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Community Building Efforts Which Can Integrate and Assimilate Many Different Initiatives at the Same Time

Introduction

There are many initiatives which are critical to overcoming challenges of our times, relating both to international issues, local community issues, and challenges in personal circumstances. But it is often the case that many of these initiatives are “not quite coming through the mist as much as they should be.” As a way of assisting the process of helping such initiatives “come through the mist”, I would like to share some resources along the lines of community organizing, teaching, HIV/AIDS issues, farming, income generation activities, and poverty eradication. There will be some or many who know of these resources, but we—collectively—have both the need and the potential to be very conscientious about seeing that critical resources are linked with those who need them most. “We do not live unto ourselves, and the more we realize the repercussions of our actions on our neighbours and strive to act according to the highest we are capable of, the more shall we advance in our spiritual development.” (J.C. Kumarappa).

There are three section to this list of resources and descriptions: Community Organizing, Farming, and Income Generating Activities. At the end of this list of resources and descriptions there will be a section titled “Concluding Comments”. (Note: This is an approximately 4,000 word article)

I encourage and invite any comments, suggestions, recommendations which will add resources and references to this list-- and invite any kind of questions or experiences which will help myself and others to arrive at some kind of best practices ideas in specific fields of activity and in specific communities and regions.

A. Community Organizing

1) “Teachers Without Borders”/Community Teaching and Learning Centers

One of the primary goals of the “Teachers Without Borders” organization is to develop
“teacher-leaders”.

“Teachers Without Borders” helps create “teacher-leaders” in two ways:
a) “We help to grow teachers. Click on the link to read more about our Certificate of Teaching
Mastery program. We identify talent and find a way of attracting, retaining, and supporting
cohorts of teachers from all sectors of local communities.
b) We find mentors for teachers to ensure subject-matter mastery and teaching technique, and then provide opportunities at our community teaching and learning centers for emerging teachers to practice. Our plan is to start from the ground up - incorporating local mentorship, distance learning, and community college offerings, then assist local talent in completion, at a high level, of course work at four-year schools. Most importantly, we provide a means of steady communication and feedback amongst cohorts of teaching talent.” [Note: This quote is taken from an IPCR Initiative document (“1000Communities2”) The TWB website has since changed its presentation; it now has much more online course content and interactive capacity for teachers to assist teachers-in-training.]

“Community Teaching and Learning Centers”(CTLCs) are physical sites that serve as gathering places for teachers and provide opportunities for local communities to educate themselves. These centers have offered health and HIV-AIDS workshops, job-announcements and training, disabled access to computers, and local teacher professional development initiatives

The new website for “Teachers Without Borders” has an extensive catalog of free online courses which include one titled “HIV for Educators”.

[Note: The “1000Communities2” proposal mentioned above expanded the concept of “Community Teaching and LearningCenters” so that these community centers function as resource centers, meeting places, educational centers where workshops are offered, practice sites for the development of “teacher leaders”, and clearinghouses on how residents can deliberately channel their time, energy, and money. (See p. 12-15 of “1000Communities2” document at www.ipcri.net)

2) Gaia University Action Learning Model

There may be readers here who have both a specific interest in the content of coursework at Gaia University, and an interest in applying to them to become a student. The resource I would like to reference here from Gaia University is not their coursework (which is also worth recommending), but their well developed “action learning methodology”. As the website describes: “our self-directed action learning methodology enables you to study locally, at work or on project, in your own language, supported by Gaia University's Regional Organizers, and a worldwide network of learning providers, tutors and mentors. “

A model of this process is at http://www.gaiauniversity.org/english/index.php?option=com_content&task=...
This model can provide a way of thinking about community organizing which relates well to the potentials associated with the above mentioned “Community Teaching and Learning Centers”.

3) Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement
(Note: the following notes are taken from the “Peacebuilding” section of IPCR Initiaitive “Links”)

a) Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement--“Shramadana means ‘sharing work, knowledge, talents and time.’ The aim of the Movement is to use shared work, voluntary giving and sharing of resources to achieve the personal and social awakening of everyone—from the individual, to the village, and continuing up to the international level. “(Sarvodaya) ‘Awakening’ means developing human potential, and is a comprehensive process taking place on the spiritual, moral, cultural, social, economic and political
levels. Sarvodaya strives for a model of society in which there is neither poverty nor excessive affluence. The movement’s holistic approach is based on Buddhist principles (including goodness, sympathy, and tranquility) and on the Gandhian values of truthfulness, nonviolence, and self-sacrifice.”
(from the “Development Model” subsection of the “About” section of the “Sarvodaya
Shramadana” website (see http://www.sarvodaya.org/about/development-model/)]

b) How the Movement Works
“… the movement is working with a participatory approach in nearly 15,000 villages on the island. The program is adjusted to the specific social, cultural, and religious conditions in each region. At the same time, all the villages go through five states of evolution or awakening.
Stage 1—Inquiry from the village and organization of an introductory shramadana camp for the village, during which problems are analyzed together and needs identified
Stage 2—Establishment of various groups (children’s, youngsters, mothers’, farmers, etc.), construction of a child development center, and training of staff
Stage 3—Program for meeting the basic needs and setting up institutions (including the founding of the Sarvodaya Shramadana Society, which is responsible for the village’s development initiatives)
Stage 4—Measures to produce income and employment; establishment of complete selfreliance
and self-financing
Stage 5—Support for other village communities
(from the “Development Model” subsection of the “About” section of the “Sarvodaya
Shramadana” website (see http://www.sarvodaya.org/about/development-model/)]

c) Strengthening Community Cohesion
“… it is not a novel message; but a message people have heard for 2,500 years. Ariyaratne echoes it and its echo understandably finds its counterpart in the hearts of the rural folk. To them what Ariyaratne preaches had been a remarkable and harmonious way of life. Ariyaratnes’ genius lies in being able to identify this dormant philosophy and plan of action and give it new flesh and blood. He has been able to do it in a manner no other contemporary of his has been able to do, and the echo of his message would
undoubtedly reverberate through decades into the future.”

“He divides what one could discern in tradition to main groups like: 1) the traditional aspects such as norms, folkways, mores, customs, beliefs, attitudes, etc. which are positive in character and which contribute to the strengthening of the cohesion in a given Community by underscoring the value of popular participation 2) those traditional aspects such as norms etc. which are either consciously or unconsciously contributing their share to divide man thus loosening the community cohesion, eroding man’s spirit and belief in self-reliance. These two groups have to be identified and the first encouraged and promoted, if necessary modified, to suit present contingencies. It is the second group that we have to be wary of, eschew and teach others to refrain from practicing. Tradition, if understood correctly, has a tremendous and dynamic role to play in development. Ariyaratne by far is the only thinker known to me in Sri Lanka working in the field of community development who has thus advanced a theory of this nature pin-pointing the value of tradition.”

“… whatever the technology is, it should be introduced to strengthen man’s faith and reliance on himself and his fellow beings. Technology thus introduced should not in any way become an instrument capable of disintegrating the forces of cohesion existing in a community.”

[From the “Introduction” subsection of the “Collected Works 1” subsection of the
“Philosophy” subsection of the “About” section of the “Sarvodaya Shramadana” website
(see http://www.sarvodaya.org/about/philosophy/collected-works-vol-1/introduc...)]

4) Mentoring Teams for Needy Families

notes are from http://www.idealist.org/if/i/en/av/Program/89375-195 (Additional Note: I have participated in this program as part of a mentoring team, and I have a brochure which I could have scanned, and made into a pdf file)

“Friends In Action--Founded by Interfaith Works (formerly Community Ministry of Montgomery County) in 1986, Friends In Action - Amigos En Accion (FIA) recruits and trains a network of people from all faiths and ethnic backgrounds, whose common interest is to provide caring outreach, to needy families in our community. Volunteer mentoring teams are linked for one year in a supportive relationship to a needy family in their community. FIA provides a comprehensive approach to erasing poverty one family at a time.

“The goal of the program is to help the family identify their strengths and develop attainable and manageable goals that guide them toward financial independence and personal well being. The success of this bilingual program comes primarily from the relationships forged between families, youth and mentoring teams. FIA mentors empower families and youth to in finding solutions to housing, health care, childcare, employment, parenting, and self-esteem issues.

“Friends In Action began in 1986 with the help of Carolyn Parker, a resident of Montgomery County. She developed the model after coming in contact with a woman that had fled from her home with her two children. It was wintertime and the family had no place to go after leaving the abusive situation. Carolyn invited the family to come home with her only to realize that she had nothing to provide for them. She came up with the idea of bringing her neighborhood together to help aid the woman with the necessities the mother and small children needed. This comprising of the many people is the basis for the model of Friends In Action; bringing a team of friends together to help those less fortunate than others.

"We are people for whom caring for others brings meaning and worth to our lives; we are disadvantaged people wanting to work for the security of our friends in need of an aware and sensitive community; we are workers in County agencies wishing that we had more time for individualized caring; we are educators with special talents to share for the enrichment and enlightenment of our communities. We are friends in need; we are friends in faith; we are Friends in Action." - Carolyn Parker FIA Founder

5) Community Good News Networks
(One of The Eight IPCR Concepts)

“Community Good News Networks”—is a name for participation by local community residents in an ongoing process of actively discovering, sharing, encouraging, and creating good news, for the purpose of “… bringing to the fore what is often hidden: how many good people there are, how may ways there are to do good, and how much happiness comes to those who extend help as well as to those who receive it.” One way to begin creating “Community Good News Networks” is as follows: ongoing
intergenerational programs—programs that bring together elders of the community with young people (ages 5-18) of the community—are created at appropriate meeting places such as local places of worship. Such intergenerational programs would include the following activities: 1) collecting and sharing good news articles, stories, etc., and making contributions to “Good News Reference Resources,” specific to local communities and regions 2) sending notecards of gratitude and encouragement—and invitations to visit—to people who are making good news in the local community or region 3) inspirational sharing meetings featuring “good news makers” from the local community or region. As more and more good news is discovered, shared, and created, participants can give special attention to identifying the “good news makers” who are associated with a religious or spiritual worldview, and who live near their specific meeting place. A local “Community Faith Mentoring Network” could then be established to facilitate matching people of all ages with “faith mentors” in their local community.

Even now, as you are reading this, truly inspiring contributions of genuine goodwill
are being generated in a variety of ways—and in a variety of circumstances—
by countless numbers of people in communities around the world.

6) 2009 Women's International Grassroots Peace Congress
From http://www.ipeacei.org/index.php?id=13,0,0,1,0,0

"Weaving Partnerships, Building Relationships, Empowering Community"

An international forum of diverse people to promote women’s grassroots initiatives of nonviolence for sustainable development and cultures of peace.

The world’s most diverse grassroots partnerships building event…

a) Bringing together the world's real peace experts and their work… from the grassroots up. ...and facilitating bridges of friendships and collaborations across cultures...
b) Creating connections that strengthen and empower the work of grassroots women groups by forging links with local community based organizations, international NGO's, religious and educational organizations, African governments and the rest of the world.
c) …sharing practical hands-on community building and peace enhancing ways…

Real-world progress toward accomplishing the UN's Nonviolence Decade goals of attaining a culture of peace by eradicating violence, extreme poverty, promoting democracy, human rights, women’s rights, gender equity and equality, combating HIV/AIDS, and other diseases, ensuring environmental sustainability and developing a global partnership for sustainable peace and development.

B. Farming

1) Important Source References

a) “Food Summit Calls for More Investment in Agriculture”

“The Summit on soaring food prices, convened by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) (June 3-5, 2008), has concluded with the adoption by acclamation of a declaration calling on the international community to increase assistance for developing countries, in particular the least developed countries and those that are most negatively affected by high food prices.

“’There is an urgent need to help developing countries and countries in transition expand agriculture and food production, and to increase investment in agriculture, agribusiness and rural development, from both public and private sources,’ according to the declaration.”

….“On climate change, the Declaration said: ‘It is essential to address (the) question of how to increase the resilience of present food production systems to challenges posed by climate change... We urge governments to assign appropriate priority to the agriculture, forestry and fisheries sectors, in order to create opportunities to enable the world’s smallholder farmers and fishers, including indigenous people, in particular vulnerable areas, to participate in, and benefit from financial mechanisms and investment flows to support climate change adaptation, mitigation and technology development, transfer and dissemination. We support the establishment of agricultural systems and sustainable management practices that positively contribute to the mitigation of climate change and ecological balance.’”

From the FAONewsroom section of The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) website. In the “Focus on the Issues” subsection, see “High-level conference on world food security…”, and then see “Conference News” (6/6/2008). Specific article “Food Summit Calls for More Investment in Agriculture” (paragraphs 1, 2, and 9) (at
http://www.fao.org/newsroom/en/news/2008/1000856/index.html (Confirmed June 13, 2008)

b) 50 Million Farmers
excerpt from an article titled “50 Million Farmers” at http://www.energybulletin.net/node/22584

“One way or another, re-ruralization will be the dominant social trend of the 21st century. Thirty or forty years from now—again, one way or another—we will see a more historically normal ratio of rural to urban population, with the majority once again living in small, farming communities. More food will be produced in cities than is the case today, but cities will be smaller. Millions more people than today will be in the countryside growing food.

“They won’t be doing so the way farmers do it today, and perhaps not the way farmers did it in 1900.
Indeed, we need perhaps to redefine the term farmer. We have come to think of a farmer as someone with 500 acres and a big tractor and other expensive machinery. But this is not what farmers looked like a hundred years ago, and it’s not an accurate picture of most current farmers in less-industrialized countries. Nor does it coincide with what will be needed in the coming decades. We should perhaps start thinking of a farmer as someone with 3 to 50 acres, who uses mostly hand labor and twice a year borrows a small tractor that she or he fuels with ethanol or biodiesel produced on-site.

“How many more farmers are we talking about? Currently the U.S. has three or four million of them, depending on how we define the term.

“Let’s again consider Cuba’s experience: in its transition away from fossil-fueled agriculture, that nation found that it required 15 to 25 percent of its population to become involved in food production. In America in 1900, nearly 40 percent of the population farmed; the current proportion is close to one percent.

“Do the math for yourself. Extrapolated to this country’s future requirements, this implies the need for a minimum of 40 to 50 million additional farmers as oil and gas availability declines. How soon will the need arise? Assuming that the peak of global oil production occurs within the next five years, and that North American natural gas is already in decline, we are looking at a transition that must occur over the next 20 to 30 years, and that must begin approximately now.”

C. Income Generating Activities

1) Small Scale Sustainable Infrastructure Development Fund (S3IDF)
from the S3IDF website at http://www.s3idf.org/

“Our Mission: To foster pro-poor, pro-environment small scale infrastructure services with financing and technical assistance for the electricity, water, sanitation and other infrastructure (eg. transport and telecommunications) necessary for poverty alleviation.”

“Based on more than 25 years of experience, IDE has developed a unique market-oriented
development model that benefits the rural poor. We call it PRISM (Poverty Reduction through
Irrigation and Smallholder Markets). Using PRISM, IDE integrates small farm households into markets and develops sustainable businesses that reduce rural poverty worldwide.”

Special Note: If there is not any local chapters of Heifer International and Alternative Gifts International in a specific local community or region, these programs can be explored as a possible source of income generating activities.

2) Heifer International
(notes from the Heifer International website)
“Heifer International is a non-profit organization whose goal is to help end world hunger and poverty through self-reliance & sustainability.”

“Heifer has learned over the years that a holistic approach is necessary in order to build sustainable communities. So we’ve developed a set of global initiatives – areas of emphasis that must be addressed if we’re to meet our mission of ending world hunger and poverty and caring for the earth.
These initiatives include: Agroecology, Animal Well-Being, Gender Equity, HIV-Aids, Microenterprise, Urban Agriculture, and Young People’s Initiative.”

3) Alternative Gifts

“The global mission of AGI is to send authentic, life-giving gifts to a needy world--gifts that build a partnership with people in crisis and that protect and preserve the earth's endangered environment--to nourish and sustain a more equitable and peaceful global community.

“AGI is a nonprofit, interfaith agency. AGI provides education for people of all ages about global needs and raises funds each year in its Alternative Gift Markets and from individual donors to respond to those needs. Designated grants then are sent to the established international projects of several reputable nonprofit agencies for relief and development.”

4) Local Currencies

Berkshares—“BerkShares are a local currency designed for use in the Southern Berkshire region of Massachusetts (USA) with issue by BerkShares, Inc., a non-profit organization working in collaboration with the Southern Berkshire Chamber of Commerce, participating local banks, local businesses, and local non-profit organizations.
“The purpose of a local currency is to function on a local scale the same way that national currencies have functioned on a national scale—building the local economy by maximizing circulation of trade within a defined region. Widely used in the early 1900s, local currencies are again being recognized as a tool for sustainable economic development. The currency distinguishes the local businesses that accept the currency from those that do not, building stronger relationships and a greater affinity between the
business community and the citizens of a particular place.”
[From the “BerkShares: Local Currency for the Berkshire Region” section of www.berkshares.org]

Ithaca Hours—“Ithaca Hours is a local currency system that promotes local economic strength and community self-reliance in ways which will support economic and social justice, ecology, community participation and human aspirations in and around Ithaca, New York. Ithaca Hours help to keep money local, building the Ithaca economy. It also builds community pride and connections. Over 900 participants publicly accept Ithaca HOURS for goods and services.” [From the homepage of “Ithaca Hours” (Ithaca, NewYork, USA) at http://www.ithacahours.org/].

5) Sister Cities

(excerpted from section 3 of the “1000Communities2” proposal)

“There are many communities in the world who already have “sister community” relationships with communities in other parts of the world. The organization most responsible for developing the idea of “sister communities”, and the organization most experienced in facilitating and monitoring such relationships, is “Sister Cities International”.”

About “Sister Cities International”
a) “Our mission is to promote peace through mutual respect, understanding, and cooperation—one individual. One community at a time.”
b) “Sister Cities International is a nonprofit citizen diplomacy network that creates and strengthens partnerships between U.S. and international communities. As an international membership organization, we officially certify, represent and support partnerships between U.S. cities, counties, states and similar jurisdictions in other countries.”
c) “Sister Cities International” represents more than 2,500 communities in 134 countries around the world.”
d) Key program areas include:
Sustainable Development
Youth and Education
Humanitarian Assistance
Arts and Culture
e) Services provided to communities joining “Sister Cities International” include:
eligibility to apply for seed grants to support sister city projects
access to information and how-to guides
mentoring and staff consultation

Concluding Comments

The particular resources referenced above may provide some new areas of exploration for people interested in community building and poverty eradication. This writer believes, however, that these resources represent only a fraction of the many initiatives that “are not coming through the mist as much as they should.” This is why he has given much attention to advocating for community visioning initiatives. In a time with so many challenges, there are many initiatives which will be needed to make a successful transition from less solution-oriented employment to more solution-oriented employment. Educational institutions can recognize the need for community visioning initiatives and be initiators or significant partners. As a way of providing a glimpse of the potential of community visioning initiatives, here are some excerpts from Section 6 of the “1000Communities2” proposal (p. 38-39):

Step 12 Summary Presentations and Job Fairs
(Approximate Time Required: 4 weeks)

A. Goals
3) Specifically, information will be provided on how residents can deliberately focus their time, energy, and money so that their actions
a) can have positive repercussions on many fields of activity relating to solutions
b) can result in an increase in the “ways of earning a living” which are related to solutions and action plans
4) Job Fairs will provide a forum for organizations and businesses working in solution oriented fields of activity to describe employment opportunities and future prospects, to discover local talent, to hire qualified prospects, and to build knowledgebases and skill sets for the future

Special Commentary: By now, there will have been sufficient public discourse for those people with understanding about high level shifts in investment portfolios to have learned something about what directions future shifts will be leaning towards. The job fairs which come at the end of the CVI process provide opportunities for all key stakeholders in the community (businesses, organizations, institutions,
government, etc.) to demonstrate their upgraded awareness—and their interest in the welfare of the community—by offering and facilitating new employment opportunities… and thus helping with a just transition from patterns of investment which in only limited ways represent solutions to prioritized challenges to patterns of investment which in many ways represent solutions to prioritized challenges.
Note: As mentioned on p. 125, one aspect of this just transition can be that people who do deliberately focus their investments of time, energy, and money towards solutions identified by the Community Visioning Initiative being carried out in their community may receive, as encouragement, local currency. And then such local currency can, in its turn, be redeemed in ways which will be particularly helpful to people transitioning from less solution-oriented employment to more solution-oriented employment.

As a final note, I would like to suggest that the Interfaith Peacebuilding and Community Revitalization (IPCR) Initiative Mission Statement (at http://ipcri.net/mission-statement.html is an effort to recognize that there is a need for community building efforts which can integrate and assimilate many different initiatives at the same time, as a response to a number of significant challenges occurring at the same time.

In the spirit of sharing and learning,

Stefan Pasti, Founder and Outreach Coordinator
The IPCR Initiative

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