Celebrating 20 years of grassroots leadership and social change
By Jassi K. Sandhar, Global Research Fellow
It is very rare to find organizations like the Goldin Institute. As an employee of the Institute, I promise this is not a biased opinion. Having worked in the non-profit sector for 12 years, being involved in various social justice and human rights projects, the Goldin Institute has stood out as an organization which embodies principles of justice, fairness, equity, and kindness both within the Institute itself and in the work we do.
The importance of adopting grassroots approaches in social justice work is becoming increasingly recognized, but the approach taken by the Goldin Institute over the past two decades goes beyond that. It is grassroots-led and embedded in compassion, kindness and learning, from everyone but most especially those closest to the issues. We promote the voices of those often excluded who have the most at stake in making progress and ensure that they have leadership roles in every social change movement. Which is why it is extremely exciting to celebrate 20 years of the Goldin Institute.
Our commitment to community-driven social change was foundational from our very inception. In October 2002, grassroots leaders from over 25 cities around the world convened in Chicago to learn from each other to collaboratively determine the mission, values and strategy of what became the Goldin Institute. The Goldin Institute was born through this conversation as an enduring platform to provide grassroots community organizers with tools and support they need to build meaningful partnerships within and between their cities. Fast forward to today, the Institute has expanded its reach to 150 Alumni leading change in 40 countries (and growing)!
The last 20 years have taken us on an inspiring and incredible journey. We have worked with grassroots leaders in over 50 countries on issues such as:
- Child Soldier Reintegration in Uganda: In the discussions about disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of children used as soldiers in the conflict in Northern Uganda, the voices and perspectives of former child soldiers have too long been ignored. Former child soldiers themselves led a ground-breaking oral testimony process by interviewing over 150 of their peers and together reflecting on common concerns and shared aspirations that led to the creation of YOLRED, the first reintegration and support organization designed and run by former child soldiers.
- Addressing the Water Crisis in the Philippines: In war-torn Mindanao, over 70% of the population lacks reliable access to safe drinking water. Through the leadership of Global Associate Susana Anayatin and her team, over 40,000 people now have access to safe water in the region through the installation of water wells at over 140 local schools. In addition to providing a critical resource, this project brings together all sides of the conflict who are working together to “win the peace”.
- Tackling Gender-Based Violence in Haiti: Since the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti, women and girls living in the internally displaced persons camps face alarming rates of rape and other forms of gender-based violence. Through the leadership of Global Associate Malya Villard’s and KOFAVIV, men have joined the movement to provide security and advocacy to end all forms of gender-based violence in Haiti.
- Improving Microcredit in Bangladesh: The current global debate about the efficacy of microfinance is marked by the absence of those who have most at stake in the controversy: loan recipients. The Goldin Institute worked with partner organization Nijera Kori to lift up these voices, most often marginalized women, and restore their perspectives, insights and aspirations to the discussion, leading to the return of indigenous community support systems and greater regulation of the microfinance industry in Bangladesh.
- Mutual Aid Collaborative in Chicago, USA: Today, Chicago is stained by an enduring legacy of racial injustice that is laid bare by the disproportionate impact of the twin pandemics of violence and COVID-19 on our communities on the South and West sides of Chicago. In response, the Chicago Peace Fellows launched the Mutual Aid Collaborative as a model of the structural changes they seek, practicing a model of shared leadership, collaborative decision-making and collective action.
In 2018 we made significant strides in facilitating a global network of community leaders through launching GATHER, a tablet-based mobile learning tool to empower communities of practice. GATHER allows peers to learn, work and reflect together using practical tools. That same year, the Institute launched the Global Fellows program, an international cohort of 20 Fellows who collaborated with one another through a progression of learning about new theories of community engagement, practicing these ideas in their own areas, and reflecting together as a global community of practice.
The success of the 2018 pilot has seen the GATHER course run annually with the Chicago Peace Fellows program and the Global Fellows program and, to date, we have trained 150 grassroots leaders in 40 countries in the GATHER curriculum. These grassroots leaders are local community or civil society leaders and practitioners, and represent a diverse group of backgrounds, ages, genders, and locations, and work on a range of pressing and urgent social justice issues. We are excited to continue this international Fellows program and excited to see what we can achieve together in the next 20 years.
We thank you for sharing the last 20 years with us; we are particularly thankful for the continued commitment of our supporters who have stood beside us and ensured the vital work of our global network continues.
“Malya Villard Appolon, the founder of KOFAVIV (women’s commission of victims for victims in Haiti), wishes the Goldin Institute a happy 20th anniversary for the good work it is doing around the world. It is because of the Goldin institute that KOFAVIV still exists today. It is still helping women who are suffering from tragic violence under armed gangs who are doing violence in all forms especially sexual violence that does not give chance to neither women nor girls. I will never regret that day Goldin Institute came our way. I am very proud of the Goldin Institute. I urge all organizations in the world to support Goldin to continue to bring change to the most vulnerable people within the Haitian society and other global communities. Thank you.” – (Malya Villard Appolon, Global Associate from Haiti).