In Medellin Colombia
Leer este artículo en español clic en la bandera en la esquina superior derecha
Jim Capraro writes: Setting the context for the following article from Wolfgang Christian Goede
I spent the first week of February, 2015 in Medellín,Colombia. I felt honored to be invited.
Colombians have suffered fifty years of continuous armed conflict. Only the elderly can remember the time before the war. After such prolonged hostilities it may be true that there is no family in the whole country that has not fallen victim to it. There seems to be no one who doesn't have an honest fear of, and anger with, "the other side" - no matter which side that is. Needless to say this has taken a great toll among Colombians, a people I found to be warm, friendly and welcoming. The final stage of peace negotiations between the Colombian government and the guerrillas is currently under way in Havana. If successful, peace will follow. But Colombia has been at the precipice of peace before, and each time their hopes for future harmony where shattered by new and horrific acts of violence.
I traveled at the invitation of Medellin's University of Antioquia. I was invited to instruct a seminar on relational organizing and community engagement. University faculty believed that these methods might provide an effective means for rebuilding community in Colombia as they are about to enter the post conflict era. In a country whose culture holds no memory of peace, working to create "one to one" relationships, the most basic element of harmonious human existence, seems to be a good and logical thing to do. Creating and utilizing relationships to appeal to what is most meaningful to people caught up in the conflict has already proven to be effective as you can see in this TED talk:
How Christmas lights helped guerillas put down their guns, by Jose Miguel Sokoloff
Pet the Monster—or: The Power of Relationships / Acarície al monstruo—o: El poder de las relaciones
This is, in a nutshell, the résumé of a conference held in Colombia’s “Miracle Town Medellín” (National Geographic). In this Andean valley not only technology is booming, but also the social sciences. They define the rules for a more peaceful, participatory, inclusive and thus thriving society. These principles, in general, could contribute to more robust social fabrics in other parts of this world as well.
The event at the Art Faculty of the University of Antioquia UdeA, Feb. 3rd through Feb. 5th 2015, explored “Community empowerment and transformation in the post-conflict period”. In 2015, Colombia’s government and guerilla forces want to sign a treaty and end 100 years of violence (and “solitude”: Garcia Marquez). Done and implemented right, this step could ignite a new soaring community spirit, in tranquility and creativity, and set global standards.
Jim Capraro from “Praxis International”, a seasoned expert in community organization and development, contributed to three special days, with 45 years of experience, personal charisma—and tons of stories, narrated in a highly engaging interactive style. Capraro is the founder and former long-time director of the Greater Southwest Development Corporation. It channeled half a billion US$ worth of investments and improvements into this Chicago neighborhood.
The Chicagoan’s truly universal approach, developed, tested and applied in 87 neighborhoods in 26 major US cities, moreover in Italy and Germany, matches up with the laws of evolution.
Paraphrasing him: We may go back four or ten billion years, to the creation of the planet earth or even the Bing Bang. Nature is entirely open and adaptive. It always has interacted with new information and thus upwardly evolved. What this means for our future shape and fate, neither Einstein nor Hawking could predict, but there is a message for social scientists and community makers.
Go with what the people need and want, meet and listen to them, regularly “date” them and build new relations, draw up the strengths and weaknesses of a community, create and publicly roll out the visions, with the people, of the people, by the people—and especially the ones, “who have fire in the belly”, as Capraro recommends.
In his words, “take a deep look at the community’s pantry” and inventory, its “human resources and leaders”, involve them on the basis of what is “meaningful to them”, connect them and thus instigate social evolution. A cycle will be started, at the end of which “new values are created, moral and also economic ones”.
It all boils down, as Capraro tirelessly emphasizes, to “creating new relations”, or adhere to a new formula of social engineering: “Change relations, change reality”, in a One Million Colombian Peso sentence:
“All opportunities come from relationships.”
Indeed: As an outcome of the conference, a core group of 13 attendees was formed to start “relational meetings” in their communities. Other leading institutions in Colombia have expressed interest to engage Capraro. TED talks will provide a dissemination platform.
Art bridged the gaps and provided bonding force. As Art Faculty Dean Francisco Londoño had suggested in his opening, the event was an opportunity for the arts to get more entwined into stakeholder dialogues and to live up to its societal responsibility. “Pet the monster”, which became the informal subtitle of the conference, had been suggested by a workshop attended by artists.
Further bridges were extended to the social sciences. UdeA politologist Max Gil, expert in human rights and paramilitarism, provided an impulse in which he described the rather complex peace process. He expressed his hope that after decades of armed conflict it soon will be settled. The scientisit reminded the country’s elites of the necessity to firmly commit themselves to create more justice and equality. The effort must be embedded in an international conference on drugs and the controversy of legalizing them.
Principally, Gil said, long lasting peace will be determined in Colombia’s rural country side with the solution of agrarian issues and a fair distribution of the land. “Building new relationships and tapping the lost and hidden resources of the communities could make the difference”, responded Capraro.
MIL GRACIAS! THANK YOU! DANKESCHÖN!
PS: And don’t forget now: Don’t hide or run away, but pet the monster!
Capraro’s Presentation@UdeA Medellín, Colombia
“An Activist For Human Togetherness”
Portrait of Jim Capraro in the Swiss Journal CREDO focused on Community Spirit
Capraro’s Munich Training
About Medellin, Innovation Hotspot and a “MUST to visit in 2015” (National Geographic)
The Science Medallion, in: EUSJA News, Winter 2015, p 9ff,http://www.eusja.org
Museo de la Memoria, Memorial Museum,http://www.museocasadelamemoria.org/site
TV RAI: Vento di Primavera