Gather Platform Launched

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By Ethan Michaeli
Senior Advisor

Speaking at a July 17 celebration for the launch of Gather, the Goldin Institute’s online fellowship for community leaders around the world, Raymond Richard, Executive Director of Brothers Standing Together, a not-for-profit organization based in Chicago, Illinois, USA, said that he had already received the IPad preloaded with the Gather software and was looking forward to signing in for the first time later that night. Even more than that, he had great ambitions for his collaboration with the other fellows.

GatherLaunch

“I look forward to (signing in) and sharing my experiences so we can come up with new and better solutions to problems of poverty, violence and homelessness. I’m excited.” -- Brother Raymond Richard, Gather Fellow

The inaugural Gather Fellows includes 20 community leaders from 16 countries, from Cameroon to California, USA, including the manager of an orphanage in Kenya and a peace and reconciliation specialist in Colombia, a rape survivors’ advocate in Kentucky and a young lawyer in Puntland, an autonomous region of Somalia. Each participant has received a small stipend and an IPad loaded with communications software specially designed for Gather.

Over the next 16 weeks, the Gather fellows will proceed through an on-line curriculum of discussions, exercises and workshops all designed to help them learn from each other, build on their collective assets, and devise concepts for sustainable, community-driven social change. Divided into modules with associated exercises and regular virtual meetings, the Gather course and specially-designed software incorporate the accumulated wisdom of nearly two decades of successful international collaborations facilitated by the Goldin Institute.

At the celebration of Gather’s launch, held at the historic House of Glunz in the city’s Old Town neighborhood, the Goldin Institute’s Founder and Board Chairperson, Diane Goldin, accompanied by fellow Board Member Mimi Frankel, thanked the whole staff before praising the hard work, dedication and leadership of Executive Director Travis Rejman. Travis, for his part, reserved particular appreciation for the late nights invested by his curriculum writing and software development teams in creating a platform that is as innovative as it is intuitive. Gather is the culmination of the Goldin Institute’s efforts, Travis explained.

“How do you connect leaders from around the world? We’ve been working on that question since the day we started.”

Raymond launched BST in 2009 to decrease neighborhood violence and contribute to a safe environment for children and families. A mentor, activist and public speaker today, Raymond struggled with criminal activity, substance abuse and homelessness for decades. He was incarcerated for various crimes six different times, and spent two years living on Lower Wacker Drive, a series of subterranean tunnels underneath the city’s Loop, the downtown business district. But after he was released from prison the final time, Raymond resolved to turn his life around. It wasn’t easy. In Chicago as throughout the United States, returning citizens – as Raymond describes those emerging from incarceration – face significant discrimination and legal restrictions to accessing jobs, housing and education. But Raymond studied hard and obtained his high school diploma, participated in public meetings such as community policing programs, and worked odd jobs. He simultaneously became a mentor to other returning citizens as well as at-risk young people, drawing on his past experiences to provide practical guidance and warn against the dangers of recidivist criminal activity.

As BST’s Executive Director, Raymond has participated in events and attended conferences across the country, all while working to build their capacity to receive contracts from government agencies and private companies to provide returning citizens with work experience and essential income.
His accomplishments and never-ending responsibilities notwithstanding, at Gather’s inaugural celebration, Raymond said he was looking forward most of all to learning from his peers in other countries, knowing that together, they can accomplish more than on their own.

“Everyone of us is better than any one of us,” he said. “I’m honored to be on the team, honored to be in the Gather program.”

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