The power of an organized community working together to reach agreed-upon goals is nothing short of spectacular. There is no more important step to take than organization when trying to improve life in our communities. ~from the website of the Work Group for Community Health and Development at the University of Kansas: www.ctb.ku.edu
Focus on Organizing in Your City
We are excited that the number of city partners has grown so quickly! Some communities are already well on their way to positive change with action plans and activities motivated by compassion. Others are just getting started. In this newsletter, we highlight the concept of community organization with some suggestions for getting organized to meet the unique challenges of your community. Look for a Compassionate Cities brochure in the near future, another resource for organizing your city’s efforts to create a community in which compassion is a driving force.
Living Together in Cities
Humankind have lived together in settlements—barrios, hamlets, neighborhoods, villages—for thousands of years. When inhabitants took on specialized occupations and began combining efforts for trade, food storage, and protection, towns grew up. When organized governments were added, towns became cities. Five hundred years ago, only two dozen places in the world had a population of 100,000 people. By 1700, there were close to 40 cities of that size. By 1900, there were 300 “large” cities, but then the development of modern industry led to an explosion of urbanization so that today, the 21st century, over half of the world’s population lives in cities, and that trend is continuing at a rapid pace.
Cities: For Better or for Worse
For better or for worse then, many of us are organized into cities both small and large. We know that cities have the possibility of both wonderful benefits as well as negative effects for the people who live in them. A concentration of human activity creates issues—traffic, crime, pollution of air and water, homelessness, and stress caused by overcrowded living conditions, lack of meaningful work, and a feeling of insecurity in our homes and on the streets.
But living together in towns and cities also offers many positives including access to work, transportation, healthcare, education, cultural events and activities, and increased opportunities to know and work with people who have very different backgrounds, ideas, life styles, education, and skills. In communities all over the globe, we are coming to the realization that we can organize ourselves better so that we can increase the positive effects and decrease the negatives. The Charter Cities Campaign seeks to do just that—tap into our human capacity for compassion to improve the lives of people all over the world.
What will the Charter for Compassion do for Cities?
The Charter for Compassion currently has close to 230 cities in 39 countries working on action plans for their city initiatives. And even though we have 40 city governments that have “officially” signed the Charter, we believe that signing the Charter is still a beginning step to announcing to the world that your community is committed to taking compassionate action to deal with issues that make your city an “uncomfortable” place in which to live.
Think about what might make the community in which you life to be uncomfortable: people sleeping on the streets, children going to bed hungry, immigrants living in substandard housing, lack of access to healthcare, issues of environmental racism, illegal dumping of toxic waste, unjust treatment of ethnic or religious groups and members of the LGBT community. The list is dishearteningly long, and depending on where you live in the world, your city, with its own unique history and confluence of diverse cultures, languages, and habits, can bring to the forefront a customized path to becoming a community in which compassion becomes a rallying cry to bring about change.
What does it mean to Organize for Community Change?
Fortunately, there are many resources available to help you get started in your community. One of the best we’ve discovered is the Community Tool Box—free resources from the University of Kansas to help you get organized: www.ctb.ku.edu. One of our own city initiatives in Atlanta has also created a wonderful ToolBox.
The following is excerpted from that University of Kansas site, but we encourage you—wherever you are located on this Earth, to take a look at these resources and adapt them for making your community a thriving place to live for all inhabitants, a place of well-being for every person from each newborn baby to the oldest and frailest among us.
Community organizing is the process by which people come together to identify common problems or goals, mobilize resources, and, in other ways, develop and implement strategies for reaching the objectives they want to accomplish.
The Community Toolbox (http://ctb.ku.edu/en ) provides guidance for effective community organization, which will generally include:
- Gaining an understanding of the community
- Generating and using power (political or legislative power, consumer power, legal regulatory power, disruptive power)
- Articulating issues
- Planning purposeful action
- Involving other people
- Generating and using other resources (cash, gifts in kind, other forms of donations or support)
- Communication with your community
- An important point to remember is that community organization is fundamentally a grassroots process. It’s not about an outside “expert” telling a community what it should work on. Instead, it’s about community members getting exercised about something, and using that energy to create change. In short, community organization is all about empowering people to improve their lives, however that might be best done.
- A fundamental lesson for the community organizer is that you don’t organize people to do something you think should be done; instead, you find out what is important to pelpe in the community, and then help them reach their goal.
What's Been Happening with City Initiatives?
The quick answer: so much it is difficult to keep up from day-to-day. Since the beginning of the year the following global initiatives have started: Austin (TX, USA), Bamako (Mali), Berkeley Lake (GA, USA), Belgrade (Serbia), Birmingham (UK), Bournemouth (UK), Cairns (Australia), Chennai (India), Clarkston (GA, USA), Decatur (GA, USA), Decatur (IL, USA), Durango (CO, USA), Eldoret (Kenya), Elyria (OH, USA), Fitchburg (MA, USA), Fox Cities (WI, USA), Freemont (CA, USA), Gunnison (CO, USA), Hereford (UK), Karachi (Pakistan), Kokomo (IN, USA), Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia), Lahore (Pakistan), Leominster (MA, USA), Longwood (FL, USA), Madison (WI, USA), Norwich (UK), Overland Park (CO, USA), Paris (France), Penzance (UK), Pine Bluff (AZ, USA), Racine (WI, USA), St. Just (UK), Sydney (Australia), Taipei (Taiwan), Takoma Park (MD, USA), Westland (MI, USA).
The following city governments have signed the Charter: Atlanta (GA, USA), Berkeley Lake (GA, USA), Cape Town (South Africa), Clarkston (GA, USA), Decatur (GA, USA), Fayetteville (AR, USA), Neenah (WI, USA), St. Louis (MO, USA), Greater Toledo and Northwest Ohio (USA) and Winston-Salem (NC, USA).
An Example of How One City Got Everyone Involved: LaCrosse, Wisconsin—a Compassionate City
After one year of planning and months of hard work, more than 6,000 canvasses are now on display at the Pump House Regional Arts Center in LaCrosse, Wisconsin, a very visible display of that city’s Compassion Project. See the video and the thousands of six-inch canvasses at: www.news8000.com
Visit the News section on the homepage to read the lastest about several of our city initiatives: Atlanta, Fayetteville, Karachi, La Crosse, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Toledo. Don't forget to send us your stories and we'll be certain to post them.
Let’s Talk Business
On Tuesday, May 13th, we will have our Cities sector conference call. The call lasts for 90 minutes. This is a general call for all city organizers and partners. We will be using the Maestro Platform for this call so you will need to register to get the call-in number, and you will receive your own personal identification access number. Please register online as soon as possible since this allows us to tailor the agenda to meet the needs of those involved in the call.
To make certain as to what time the call would begin in your location, consult the World Clock—Time Converter. Start with Seattle at 6:00 am and enter your city in the field and click on convert. For example, 6 am PDT in Seattle, 9 am in New York, 3 pm in London
Join the Charter in San Francisco
The Charter for Compassion is delighted to be a partner in a groundbreaking conference that will take place in San Francisco, CA, November 13-14, 2014. Karen Armstrong, global leaders and 'compassion experts' will headline the event in a beautiful venue on the San Francisco Bay. Members attending the conference all three days receive special pricing for The Charter for Compassion Day on November 15.
The event offers professionals and people of any background a new perspective on the human capacity to cultivate empathy and compassion. The conference will explore what happens when we put empathy and compassion at the center of our professional lives, in our place of work or in our relationships with others. World renowned leaders from neuroscience, psychology, technology and business, health care, education, and policy will present the latest research on and present practical tools for cultivating these social skills.
Empathy and Compassion in Society is an annual event that has a global audience and is guided by an international collaboration of partnerships and charities, including The Charter for Compassion. The Charter will be involved on panels or workshops during the event and this will be a wonderful opportunity to network, learn about the latest research and trends, and gain new tools for using compassion as a guiding principle in everyday life.
We hope to see each of you at the conference and The Charter Day, November 13-15. Special pricing for Members attending both the conference and The Charter day are NOW available. We look forward to seeing you in San Francisco!"
THE COMPASSION RELAYS:The Charter invites every individual and group to join in the Compassion Relays. The Relays put compassion into action. They can be done by any person (of any age), anywhere, and at any time.
The Relays are a simple way to engage people in your projects and activities and help translate your projects into daily life reality. When people participate in the Relays, they have intention each day (for at least one week) to discover insights and acts of compassion in their own daily lives. The Relays motivate compassion in three dimensions (caring for others, self, and the Earth). When we each take action to make compassion a priority in our daily lives, we create a more peaceful world. Join in the Relays: Take the Compassion Torch (the commitment to compassion), discover and do acts of compassion in your daily life, report on your week's experience in the Compassion Map, and pass the Compassion Torch to at least one other person or group (by asking another to commit to participate in the Relays). Let's connect everyone with compassion.
Important links for the Relays: 1) Key information and instructions: http://compassiongames.org/compassion-relays/ ; and 2) the Compassion Map (where you report on your acts of compassion and your week's compassion journey: https://compassiongames.crowdmap.com/reports/submit .
During the last year the Charter’s cities sector has grown to over 225 partners. If you would like, or know of other potential organizers, in the next town, a friend in another city or country, who would be interested in being a partner to the network, please tell them about the Charter. The process for joining is easy and requires just a few minutes of time, though the rewards of being a member are long term and can be as extensive as you like.