Reflecting on Our Global Community of Practice

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Co-Facilitator, Global Alumni Network

It was 2018 when the Goldin Institute launched its inaugural Goldin Global Fellows program, which saw a group of 20 people who did not know each other connect virtually from all around the world to learn and share together over an 18-week period, and with the viewpoint of becoming part of a global learning network. As an Alumni myself, I recently checked in with my global peers to hear their perspectives and reflections of the 2018 GATHER alumni, and the value and impact of the Fellowship on their civic and community activities.

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All 2018 Fellows enrolled for different reasons. Lo Ivan Castillon from the Philippines was invited by Dr. Susana Salvador-Anayatin who has been a partner of The Goldin Institute for many years. Geoffrey Omony from Uganda, a young former combatant, grassroot leader, and local peacebuilder was encouraged to apply after being supported by Goldin Institute's projects. And myself, Lissette Mateus from Colombia who, thanks to Goldin Institute’s support, had worked in Uganda with former child combatants and communities in 2012, knew of the value of being part of the Goldin Institute’s network and the opportunities which would emerge.

While our motivations for applying for the fellowship varied, we were all unified in knowing that, though the fellowship was only for 3-months, some good would come about from it. But we did not expect the multitude of benefits which materialized. Once we came together and got to know each other, and began to understand the culture of the countries we come from, the importance of respecting each other’s worldviews, to realize that no matter where we come from or our roles in our communities, we all have the wisdom and ability to transform them in some way. In that moment we became a global cross-cultural learning network at the beginning of our journeys together, as a collective, to achieve substantial change within our communities.

2021PracticeGeoffreyDianaAs highlighted by Diana Alaroker from Uganda who shared that “as a 2018 GATHER graduate, I am fortunate to have obtained diverse experiences from grassroot leaders around the world which has supported me in implementing the necessary community-driven social change required in Northern Uganda. Through GATHER, I have built a great network to enhance collaborations across the world.”

Similarly, Abdiweli Waberi from Somalia stated that “getting involved with Goldin Institute’s Global GATHER Program has exposed me to a community of practice from around the world, who learn and grow together. This lifetime opportunity has improved my know-how skills and enabled me to better address local challenges in my community.”

As of today, July 2021, we have realized that our time at the Global Goldin Fellowship gave us much more than we expected; we became precursors of what could be considered one of the greatest educational and technological developments of recent times (due to the pandemic which has seen the significant harnessing of digital technologies). By engaging in virtual meetings and virtual learning, utilizing new technologies to undertake work on a global scale, changing paradigms to share knowledge and create new projects without the need to meet face to face, we were all at the same time equipping ourselves with skillsets which have been crucial in ensuring our activities continue during the pandemic. For grassroots and community leaders, this has been pivotal for allowing us to respond to the socio-economic and health impacts of COVID-19 and providing support to our communities during our country’s lockdowns.

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But above all, our time at Goldin Global Fellowship changed something within us, we stopped looking outside, looking for what we needed, and we began to look inside, understanding that we could build using our knowledge and the knowledge within our communities and with tools at our fingertips. As Travis Rejman said “too often we start with what is broken, what we do not have and what is wrong with us or with our communities. But usually, it is more helpful to start with what we do have, and what is working. A person I admire and respect, John (Jody) Kretzmann who is co-director of the Asset Based Community Development Institute in Chicago, said “no one ever built something with the things that they don’t have”, and that philosophy is integral to the GATHER approach.

2021PracticeLoIvanThe understanding of this principle was emphasized by Lo Ivan “a comprehensive and in-depth understanding of different community contexts, asset focused and context-specific approaches, and interaction for verification strategies have been highlighted in this community of grassroots game-changers”, is what makes this course a changing life experience.

Expressed best by Geoffrey Omony from Uganda “there are many things I wouldn’t have been able to learn until I joined the likeminded community of grassroots leaders committed to community social driven change, through the 2018 Global Fellows program. I owe a huge thank you to the Goldin Institute because of the road I have traveled. I wouldn't change a thing of my past as it led me to becoming part of the GATHER alumni".

As a GATHER graduate, my ability to handle community adaptive challenges for social change has greatly improved. You too can start your journey today and be part of the social change you desire to see in your community by applying to the 2021 Global Fellows Program: at apply.goldininstitute.org.

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