☆Founder☆CEO @Community Minds ?? Global Reach – Local Thinking ?
Can we do more to educate (and inspire) our children in community building, to instil in them the importance of community solidarity? I think if most people were to answer this, the answer would be an affirmative ‘Yes’!
The question I have posed is not so much to critique the current education system, community organisations, parents or anyone who has children in their life.
This question is more of an invitation to explore and discuss where we can improve and build on our relationship with children to inspire and educate them in being confident caring citizens that don’t just think ‘me’ but instead think ‘we’.
What are we doing, in our homes, neighbourhoods and schools to cultivate a ‘We’ generation? How are we doing it? These are pertinent questions that should be discussed on an ongoing basis, an on-going dialogue with as many diverse voices heard.
The great news is, is that there are some great initiatives in place that help in achieving this. One such initiative is our very own Community Minded Kids Program, which incorporates both in school and community-based learning. There are so many families, community practitioners, as well as community minded schools across the globe doing some great work in this space. We commend your efforts.
We (Community Minds) believe that a lot more can be done. A lot of our efforts is advocating for a broader and more collective approach to educating children about community building and participation. Part of that is instilling in children a strong sense of social justice and secular humanism.
This concerted approach will allow us to genuinely and sustainably create communities that comprise of citizens who care about their community, including our natural environment, as well as social and humanitarian causes. Citizens willing to commit to, based on their skills, abilities, and passionate interests, creating more connected and caring communities.
We are all part of different kinds of communities and unavoidably part of a neighbourhood or place-based community (in most cases). Knowing this, it is imperative to integrate in our children’s education and well-being programs, the imparting of skills and knowledge (including community building tools) that will help equip our children to be active community citizens, as well as architects and co-producers of their communities.
We want them to know that they don’t need to wait for the changes they want to see in their communities. The change will always start with them. We want them to have the self-efficacy, confidence, and belief that they can contribute in some way, in some capacity, regardless of their abilities or academic ranking.
This approach is in line with the asset-based approach, in contrast to the charity approach. Asset Based Community Development principles and approach aims at strengthening the community rather than encouraging it to remain dependent upon outside resources.
Learning about community building and development is an important part of children’s education and their development as empathetic and community minded people, turning them into adults who will care about others and their community.
In these formative years, particularly from 4 – 12 years old, we need to encourage and inspire them to be active citizens, now and into the future, as adults driven to ‘do good, rather than just ‘be good’; ranging from small acts of kindness to bigger commitments like participating in campaigns championing an important community or humanitarian cause, such as social justice for marginalised groups or gender equality.
Here is another challenge I would like to pose. How much of your efforts is ‘charity’ based as opposed to teaching children about ‘solidarity’ and skilling them to participate in and build communities?
I have had many discussions about this, with people (all professions, cultures etc) boasting about how they get their children/students feeding the ‘homeless’ or getting them to participate in a used toy/clothes drive, donating items to children, who are severely disadvantaged.
I am not averse to such charitable acts, however, whilst these acts are generous and can address an immediate need, it does not address the fragmentation of our communities or the entrenched inequalities and injustices, and often teaches our children that these are the only ways to do ‘good’ in community. Charitable acts are ‘vertical’ in nature and do not necessarily help build a ‘horizontal’ model promoting solidarity among community members. We need to address the conditions that cause such inequalities or predicaments that many marginalised and severely disadvantaged communities find themselves in. How we do this cannot be adequately covered in this article, but something we need to consider in our service to communities.
When we build social capital, a collective asset: which includes things like building trust, relationships, and strengthening networks among community members, we are more likely to address or at least minimise a lot of the community challenges we are faced with. Teaching children how they can contribute to building stronger connected communities is the best investment we can make, for them personally as well as for the neighbourhoods and communities that stretch this planet.
To re-iterate, this blog is not so much about critiquing the current education system but recognising through dialogue and an open mind that more needs to be done around what our children are learning and experiencing in the context of communities and their relationship to it (communities). I do believe though that we need to continue to ask questions, examining, and critiquing the role of education, particularly if we are looking beyond producing a productive workforce and obedient citizens. Surely, we want and expect more. Undoubtedly, we all would agree that we need to work alongside our children in nurturing and inspiring them to be kind, creative and caring people that will care for others and this planet.
This education we are calling for is not extra-curricular, or a fluffy nice extra we want for our children. It is a fundamental requisite, a necessary education holding worthy knowledge and skills that we need to impart to children and young people so that they learn to survive and thrive in communities and society at large.
On a practical level, we, community practitioners alongside educators need to work together to educate children about community building and participation. This learning needs to go deeper, moving beyond education of citizenship to one of active community membership and custodianship. Together we can, with our different functions, capabilities, resources, and skills, cultivate a ‘we’ generation that will be inspired and committed to contributing to the pursuit of the common good of the community.
Will you join the ‘ME’ to ‘WE’ movement?
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