I tell stories

by Sameer Vasta

Snail mail boy living in an email world. Over-user of the discretionary comma.

Read this first

Resource Catalyst

Speaking notes from a presentation delivered at Framework’s Take Back Your Tech event on October 6, 2015.

Slide 1: Resource Catalyst

Today, you’ve heard a lot of really smart people, and will continue to hear a lot of smart people, talk about how technology can help you create, measure, and increase social change. This afternoon, you’re going to spend some time looking at how you can use technology in your own organizations to be more effective, efficient, and impactful.

I’d like to take a few minutes this morning and talk about one, really important part of social change and the work your organization does: people.

Slide 2: Do More With Less

In current times of economic constraint, you’re always being told to do more with less, to have large as an impact you can have but use as little money and resources as you can. It’s easy to feel like a robot with a big heart, when working at a non-profit: you care so much about your work, but...

Continue reading →

Cookies and fruit.

Some thoughts about the September gone by.

We have this weekly event at work that we like to call the “Open Government Cookie Break.” On paper, it’s an opportunity for anyone to come chat with us, every week in our office, about some of the ideas and questions they may have about open government and the future of the public service.

In reality, however, it’s much more than that: it’s an excuse for people to have fun at work. We provide cookies (sometimes, fruit), sure, but what we’re really offering is a time and place for people to forget about the doldrums of the work day, to forget about deadlines and briefing decks, and instead meet new people from around the organization, talk about what interests them, and remind themselves that work isn’t always about deliverables and measurables. What these weekly cookie (and fruit) breaks really hope to accomplish is to encourage people to...

Continue reading →

Diversions: September

A selection of essays, articles, and blog posts that inspired me this month.

In many parts of this continent—heck, even in the heavily-populated urban areas like Toronto—there is a constant and conscious war on pedestrianism being fouth. It looks like pedestrians are losing. Here are some great articles that look at the decline of walking, and why this decline is a huge problem for all of us:

  • The end of walking
  • Streets with no game
  • The secret history of jaywalking
  • Urban Planning: Streetwise
  • Why We Say ‘Car Accident,’ and Why We Need to Stop
  • Why Google’s self-driving cars will be great for cyclists and pedestrians

We are just a few weeks away from the Canadian election, and it’s no secret that over the past decade, this country has lost its way. We’ve been noticing it here for a while, but now our regression is being noticed by so many people around the world. Hopefully,...

Continue reading →


My grandmother, when feeling emotionally strong enough, will sometimes tell me the story of the day she lost her son, my father. The details of the story have faded as she has grown older, but the horror of those days, the days of the Zanzibar Revolution, remain vivid in her mind.

My father was just eight years old when the Revolution took place; his brother, my uncle, was two years his junior. My grandmother was a young mother at that time, pursuing a profession as an English teacher and helping my grandfather run a successful bakery on the island. They were part of a community of Indo-Arab Africans who had made Zanzibar (my grandparents were born on the Zanzibari island of Pemba) their home and who loved their country and the people within it.

My father was away on mainland Tanzania in the weeks before the Revolution, and was making his way back to the island when the military coup...

Continue reading →

Hot and cool.

Some thoughts about the August gone by.

The temperature today is expected to hit 90 degrees. Just a few days ago, the daily high barely hit 65 degrees. A week before that, we went through a spell of 100+ degree days.

This August has been up and down, hot and cool. Never cold, but at times, crisp and chilly. There has been no settling, but instead, the month has been marked by wavering and fluctuation. Nothing has stayed the same.

This summer, work too has been hot and cool. The new job began with urgency, and then quieted, and now is busier than it ever has been. Wedding planning, which began with rapid bursts months ago and settled into a slow burn through the spring and early summer, has now picked up to a furious pace. The pattern is the same with our home tidiness, my physical health, and so many other parts of life.

Sometimes hot, sometimes cool. This August has been one of...

Continue reading →

Diversions: August

A selection of essays, articles, and blog posts that inspired me this month.

The Art of Changing a City
City interventions are often stuck in routine process; it’s inspiring to read about a mayor who tried to use new interventions involving art and laughter to try to create behaviour change within the citizenry.

Stock Options? Don’t Need ‘Em! I’m Coding For Uncle Sam!
There’s a certain kind of person—I count myself as one of them—that wants to spend their career in the service of the public, whether in the public service, or working on public good outside of the government. These new kinds of groups that act as innovative businesses inside of the bureaucracy help bridge those two worlds, and I’m excited to see how this will influence the larger machinery of government in the future.

Divide and Conquer
I lived, for a few years, just south of the Mason-Dixon line, in Arlington,...

Continue reading →

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry

One of the summer students at my previous job asked me, over soft-serve cones that we picked up from the ice cream truck on a particularly hot July afternoon, how I was able to plan for my current career, and how she should think about planning her next few years ahead. Never one to turn down the opportunity to dole out some advice—I’m still baffled when people turn to me for advice, particularly in light of the haphazard nature of my life trajectory—I told her that the best way to plan for the future is to not have a plan at all, but instead to prepare herself for the twists and turns that may come.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the past thirty-three-and-a-bit years, it’s that nothing really ever goes according to plan, and that a life well-lived is one that embraces that notion of uncertainty.

For the title character of Gabrielle Zevin’s The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry,...

Continue reading →


There is a certain kind of friendship that is wordless, fleeting, transient, yet deep and memorable at the same time. I like to call these “subway friendships.”

If you’ve ever taken a ride on the public transit system of any major urban area, and have done so without having earbuds plugged into your ear or your head buried in a book or in your phone, you have undoubtedly made one or more of these friendships in your lifetime. The pattern is simple: you notice something funny, or interesting, or slightly unique happening on the subway or bus or streetcar, and smile; you quickly realize that someone else in a seat across the way has noticed it too, and you both make the brief eye contact of mutual recognition. Your subway friendship has begun.

In the best of these friendships, you both continue to notice odd or quirky or fascinating things, and you both look to each other each time to...

Continue reading →

Something new.

For the past three and a half years, I have been doing good work for a good organization. The work has been fulfilling and impactful, the people have been friendly and inspiring, and the projects have been challenging but achievable.

Everything was in its place: I had a good job with a decent salary and benefits, I loved my coworkers, I got to sit in heritage building with exposed brick and massive windows every day, and I did work that made a tangible difference in the quality of the lives of the people in this province. Perhaps most importantly, I was really, really good at my job.

A few weeks ago, I left that job for something new.

(I haven’t left forever; instead, I am taking a short-term leave from my long term job to take on a new challenge for six months. While I do expect to return to my previous workplace after this short leave, my future plans still haven’t been set in...

Continue reading →

Summer heat.

Some thoughts about the July gone by.

Yesterday, over my lunch break, I decided to take a walk to the park and sit outside and do some reading. My stack of library books is ever-growing, and there are only so many times you can renew a book before the system starts getting angry at you.

I returned indoors after less than ten minutes.

The heat yesterday was unbearable. With the humidex, we easily broke 100 degrees (closer to 110, actually), and the air was still and stifling. This entire week has been filled with hot, sticky days where you don’t feel like doing anything but sitting in your underwear in your air-conditioned home and eat ice cream.

It is a heat that encourages stasis, not progress.

July has felt like a month of stasis among change. I started a new job (more on that later) but still feel like I haven’t gone anywhere. Wedding planning continues apace, but instead of...

Continue reading →

Subscribe to I tell stories

Don’t worry; we hate spam with a passion.
You can unsubscribe with one click.