A Manifesto for Changing how Canadians can Help People in the Global South

I am writing a series of articles on the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace. I am doing this because a good organization that has worked very well for change in the Global South is in deep crisis. Times are tough for social justice organizations, and they don’t all survive. They certainly do not survive if they cannot adapt to the changing climate in the 21st century.

Development and Peace was formed in 1967 by the Canadian Catholic Bishops. It was certainly a different time. The organization was based on Pope Paul’s 1967 encyclical Populorum Progressio. In it, he said,

Development is the new word for Peace. Peace cannot be seen simply as the absence of war. It must be built daily, and it must strive towards a more perfect justice among human beings (Populorum Progressio, 76).

This is even truer today. The world is fractured by violence and an increasing amount of hate fueled in large part by the almost daily rantings on social media by leaders like Donald Trump. For true peace, we need intelligent development programs here in Canada.

At the same time, some Canadian dioceses are making the decision to withhold money raised for Development and Peace through the yearly Share Lent collections.

Interesting – they are using the same argument that is causing such a backlash in the Halton Catholic School Board. Apparently, there is pushback by some dioceses that the programs Development and Peace are supporting in the Global South are not ‘Catholic’ enough. This is not progressive, it is not helpful and we need to stay clear of such initiatives.

Since 1967, Canadian Catholic churches have raised money to fund development programs in the Global South and education programs here in Canada. Both are vital. Canadians need to learn more about what effective development looks like. It is simply not good enough to send over shoe boxes with school supplies in the hope that somehow this will lead to effective social change.

Effective change means empowering women, supporting organizations working for democratic reforms, developing local economies and strengthening youth networks. Development and Peace does all this and much more. It deserves the support of all Canadians. However, government support for Development and Peace continues to fall. It is one area that has not recovered from the challenging years of the Conservative Government in Ottawa.

As a result, the organization is cutting back on its support for programs in the Global South and probably education work here in Canada. The traditional funders are pulling back from their responsibility to help others in the wider world.

I worked closely with Development and Peace for six years as a National Council member. I have met many partners from the South who do really effective work to bring about social change. I really think if more people knew about the work of Development and Peace they would support their mission.

What is needed now is some sort of manifesto for change. The need is greater than ever before – but we continue to see a diminishment of organizations like development and Peace.

At the same time, more schools – public and Catholic are teaching about the UN’s Millennium Development Goals. This is truly encouraging, but there needs to be an associated outlet for actions coming out of school initiatives. For example, the third goal calls for the elimination of gender disparity in primary and secondary education, preferably by 2005, and in all levels of education no later than 2015.

Development and Peace is uniquely positioned to do this kind of work.

So what could change look like? Here are a few steps to consider:

  1. gather a group of Canadians with public policy and development experience to reform the organization allowing for more flexibility and growth in the 21st century. Keep its Catholic, democratic roots, but give it a more effective management structure that allows for a national governing body that relies more on development professionals and individuals that can attract funding from various sources.
  2. change the nature of fundraising – Development and Peace has always relied on funding from Canadian Catholic dioceses and the Canadian Government. Having only two sources of funding is unreliable and results in a boom and bust cycle (generally, every three years). One of the primary goals for reform must be to develop a broader base for attracting funds including inviting major funders to sit on the managing body of the organization.
  3. emphasize Canadian over Catholic. Canadians have a real interest in helping others, but there are few organizations that reach out to them with intelligent, effective ways to support people and organizations in the Global South. It is fine to keep the Catholic roots of the organization, but an overreliance on formal Catholic institutions.

Maybe there are more steps to be considered. But right now three would be a great start. Can we really afford not to do our very best to assist the aspirations of people in the Global South who want to bring about change?

Can we turn our attention away from ourselves long enough to make a difference?

I really hope so.

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How Can Canadians Get Involved in Supporting our Sisters and Brothers in the Global South? Part II

So, I think it is important to write a follow-up to this week’s post on how to create a more effective organization to connect Canadians to authentic development projects that really aid the Global South.

To me, there is a moral imperative here. That is why I am writing this series. The world is rapidly becoming a colder, more dangerous place. People who want to push aside the ‘other’, whomever that might be seem to have the dominant voice. We really need effective ways of connecting to those in the world who need our support.

So, how do you develop a more effective organization? How do you involve more Canadians in peace and development?

Development and Peace has been around since 1967. It is an arm of the Canadian Catholic Church and most of the people involved have been part of the traditional church structure.

The management structure, virtually unchanged in more than half a century is hierarchical. In this, it models the Catholic Church.

Local priests and parishioners are responsible for raising money for the organization through one big fundraiser – Share Lent – every year.

However, in some jurisdictions, this money is held back by people who feel the money is not being spent on projects that are Catholic enough. In this sense, this is similar to what went on with the Halton Catholic School Board who voted not to allow fundraising for projects and organizations that did not fit their narrow view of what was acceptable according to Catholic values.

This is an organization that has lost its way. Its management structure weighs it down while its reliance on traditional Catholic institutions cuts it off from the majority of Canadians who are open and willing to support intelligent development policies.

The managing structure of Development and Peace is dominated by an elected National Council. While it is noble to have a totally elected board of directors, there is no requirement for these directors to have any management or development experience. Like many boards constituted in this way, they are captive to the managers of the organization. In a very true sense, they are incapable of being independent managers of the organization.

Is there a way out of this well?

There has to be. Development and Peace does excellent development work and they have a great team of talented and experienced program officers who work with partners throughout the year. The organization has always been well-respected by the Canadian Government and receives millions of dollars every year to support their partners in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

For any organization to survive for 50 years is a challenge. For an organization to thrive, however, it needs to question itself and look for ways to remain vital and relevant.

Development and Peace is in need of renewal. Canadians need a more effective organization to channel their resources to those in dire need. At a time of such darkness, a little more light is needed.

The question is, will they have the courage to make the necessary changes.

 

How can Canadians Get Involved in Supporting our Brothers and Sisters in the Global South?

Usually, I write about education issues, but development assistance is something that I have cared deeply about for many years going back to trips I used to organize for students to the Dominican Republic.

Recent events in the United States and their unethical attacks on immigrants has propelled me to dive back into the complex issue of how best to lend assistance to people in the Global South.

We are a very wealthy nation with clear connections to poor countries around the world. The Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace (CCODP) is a unique organization that works actively to improve the lives of people in many poor countries. They are unique because they have always made a good effort to involve Canadians in their work. It is an organization that is faith-based, but more importantly, it reserves a role for Canadians to get involved in raising money and setting policy on how best to assist with development assistance. It has also always had a strong educational mission which is essential if we want to be involved in social change in the world.

Over the years, the organization has lost its way due to the influence of right-wing elements in the Catholic Church and its inability to sustain an organizational approach that allows for meaningful participation from ordinary Canadians.

Development and Peace needs to be refashioned to reach the grassroots in Canada. It needs to develop a structure that opens itself up for renewal and it needs to broaden its appeal beyond the narrow confines of the traditional Catholic Church.

What it needs is a manifesto for change.

So what are some of the pillars of a manifesto? I would suggest the following as a start.

Stewardship – the preservation of a forward-thinking, faith-based development community.

Participation – an inclusive organization that respects and encourages the diverse voice of Canadians. For all people in Canada that care about the plight of people in the Global South.

Respect for excellence in development policy that puts the empowerment of people in the Global South as its primary motivation. When organizational ineptitude gets in the way of good work a reboot is called for.

Human Dignity – everything that is done must place the dignity of all people first – people in the Global South for sure, but also fair-minded people in Canada who want to help others and who are willing to participate in a dialogue that includes more voices, opinions and mindsets.

What else is needed? How can a large institution be renewed? How can an organization that has been too exclusive become one that welcomes new voices?

I hope a dialogue can be started. There is too much to do in this troubled world to remain behind old barriers and prejudices.

Let’s move on and try to do something new and effective. Let’s work on development and involve as many Canadians as possible. Let’s think way outside the traditional box.

 

Climb for Kids Senate Send-off Fundraiser is on Friday (June 22)

Hello everyone

As always, I want to start off by thanking all of you who have bought tickets or donated directly to my fundraising page. Now I also have a fundraising page on this blog, but if you want a tax receipt, it is much better to go to my Canada Helps Page.

We have raised close to $17,000 and are well on our way to breaking past $20,000 – a great accomplishment for the first year of Christie Lake Climb for Kids.

In a few weeks, we will be announcing what we are doing for Year Two.

Friday, June 22nd is our last fundraiser. We are hoping to raise another $4000.00 through ticket sales and silent auction items. It would be great to see some of you out at this event.

If you can purchase your tickets online that would be truly wonderful.

Finally, our wine auction ends June 30th. Online tickets are still available for $10.00 and you have a chance to win over $300.00 in great wine.

Thanks to all those who have supported Year One of Climb for Kids.

We truly appreciate your support and will be climbing for you as well as the kids who benefit from transformative recreation programming throughout the year!

Paul

And now this…

 

Facilitating Student Voice in the Classroom

 

finishing a podcasting session with Heather Swail’s Grade 7-8 class

I started out today watching a conversation between Sarah Huckabee Sanders and the Washington press corps. I shouldn’t really call it a conversation. The reporters asked on three separate occasions about the current US policy on separating children from their parents when they cross the border. There was no response, just a lot of avoidance and some pretty insulting retorts.

Nothing was resolved, no questions were answered, no problem was even acknowledged. Both sides scored points, but an injustice is still being done.

In contrast, I have spent the last week listening to grade 7-8 students talk about social justice. What a difference!

I  got involved at the end of a month-long process that saw students choose a social justice issue, research the issue, debate the issue with peers then finally develop a persuasive piece that they then blogged about.

Their blog posts are all attached to their teacher Heather Swail’s blog and can be found here.

I really encourage you to read a few of these great pieces. The topics range from residential schools in Canada to water issues in South Africa, child labour, gun violence and racial profiling.

Little did I know that Residential schools were a lot deeper of an issue than just boarding schools that were wrongful to a misjudged people. They literally destroyed Indigenous culture for generations to come, and what really surprised me was that even after everything we did them, Indigenous people are still being treated unfairly today.

excerpt from student blog Residential Schools Revisited

All the posts are well-considered and intelligent. What makes the real difference is that this was a facilitated process. Students did not simply strike off on an issue, they had to go through a deliberate process with identifiable steps.

This is a well-known process that starts with the head moves to the heart and finishes with the hands. What is the issue, how does it make you feel, what are you going to do about it? A version of Heather’s methodology can be found here.

We took one final step by doing a series of five podcasts where the students talked about their issues. You can hear one of these podcasts here more will be coming out on VoicEd Radio soon.

It is at times like these that I really wish I was back in the classroom! My visits to Room 201 and to the student blog posts were a refreshing break from the media wars that are going on everywhere right now. Well considered opinion, well expressed, backed by evidence and part of an intelligent thought process.

When I see the faces of these children and when I read their words, I do think there is hope for the future. When students learn how to think, research and write well thought out pieces I know there is still room for intelligent debate and discussion.

My hope for all of these students is that they carry these valuable lessons into the future.

 

 

Response to George Couros’ Post: We can’t ask teachers to be innovative in their practice while administrators do the same thing they have always done.

We can’t ask teachers to be innovative in their practice while administrators do the same thing they have always done.  I have noticed that the schools where teachers are doing incredible things have leadership that innovates inside the box. They do not just encourage different thinking and action, but they model it through their own process in supporting teachers within the constraints of the system.

I wrote this in response to a great post by George Couros today. Goerge does challenge and he asks questions that are difficult to answer. His post prompted me to respond on his blog. I have written an extended response below.

Hi George

Yes, your ideas make a great deal of sense. It seems to me that there is a creativity barrier in education. We want our teachers to be creative, we want them to empower students and we want an engaging learning environment.

However, when we pass over the Rubicon into administration, we mostly value compliance. You are now an ‘officer of the board’ whatever that means and what is most valued is your ability to do what the senior admin wants to be done, sometimes at the risk of suppressing the creativity of staff members.

Creativity can be a liability. In administrators, it is seldom valued and to remain creative is a risk that sometimes will lead to disapproval or even sanction.

This is a big problem in our education system, one that I don’t know how we will break out of.  How can a system that devalues innovation survive?

Every day I see creative work being done and shared by educators. But not from administrators. Their voice is more muted and their contributions often fall into the category of ‘cheerleading’. This is a shame because administrators can be innovative too.

Maybe they are at their best when as George Couros writes, they are supporting the innovative efforts of others. Is that the best that we can do?

There seems to be a great shift that that takes place when we become school administrators. We enter a world where compliance is the main value. To question and to innovate is not acceptable and is seen as risky.

Thanks to George Couros for writing this piece. It takes courage to question the status quo and I appreciate his efforts to do this. I really think we need more educators with the ability to call into question some of the failings of our public education system.

How can we ever have an honest public debate about the quality of public education if many of the main actors feel that they play no role in commenting and questioning how we are educating our children in 2018?

If not us, who are we leaving this to?