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Who does social work? Developing a diversity participation policy for working in black communities

Policy guideline 1. Race

When we started the ISL we didn’t know that we would be getting requests from “white people” to volunteer. We didn’t know but somehow we should have anticipated this. Over the last year and past weeks I have had to think seriously about people wanting to volunteer with the ISL.

The ISL is open to participation from everyone. We do not discriminate on any basis. We do not want to discriminate on race.

While we are open our objective is not to reinforce the problematic of the “savior complex” or the “the white savior complex” in our work. So when people ask to volunteer what do we tell them? At the moment we have a disproportionate number of volunteer request. Young “white foreigners” from all over are able to travel freely to low-income but spiritually and culturally rich countries such as Jamaica, there Black or African counterparts in the Caribbean, Europe, United States or Canada cannot. This is an inequality and a social injustice. This dynamic is problematic for all involved those who want to volunteer and those who cannot volunteer.

This “volunteer dynamic” is present in several other low-income countries in the Caribbean, and Africa.

I am not only identifying an ideological or philosophical problem. I think it is a very important part of our experiment but questioning how we can come together to do make our interactions valuable. I have more questions than answers and at the moment I think we should move to considering a policy for “diversity participation in social work”. Some guidelines that we use to understand how to accomplish our objective of “creating a space to learn together and develop an understanding and motivation towards social leadership and creating positive alternative realities.

These are some questions I am considering for persons of diverse background interested in volunteering at the ISL ;

  1.  What does it mean to be a volunteer?
  2. What is your experience with volunteering? In what areas have you volunteered and why?
  3. Has your volunteering only been with poor black communities in the Caribbean or Africa?
  4. Have you previously volunteered with children in low income “white” communities?
  5. What is your understanding of the objective of the ISL? How does it fit into your desire to volunteer?
  6. What are your views on blackness, Africa, racism and white privilege?
  7. Would you be willing to go through an intensive training programme before you begin to volunteer?
  8. What in your opinion are the social and economic priorities for Jamaica now?
  9. What in your opinion are the social and economic priorities of your country and how will that affect Jamaica?
  10. What is your proposed involvement with the ISL after you volunteer period has ended?
  11. What would you be willing to do to keep the ISL open?
  12. Are you able to offer or arrange opportunities to travel to your country for individuals you interact with while volunteering?
  13. What is your passion in life?
  14.  What does social leadership look like with the dynamic of race?

There are more questions and more points to dissect but we have to start here .

 

Leadership Power and Dons In Jamaica

“Miss  you know any don weh good?”

“I want to talk to the adults in the community but i don’t know how. I am unfamilar with the politics of the area and afraid of coming face to face with the don. I have been told several times that you have to go in through the don. You have to have the leadership of the community on your side. But what if the leadership is a don and what if the don is not a good leader? What if our view points are opposed? What if i become a threat to the don?”

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Di Institute for Social Leadership is concerned with exploring and engaging different ideas of leadership. We consider social leadership to be an important move forward or shift towards creating equitable, caring communities and responsible, socially and politically aware individuals. We do not define communities as merely a physical location but a collective of individuals who share a similar vision or interest in how we all can live together.

However in the Jamaican context, Leadership and community have very familiar meanings.

Leadership refers to a responsibility or role, to be in charge of a task or group of people is to demonstrate leadership. Community is usually physical and usually inner-city communities or rural communities come to mind. Community Leadership is usually connected to the “Don”.

Leadership is closely related to the idea of power. The link between leadership and power is a significant one. One of the questions that the Institute for Social leadership will have to engage is how power and leadership work in physical communities and whether or not the idea and model of social leadership challenges the present as well as what we can learn from that relationship and dynamic.

Any work that looks at social change and social re-engineering will bring us close to physical communities. Di Institute is located close to many communities and so we will have to understand the dynamics of the life of youth and adults that we want to engage. These communities are not targets because we feel like this is where most of the work needs to be done, but we want to increase access to learning and provide support to grow where it is limited and we also want to connect to people. Physical communities such as the ones near to the ISL have always been important for their potential to start revolutionary change in a country.

In our reflection on communities, leadership and dons we have identified a few questions which we are seeking answers to over time. These answers we believe can help in the creation of a model for social leadership.

  1. How do we successfully engage community leadership whether we consider it good or bad?
  2. What are the strategies that exist that different individuals and organizations can utilise in engaging communities?
  3. How can work be done with communities without engaging community leadership and politics?
  4. How do members of a community negotiate the leadership of the community?
  5. What do we know of the dynamics of community leadership?
  6. How can we create good leadership models in the community?
  7. Is it problematic for outsiders of a community to get involved in the social and economic development of the “community”?
  8. How can we get close enough to learn from community structures?
  9. What dangers do communities present?
  10. What is the objective of government engagement with communities? Are there alternative objectives to be pursued?
  11. Are communities separate entities on the island?
  12. What is the definition of a community? How are they formed? Is development work restricted to community work in Jamaica?
  13. Why are communities important?

 

Further Reading

Dr Henley Morgan, social entrepreneur – Using business principles to uplift the downtrodden

Branding Communities and Community Entreprenureship

 

We are starting a “Green roof” project at the ISL


  CityB20091216NG   This summer has been hot. It has been even hotter at the Di Institute for Social Leadership. This is our first summer at this location and even though we knew it would be hot inside we never thought it would be this crazy. The ISL is a small space with one small window, all our attempts to look at how to cool the place down led to the suggestion to purchase a A/C unit. We had someone come in and do an assessment of what kind of unit we would need and the cost. We were told to cool the room required 2  24,ooo BTU  or ideally 56,000 BTU. This was approximately a cost of $J 200,000 or $US2,000. Once we installed a A/C unit we knew there would be an increase in the cost of electricity.  All the options for cooling that we were presented with were expensive or required major structural changes to the building.

Global warming, environment and Kingston Jamaica

Some people know that major shifts are taking place with the climate and that is affecting the globe. Kingston is hot and dry and there has been no rain in months. There have been water lock offs and these are now standard. An editorial in the Jamaica Observer reminded us that it is easy to see the way that we have created this situation;

THERE is no doubt that the small island developing states of the Caribbean are vulnerable to natural disasters, both in regard to their frequency and severity, in particular hurricanes. Disaster preparedness is therefore an important mitigating factor. Some climates, such as Jamaica’s, have a seasonal pattern of rainfall. We have two rainy seasons and in between there are dry periods. If these dry periods are longer than usual they are described as droughts. In a small land mass like Jamaica a drought affects the entire area of land. Therefore these annual droughts result in annual shortages of water throughout the country with the attendant water restrictions, lock-offs and unavailability of potable water. The pattern of rainfall in Jamaica in the last 30 years involves a dry season each year. Since this pattern is known and predictable, unlike hurricanes which are less predictable, it is certainly possible to plan for mitigation. The problem in Jamaica is that the lack of a water policy and/or its implementation has converted a natural annually occurring weather event into a disaster. This qualifies as a man-made disaster! There should be no water shortage in Jamaica because there is enough rainfall and groundwater to serve the needs of the country well into the future, if there is proper management. There is no effective policy of collection, storage and distribution of water. There are 10 hydrological basins in Jamaica, none of which is optimally managed. The result of all of this is that even without a drought, one in four Jamaicans does not have access to piped water but rely on standpipes. Most of these persons are among the poorest 20 per cent of the population. We insist that Jamaica’s perennial water shortage is a man-made disaster because of the lack of an implemented policy of preservation of watersheds, eg the vast riverbed of the former Hope River, inadequate provisions for catchment of rainfall and hopelessly inadequate storage facilities. Ancient and decrepit water infrastructure results in more than half the water being lost due to leaking pipes. As is now clear, there has been no systematic plan for the catchment and storage of rainfall. No new reservoir has been built to supply the Greater Kingston area during the last 60 years. The Hermitage Dam was completed in 1927, but maintaining its storage capacity of 400 million gallons is a struggle against the accumulation of silt. The Mona Reservoir to be fed by the Hope River was completed in 1947 and, after several repairs for leaks, was brought into service in 1959. Droughts are acts of God but water shortages are acts of man and the failure to act. Governments over the last 50 years are guilty of negligence; the National Water Commission’s incompetence is beyond dispute and we the people of Jamaica are also responsible because we have been complacent and have tolerated the failure of successive governments.

Green roofs Living Roofs and the Urban Heat Island effect 

heatislandeffect Building design is a major problem in Kingston and this is why the solutions for cooling that are presented are increasing electricity cost by purchasing A/C units.

We are proposing to start a pilot project at the ISL for a “Green Roof”. We think this is something we can encourage through urban centres and other spaces in Jamaica as an option to cooling.

“A green roof, or rooftop garden, is a vegetative layer grown on a rooftop. Green roofs provide shade and remove heat from the air through evapotranspiration, reducing temperatures of the roof surface and the surrounding air. On hot summer days, the surface temperature of a green roof can be cooler than the air temperature, whereas the surface of a conventional rooftop can be up to 90°F (50°C) warmer.1 Green roofs can be installed on a wide range of buildings, from industrial facilities to private residences. They can be as simple as a 2-inch covering of hardy groundcover or as complex as a fully accessible park complete with trees.

http://www.epa.gov/heatisland/mitigation/greenroofs.htm

One of the reasons for the increase temperatures in the city or cities is the “urban heat island” effect.

 The urban heat island effect refers to localized urban warming caused by lots of paved, dark-surfaced rooftops, streets, and parking lots. Given much of any city is covered in these low-albedo surfaces, cities can experience temperatures significantly higher than nearby green areas.  http://dirt.asla.org/2010/11/02/green-roofs-reduce-the-urban-heat-island-effect/   newyork_roof_gardens__original

Benefits and Costs of Green Roofs

Reduced energy use: Green roofs absorb heat and act as insulators for buildings, reducing energy needed to provide cooling and heating. In addition to mitigating urban heat islands, the benefits of green roofs include: Reduced air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions: By lowering air conditioning demand, green roofs can decrease the production of associated air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Vegetation can also remove air pollutants and greenhouse gas emissions through dry deposition and carbon sequestration and storage. Improved human health and comfort: Green roofs, by reducing heat transfer through the building roof, can improve indoor comfort and lower heat stress associated with heat waves. Enhanced stormwater management and water quality: Green roofs can reduce and slow stormwater runoff in the urban environment; they also filter pollutants from rainfall. Improved quality of life: Green roofs can provide aesthetic value and habitat for many species. http://www.epa.gov/heatisland/mitigation/greenroofs.htm

 Further Reading Reducing Urban Heat Islands a Compendium of Strategies 

Di Institute for Social Leadership launches the “Community University”.

COMMUNITY UNIVERSITY

What do you want to teach? The ISL is offering you space to share a workshop, a short course, a film, make a presentation or give a lecture. We call this our Community University Concept – The community University gives us a way to work together to create a space for sharing and learning in meaningful ways. You provide the content and we provide the space.

Each facilitator makes a minimum contribution for the use of the space, depending on what you want to do, the contribution varies.