Tag: "service learning"

The Unity Project-Uganda

The Unity Project-Uganda

Be Known By Deeds

Be Known By Deeds

The Big Picture: Life, by now, will have shown you that we all possess deep pools of resilient strength. No one gives that capacity to us. Resilience arises from our own vast reservoir of potential talent and character, what we call our “dignity.” The Unity Project is about bringing out, uniting around and mobilizing that dignity so that we can transform our lives, our communities and our organizations. The Unity Project’s unique strength is our “Transformation Process” that has been developed over 30 years. We focus the dynamic power of this Transformation Process on raising up a generation of competent global leaders who can resist the extremism and despair of our troubled age. We know that the struggles of life do not have to make us victims or psychological casualties, but can be the fuel to help us become beacons of hope and role models of resilience. We are building a global network of young people who are anxious to make their mark and bring our hurting world together.

Going to Scale: The Unity Project has crafted a model of development intended to mobilize the largest number of youth. We created a Transformation Process that can be adopted by any existing community network. So, instead of having to create brand new Unity Project centers, other organizations can simply use our Transformation Process to do their own work much better. In that way, we are like “software” that can be implemented in any other organization’s “hardware.” This model is being used in Uganda as we begin our launch in our Unity Assembly we created in Lira Uganda. This successful pilot is now ready to be extended through extensive networks of already existing youth organizations across the country and the region. Using a “train-the’trainer” model, we will prepare staff in our partners to begin a nationwide campaign to build resilience among a generation. This essential process of skill building at the local level forms the nexus within which community and economic development can then be launched.

395180_419856881408186_1291488133_n

Planting trees to prevent erosion was the need that students, parents and town officials identified as the most important need in Lira, Uganda. The Unity Project helped organize local and national Ugandan resources to plant 3,000 trees. A Ugandan solution for Ugandan problems.

Uganda: In the case of Uganda, there is a rich culture and deep pride in its people that will allow the country to arise from decades of rebel war and deprivation the people have suffered through. It is the perfect example of the spirit of resilience arising from great loss and tragedy. Experience has shown that there is nothing wrong with Uganda that can not be solved by what is right with Uganda and her people. Efforts to help, then, must be centered around bringing out the strengths of Ugandans, the dignity of Ugandans, and not importing “solutions” from somewhere else.

For 23 years, the so-called Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) led a macabre and vicious campaign of cruelty throughout northern Uganda in an effort to overthrow the government.  The primary methods of recruitment of these criminals was to kidnap children and turn them into soldiers and sexual slaves.  The children were typcally forced to commit atrocties against their own families to fracture family bonds and brainwash the children into submission.   The LRA bizarrely claimed that these methods would help institute the  rule of the 10 Commandments in Uganda.  Leaders of this psychopathic cult have been indicted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes and crimes against humanity. In October, 2011, President Obama announced the dispatch of 100 US advisors and special forces to apprehend the criminal leaders of the LRA cult to bring them to justice.

404157_419844748076066_535461492_n_2

The LRA killed all the story tellers in the region. 200 years from now, the elders will tell children the stories of these resilient girls and how they transformed Uganda and the world.

The Unity Project-Uganda: The Unity Project has launched a major initiative in war-torn northern Uganda.   A “Unity Assembly” composed of 9 schools, public health, micro-enterprise, community organizations and media outlets has been created as a vehicle to begin a process of sustainable development and community healing in Lira, Uganda.  The district Ministry of Education has asked that the Unity Project’s efforts be extended to all the schools in the district.  This pilot effort holds great promise as a model for reconstruction throughout northern Uganda, the region and any post-confict area.
The Unity Project has engaged youth in a series of service activities to launch a locally based sustainable spiral of growth for the Lira area of northern Uganda. Together, our partners reach many tens of thousands of young people. From our Unity Assembly of partners, we engage youth in service activities that build upon locally identified needs which also align with the Millennium Development Goals. This service activity “mines the gems” of potential strengths, talents and character in our youth. These “gems” are then refined through our experiential “Transformation Exercises” into practical personal skills that can be used to provide a vision for a life of useful service to the community. In the process, the community benefits from the service and strengthens its institutional and community capacity through the growth of the Unity Assembly.

Working with local, national and international experts and agencies, youth will be involved in designing an implementing a needs survey around key development issues. They will then work closely with these experts to analyze the data, craft and implement a community-wide intervention. Youth will be central to the design and execution of an important community building initiative. Not as passive recipients of aid, but as active participants in their own development, youth will step into roles of being agents of change building competence, hope and the foundations of a sustainable and prosperous community.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Members of the Unity Council decide on the community strengths that can be applied to problems in Lira, Uganda.

In subsequent phases, we will direct these newly developed strengths and the ability to identify community needs toward employment and business creation. Our work is intended to establish the first rung of the ladder to stimulate the personal capacity, community networks and institutional strengths to lead to security and prosperity. In doing so, our methds also strengthen the foundations of democratic and cooperative community problem solving, the foudnation of prosperity.

In parallel to this work in Uganda, the Unity Project is launching chapters in high schools, universities and community organizations throughout the US. Soon, these sites in the US will be linked online with the our partners in Uganda creating a dynamic learning community of peers all taking action to transform their own communities and join together in projects with a global reach.

Currently in Uganda, we are focusing on 4 “Legs” that support the over-all “table” of this project. These are:

1.) Education: This involves the training of teachers and the staff of partners in the Unity Project’s resilience building Transformation Process to be incorporated into school curricula and youth programs.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Members of Te Cwao point out that in unity, we can achieve anything. Watch for their beatiful hand made crafts.

2.) Economic Development: Once youth have gained some skill identifying community needs and built their own strengths to meet those needs, they are far along the path to envisioning a life’s work. They have reason to finish school and the basics to envision a business that can help their community. We are creating a teams to explore a number of prosperity generating initiatives in Lira, Uganda: a farmers’ cooperative, an online store of local women’s crafts, and entry level IT services. These can then finance the project making it grounded in the community and sustainable. In exchange for particiapting in these income generating activities we ask families to their keep their children in school and participate in Unity Project capacity building programs. In this way, the project can become self-sustaining while building capacity.

3.) Health: Working with our local partners as well as local, national and international agencies, we are developing service teams in each of the following themes: malaria eradication, HIV/AIDS, water purification, gender violence and maternal and child health. One of these themes will be chosen by the partners as the focus of the youth efforts to begin in the fall of 2012.  In partnership with both the Center for Global Health and the Center for Global Mental Health and Resilience at Danbury Hospital, we will also be assisiting in the development of local professional expertise in health care to compliment the resilience building efforts of local community leaders.

4.) Learning Community: A significant innovation of our methods involves mobilizing young people to help define the information that is needed to create meaningful service plans. Youth will be directly involved in defining the information needed, collecting and analyzing it as well designing and implementing relevant and manageable service activities based on information they collected. In this way, a learning culture can evolve that is built upon the feedback of accurate and relevant data, cooperative reflection and planning and the united action and assessment of results. This process will greatly increase the effectiveness of the community and build local capacity.

The Lira District Ministry of Education has requested that the Unity Project extend this initiative to all schools in the district. We have also been invited by the Council on Higher Education in Rwanda to provide this model as a best practice example for the development of security and economic development in the region.

We have been approached by many high school and college students in the US asking to do internships with the Unity Project. An application will be available soon when our website update is completed.  Through the Center for Global Health and the Center for Global Mental Health and Resilience, relationships  to train medical residents is underway.

We welcome inquiries into this work. Also, we are now launching Unity Project chapters in the US to implement this resilience building model to develop youth capacity. Feel free to ask how you can start a Unity Project chapter in your community. Also, we are very grateful to those offering to help raise funds to support this work. Thank you! If you would like to have a lunch or dinner to raise funds among friends and colleagues, we’ll be happy to help you do so.

We’ll be posting more as this rapidly growing movement takes shape!

A Summary of the Unity Project

A Summary of the Unity Project

The Unity Project is a resilience building learning system.  We use service, the arts and sports to “mine the gems” of hidden potential in young people. Our unique Transformation Exercises then, “refine the gems” into practical resilient skills that are used to “share the gems” to build competence to work creatively and constructively in a diverse community. Just as the hidden and vast capacities of hydrogen and oxygen are released when they are united to create water, we believe strongly that our greatest potential is released in groups united in their diversity.

As we move more deeply into a national and global climate fraught with complex and nuanced problems, young people need to become masters of working with this complexity and diversity in cooperative and constructive ways. Our democracy and the happiness of our lives depend upon it. Young people need to know how to recognize bias, see the big picture and problem solve cooperatively and to resist the human tendency to allow fear and anger to pull us to simplistic and extremist solutions that only create division and conflict and end up worsening the problems we face.

The Unity Project develops essential core skills for personal, community and organizational transformation in order to prepare young people for a well-rounded, happy and productive life as members of a global community. These core skills are necessary to create a virtuous cycle of growth to overcome the vicious cycle of negative reinforcements in many young people’s lives.

Mastery of these core skills not only acts as a preventive innoculation against dysfunctional behavior, but also helps propel the young person toward their own vision of how they can contribute to a global community.  Using this approach, Unity Project resilient skill building helps our partners better accomplish virtually any capacity building program they have.  If we possess these core resilient skills, then any number of dysfunctional behaviors can not take root in a young person’s life.

The core services we provide are:

  • Training for the staff of our partners on building core resilient strengths.
  • A framework for our partners to create student-led service, arts and sports activities that “mine the gems” of their resilience.
  • Our Transformation Exercises that can be used in any existing youth programming that “refine the gems” of resilience.
  • Organizational support to help our partners adopt a common language and approach to their mission.
  • A growing and dynamic international online learning community to share best practices and resource sharing.

Writing for practitioners rather than academics, this post is an overview of the theory and methods of the Unity Project. For background on our rich experience over decades, the sound theoretical underpinnings and world class vetting behind this work, please click on the links in this sentence.

So what does the Unity Project do?  In our language, we mobilize the dignity of individuals, groups and institutions.   By “dignity” we mean the sum total of the latent and expressed capacities and skills individuals, groups and institutions possess.   Using the best that world-class research and decades of field experience have shown, we bring out the latent potential of the youth we serve through assisting them to develop the ability to make pro-social choices.

The question becomes how to release the unsuspected potential of human nature and direct it toward positive social ends?  First, we have to create the conditions that will release this potential.  That condition is called, “dynamic unity.”


There is no way to predict the properties of water from the properties of hydrogen and oxygen.

There are some great examples from nature to illustrate this idea of “dynamic unity.”  This condition allows for the creative actualization of latent potential.  The example of water is helpful.  When the conditions are right and hydrogen and oxygen are arranged in an appropriate order, water results with emergent properties that are entirely unsuspected and unpredictable from the properties of hydrogen and oxygen separately.  These emergent properties occur as a result of the dynamic unity of diverse components to form an entity more complex with new capacities that are beyond the sum of the component parts.

Similarly, the untapped and unsuspected potential of human nature is released when the conditions of dynamic unity are present.  The work of the Unity Project is to apply the best of what is known of the conditions of dynamic unity in order to release that potential for the development of the well-being of individuals, the cooperation, reciprocal nurturance and innovation of groups and the creative growth and administration of institutions.

The “Bowl” of dynamic unity “holds” the creative work.

Think of this potential as “gems” in the “mine” of human nature.  The Unity Project uses action directed toward a pro-social goal, service, as the machinery that excavates those gems from the mine.  We then refine these gems, these latent capacities, through a series of fun, active and experiential Transformation Exercises that create the experience of discrete cognitive, emotional, volitional, problem solving, group dynamic and action oriented skill sets.  The experience of these skills is then given appropriate language and symbolization that can be used to assign value to these skills so that that motivation can be generated to use these skills toward pro-social goals.  With personal value assigned to these skills and goals, they can inform ethical decision making and pro-social action (See the “Five Stages of the Bowl” for a more in depth explanation) that lead to innovation and growth.

Education for economic development does not happen in a vacuum.  It occurs within the matrix of a social milieu that requires capacity for ethical reasoning, problem solving inclusively in groups and the just administration of organizations.

Creative and unsuspected emergent properties appear as a result of dynamic unity.

This can be restated as capacity for fair-mindedness in individuals, equity within and between groups and just administration of institutions.   These three domains work in dynamic interplay supporting the expression of each other.

Ignoring any of these three domains undermines the sustainability of development initiatives.  The more these three domains are integrated into methodologies for capacity building the more likely they are to succeed and be sustainable.

A sustainable development process must address the skill sets in these three domains through capacity building processes that are in dynamic interaction with the individuals most affected by the environment requiring change.  Mere technical skill development alone is not enough.

For many reasons, not the least of which is the overcoming of the despair and the sapping of motivation that accompanies a catastrophe, creating the conditions of dynamic unity allows individuals to engage and express their best latent capacities and grow in motivation, vision and hope.  Dynamic unity allows groups to harness unsuspected emergent skills in order to address problems that would otherwise be unsolvable.  Dynamic unity is created, maintained and nurtured by just administration.

Dynamic unity with people produces emergent properties far more creative and powerful than the sum of the people.

The Unity Project, then, uses service projects identified by local participants as the starting point.  The issues these service projects address become the themes for the creation of Action Teams composed of participants who commit to addressing that issue.  Groups of Action Teams in a community constitute a Unity Council.  The Unity Council engages in the Unity Project’s skill building Transformation Exercises, it sets priorities and facilitates the process for action, it interacts with outside agencies and administers the flow of information and resources.

The Unity Council and the personal, group and institutional capacity it develops, acts as a “bowl” to receive aid from outside sources in times of response to a crisis.  The same “bowl” can be used to engender personal, community and economic development when crisis has passed or has not occurred.

In New York City, this model was developed to engage young people in order to encourage school retention, matriculation to college, or for preparation for the workforce.  The service was intended to not only help the young people learn skills, but to identify needs in the community that could become the focus for small business creation.

Now, with new skills from the service performed and first hand knowledge of a community need, there is an explicit personal reason to be motivated to complete an education or to acquire specialized skills.  This model becomes the means for young people to move toward completion of their education and job skill preparation.

Take a look at the explanations on the Unity Project website as well as other explanations on this blog.  Also, be sure to “Like” the Unity Project on Facebook and post your thoughts.

Please post this to your own blog or Facebook page!  Follow my posts by clicking the RSS Feed above.  Let me know what you think, comment below!

All Rights Reserved, The Unity Project©, 2010

Fifth Stage of the Bowl:  "Use the Bowl"

Protected: Fifth Stage of the Bowl: “Use the Bowl”

This content is password protected. To view it please enter your password below:

Mobilizing the Dignity of a 16 Year Old

Mobilizing the Dignity of a 16 Year Old

The tears of a sixteen year old girl at one of the youth workshops I gave last month still haunt me.   The small groups of 6 youth apiece were still in their circles.   We were talking now as a large group of about 60 of what we had just experienced.  In their small groups, I had asked them each to tell a story of one person they knew who gave them hope, someone who loved them.

The rest in the small group listened to how the person spoke of that role model.  As they listened, they looked for the good qualities of the person speaking and wrote them on a 3×5 card.  When the person finished speaking, each of the members of the group read what they had written about the speaker and then gave the card to them.

They repeated the process with each person in the small group.  Each person had heard 5 versions of their positive qualities by now.   As a large group, we were talking about that experience.  This is when the gently weeping 16 year old girl said that this was the first time in her life she had ever heard anything positive spoken about her.   I’ve heard versions of this before.

Now that this girl has had her strengths recognized and named, she can begin  to see the value of her strengths.  She is far more likely to choose to demonstrate  her strengths in action now.  If she were to go without the experience of her  strengths and had no words for them, how could she ever value them enough to  make the effort to choose to act on them?

Resilience is all about making a positive decision based on strengths that we might  not otherwise use.   This takes practice.  That’s why the Unity Project methods  help kids experience, name, value, choose and act on their inherent  strengths, their dignity.

Our strengths are like gems hidden in a mountain.  The Unity Project uses service  and the arts as a way to mine these gems, to elicit the experience of these  strengths.  Once they have been mined, they are shaped and refined through the  Unity Project’s Transformation Exercises. These help to appropriately name and value these strengths so that they might be more easily chosen and acted upon.

By practicing these stages, by mobilizing the young person’s dignity, the young people are building a personal sense of efficacy and a set of competencies to make and act on dignified resilient decisions.

Please post this to your own blog or Facebook page!  Follow my posts by clicking the RSS Feed above.  Let me know what you think, comment below!