2010-02-16 21:43:55

Post disaster success, like all thoughtful interventions, requires conscious, focused and strategic attention to reinforcing the ties of belonging and creating the opportunities for people to solve their own problems. It requires: tapping into everyone’s desire to be helpful to others; ignoring cultural mythologies and stigma about inability, laziness, and desperation; focusing on everyone’s capabilities; nurturing joy and celebration; being patient, understanding that what took decades to build will not change overnight; and putting professionals in their place (i.e. in the background); and understanding the well meaning but negative consequence of relying on the intervention of outside professionals.

While the world’s media is still portraying the immense and immediate challenges faced by Haitians, I am heartened by the awareness that supporting Haitians to rebuild their institutions and infrastructure is equally important. In my view it should be the higher priority for our design, our planning and our resources.

There is enough money, supplies and personnel, perhaps too much, available now. The task is more one of logistics, of distribution and allocation of what has already been provided. Paul Farmer, a Harvard Medical School professor, who has spent much of his life in Haiti indicated on CBC radio on February 14th that food, water, medical supplies and most important doctors and nurses are still not reaching the majority of people.

But what of this tougher challenge? If previous post – disaster efforts are any indication the world’s attention will eventually be distracted, aid money will dry up and donors’ attention will be turned elsewhere. After the Balkan war for example within 10 years of a massive infusion of money there were few resources to continue the rebuilding. Vancouver Sun columnist Don Cayo recounts failed and successful examples of post disaster relief. His conclusion, the best examples owe their success to local leadership.
 

Cayo quotes Akash Kapar a reporter living in SE India where 50,000 new homes were built and registered in the name of women 5 years after the December 26th tsunami:
The result of titling these homes to women has transcended the economic gains of home ownership. It has changed the very social fabric of the coast. In village after village, I heard stories of women whose status had been utterly transformed. Wives spoke of a new self-confidence and greater control over household finances. Mothers talked about insisting that their daughters went to school.

Post disaster success, like all thoughtful interventions, requires conscious, focused and strategic attention to reinforcing the ties of belonging and creating the opportunities for people to solve their own problems. It requires: tapping into everyone’s desire to be helpful to others; ignoring cultural mythologies and stigma about inability, laziness, and desperation; focusing on everyone’s capabilities; nurturing joy and celebration; being patient, understanding that what took decades to build will not change overnight; and putting professionals in their place (i.e. in the background); and understanding the well meaning but negative consequence of relying on the intervention of outside professionals.


The social fabric of a culture is not lumber and nails but belonging and resilience.

This is consistent with the thinking and practice of John McKnight a friend and mentor who created the Asset Based Community Development Institute. John has taught the world to see the gifts, assets and abilities of people who have been labeled, marginalized, ignored and excluded. Similarly, Ashoka founder Bill Drayton has built a global social enterprise movement on the premise that every country in the world has an abundance of ingenious, talented social entrepreneurs with solutions for local, regional and global challenges. They simply need the resources to make it happen.


While I am hesitant to provide any direct advice to those involved in the re-construction of Haiti, I do think the experience of individuals and groups who have been in similar situations is worth digesting. It can provide those of us who are viewing from afar with guidelines on how best to support Haitians to rebuild their country.

Here are some design criteria to guide the actions of governments, foundations, policy makers, donors, workers, development agencies and concerned individuals.

Assume the necessary leadership, capability, talent, determination, expertise and resilience exists among Haitians.

Strengthening the resilient, adaptive capacity of Haitians to solve their own problems must be the primary goal of all interventions, practices, aid, resources, donations, and volunteerism.

Local Haitian leaders must direct all outside intervention and resources.


DO NOT DESTROY THE SOCIAL FABRIC OF BELONGING AND RESILIENCE. Make sure all interventions, either intentionally or unintentionally, do not erode the sense of belonging that clearly exists in Haiti. This is the equivalent of the Doctor’s Oath to above all, Do No Harm.

Seek out and support local creativity and innovation. This is the basis of the Ashoka model. For over 25 years they have discovered talented local leaders and given them the resources to incubate and scale up their ideas.


Resources:

From Clients to Citizens: Communities Changing the Course of Their Own Development
Alison Mathie & Gordon Cunningham, (Eds.), 2008.
Produced through a partnership between the ABCD Institute and the Coady International Institute at St. Francis Xavier University. Coady has been addressing global poverty and injustice for 50 years.

http://www.standwithhaiti.org/hait.i Paul Farmer founded this organization. The vast majority of Partners in Health hospital and medical staff in Haiti are Haitians.

Al blogs and writes for a number of websites. To read more of his blogs and commentary visit: www.aletmanski.com

 

2010-02-14 19:18:34

Victor Lachance is the Executive Director of the True Sport Foundation

Many of the institutions we’ve relied on for socialization have been challenged in the past few decades, whether it be the family, church or school. By design or by default, community sport is now perceived by most Canadians as second only to the family in transferring values to young people.

In a recent CBC radio interview, a volunteer who went to Haiti to help orphaned children noted among her qualifications that she was a soccer mom, an expression sure to resonate with the fraternity of parents involved in community sport. What she sought to convey, it seems, is that the skills acquired in sport volunteerism were of the kind that transferred to other demanding and complex social situations. And yet when it comes to social innovation or community development, we do not always consider the role that community sport plays in bringing people together around a number of common interests. We do not always think of what sport does in building resilient and productive communities.

Avercamp(1585-1634) Winter Sport in Holland


It’s not as if everyone in the sport sector agrees that community sport can meaningfully contribute to social development. And some might argue that the case for community as a social good is overstated, or at best unknown. This may be due to the discrepancy between what Canadians believe sport can do for society and how well sport is fulfilling its potential to do so. However, there is a growing and robust discussion within the sector about the intentional use of sport to improve our lives, including the power it has to give various groups, such as new Canadians, a connection to others and a sense of belonging.


We do know that sport is where most Canadians get their first exposure to volunteerism, and where we find the most volunteers. We know there are over 30,000 sport and recreation organizations spread throughout Canada, where people come together as neighbours and often leave as friends. These organizations are created and operated by people in their own community, the vast majority of which do not rely on any government funding. In the simplest sense we can observe that people belong to community sport, and community sport belongs to people.


Studies have shown that social relations affect our well-being, and that the frequency and intensity of social interactions improves our overall health. Social networks to which people belong, like community sport, provide the kind of shared values, group identity and historical narratives or traditions that show us how we can do things by ourselves, for ourselves, together.
Do we need to broaden our concept of how and where social relations develop in our communities? Are we correct to believe that community sport is a vehicle to develop the kind of face to face interactions, the shared values and the trust needed to develop social capital? I know from personal experience that sport is one place where I trade in my most valuable currency – my kids. I entrust others to look after them, in the same way as I do when they are entrusted to me, or to a soccer mom. It is a place where, notionally at least, I can have my children join others in a collective effort to fulfill our human potential. It sounds corny, I know, but as Ken Dryden has observed, sport is one of the few places where we can see how our kids interact with others.


Many of the institutions we’ve relied on for socialization have been challenged in the past few decades, whether it be the family, church or school. By design or by default, community sport is now perceived by most Canadians as second only to the family in transferring values to young people. Research also suggest that sport contributes to the development of interested and caring adults, to an ability to work with others, to a sense of acceptance and a sense of belonging to a social group. Not everyone wants to be part of that experience, but those who do tend to be part of something that matters to everyone involved.


As we consider the experiences and processes that unite us, we would do well to consider what community sport can do. A good starting point might be the True Sport Report, which looks at the many contributions that sport can make in that regard.

2010-01-25 19:36:38

Sam Sullivan is CEO Global Civic Policy Society and former Mayor City of Vancouver.

Here with Lynn Zanatta

January 30, 20101, Sam Sullivan in

 

Vancouver’s Former Mayor Remains Face of the Games

Sport is a profoundly social activity. It teaches many lessons about relationships. It reinforces the importance of commonly accepted rules of behavior. It assumes that everyone needs to contribute to the broader goal of the group and that there are many roles in which contributions can be made. It also leads to the understanding that practice and study improves your chance for success. Sport can be a powerful tool to reinforce social truths but also to model new social ideas. The socialization benefits of sport can be extended to more people by adjusting the categories of those participating. The segregation of competitions in the Olympic Games by male and female is one example of this. The Paralympic Games are another example.


After spending seven years recovering from a traumatic and disabling accident I reached a turning point in my life through sport. Murder Ball was the name of a sport for quadriplegics. Because my disability was more severe than that of the other players I had to recognize that I was not an asset to the team. But I became immersed in the competitive spirit which I found extremely healthy and which spilled into other areas of my life. Eventually I found a role which made me valuable. I would get my foot pedals in the spokes of one of their better players thereby keeping them away from the action. By tipping the scales my team started to win. Eventually I found another role where I could contribute -- fundraising and organization. This early discovery would lead my life in interesting directions.


I have a particular interest in individual sports. I have helped organize sailing for people with disabilities and helped invent a device to go hiking in rugged terrain. The Trailrider can only be operated with the help of two or more able-bodied people. It has been used to climb to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro and the base camp of Mount Everest and has fostered many lasting relationships. I was actually surprised by how letting others feel a sense of responsibility for my well-being could be a very bonding experience.


Sport for people with disabilities has been responsible for changing attitudes of the general public. People can relate to athletic achievement and the cultivation of sport heroes has helped make the general public feel a human connection and identification with people with disabilities. This attitude is a vital precondition to social change at the level of government policy. The Paralympic Games change every country that hosts them. I remember Italian mayors telling me how their Paralympic Games had opened a window for new policies of access and inclusion. The Games had reached a critical mass to gain the attention of the general public. Their connection with the Olympics has been very helpful in achieving this.


The Paralympic Games have already changed Vancouver and British Columbia. Many decisions have been made to improve access and inclusion, overcoming political hurdles because of the knowledge that the world would be arriving and scrutinizing our achievements. The Measuring Up Program has encouraged communities to reevaluate themselves and recognize shortcomings and opportunities.

The role I played in the 2006 Olympics required me to accept the flag on behalf of the city, the province and the country. I resolved to make this symbolic ritual memorable and equal to the quality of any able-bodied mayor. I remain amazed by how this one gesture moved people around the world. People with disabilities living in appalling physical and social conditions in other countries were inspired to work for improvements where they lived. Recently a woman visiting from the former Yugoslavia shouted to me on the street asking me to slow down. She ran up to me and told me that the image of the flag ceremony had inspired a commitment to public accessibility which had resulted in real change where she lived.


Sport and disability and belonging are intimately connected. The more we recognize this the greater the chance that we will get the most out of the opportunity. The responsibility is ours.


 

Hollee Card is the National Coordinator forL’Arche Canada, the umbrella organization that unites and serves the 29 L’Arche communities across Canada. She is also member of the International Council and Board of L’Arche.  [Read more ...]

Jacques Dufresne is the editor of  L'Encyclopédie de L'Agora. He founded the journal Critère, was columnist at  La Presse durging eight years and Le Devoir  during seven year. He organised  many colloquiums and public debates of some importance. [Read more ...]

 

Al Etmanski Al is an author, advocate and social entrepreneur specializing in innovative solutions to social challenges. He is President and co-founder of  (PLAN),  Planned Lifetime Advocacy Network (PLAN). [Read more...]

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