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Awesome Member of the Week: Kevin Van Lierop, A Local and Global Citizen

GOOD is featuring interviews of devoted members each week on Kevin Van Lierop is a civic hacker and social entrepreneur.

The last time I did good

I have a hard time taking credit for the good things I do. Like many in the community, I’m probably too humble and happy enough to be able to help out and contribute where I can. No credit needed.

With that said, I sent out invitations to my neighbors the other day to plan a street party using Block Party in a Box*. I’m hoping to help connect everyone on my street so we can build a happier community.

Oh, and I called my mom the other day, which always is a good thing to do and something I don’t do enough.

A ‘Do’ I want to share with the world

Take pride in where you live.

For better or worse, the towns, cities, counties etc. where we wake up in the morning and fall asleep at night are the places we call home. While not perfect, these places are our homes and if we don’t take pride and ownership over them who will?

What I find most amazing about the places we call home is the fact that they are the one thing, above all else, that we have in common with each other in our cities. We may speak different languages, have different political or religious views, be of different ages etc. but if we live in the same place we are all citizens of that place; it is the one thing that connects us all.

We need to celebrate the places we live, increase awareness of them, take pride in them and be connected to them.

Worst advice I’ve ever gotten

“Don’t listen to what other people say about you.”

This is complete baloney.

You need to listen to what others are saying about you to help develop you as a person.

With that said, you need to be selective who you’re listening to.

Pay attention to the people you respect and admire and what they’re saying about you and the things you do. If you respect them enough you should respect their honest opinions too. Ignore the trolls and those that don’t show you the respect you deserve.

Haters gonna hate.

I ignored everyone for a period of time and it had an adverse affect. I wasn’t getting the feedback I needed or the emotion boost that I think we all require on some level. I tried to block out the bad voices by blocking out all of the voices. That was the wrong approach.

Book I’d recommend

I love reading and there’s a relationship with a physical book that I’ve never been able to recreate with its digital counterpart. While now I primarily read non-fiction (I re-read The Death and Life of Great American Cities every year) growing up my favourite read was Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. From time to time I’ll still pick it up to get lost in my own imagination.

With that said, the book I’d recommend isn’t technically a book.

The best thing I read each and every day is the Caesura Letters. It’s a daily publication that I get delivered to my inbox but you can purchase a physical, quarterly copy if you like.

It claims to be “a magazine dedicated to the art of finding new perspectives” and it is.

It’s the most insightful, digestible and thoughtful writing I consume on a daily basis. At the end of each week I feel like I’m better prepared, with a broader perspective on life, to take on the week to come. It seems a bit romantic, but this publication has changed my life.

I highly recommend the Caesura Letters to anyone looking to grow as an individual.

My manifesto

These questions really aren’t easy.

This is where I’m supposed to say something like:

Stay Calm Carry On.
Don’t stop believing.
[insert your favourite out of context line here]


I’ve written and re-written countless manifestos over the years but never have been able to find the words to articulate what it is I do and how I perceive things.

I came across this quotation just over two years ago from a (relatively) local civic leader and it really resonated with me.

“I give birth. Then I put it up for adoption. Once something is up and running, to me it seems so boring. For me, the interesting part is taking ideas in areas that need attention and finding a way to make a difference.” - Dave Meslin, The Star

I’ve always struggled with the nature of jumping from one thing to the next. I’ve been told that you need to stick with things, see them through to the end and marvel in all of the satisfaction and take credit for making them happen. This isn’t how I’ve ever operated and I don’t think will ever be.

I’ve found enjoyment, if only haphazard enjoyment, in starting things, seeing them start to move then jumping ship and letting others ride with whatever it is. For the longest time I thought something was wrong with this and tried to fight it, but now I’ve accepted that this is a part of who I am and what I do.

What you should care about right now

I don’t want to be a downer but I can’t help to be constantly thinking about what’s happening between the Ukraine and Russia lately.

This is not good. We all should care.

I’m a student of history and I can’t help but to feel as if the past 100 years haven’t taught us anything as a global community. I’m worried. I’m scared. And there isn’t a damn (can I say damn?) thing I can do about it either.

I often make the statement that I’ve been fortunate enough to not have experienced a large scale, global crisis like those that my grandparents lived through. The depression and the Great War(s) are things I never had to experience and while 9/11 certainly impacted the entire world it did so in a very different way.

I’m worried that what’s currently happening might lead to something worse and that if it does it signals that we haven’t collective learned from past choices and mistakes.

I really hope for everyone’s sake that I’m wrong. I tend to be wrong (see above question about education).

My biggest goal for 2014

I’m working towards living a more intentional life and having this influence the work I choose to complete. I’m striving to make an impact, both nationally and globally, while using my locality to experiment with ideas, fail gracefully and develop my creativity, all while improving the places I call home.

More tangibly, I’d like to build spend some time transforming Block Party in a Box, into what exactly, I don’t know.

I’m also working on launching a ‘place based wares company’ to increase civic pride where I live. This is part an excuse to create some swag for my home town that I’d like to wear, part an experiment in lean-business development and part not knowing exactly what I’m doing at any given moment.


* full disclosure: I created Block Party in a Box.

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