Monday, May 12, 2014

Getting a meeting with your local MP

I am just going through some old material I have come across during my days of supporting youth campaigns in an effort to reach out to MPs and get them to listen.

It looks like it'll be useful to share these tips and guidance for many of those out there looking to make some change and influence their local MPs. Please note that I did not write this and it is focused towards Melbourne, Victoria in Australia but most of the advice here would be useful anywhere any city in the world.

Below you will find some useful material and scripts that you can use.

The following consists of information about:

  1. Influencing Members of Parliament
  2. Communicating Your Message to your Local MP
  3. Tips for Meeting with Your Local MP
  4. Who are your members of Parliament?

1. Local Members of Parliament - Advocacy Kit

Influencing Members of Parliament

There are two main rules for influencing MPs

Rule 1: MPs perform best when they are engaged with their electorate. A single MP can't be expected to know what's happening if they're not told.

In order for MPs to achieve their goals, they must be able to stay in office. They need to be viewed
favourably by the voters in their electorate to do so. As a local voter this provides you, your mentors
and other program stakeholder with a great opportunity to have your interests taken seriously.

Rule 2: In order to influence policy you have to get the right information (a compelling problem and an effective solution) to the right person (an individual who has the power to get you what you want) at
the right time (before a formal decision needs to be made).

You must clearly communicate the needs you are working to meet (eg keeping young people
engaged with school), as well as evidence that your program is an effective solution to that problem
(evaluation data and feedback from participants about the impact of your program).

2. Communicating Your Message to your Local MP

  • Make phone calls, send emails or hard copy letters to your local MP requesting their support
  • Mobilise mentors, young people and even their families, to advocate on behalf of the program, by communicating the request to their own MPs. You could arrange a petition or ask a key stakeholder to write directly to MPs about the impact of your program.
  • Set up face-to-face meetings with your local MP. The most effective way to communicate with MPs, is at your program site or in the MP’s electorate office. These meetings typically run 15-30 minutes, with a focus on making the case for why your youth mentoring program is so important and then asking the MP for his or her support.
  • Engage the media by sending letters to the editor and press releases to your local paper about the support you require.

3. Tips for Meeting with Your Local MP

  1. Be aware that MPs are constantly meeting with people who are desperate to gain support for their cause. Make sure you engage your MP in a low key way first without a ‘hard ask’. It is always better to ask for something when you have an existing positive relationship and especially when you've given them an opportunity to be in a newsletter or celebrate at an event.
  2. Make friends with electorate officers. The person who answers the phone is unlikely to be “just the receptionist”. They may be the MP's eyes and ears in the electorate and an adviser on which events/ people the MP should engage with.
  3. Don't feel that an initial meeting with an electorate officer is a brush off, especially if the electorate happens to belong to a senior Minister. In those areas the electorate officer is sometimes the de facto MP attending the local events the MP can't make. They may also want to be a mentor or put the organisation in touch with potential mentors.
  4. Have a plan for what you would like to accomplish by the end of the conversation and most importantly what you want them to do for you (as they know that’s why you’re meeting). Time is a valuable commodity for MPs, so it is important to show you respect that by being prepared.
  5. Tailor your meeting agenda with the State Election date in mind. In order to have any influence, you should make your request while the MP is campaigning. Supporting your program looks very good for an MP as they campaign.
  6. Who you bring into the meeting matters. Bring staff or a mentoring match who can speak directly and personally to the positive impacts of participating in your program. Because MPs care most about what is going on in their own electorate, it is helpful if your spokespeople are voters or, at least residents, in the MP’s area.
  7. Stay on message. Be clear about what you want your MP to know about your program, and most importantly, what you would like them to do for you. Although you will rarely get a commitment on the spot, it is critical that you have a specific ask.
  8. Bring materials that clearly present your case for support. Include any relevant data on the outcomes of your program and the value that your program brings to the electorate. Incorporate visual aids, such as tables and charts, that help you communicate your case more effectively.
  9. Bring a camera. MPs are always interested in good publicity, so take pictures and use them in press releases in the local media and your own organisational newsletter. Just make sure you ask their office in advance just in case it's a casual Friday!
  10. Leave information behind with staff that clearly communicates your request and the reasoning that supports it.
  11. Thank your MP and follow-up with their staff. Be sure to send thank you notes after meetings and get the contact information for staff so that you can follow-up on any action items discussed.
  12. Ensure your MP is on appropriate mailing and invite lists. Even if they don't attend your event, their staff will see the correspondence and be reminded of your program.
  13. Keep the long term relationship in mind. Your ultimate goal is a positive long-term relationship with your local MP and his or her staff. Be professional and polite, and let them know you understand their perspective, even if their position does not currently align with yours.

This is more for Melbourne, Victoria. But you can look for this kind of information in your local city as well.

4. Who are your members of Parliament?

  • There are 88 members of the Legislative Assembly (Lower House). Members of the Legislative Assembly are elected from 88 single-member electorates.
  • There are 40 members of the Legislative Council (Upper House). Members of the Legislative Council are elected from 8 multi-member electorates called regions. Each region has five members and is made up of eleven electoral electorates.
  • Voters elect one person to represent them in the Legislative Assembly (Lower House) and five people to represent them in the Legislative Council (Upper House).

The link below will help you find your local member:

Melbourne Motorcycle skills license course

I was looking for this when I was signing up for my motorcycle Ls and Ps test in Melbourne, Victoria but couldn't find it earlier, so now that I have it, I am sharing it with you.

Please find below a couple of photos of the motorcycle skills license course: One is for the Ls, the other is for the Ps test. 

Both I completed with the DECA training course in Altona North. 

I hope that they help you prepare and practice for your test - happy riding!

Ps test - Motorcycle skills test for your Ps (2011 copy)

Ls test - Motorcycle skills test for your Ls (2009 copy)

Link of test providers in Melbourne:

Friday, May 9, 2014

Is driving is an indication of how hard people work?

I always wonder how people drive. In busy cities like Sydney, Singapore, and cities across Asia where I see people always speeding around like they're constantly late and needing to be somewhere fast.  Is driving is an indication if how hard people work?

As in, is it often a projection of how stressed they are at work, and it now shows in their car?

I am from originally from Melbourne, so the drivers there are generally more lay back and while it congested during peak hours, I generally get the feeling that they're not that stressed.

But that's as I was able to compare Melbourne drivers to those in Sydney, Singapore, and other cities in the world.

In that Melbourne drivers give way to pedestrians and it's by law to do so. So if you're crossing the road and a car doesn't stop you're yelling at the driver for not stopping or slowing down so you can feel safe crossing the road. Whereas in Sydney, and if you're a pedestrian, you're the one getting yelled or honked at and needing to get off the road fast.

Singapore is even scarer I have found at times. Maybe I have a bias view, and have only seen a few years worth of drivers, but I was surprised, coming from Melbourne to see a pedestrian crossing the road. I was walking behind them and as they were about half way across the road, they saw a car coming and rather than complete their journey across the road, instead walk (run I should say) back towards me and let the car go past. Now that's particularly surprising to me as it felt like the driver could not care less about pedestrians.

I had another similar experience near an ambulance treating an injured person, and you think it'll be safe to cross the road so close to an ambulance but I was almost run over by a car who pretty much sped and took a took a turn right into the street I was about to cross. Phew wee. It was certainty a close call. They didn't even look like they looked, only if there was another car (that could hurt them I assume) in their way...

Anyway, to the core topic of discussion, both Singapore and Sydney are highly stressed cities, where people work long hours, late nights (and even weekends - Saturdays for most Singaporean companies). In Melbourne, you work during business hours and then head off home at 5 or 6pm, that's it. Normally not working any longer unless you're in industries such as Accounting or Finance. So I can see why Singaporeans and Sydney-siders rush off to reclaim their personal lives.

This contrast between the city of Melbourne and Sydney/ Singapore gives me the impression that driving is an illustration and signifies how stressed and hard people work.

Reader note: I have never worked in Sydney, only in Melbourne and Singapore. 

Cracking Creativity - How to think instead of what to think

I came across a book a few years back on a book that really caught my eye and was quite intriguing. It's basically outlines how creative people think and in ways on how you can change your thought processes, so you can also think more creativity.

To sum the book's overall message: Creative geniuses are geniuses because they know “how” to think instead of “what” to think.

So the book runs you through various exercises and activities that can help you become more creative.

Here's a short extract from the book which I would like to share with you. I manually typed this in it's original form to give you a good overview without losing it's context and so no thoughts are misinterpreted (So please excuse any typos).

Part I: Seeing What No One Else Is Seeing

1.        Knowing How To See: 

Genius often comes from finding a new perspective that no one else has taken. Leonardo da Vinci believed that to gain knowledge about the form of problems, you begin by learning how to restructure it in many different ways. He felt the first way he looked at a problem was too biased toward his usual way of seeing things. He would restructure his problem by looking at it from one perspective and move to another perspective and still another. With each move, his understanding would deepen, and he would begin to understand the essence of the problem.

Perhaps what’s common amongst geniuses is that they do not approach problems reproductively, that is, on the basic of similar problems encountered in the past.  Interpreting problems through past experiences will, by definition, lead the reader to astray. In order to creatively solve a problem, the thinker must abandon the initial approach that stems from past experience and reconceptualize the problem. By not settling with one perspective, geniuses do not merely solve existing problems. They identify new ones.  Just like it didn’t take a genius to analyze dreams but required Freud to ask in the first place, what the meaning dreams carry from the psyche.

2.        Making Your Thought Visible: 

The language of drawings, graphs, maps, and diagrams are particularly useful in describing information. Once geniuses obtain a certain minimal verbal facility, they seem to develop a skill in visual and spatial abilities that gives them flexibility to display information in a variety of ways. Einstein believed that words and numbers, as they are written or spoken, did not play a significant role in his thinking process.

Part II: Thinking What No One Else Is Thinking:

1.        Thinking Fluently

A distinguishing characteristic of genius is immense productivity. Thomas Edison held 1,093 (the record) and guaranteed productivity by giving himself and his assistants idea quotas. His personal quota was one minor invention every ten days and a major invention every six months. Scientists throughout history produce great works but also bad ones. Out of Edison’s (and other geniuses) massive quantity of work was quality. Geniuses produce.

2.        Making Novel Combinations: Cogito-“I think” 

originally connoted “shake together”. Intelligo, the rot of intelligence, means to “select among”. This is a clear early intuition about the utility of permitting ideas and thoughts to randomly combine with each other and the utility of selecting from the many the few to retain. A genius is constantly combing and recombining ideas, images, and thoughts into different combinations in their conscious and subconscious minds.

3.        Connecting the Unconnected: 

The ability to make juxtapositions that elude mere mortals is one particular style of thought that stands out for creative geniuses. It is like a facility to connect the unconnected by forcing relationships that enable them to see things to which others are blind.

4.        Looking at the Other Side: 

Geniuses were able to think different thoughts because they could tolerate ambivalence (simultaneous existence of conflicting emotions) between opposite and incompatible subjects. If you held opposites together, then you suspend your thought and your mind moves to a new level. The suspension of thought allows intelligence beyond thought to act and create a new form. The swirling of opposites creates the conditions for a new point of view to bubble freely from your mind.

5.        Looking in Other Worlds: 

Any individual who had the capacity to perceive resemblances between two separate areas of existence was a person of special gifts. If unlike things are really alike in some ways, perhaps they are so in others.

6.        Finding What You Are Not Looking For: 

Whenever we attempt something and fail, we end up doing something else. As simplistic as this statement may seem, it is the first principle of creative accident. We may ask ourselves why we have failed to do what we intended-and this is the reasonable, expected thing to do – but the creative accident provokes a different question: What have we done?
Answering that question in a novel, unexpected way is an essential act. It is not luck, but creative insight of the highest order.

B.F. Skinner emphasized a first principle of scientific methodologists: When you find something interesting, drop everything else and study it. Too many fail to answer opportunity’s knock at door because they have to finish some preconceived plan. Creative geniuses do not wait for the gifts of chance; instead, they actively seek the accidental discovery.

7.        Awakening the Collaborative Spirit: 

The notion that the collective intelligence is largest than the intelligence of an individual can be traced back to primitive times when hunter-gather bands would meet to discuss and solve common problems. It is a commonly understood and accepted practice. What’s difficult is for a group to come together in a collegial atmosphere that will allow thinking to grow through open and honest collaboration.


Creative geniuses are geniuses because they know “how” to think instead of “what” to think.

The book is called, "Cracking Creativity: The Secrets of Creative Genius", by Michael Michalko (Apr 13, 2011)

Happy reading, and go out there and be creative with how you think! ;)