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A couple of years ago, wearing a hat as an intercultural actor in a municipality where it had been labelled the “murder capital” of Canada, my life was busy as bee. After three and a half years of community engagement, I wrote a few lines to reflect on my experience, lessons learned, small and big triumphs and thought I may have to put it away somewhere where other community leaders and innovators can benefit and also resonate from.
Experience is the best teacher. No amount of textbook theory can prepare you for a community engagement solving a social problem that is very complex and rarely follow a neat paradigm of solutions. With the help of staunch community leaders and brave volunteers, I completed the diversity project and generated strong positive feedback from all those people -women, children, youth, faith leaders, churches, businesses, and whole host of other important actors in the community. While we hope that there are significant sustainable outcomes from the project, one thing that was very clear from the onset, the office where the project was birthed and the people who rallied behind it were the same people working towards social cohesion and intercultural understanding until now. Not surprising, right?
Promoting and advocating for diversity and intercultural harmony calls for courage. In the midst of polarization, division, and hatred that are around us, we can take comfort that it is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness. Let us be that light.
For fellow travelers in the intercultural engagement journey, here are some of the lessons learned as a food for thought.
1. Creatively work through the systems- whether it’s the political, cultural, institutional, religious, generational, organizational, etc., including hierarchies, philosophies and other surprises. These systems are present and operating in the lives of people and communities. Navigate carefully. While it is easy to criticize and point the blame, it is beneficial to be constructive and solutions-oriented.
2. Gather support from the outside, inside, out there, in here, and all around. It is better to form weird alliances than to fight alone. Listen to everyone that has a story to tell. Keep your eyes and ears open at all times. You will never know what can possibly get produced with ideas that are not censored just because it doesn’t come from the top. Maximize interconnectivity.
To be continued.............................
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