lower or higher end of this axis has nothing to do with ethical values: a low-end, cheap car helps many disabled or poor people without doubt. Rather, making the choice of brand values determine the market we are about to target. And this target market decision affects our business outlooks directly. When Toyota launched it Lexus series and decided to focus on the higher end cars they probably considered the higher profit option.The value of a brand is also expressed in a more measurable way. In general ledgers brands are valued as a part of the company’s goodwill and are very sensitive for new product introductions and for amortization, too. From financial point of view brands regarded as assets that have been created due to investment and are also subject to lose or increase their values.Task 5: define and carry brand valuesThe value of a brand emanates into individual products of a company and the value of the sold products affects the value of the brands. More surprisingly, the value of a brand may transfer over the buyer persona influencing the perceived value of a person in a certain group of people (see Apple fan-effect) while the network-effect of the public also modifies the brand value (exclusivity, limited models are also able to increase brand value).The relative price of a product or the whole branded portfolio both has very special connection with the brand value: the higher the price positioned the harder to imagine low brand value. This is because the narrative of the price (see Second pillar) influences the brand value. Other narratives of a brand (how durable it is, for instance, or which celebrities are using this brand) heavily effect the brand value, too. Similarly, the extent of public spread (see First pillar – how much the brand is known, how much spent on advertising) also effects the brand value.Brand value is determined by several other factors even not listed here. It is partly the result of deliberate actions of the company (market positioning of the brand and its products) but also exposed to external factors (like time) and public opinion.( LG’s rebranding from the low-end Goldstar brand to the higher positioned LG showed that value propositions of a brand require efforts in both areas. Grundig made the opposite U-turn when sold to Chinese company.)

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Sixth pillar: personal relationAll the pillars encountered previously are summoning on personal level because the nature and the definition of branding 100% relates to human feelings and perceptions. Most cases we can translate this personal effect and feelings to perceived brand values and the position of a brand in the customers’ head. People know or do not know, like or dislike brands, become haters or fans of brands, recommend or just accept certain brands.Task 6: turn personal relation to actionAs a result, this personal disposition of a brand clearly ends up in the relation to the act of buying. We, marketing professionals should not deny the aboriginal intention of our branding efforts to influence buying decisions on personal level. We are not just simply influencing people in business for the sake of general human aims: we do not want world peace; we do want to have our specific products and services sold. We want to convince John or Clair Smith as individual customers to select our service or product. This is the action we – or more generally: the investors – expect from any investments (including brand campaigns) made.Fortunately we not all live in the business sector, not all follow business aims (i.e. sales) in our lives. Surprisingly, non-profit organizations are not so much different from business ventures from this point of view. Non-profits also want to have a specific action to be reached: an action that is maybe appearing directly (like giving donation for starving people) but can be mental action or change to be targeted (for instance diversity campaigns).The personal relation to a branded entity can be outlined in a matrix where on the first axis we can define the readiness or probability of buying action (or in a non-profit: readiness for action) and on the second axis we may highlight the level of brand’s emotional acceptance.The personal relation to a specific brand with regards to the ultimate sales reason can be mapped as shown, but we should not forget that personal emotions and relations to brands are much wider than presented above: some people feel that their beloved brand is expressing also their way of life, involving several other actions well beyond a simple shopping; or just feeling neutral about a brand while the person is not going to be represented in any commercial situation (like myself with any hunting brands, although I know some of them).We should therefore identify very precisely the personal relations to our brand of our existing and potential customers and we should make focused actions to harvest the branding efforts we have previously made.Seventh pillar: Exposure to timeWe have already mentioned before the amortization as an important factor in brand values. The simple reason of amortization is that the brands (via materialized products/services) and the customers live in time.The general life exposure to time factor represented in concrete shapes with regards to brand itself and to its specific products/services. (Amortization is only the result of that process.) Brand perception very much effected by the products/services in timeline (e.g. how much up-to-date the product is reflects the brand’s state-of-the-art nature) and on the other hand the brand itself (without looking at individual products) also has an individual character which has its own life-cycle (how old a brand is, what type of products they represent).Task 7: Consider time: plan and replan over timeBrands do not last for ever and are changing over time, even without deliberate actions. Amortization expresses the time-factor in economic terms but all the pillars mentioned before has a time layer. The repeated actions of marketing campaigns, the product developments or changes in market environments change the face of the brand even if it is not perceived by the company. The sad story of Nokia is a perfect example of how this specific brand was effected by the time factor in all possible way, from the publicity of its phones (a complete new generation has skipped Nokia phones), through the changes in the narratives attached to the brand, with the refreshed need to be unique again to the sharp decline of the brand value.

The Role of Change Management in Successful Information Management Solutions

IntroductionImplementation of Information Management solutions necessarily brings change to any organization. Business practices, role and relationships all affect the way in which people work and interact on a day-to-day basis. Whether the driver for implementation is for productivity, compliance or risk reduction there is always the need to consider what impact there will be on user communities.Document and records management practices in organizations are not often front-of-mind for most managers and employees and asking them to think about information in a different way or even at all, as a corporate asset requires a fundamental mindset change. This will take many employees out of their comfort zone, impact on their confidence and competence to perform the work and creates a situation where individuals can sense a loss of control in their work context.It is natural that most people initially react with caution with concerns about their future, security and where they will fit in to a new order of things. In any group there will be 10% who are excited by the prospect of change and at the other end 10% who will resist change regardless. This means that there are 80% who can be influenced one way or the other.The successful implementation of an information management system extends far beyond the design and implementation. It extends beyond the support and operation. Effective information management requires a fundamental mind-shift by stakeholders and everyone in the organization that relies on information in their work activities. This shift needs to be carefully executed to create a requisite culture in which information is appropriately and thoroughly managed as a key organizational asset.What is Change Management?Change management is the art of influencing the majority to positively accept and commit emotionally to the change. Many of the issues arising as a response to change can be real or perceived and are closely related in a cause and effect network. Either way, they need to be addressed to avoid resistance or rejection of the change. This requires a combination of communication, understanding, mentoring, coaching and general support with the aim of building trust. It is from this position of trust that the task of building the work culture required for successful information management begins. The ’4 Cs’ of change management help us think about the change from an effected user point of view.Comfort People are creatures of habit and develop patterns of working within a comfort zone of daily activities.Control Changed practices may cause a loss of control over daily routines and activities. This may come through changed reporting lines or responsibilities which can evoke a level of discomfort.Confidence The introduction of new practices may undermine employee confidence in their ability to perform. Some may see this as challenge, for others it can be stressful. Often the introduction of computer equipment is something that can be discomforting. Some people, particularly older workers may have no experience with computers and can cause self doubt over their abilities to learn the new skills required.Competence To be able to operate in a changed work environment there is always an element of re-skilling required. This necessarily means that current skills, often developed over an extended period of time will need updating or may become redundant. This uncertainty can impact on an employee’s competence and ability to perform.The management of the complex web of responses, issues and perceptions requires focused attention. The skills of a change manager are built on an understanding of human behavior and the change manager’s role is to assist people to understand the change and what it means in personal terms and has been proven to be a significant success factor in building Information Management capability.Why is Change Management important?As volumes of information inevitably grow and our regulatory obligations increase amid the ongoing business pursuit of productivity, we cannot afford to waste the opportunity to exploit the benefits of information management solutions.Studies repeatedly show that a key risk in the success or failure of information management solutions is stakeholder resistance to change. Through an investment of time and effort in preparing the user community for the coming change the chances of resistance are lowered. In short without a disciplined approach to managing stakeholders through the change then realization of anticipated benefits is put at risk. This has impact on business productivity, staff moral and the bottom-line. So it would seem logical for us to deploy our information management solutions in the most effective manner.Some common Change Management pitfalls of an IM solution implementation

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We are seeing an ongoing consolidation of the information management vendor community and a subsequent convergence of the underlying technology. There is a growing recognition by organizations that an information management capability is needed. Further, audit activity frequently highlights any shortfalls in performance and organizations react accordingly.The selection of an information management solution is an important corporate investment and common pitfalls addressed by change management include:Focus on TechnologyIgnoring the emotional needs of users in the rush to get the technology in place can create a real project risk. Many organizations with an information management solution already in place experience a negativity of opinion towards the system. Often the cause of this perception can be traced to an initial technical implementation focus that neglected the needs of those who consequently struggled to apply new functionality in their work activities. An effective change management approach including awareness building and communication can turn this perception around.Recognition of the Business importance of InformationThe low profile that information management has in most employees’ minds can be an issue. We are all busy and in the scheme of things ‘filing’ is not front-of-mind for the majority of employee’s striving to keep pace with everyday work pressures. Document management and filing, can fall down the priority list partly because of work pressures and partly because of limited awareness and can be seen one of the things that ‘should’ be done’ rather than something that ‘must’ be done.Organizations recognising the business value of information as an asset can then raise awareness of its importance and manage it accordingly. An increased awareness of this importance should also influence the planning of information management system deployments.Business Case and BudgetThe business case for information management is focused on risk, mitigation, and productivity. However; many benefits are intangible and have an indirect impact on the bottom line. Unfortunately associated costs are very tangible and visible.Consequently, there are challenges in the development of the business case as it can fail to excite the financial fundamentalists who view the whole undertaking in terms of an unavoidable cost that must be minimized. For the uninformed, change management activities can be seen as non-essential and result in budgets being set to minimise cost adding to the risk of failure.Although not unique to Information management implementations these above factors can create significant project risk. Change Management techniques are designed to address the human behavioral issues that can adversely impact on project success and as such, are a necessary inclusion in any deployment activity.What are some Change Management best practices for an IM solution implementation?When it is apparent users are not participating in Information Management practices an objective assessment can identify a way forward that is usually cost effective and will meet organizational needs within a much shorter timeframe. This assessment must take an independent and holistic view of the situation from multiple perspectives.This assessment must identify the root causes of any associated issues and develop a clear strategy to build the information management capability required. There are a number of common elements that have emerged as issues with information management implementations that have nothing to do with the incumbent technological tool and the strategy developed must consider how these are to be addressed.The capability assessment framework enables organizations to holistically assess information management practices and to identify improvement opportunities that will build capability. This is achieved by benchmarking current organizational practice against best practice in each of the dimensions of the framework. The best practice benchmark criteria in the framework have been identified through experience with multiple organizations across industry sectors and geographies, and are augmented through industry collaboration and global academic research outcomes.The dimensions of information management identified in the framework are defined as follows.StrategyBest practice organization’s should have a clear strategy relating to its management and use of information The strategy clearly defines the content and structure of the information, how it is to be governed and applied to support the primary business strategy.ContentWe can assume that most organizations have the information content that is required to manage their business. If this is not the case then it is difficult to envisage the organization operating successfully or at all. However, most organizations suffer from an ad-hoc approach to the management of this important asset. Best practices relating to managing this content start by having an inventory of the content, a consistent architecture governing naming conventions, taxonomy, where content is held, how content is held, i.e. hard copy soft copy formats and who can access what categories of information.ProcessDue process governing how information is created, stored, accessed and communicated is fundamental to the governance of enterprise information.Governance is the combination of processes and structures implemented at management level to inform, direct, manage, and monitor the information management activities of the organization. This consists of clear policy, procedure and business rules guiding information management practices. These must be developed in context of the organization’s business activity and be clearly communicated to stakeholders.Information management governance also includes the development of business classification schemes, taxonomy, naming conventions and rules governing the creation, storage, protection, communication, sensitivities, use and appropriate destruction of information.CultureThe manner in which information is treated and perceived in an organization is reflective of organizational culture. Best practice organizations have clear understandings and norms recognising the importance of information as an asset. This mindset needs to be pervasive across the organizational culture and is fundamental to induction and staff development initiatives.Change management during information systems implementations is a clear best practice aimed at creating the cultural awareness and mindset required.RelationshipsOrganizations operate within a network of relationships with stakeholders. These stakeholders include customers, suppliers, regulators and industry bodies. Best practice organizations have clear understanding and service level agreements with other stakeholders in order that corporate record keeping obligations are met and to ensure information is shared appropriately and to the level required to maximize efficiency.ServicesThe application of Information as an asset is fundamental to the services or products offered to the market place. Best practice organizations embed value-adding knowledge and information into services to maximize attractiveness and utility. Corporate discipline ensuring the validity of information shared is necessary to mitigate risk of non-compliance and avoid potential litigation.TechnologyInformation technology is fundamental to the management of the information asset. Clear and consistent architectures, data and information structures, security and operational tools indicate a mature approach to information management. Best practice organizations have clearly defined architectures.Change Management Best PracticeThe capability assessment framework facilitates benchmarking against specific best practice indicators. The absence of any of these indicators provides an opportunity for the organization to improve. Over and above these specific indicators the following themes have emerged as overarching best practice in change management as information management capability is developed.GovernanceAs discussed above governance is the combination of processes and structures to inform, direct, manage, and monitor information management activities. This includes effective record keeping practices. It is important that organizations develop governance practices as early as possible in implementation projects. This often means putting governance in place prior to specification, selection and deployment of a technology solution. This has a double benefit. Firstly: stakeholder’s become familiar with information management expectations and the requisite culture begins to develop; and secondly; the organization gains the opportunity to refine its governance structures prior to full deployment.Information Management SystemThe selection of an enabling information management technology to meet performance and functional requirements should follow a diligent approach. It is best practice for selection criteria to consider wider information management architectural needs. The functional richness of available solutions can allow the retirement of duplicative products providing islands of functionality. Workflow or WebPages are common examples of these islands where products have been acquired for a single one-off purpose and are unable to integrate with core applications. Once configured and deployed the new infrastructure can provide the opportunity to create an integrated technology architecture thereby reducing support cost.PilotsThere are many examples of high cost, high-profile failures in the information technology industry. Often this can be traced to over-ambition and a big-bang approach to deployment.Implementation of Information Management capability within well defined scope delivered in incremental steps provides many benefits. Primarily incremental implementation through a series of pilot deployments allows adaptation of the solution based on real experience before attempting to conquer the world. Many organizations are benefiting from the adoption of this approach.

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User FocusThe inclusion of change management activities focused on preparing stakeholders to take on the reformed work practices mitigate against risk of stakeholder resistance. This involves considering the emotional needs of all stakeholders to ensure that they feel in control, are comfortable and have the confidence and competence to execute new work practices. For many stakeholders the learning of new skills and changed role and responsibility provides enhanced career opportunity.ArchitectureMost of the solutions available in the marketplace offer rich functionality to manage documents and content in a web-based environment. Full use of the functionality on offer can simplify the technical architecture and realize savings in licence and administrative cost further justifying investment.Change Management Roles and ResponsibilitiesThe change manager works very closely with stakeholders and it is important that relationships based on trust are established. The personal attributes of a successful change manager are empathy and patience. The role and responsibility of the change manager is focused on understanding stakeholder needs, building an awareness of the need for change and supporting these stakeholders as they transition to new work practices.Some key responsibilities for the change manager include communications, setting up reporting and communication channels, participating in business process reform, workshop facilitation, staff training, mentoring and awareness building. In short, any activity that interacts and prepares the user community to participate in reformed work practices.Regardless of the scale of undertaking information management projects require a change management capability. In large scale projects there may be dedicated change management resources. For smaller scale projects this role may be a part-time or shared responsibility. The change management role can in many instances be a shared role across the development. Sometimes this can be provided through a corporate change management function. Regardless of how the role is resourced it is essential that it is included.Many routinely conducted project activities such as workshops, interviews, training and presentations are in fact change management opportunities as these events they are interactions with stakeholders. They therefore present the ideal opportunity to develop the relationship of trust between the project team members and stakeholders.It is important to avoid the situation where contributing stakeholders feel as though they have been sucked dry for information by technical people. This can be avoided through the development of awareness of the importance of the project team/stakeholder relationship thereby maximizing the value of this contact time.Further, ‘champions’ can be identified from within the stakeholder community. This provides a critical change management input. As these champions are representatives drawn from the stakeholder community their roles can be a very influential and positive contributor to project success.SummaryResearch shows proves that higher levels of user acceptance and greater use of installed solutions are achieved when deliberate change management activities are included in the implementation work plan and life cycle. Best practice in change management is focused on the early involvement of stakeholders and on building a trusting relationship. Accordingly, leading organizations have recognized its importance and routinely allocate resources as projects are plannedFor most organizations there is the opportunity improve information management performance. A place to start is through a benchmarking assessment of information management capability against best practice to identify how to realize available benefits by learning from the success of others.This paper has emphasized change management and the resultant outcomes and opportunities as best practice. The selection of an information management solution is an important corporate investment. For those organizations considering implementation and for those that have current infrastructure in place, there is the real opportunity to maximize return on investment and to create a work culture that displays the requisite information management behaviours.

Franchise Agreements, Governing Law and Jurisdiction Issues

In franchising franchisors can end up spending huge monies on attorney fees and worse off find them selves simultaneously fighting legal battles in multiple jurisdictions over often frivolous lawsuits brought on by non-performing franchisees and their professional parasites.After watching other franchisors become legally embattled it became apparent to me that our company needed a hedge in this issue. Although we never had this problem I witnessed other franchise get off their game and lose focus on the market and their companies. So, I decided to add this clause to our franchise agreements;

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7. MISCELLANEOUS7.1 Governing LawThis Agreement has been accepted and made in the State of ________, United States and all rights hereunder will be governed by and interpreted under the internal laws (and not the law of conflict of laws) of the State of Arizona.7.3 WaiverA waiver of any default or breach of any provision, term, covenant, or condition of this
Franchise Agreement will not be a waiver of any subsequent breach of the same or any
other provision, term, covenant, or condition.Any waiver of any provision of this Agreement must be set forth in writing and signed by the party granting the waiver. Any waiver Franchisor grants will not prejudice any other rights Franchisor may have, and will be subject to Franchisor’s continuing review. Franchisor may revoke any waiver, in its sole discretion, at any time and for any reason, effective upon delivery to Franchisee of ten (10) days prior written notice of revocation.By written notice, Franchisor unilaterally may waive any obligation of Franchisee, their principals, or the guarantors.

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Our consent, whenever required, may be arbitrarily withheld if Franchisee are in default under this Franchise Agreement.——— ———— ———–If you are a franchisor perhaps you should run this by your attorney [professional over billing parasite-opinion] to see if such a concept would be right for you. Often these clauses are not allowed in many jurisdictions, but if you’re a dealing with International Interests or regions in country where such clauses are allowed it might be something to ask your lawyer about, who knows? Consider all this in 2006.