Tuesday, April 17, 2018

How to Equip Yourself to Make the Change You Wish to See

From January 10th-22nd of this year, Professor Daniel C. Taylor guided several participants through a unique learning experience in India. Here, they learned about Gandhi's powerful, non-violent method of social change and how they could apply it to their own work while visiting sites that played key roles in the Mahatma's own life and journey to becoming a leader for change. One of the participants in this certificate course, Tonny Muteesasira of Uganda, shares his impressions of the course...

 “Without action, you aren’t going anywhere.” –Mahatma Gandhi

Working with Professor Taylor, a renowned scholar and practitioner of social change, we explored Gandhi's approach for motivating others to come together to affect positive social change and Taylor's theory of SEED-SCALE.

Learning on the front porch of Gandhi's Sevagram Ashram
From this study tour to India, I came to an understanding that, if we take action and embrace equal values among ourselves in the community, the idea of “Ahimsa,” explained by Gandhiji as calling for equality and respect of life, would mean a lot for the generations to come and all stakeholders in any given community. In his push for self-rule, he developed this concept of Swaraj, where he urged all Indian, Muslims and Hindus alike, to take action as one people. This was necessary if they were to achieve the idea of self-rule as a country.

The concept of Satyagraha was pivotal to designate a determined but nonviolent resistance to evil. Taking action does not mean getting violent and the idea of Satyagraha can easily apply in our development work that we do every day. At one point, Gandhi quoted, “An eye for an eye, makes the whole world blind.” This was true then and even now because if we are to respect life and encourage equality on the basis that we all have equal values, we have to embrace the concept of Satyagraha that calls for non-violence.

The grounds of the Sevagram Ashram, where Gandhi went to rest and teach.

Spinners at ashram making khadi,
a homespun fabric that became
symbolic of India's freedom

One of the key takeaways is truth (Satya). To Gandhi, “Nothing is or exists in reality except Truth.” Truth is a core principle in all that we practice and is the only way to gain respect among all stakeholders in communities. Truth is an energizing force that can ignite action. Strong leadership is influenced by practicing truth. As we work with communities/cooperatives in truth, we must actively listen to their concerns, find out their aspirations - their common intentions, respects, and most importantly, build from it.

If practitioners/development experts build from truth and successes rather than impose their views on the local population, then projects become successful and grow to scale. Working in truth requires participatory evidence in which the community works collaboratively to gather evidence, build consensus and make informed decisions about actions. Beyond that, it requires gathering evidence as the project moves forward.

The site of Gandhi's cremation
We explored the importance of communication within communities, since communities involve groups that have something in common and always intend to act together. As development experts try to push agendas through, they have to focus on identifying something that people share in common and drive them to act together for a common goal. Therefore, to be able to build on the successes of the community, all development experts have to be able to answer questions such as:
Participants discussing how the events 
of the past are still affecting the present on 
the steps of the Jama Masjid

1. What is the message they are trying to carry and to whom are these messages are being addressed?
2. Has the message being carried been understood?
3. Has the message connected to action?
4. How can the message get delivered.

As for any development practitioner, the focus on the respect of the values of the communities enhances projects’ performances. Community values like culture, communication, health, religious, and political values have to be respected so as to cultivate a sense of community and belonging.

I was so impressed with all these wonderful messages to take back to my organization. At Africa Development Promise, we continuously evolve and practice truth. We work closely with the women's cooperatives building on what they already know and supporting their actions to be able to achieve economic independence.  If we decided not to take action, there would be minimal/no women empowerment in the areas we have reached in the rural district of Wakiso, Uganda.

We always need to scratch the itching issues and not perform on dictated moves by governments or donors. There we will be able to put a strong and positive hand to contribute to the sustainable development goals.

For more on Tonny’s work, visit Africa Development Promise’s webpage at: http://www.africadevelopmentpromise.org/staff.html

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Greetings from the Western Hemisphere Alumni!

Did you know that upon graduating, every Future Generations University alumni joins a global network of social change practitioners from around the world? Within Future Generations Center for Research and Practice, alumni belong to 3 regions (Asia, Africa, and the Western Hemisphere), and are each represented on the Board of Trustees by one of their own. 

This week, the alumni representative for the Western Hemisphere, Ellen Romm Lampert, gives us an introduction to some of its diverse members and their work!

Hi! My name is Ellen Romm Lampert, and I am presently the Future Generations representative for the wonderful and diverse Western Hemisphere Alumni.

Although the Western Hemisphere Alumni group has the smallest number of members, we have by far the largest geographical area. Just look at a map! Western Hemisphere Alumni hail from North America, the Caribbean, Central America and South America, including Canada, the U.S., Nicaragua, Haiti, Guyana, Peru, and Bolivia. We speak English, Spanish, French, and quite a few localized languages, as well. This blog introduces a few of our very dynamic female alumni. A future post will introduce some of our male alumni.

Meet Yamini Bala

Yamina in "Big Red," pictured right, with all of her new friends!
Yamini is originally from Upstate New York. At present she lives in Chicago and works as the administrator for three Montessori pre-schools, while considering what to do next. Yamini completed the Future Generations Masters degree in Applied Community Change in 2007, graduating in Bhutan. For a brief period she ran her own very innovative high school in Chicago, and then, in October of 2014…Yamini joined the University of Alaska Fairbanks research team on the Velvet Ice Expedition, to do fieldwork on the WAIS (West Antarctic Ice Sheet). Yamini became part of the team through PolarTREC (Teachers and Researchers Collaborating), a program which takes teachers and places them with scientists in real, multi-week research projects in the polar regions. The concentration for Yamini’s team was to focus on the microstructures that comprise ice crystals in the WAIS, putting down instruments in the bore hill.  Yamini’s additional tasks were to produce a K-12 curriculum in relation to the team’s research and to write blog posts documenting the trip.
In December 2014, Yamini’s team met up at the Antarctic Center in Christchurch, New Zealand, where they were issued ECW (Extreme Cold Weather) gear that included a 20- lb. “Big Red,” the Canada Goose Expedition Parka.
The team flying from Christchurh to McMurdo Sound.

To read more about Yamina and the team's adventures, visit the following links:
You can find a more traditional chronicle of the team’s two-month stay in Antarctica on Facebook, at Velvet Ice Expedition. Yamini herself does not have a Facebook page, but you can find her on Twitter @frozenyamini.

Meet Mavis Joan Windsor

Mavis harvesting seaweed. The Heiltsuk are
traditionally a seafaring people; from April to
late May, tribal members sail out to pick seaweed.
Mavis lives in Bella Bella, British Columbia, Canada, on an island north of Vancouver and south of Alaska. Mavis is a member of the Heiltsuk First Nation. The Heiltsuk People have inhabited the central coast of British Columbia for 14,000 years. Today 1200 tribal members live on the Heiltsuk reserve and 900 live off reserve. Mavis is the head social worker for her tribe, and in this capacity has instituted summer camps for young people to learn about and preserve traditional tribal skills and language. Talk to Mavis, and she can tell you all about Heiltsuk festivals, traditional foods, medicine and dress. Listening to Mavis talk about her traditional tribal culture is an education.

Mavis completed her Masters degree in Applied Community Change and Conservation in 2007, graduating in Bhutan. Some of you may be acquainted with two additional members of Mavis’ family. Kelly Brown (class of 2005) is Mavis’ brother-in-law, and Lori Mason is her niece.

Traditional tribal journey from Bella Bella to Cowichan, and teaching the youth to preserve their traditions.

Mavis in traditional tribal dress.

You can find Mavis on Facebook, at Mavis J. Windsor.


Meet Ellen Romm Lampert

Ellen and the Taos Pueblo near where she
lives in New Mexico.
It is entirely possible that I am the oldest alum of Future Generations. The past 69 years have been action-packed. At present I live in Santa Fe, New Mexico. A lot of people, Americans included, have no idea that New Mexico is in the geographical center of the U.S.  The nation of Mexico is about a four-hour drive away from my home. We have a lot of bi-national families in our geography and, as these people often say, “We never crossed the border, it crossed us!”
I completed my Master's degree in Applied Community Change and Conservation in the class of 2007, graduating in Bhutan. My thesis was on the border problems we currently experience on the New Mexico / Mexico border. As a state in the U.S., New Mexico is an anomaly. In addition to our two official languages – English and Spanish – our election ballots include four indigenous languages. Until recently I was a consultant to the U.S. Department of State’s International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP), the largest official professional exchange program run by the U.S. government. My job was to make appointments for special guests of the U.S. government and escort them to meet their counterparts in New Mexico, and then write up the summaries of their visits. These visits were generally of 5 days duration. During my years with the IVLP, I was in charge of groups from Asia, Africa, and Central and South America. The groups consisted of anywhere from two to twenty guests who were invited on a tour of 4 – 5 cities. Every few months I visited the agencies in Washington D.C. responsible for the overall tours for these guests, to assess the agenda requirements for each visit.

Like many Americans, I have lived a transient life. Originally, I am from Hollywood, California and I attended university in Mexico City, and lived in Japan and worked in West Africa and South America. Returning to Los Angeles in the 1980s, I worked as a California Arts Council Artist-in-Social Institutions - working in the juvenile prison system, running a wall murals project. After leaving Los Angeles definitively, I spent 16 years in Germany, where I was initially a professor of visual arts at the University of Cologne, and then foreign languages editor at Ballett International, and finally the CEO of a company I built in the foreign-languages sector. In 2000 I returned to the U.S., wondered where I should live, and landed in Santa Fe.
Work from when Ellen was living in Abidjan in 1981.

Ellen's prison students in California, 1987.

In 1990 in Hanover, Germany, Ellen (bottom right) worked with this
group of high school students to create a mural at a train station.

Ellen on the day the Berlin Wall came down-- she had been lecturing
nearby, so she and her daughter made a trip to watch.
So what do I do now, here in Santa Fe, with a degree in Applied Community Change and Conservation? I run Slow Food Santa Fe. We are members of the international Slow Food organization, headquartered in Italy. The overall mission of Slow Food is, “Good, Clean and Fair.” Our specific mission in Santa Fe is food literacy, that is to say, education about accessible nutrition and localized consumption. My state, New Mexico, is the poorest state in the U.S. and New Mexico is an agrarian state, with a normal rainfall of only 7 inches per year. With such a restricted water supply, our farmers are very adept at what is called “dry farming,” but they do not produce enough crop to make New Mexico food sovereign. Food and water security, and chronic hunger, are big and constant topics in New Mexico. We do have a complete system of organic farmers’ market, supported by the state government. That is a start. And we have a great crew of people who work on maintaining the watershed. The autonomous indigenous nations in New Mexico (there are 19 of them) have begun to make themselves food sovereign. It is perhaps easier in that context, because these indigenous nations are so tiny.  My group is involved in disseminating information and fomenting discussion about the best way to access and maintain optimal nutrition.   
You can find me on Facebook at Ellen Romm Lampert.
You can find Slow Food Santa Fe on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/slowfoodsantafe/
You can find Slow Food International at www.slowfood.com
You can find Slow Food USA at www.slowfoodusa.org
 Many thanks to Ellen for putting together this week's entry and for sharing even more of the Future Generations Family with us! 

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Participatory Research and Plant Breeding in Honduras: Improving Livelihoods, Transforming Gender Relations

Did you know that Future Generations University regularly hosts live research seminars with development professionals of all backgrounds from around the world?

Check out the recording of February's seminar below on participatory research and plant breeding in Honduras, and learn how its being used to improve livelihoods while transforming gender roles!

Follow us on Facebook to keep posted on the dates of upcoming seminars and for information on how to join in!

This seminar is presented by Dr. Sally Humphries, Associate Professor, Sociology and Anthropology at the University of Guelph in Ontario.

Sally was director of the international development studies program at Guelph for 12 years.  She has worked with Honduran researchers for 25 years to support a program in farmer participatory research. The Honduran NGO Foundation for Participatory Research with Honduran Farmers (FIPAH), emerged out of this work and is today a well-respected organization, both locally and regionally.  Sally worked for the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) between 1991-94 and helped to adapt one of the methodological approaches developed in CIAT, known as the CIAL methodology, to conditions in Honduras, where it is widely, and successfully, used today.  FIPAH, Sally, and her students, have published a variety of articles/chapters/reports on this experience.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Alumni Update: Anthony Kadoma

This week, we hear from Anthony Kadoma, a Future Generations University alumnus working in Uganda. Anthony began his MA journey in 2012 with a focus in Peacebuilding. Throughout, he maintained continuous engagement with his existing community work in Kyenjojo district, in western Uganda. Anthony says that learning with and from the community was crucial during his studies, as it was where he put into practice what he was learning. Read on to learn more about Anthony's work and experience!

In 2014, Anthony implemented a project on developing guidelines for disseminating practicum findings at the community level. During this project, practicum findings on the topic “Adapting Poverty Reduction Strategies at Individual, Household and Community Level: Practicum Research Conducted in Nyamanga Parish, Bufunjo Sub-county in Kyenjojo district, Western Uganda” were presented to the community members.

Listening attentively to issues raised by local community members.

In 2016, a project on the introduction of SEED-SCALE to community health workers to facilitate community development was implemented. In this project, over 40 community health workers as well as local leaders and politicians were purposively identified and trained to facilitate SEED-SCALE processes in their respective communities. This was a major project that brought on board so many community members in the district as more and more people got to hear of and learn about the concept of SEED-SCALE.
A cross-section of community health workers and sub-county officials who attended a 
training on Seed-Scale in Bufunjo, sub-county in October 2016.

As a result of the above project, the following results were achieved:

  • Over 1,575 people were reached with training and knowledge on SEED-SCALE and how it operates.    
  • Group formation and strengthening in the target communities where over 15 new groups were formed. Old groups have been re-energized and got more committed to work together as a team to realize their set objectives.  
  • More group members are taking action together, this has led to increased use of their human energy in activities like local road repairs, construction of kitchens, dry racks, fish pond construction, and starting savings groups.
  • The sub-county leadership is actively involved and assists community members in advancing their perceived agenda. 
  • There is empowerment strengthening especially among the people who are members of the groups through their active engagements in community related activities. 

The latest effort to promote and engage community members in the process of development is under a project called "Documenting the Process of Community Change in Kandama village Bufunjo Sub-county, Kyenjojo district western Uganda". This process of documenting community change is useful in understanding how change happens at the local level. For this change to happen as stated in the SEED-SCALE principles.

Rwenjaza Yahura Yehoza (Savings and Loans) association members.
The process of community change:

  1. As stated in Just and Lasting Change (2016), each community is unique and therefore, community change is a gradual process and is difficult to notice it if it happens in communities where there is some development already. However, for one which is still developing of which Kandama is one of them any change that occur it is easily noticeable. For instance, when a home puts up a drying rack, pit latrines, eating three meals, balanced diet among others.   
  2. The guiding principle in this process of change is the rising quality of life. This happens when homes are shifting from small huts which are grass thatched to iron roofed, and then to semi-permanent houses, increasing number of school going children and ensuring that they stay and complete basic levels. For our case in Uganda that is primary seven.  Also, working towards increasing personal and household income.  
  3. Effort were made in the initial stages of my engagement with the communities to ensure that people are mobilized and are able to identify and work towards achieving their felt needs, gather voice and demand for quality service delivery from the duty bearers.
  4. Then, people start to coalesce around issues that affect them as a group and community. A case in point are groups of savings and loans, farmers groups and service provision.
  5. The selected coordinating committee members have continued to engage the community members in their own development. 

Efforts undertaken so far to support community development and how I have used SEED-SCALE:

  1. Kandama village is one of the villages in Bufunjo sub-county where I have worked previously.   My entry point to this community was through the Community Health Worker who was identified and trained alongside others to facilitate community development using the seed-scale approach.
  2. The process started with the training of the village ‘influential person’ the Community Health Workers. This training did not only introduce the concept of seed-scale to the community but also to the community leaders such the village chairperson, the parish chiefs who are by the laws of Uganda supposed to spearhead the development process at that level.
  3. In an effort to strengthen community development and change Local Coordinating Committees were selected to work alongside the community health worker and the community members.
  4. I have personally visited and trained the formed groups in the community comprising of both men and women. These groups are considered as the engine for community change.
  5. Conducted household visits to build capacity of the community members to continuously monitor themselves in my absence for sustained progress to be achieved. Some are to act as role models to energize the rest of the community members.

Future Generations University Alumni visiting one of the households in Kandama villages.

  1. Community members have woken up and are more conscious of their surroundings. They have started questioning why they are the way they are as expressed by the community health worker “Our people are now sharp and they can ask very important questions especially to politicians and government workers. They no longer want to be deceived like it was in the past”.
  2. Since seed-scale promotes the use of human energy, group formation has been a key activity and highly encouraged among the community members. “I’ve observed that community members can better monitor the activities of their fellow community members because they live with them and they are able to see most of the things that they do everyday”. This juxtaposed with external monitors it works better and is sustainable. 
  3. Three way partnership as emphasized in seed-scale is already taking place in Kandama community. This is because the alumni is a change and external agent, trained the local political leadership to work with the community members as well as working with community groups. Over time, the external agent and the political leadership role is slowly withdrawing and the community leadership is taking root through the selected local coordinating committee which is now mandated to spearhead any other activities alongside community members.

Impact of the work done so far

  1. Several groups have been formed and continue to be formed to discuss challenges and opportunities that the communities are presented with. Because of good organisation, some communities have become role models as others come to learn from them. “I have had people coming to this community and appreciate what is happening as everyone is now focused at doing things that can improve their living standards”.
  2. As people started meeting and discussing issues that affect them they even started suggesting possible solutions. This started the process of holism where most aspects of life were advancing. For example, when groups were made mostly with women, they got registered and accessed government support[1] say of improved seed varieties.  
  3. There is noted increase in enthusiasm to use human energy “In the last two years I have seen a lot of changes in our community as people started being organized into group”. People used to complain that they have been neglected by those in power but now are appreciating the fact that themselves can do something to change their ways of living.
  4. There is establishment of local leadership in form of coordinating committees which is not only voluntary but also annually held.

Finally the question that remains is how to promote positive growth in your community, identifying the local resources and success for scaling up, how to keep people motivated to take local action for sustained development. 
[1] Government programs such as NAADS and Operation Wealth Creation do target community groups


Anthony Kadoma is a Social Change and Community Development Specialist with a Masters of Arts Degree in Applied Community Change and Peacebuilding (October 2013) from Future Generations University WV USA and a Bachelors Degree of Adult and Community Education (2006) from Makerere University Kampala Uganda. Anthony has since 2007 had consistent work experience in areas of consultancy and community engagements primarily focusing on how to improve peoples’ livelihoods through devising ways and means on how they can work collectively as individuals, households and communities. His career objective is to contribute to the body of knowledge where innovation, creativity and growth are given room to flourish in a global community using the SEED-SCALE development approach that puts emphasis on the use and development of human energy which is a universal resource to all mankind.