We define Citizen Initiatives as initiatives that are fully inclusive, recognize the diversity of our communities, and welcome the participation of everyone without being prompted to do so. That last bit is important - it's the difference between asking for an invitation to a birthday party and being invited to the party without having to ask. Citizen initiatives welcome everyone at their "party" and extend their invitation to all - especially those who have traditionally been left out of community life.
In this section we highlight citizen initiatives we find particularly inspiring, and provide links wherever possible so you can learn more about them. We know the ones we profile here are just the tip of the iceberg, and that there are many others that simply haven't come to our attention yet. If you're involved in a citizen initiative or know of any others that you'd like us to feature, please let us know so we can add them to our list. We want to present as many of these stories as we can and share the inspiration far and wide!
UVATT Online Learning and Community-building Resource
The University of Victoria Assistive Technology Team (UVATT), in collaboration with the Garth Homer Society, has embarked on an ambitious program to build an online learning and community-building resource and support network for the disability community. The overall goal of the program is to increase the opportunities for people with disabilities to be engaged in the community, and to have their contributions to society recognized and appreciated. Read more...
Credo for Support
People First of San Luis Obispo have made a version of Norman Kunc's "Credo for Support" in which individuals with disabilities say the Credo's words. Norman put music behind it and made it into a DVD. This powerful 5-minute video offers suggestions for people who care about and support someone with a disability, and prompts viewers to question the common perceptions of disability and support. The DVD is on sale through the Special Needs Project Bookstore. A portion of the sales will go back to People First of San Luis Obispo. (Note: Mac users click here to view the video.)
Petition to include disabilities in the UN's Millennium Development Goals
Ashoka Fellow Minal Doshi and her colleague, Dr. Madhumita Puri, Director of the Society for Child Development in India, have developed a petition to the United Nations to include disabilities in the UN's Millennium Development Goals. To read the petition, click here. To add your name to the petition, email Minal Doshi at firstname.lastname@example.org . To read an editorial explaining the need to include people with disabilities in the Millennium Goals, click here.
Geel Kolonie: City of "Fools"?
Since the Middle Ages, one small town in Belgium has defied all established practices in dealing with people living with mental illness. Rather than shutting them away in institutions, the people of Geel care for them in their own homes. This acceptance and welcome of the "other" has been part of the Geel way of life for centuries. The individuals become members of the family, often staying over fifty years in the same home. There are no signs of restraints in Geel, but many signs of love. Click here to read the remarkable story of Geel Kolonie.
Involving All Neighbors
Involving all Neighbors, a program of Seattle's Department of Neighborhoods, is an impressive example of a citizen initiative. The idea for the project was sparked by the question: "What does the Department of Neighborhoods do to encourage persons with developmental disabilities to get involved in neighborhood life?" That question challenged the Department to look at how well they reached out, not just to people with disabilities, but to all those who were not involved or included in their neighbourhoods. The result was "Involving All Neighbors," a program that explores ways to welcome and involve people who otherwise might not participate in their neighbourhoods.
Action for Neighbourhood Change
Action for Neighbourhood Change explores approaches to neighbourhood revitalization that can enhance people's capacity to build and sustain strong, healthy communities. Working with local residents, not-for-profit agencies and public and private sector partners, ANC combines local resources in new ways to develop creative locally-based solutions for sustainable community development and neighbourhood revitalization. Visit the ANC website or read a report prepared by the Caledon Institute.
Civil Society Initiatives
The Campaign for Love & Forgiveness is an inclusive, non-partisan initiative that invites everyone to consider how love and forgiveness can change our lives and our communities. This multi-year campaign, initiated by the Fetzer Institute, will encourage community conversations throughout America, with the goal of effecting meaningful change in individuals and communities. The campaign will use three documentaries, community and online conversations, a letter-writing initiative and community events and activities in support of a more loving and forgiving world. The first phase of the campaign focuses on love. The second phase will focus on forgiveness later in 2007.
Johns Hopkins Global Civil Society Index
The Johns Hopkins Global Civil Society Index is a tool for measuring the progress of the civil society sector and demonstrating its capacity and impact in countries around the world. The GCSI focuses on the core of the civil society concept - the formal and informal associations that engage citizen energies in pursuit of public purposes. More specifically, it measures the level of development of the civil society sector along three basic dimensions: (1) capacity, or the level of effort the sector mobilizes; (2) sustainability, or the ability of civil society to survive over time; and (3) impact, or the contribution that civil society makes to social, economic and political life. Read more...
Me To We
Me To We is a philosophy, a manual, a manifesto and a movement. It's about finding meaning in our lives and our world by reaching out to others - by focusing less on "me" and more on "we" - our communities, our nation and our world. Me to We aims to create a path to happiness that is founded less on material gains and more on making positive contributions in our world. Today, Me to We is a worldwide movement of people finding purpose through living with compassion, strengthening community and making a commitment to our shared humanity. Read more...
The Canadian Index of Wellbeing
Canada will soon have a definitive tool to tell us how we are doing as a country. The Canadian Index of Wellbeing (CIW) is now under construction, using powerful indicators that measure the extent to which we are realizing our values and goals as a society and whether we are leaving the world a better place for our children. The CIW will provide Canadians with a clear, valid and regular accounting of the things that matter to them and the genuine progress of Canada - not just in terms of material or economic growth, but in terms of people's overall well-being. By integrating Canada's economic reality with information on the social, health and environmental conditions that shape our communities, the CIW will redefine what it means to have a truly prosperous economy and help foster a common vision for Canada's future.
True Sport is a national movement committed to the belief that sport makes a powerful and positive contribution to the development of people and communities. It is based on the premise that in addition to enhancing individual health and well-being, sport also contributes to the social fabric of our society. Community sport, in particular, plays an important role in building community relationships, creating a sense of neighbourhood and belonging, and fostering a more active citizenry. In 2004 Philia teamed up with True Sport to co-host a dialogue on building True Sport communities. Click here to read more about True Sport and to download the report on the dialogue.
Right To Play
Right To Play is an international humanitarian organization that uses sport and play to help children and youth in the most disadvantaged areas of the world. Driven by athletes, Right to Play improves the lives of these children and strengthens their communities by using the best practices of sport and play to promote development, health and peace. Its programs foster healthy physical, social and emotional development, based on the guiding principles of inclusion and sustainability. Read an article about Johann Olav Koss, RTP's founder and honorary chairman, reprinted from Ode Magazine.