Monday, April 26, 2010

Buzz Canuck: The League of Kickass and F*^k Cancer - 7 Questions with Founder Yael Cohen

We're excited about our 23rd and most collaborative LOKBP event yet, happening in Vancouver this week. One of the big reasons why is the theme "Socializing for Social Good". We are teaming up with fresh upstart and refreshingly candid "F+ck Cancer" to collaborate on their future business needs.

I had a chance to chat with Yael Cohen, change agent and founder of F+ck Cancer last week and get the lowdown about what it's all about:

Buzz Canuck: I love coming across new causes or movements that feel fresh or different, when we were introduced to F*ck cancer weeks ago, it got me excited, what's it all about?

Yael Cohen: It started pretty simply. My mom got cancer and as she was going through treatment, we made up these shirts "F*ck Cancer". The reactions was unbelievable. People were openly hugging and expressing support. What has developed here was very organic stretching from one personal experience to a global movement that gives patients the power to standup against cancer.

BC: Now that it is going, what's the bigger cause d'etre here?

YC: As much as we need funding for treatment, we really need to switch the focus of where the majority of our charity funds go. Simple early detection and prevention needs to get on everybody's agenda. Sure you're going to live your life but it is becoming so much more easy to profile the risks and tackle cancer at a more treatable stage. We also want it easier for patients who have cancer or doctors that cover it to create a much better dialogue to know how best to tackle cancer together - too many bad experiences have happened to not tackle the questions a pateient should ask when they get diagnosed.

BC: You've taken a cheeky page of French Connections (FCUK) and Ontario energy's (Flick off) book , by using the brazen F-word - why?

YC: First, I think we have to realize that unlike how many charities work "it's the pat you on the head" approach and provide some empathy. The reality is that it sucks getting cancer. It can be violent in how it attacks your body and we're saying, you know what "it's alright to be angry", "it's alright to feel singled out". We want to empower people to take back control of their cancer. People are ready for this now. I work in investor relations for a mining company and although I might not wear the T-shirt front and centre to work everyday, it's part of our conversation, let's be honest.

BC: Is there a danger people will feel that this is too negative or too politically incorrect?

YC: We are very careful to ensure people realize that F*ck cancer is all about taking smart measures to diagnose, prevent and fight cancer. We have developed cue cards and body maps that help people understand their risks. We are not all style, there is a lot of substance behind our message that is not getting through. If using a collections of words that gets more people to share their stories, we're alright with that.

BC: So what's next?

YC: I never knew what this would become. I work in investor relations and have a degree in political science at UBC and have no background in not-for-profit. But we've now produced 2,000 shirts and are encouraging people to send their pictures in wearing the T-shirt and telling their really powerful experiences. We also want to be an advocacy movement and are working at extending geographically to LA, NYC, UK, France, Spain, Australia and Germany. We're working with Cancer Schmancer to extend our message out. What we'd like everybody to do is just like our website tells "say it, share it ,wear it and do it".

BC: We are bringing our world to yours on Thurs, April 29th - what would you like to get from our League of Kickass business people audience?

YC: Hopefully we'll get some new outlooks, ways to get the message further out, a tagline and a call to action. We'd really also like to try to find out how we get university age people extending this important message to their parents and older audiences that are at elevated cancer risks. It should be fun, it will be interesting to see how people see what we're doing. Buzz Canuck

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