Posts Tagged ‘models of unity’
Occasional browsers of this site will see that I haven’t posted anything for some time. There are a couple of reasons. I’ve had a 6-month contract at the Institute of International Education and the reality is that paid work must take priority over hobbies. However, a site like Models of Unity also needs a team effort. I think MOU is important and fills a gap in a world (and a field) that perpetually focuses on what’s not working. But, I also need subscribers, moral supporters, people to help refer me to good models, and savvy social media experts to help promote the site. To date, such support for this site has been slim. I believe in MOU and hope to keep it alive in some form by posting an occasional case study or blog. In the interim, if you are aware of other individuals or groups that might want to collaborate on expanding the potential of this site, please get in touch via the “contacts” link. Thank you for all you do!
As those of us in the United States approach the 2012 presidential elections in November, I find myself quite nauseated by the partisan, divisive political news and advertising. It makes me wonder how many people really care about this kind of reporting, or our seemingly dysfunctional democracy. Don’t get me wrong. I’m a big fan of democracy, but not of the party system that we have in the U.S. On the subject of democracy, I was intrigued by the seemingly effective local consultative and decision-making process featured in this month’s case study on Tuinuane Village in Kenya. Sure, politics at the national level in Kenya is a mess and has led to violence, but I see hope in the way local places like Tuinuane are taking development into their own hands. I am particularly proud of this case study because it is based on interviews with six people living in that community, which is the kind of grassroots input I always envisioned for this site. These interviews were conducted by Gwen Meyer with FKSW. Sometimes, I get discouraged by the lack of response I get to the many, many emails I send out in my hunt for the models to post on this site, but I’ve also met some amazing people like Gwen through this process. There’s definitely been at least one such individual behind every case study I’ve posted to this site and I appreciate all of them!
I had an email exchange with one my clients this week about educational programs for peace. He noted that there has been criticism in the past few years of people-to-people programs because they rarely have a lasting impact. Hence, he said, there has been an increased focus on programs that promote functional collaboration. This theme also relates to a blog I came across recently, which talked about the Robbers Cave Experiment. This experiment was done in the 1950s with a group of boys at a summer camp in the U.S. The boys were divided into two groups and became increasingly competitive and mean. Just being in contact wasn’t the answer. Their relationships did change in a positive direction, however, when the boys had to work together in a cooperative way on “superordinate” goals.
If you take a look at the criteria on the MoU site, I’m looking for case studies where this functional collaboration is happening across divides, i.e. in the form of development projects. Having these criteria makes the models harder to find, but I think they are important because it’s the difference between just bringing people together vs. working together for a common goal and, thus, forming tighter social bonds. This month, I feature a story from Harar, Ethiopia where civil society groups are working across ethnic and religious divides to advance these “superordinate” goals in their community.
I have been remiss and haven’t been posting new updates or case studies to the MOU site lately, but there is a good reason! I have been awarded a Rotary Peace Fellowship and have been immersed in peace and conflict resolution classes (in Bangkok, Thailand) since mid-January. The program lasts until early April. Besides learning a lot, I am making some new connections and I hope this will lead me to finding some great new case studies to put on the site. The Rotary Foundation really wants to promote this program for mid-career professionals. Click on the link above to find out more, and pass the word around!
Quite a few of my friends want to see “stories of transformation” on this site and I would love to feature more of those. I think this will happen in time, but it is sometimes difficult to unearth these stories from the grassroots. Most of my information at the beginning of this venture is still coming from international non-governmental organizations. Sadly, I am not in a position to make trips all over the world myself to collect these stories—wouldn’t that be nice?! I rely on the Internet and Skype calls to do most of my research, but am aware that so many people are still without such access. As part of the models featured on the site, I’d love input on getting more of those critical “heartfelt” stories! Do you have experience with the models featured to date in Northern Ireland, Israel/Palestine, the Philippines, or the DRC? Add them to this blog!
I had interviewed Maurice Healy for the just-posted story on “Building Trust on Irish Borders.” Maurice spoke about a lot of the historical grievances and pain that still affect people in many communities there. “People talk about things that happened 200 years and they are still aggrieved,” said Maurice. These feelings move across generations and the young people too will bring up sectarian divides—even though, on the surface, they just seem to care about their I-pods. Religious differences, he added, are part of everyone’s DNA. Having heard this input, I wondered if the project featured in Newtowncunningham could really be called a “Model of Unity.” But, this site is not about “perfection.” Small steps matter and people have crossed divides to better the village as a whole.
Eight years ago in Newtowncunningham, for example, no one would even use the halls of other groups, but now that is more common. The Gaelic Athletic Association, once known for its nationalist loyalties, has opened its doors to larger membership—including British security forces. And, contingents of youth have had enough positive experiences with cross-community activities and peers that they are getting adults to cross the Northern Ireland/Republic of Ireland borders for the first time. Erenrefvenan The case study shows that this bridge-building work is not easy, but it has to start somewhere. “Unless someone starts things moving” noted a Community Foundation for Northern Ireland report, “these communities will remain excluded and become further alienated at considerable social and economic costs to themselves and to Northern Ireland.”
Do you have experience in Northern Ireland? If you do (or even if you don’t), share your thoughts!