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Disney City, USA

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 01/03/2022 - 4:43am in

Photo credit: Jenna Hidinger / Disney last week announced a new plan to build entire residential communities, a major...

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Piercing Amazon’s Veil of Secrecy

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 23/02/2022 - 4:28am in

Photo credit: Sundry Photography / Usually I write about a lot of doom and gloom here, but today, it’s...

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Old people’s home for many Indonesians is a useful life with people they know

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 29/01/2022 - 4:57am in


Asia, community

Australia’s aged-care policies include keeping frail oldies apart from society. Indonesia does the opposite – seemingly benefitting all. Our sophisticated elderly care system ranges from help at home to palliative clinics. The Medical Journal of Australia reports almost 20 per cent aged above 80 and six per cent of 65 plus get institution long-term care. Continue reading »

Inclusivity as a democratic goal

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 30/12/2021 - 1:35am in

Many organizations express the goal of embracing diversity and inclusiveness. This is an admirable goal, but it is often only weakly pursued in practical terms. Efforts towards this end will be stronger in enhancing diversity and inclusiveness if we think carefully about what we have in mind when we think of that better future we are trying to create. Let's think about the inclusive university in particular.

We are a multi-racial, multi-cultural society. The legacies of race and discrimination are heavy upon us. We want the twenty-first century university to be genuinely multi-racial, multi-cultural, multi-religious, and multi-ethnic. We want these “multi’s” because our country itself is multicultural, and because we have a national history that has not done a good job of creating an environment of equality and democracy across racial and ethnic lines. And we want the universities to change, because they are key locations where the values and skills of our future leaders and citizens will be formed. So if universities do not succeed in transforming themselves around the realities of race and difference, we cannot expect the larger society to succeed in this difficult challenge either.

Universities are social environments. We bring with us the stereotypes and attitudes of the society in which we live, which often embody negative assumptions about other groups. And yet we wish to create a community in which students, faculty, and staff are actively accepting of one another, actively interested in learning from each other, and eager to work together on important projects.

We can change the culture and practices of the university in ways that enhance inclusiveness and equality. And if we succeed, our society will become more inclusive and equal as well.

We are creating the future, for better or worse. We have to create the kind of democratic, embracing society we want to live in. We want community, mutual respect, compassion for each other, and a civic culture that values all of us. But this is rarely true in America today.

What is inclusion? It is a social environment that deliberately and actively embodies the idea of mutual respect and concern. It values engagement with others, and it actively facilitates the creation of environments of learning and interaction in which every member feels welcome, equal, and valued. It is an environment that cultivates social trust.

Inclusiveness is more than diversity. It is an institution and culture in which people from all social groups -- race, nationality, gender, sexuality, religion, ethnicity -- are fully embraced and respected. It is an environment in which every individual is afforded the opportunity and space to do his or her best work, unimpeded by stereotype or discriminatory arrangements.

The challenge of creating a truly inclusive university is a difficult one for a variety of reasons. Important among these is the difficulty of overcoming limitations of perspective from the various groups, including especially the majority group. Practices that seem innocuous and neutral to majority group members are often experienced as demeaning and limiting by non-majority group members — what some students now refer to as “micro-aggressions”. In order to improve our university culture we must listen to each other with humility and respect, and we must craft new shared values and new ways of working together across the lines of race, ethnicity, wealth, religion, and gender and sexuality that so often divide us.

A university can be a very different place in twenty years -- more democratic, more inclusive, and more diverse. But to achieve these goals we must embrace new thinking about the challenges that we ourselves create for achieving these ideals. We must be honest and humble in recognizing these challenges.

Working towards these goals is important for many reasons. But perhaps at this time in our history, one of the most important reasons has to do with the currents of racism, xenophobia, and bigotry that have become so prominent in American politics and society in the past decade. Our democracy is weakened by hatred and intolerance. It can be strengthened by a genuine change of collective values -- values that allow us to embrace diversity and inclusion, and to embrace the strengths of our multicultural society.

Do-It-Yourself Green Infrastructure

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 20/12/2021 - 7:00pm in

This fall, at the intersection of Saint Bernard Avenue and North Claiborne in New Orleans’ 7th Ward, construction began on a new stormwater drainage system. This wasn’t a “gray infrastructure” project planned by the city. It’s green infrastructure that 7th Ward community members had envisioned, a large bioswale with native plants that will absorb the water that frequently floods the neighborhood.

This is one of three large-scale, anti-flooding developments underway in the 7th and Upper 9th Wards as well as Tremé. All are community-driven green infrastructure facilitated by Water Wise Gulf South, an environmental outreach collaborative prioritizing the needs of New Orleans residents who have been, and continue to be, most impacted by regular urban flooding caused by heavy rainfall. Since 2016, Water Wise has supported planting of over 500 trees and implementation of over 150 other green infrastructure projects that have added over 50,000 gallons of stormwater retention capacity across the three neighborhoods. What makes Water Wise different from other green nonprofits? All of its projects are actually designed and built by local community members.


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Above: The green infrastructure installation at North Claiborne and Saint Bernard Avenue.

“We are making sure that those of us who are disproportionately affected, Black and brown communities, have the opportunity to take charge and lead our destiny in mitigation,” says Angela Chalk, a 7th Ward resident who founded the organization Healthy Community Services and has been the key point of contact for Water Wise activities in her neighborhood. “We live and work in the communities that we serve.”

Water Wise Gulf South was founded by the water professionals Jeff Supak, Hilairie Schackai and Dana Brown to strengthen public awareness and use of green infrastructure across the region. (Green infrastructure encompasses a variety of nature-based installations that capture rain where it falls to mitigate flooding. Gray infrastructure relies on drains, concrete and pipes to collect and channel stormwater into waterways without reducing the amount of water, so it often exacerbates flooding.)

Water Wise knew that localized urban flooding — not captured in FEMA’s flood risk maps — had become a persistent problem in many communities. In 2014 and 2015, they conducted flood mapping surveys across New Orleans and identified the neighborhoods most at risk.

water wiseThe Hollygrove Dixon Neighborhood Association works with Louisiana Green Corps and Grave Road Builders to install a permeable driveway. Credit: WWGS

After identifying the 7th Ward and Tremé, Water Wise partnered with the Greater Treme Consortium and Chalk’s Healthy Community Services to brainstorm around green infrastructure. “There was a lot of feedback around actually demonstrating green infrastructure in the community,” says Supak. Since 2016, grants have helped Water Wise develop the “Water Wise Neighborhood Champions” program that would not only provide education to community leaders, but help communities identify priority projects for installation.

In the three-pronged program, participants begin with a Water Wise Neighborhood Workshop to learn about green infrastructure and do-it-yourself green infrastructure projects that people can install in their own yards or gardens. Over 500 people have taken one of these workshops. That’s followed by a Green Infrastructure Tour, where participants visit green infrastructure projects across New Orleans (it went virtual during COVID-19). Finally, Water Wise holds Green Infrastructure “Visioning Workshops” to identify priority projects within neighborhoods.

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135 people have completed the full program. Community members in Tremé, the 7th Ward and Upper 9th Ward all developed community look-books that propose projects that could collectively store 6.5 million gallons of water and increase green space by 45 acres.

Following the program, Water Wise holds pitching challenges to provide seed funding for implementation of projects in the look-book. Brenda Lomax-Brown, the president of the Hollygrove Dixon Neighborhood Association, proposed green infrastructure for the Hollygrove-Dixon Life Transformation Community Center, where rain would pool at the entrance stairs and community members needed rain boots to get inside. With Water Wise funding the community installed a permeable parking pad and rain garden. “When the first rain came, to see the water get sucked up and no more water pooling at the stairs — it was just an awesome experience,” Lomax-Brown says.

water wiseRobin Barnes, winner of the annual Water Wise Green Infrastructure challenge, receives a site visit from Dana Brown and Associates. Credit: WWGS

Installation has been key to bringing more community members into the work. “Inside the community I live in, people might not catch on at first — but once they see it, it becomes infectious and everyone wants to understand it,” says Katherine Prevost, president of the Bunny Friend Neighborhood Association in the Upper 9th Ward.

In the 7th Ward, 100 community members helped install the community’s first bioswale. “Finally the rain came and I had this ah-hah moment that this works and that we can begin to do this along with everyone else in the neighborhood,” says Chalk.

Since then, Water Wise 7th Ward has held or participated in 37 community outreach, education and social events that engaged over 800 people around green infrastructure. In addition to the bioswale, the community installed 25 rain barrels, one stormwater planter box, seven rain gardens, eight french drains and two permeable parking pads. They’ve planted over 400 trees and removed 250 square feet of concrete.

The 7th Ward projects are managing 48,000 gallons of stormwater for each rainstorm event, a number that includes the 35,000 gallons that will be managed with the newest stormwater drainage system.

Beyond Water Wise seed funding, the community organizations independently work to fund projects from their look-books. “This is a grassroots movement, in my opinion, we’re doing everything without government help or funding,” says Supak. “Government is slow and we can’t wait for government to catch up to us,” Chalk says. “All of us in these communities realize we have to get this right and that climate change is not waiting. We can’t wait.”

Water Wise community leaders hope not just to normalize green infrastructure, but pave the way for a Black-led environmental justice movement prioritizing the needs of communities hit hardest by climate change. “When history is written,” Chalk says, “There will be Black and brown faces all over the beginnings of the green infrastructure sector, at least in New Orleans and Southeast Louisiana.”

This story was originally published by Next City

The post Do-It-Yourself Green Infrastructure appeared first on Reasons to be Cheerful.

A Monthly Ritual of Selflessness Has Transformed Rwanda

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 06/12/2021 - 7:00pm in

Jean Luc remembers how, when he was very young, his parents would leave their house in Kimihurura, a neighborhood of Kigali, once a month in a good mood. He didn’t know what they were smiling about. 

“I would always eavesdrop on my parents whenever they came [back] from it,” he says. “It always seemed like something that brightened their Saturdays.”

Now 21 years old, it brightens Luc’s Saturdays, too.

Luc, along with just about every able-bodied Rwandan aged 18 to 65, participates in the monthly activity known as “Umuganda,” a Kinyarwanda word that means “coming together in common purpose.” On the last Saturday of every month, from 8 to 11 a.m., Rwandans across the country gather together to partake in community improvement projects. In Luc’s neighborhood, this has meant trimming back bushes that attract malaria-spreading mosquitoes, and making sure roads are clear of trash and debris. “It not only ensured that we have a clean environment,” he says, “but also had a long-run positive effect on our health and physical wellbeing. And you know what they say, a healthy nation leads to a wealthy nation.”

umugandaUmuganda has existed in Rwanda for centuries as a cultural emphasis on communal problem solving. Credit: Paul Kagame Press

According to Luc, these monthly gatherings have helped his community recover from a long, devastating period of genocide, making it clean, innovative, loving and self-reliant. Across the country, in ways big and small, the tradition of Umuganda has unfolded in similar fashion, helping Rwanda to piece itself back together and recover from ruin. 

Umuganda has existed in Rwanda for centuries as a cultural emphasis on communal problem solving. At times, however, it has been leveraged to beat people down rather than uplift them. In the 1970s, Umuganda was used as a ritual of forced labor as Rwandans were required to work without pay at the behest of their community leader twice a week. Later, in 1994, the concept was exploited to devastating effect as ethnic Hutu elites mobilized their supporters to kill minority Tutsis and moderate Hutus in a violent perversion of Umuganda.  

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Following the Rwandan genocide, the government re-established Umuganda in 2001. In 2009, it was institutionalized as a government policy under the Ministry of Local Government, Good Governance, Community Development and Social Affairs.

Today, Umuganda projects range from helping a neighbor construct a shelter to building a community hospital. Sometimes it’s as simple as a community coming together to pick up litter. Other Umuganda projects are more unexpected — for instance, it has been used to collect voice data from Rwandans in an initiative to make voice assistants like Siri and Google Assistant more inclusive. For projects that can’t be completed entirely through Umuganda, participants get things started, then fill the gap by contributing money to hand the work over to specialists. 

Though Umuganda is a national phenomenon, the mobilization of it takes place at the community level. Credit: Paul Kagame Press

President Paul Kagame has received praise for turning Rwanda’s fortunes around. Today, a country that was once known for brutal ethnic cleansing and dysfunction is relatively safe and orderly. Rwanda’s public spaces are famously clean, thanks, in part, to a pioneering plastic bag ban enacted in 2008. And after years of violent division, a remarkable cultural unity now prevails. 

Kagame’s politics, however, have faced scrutiny over the years. In office for 21 years, he heads an authoritarian government with his Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) party accused of quashing dissent and exerting total political control. Then there’s the question of how voluntary Umuganda really is. According to the law, anyone who fails to participate without a valid reason can be charged a fine of 5,000 Rwandan Francs (close to USD $5). Critics also question Umuganda’s top-down approach, arguing it bears an eerie resemblance to the exploitative version employed during Rwanda’s colonial and post-colonial period.

Even without enforcement, however, the practice of Umuganda has seeped into the culture of Rwanda, says Patrick Karekezi, a Kigali-based community development consultant. “We’re a homogeneous community,” he says, “people who are united, sharing a common language, common culture. We are looking beyond the tribe and ethnic divisions.”

Umuganda projects range from picking up litter to building a community hospital. Photo: Paul Kagame Press

Though Umuganda is a national phenomenon, the mobilization of it takes place at the community level — specifically, in “cells” of at least 50 households called Umudugudu. Spearheaded by a community leader, members of a cell often use the mobile messaging service WhatsApp to work out the logistics. This small-scale organizational structure is key to making Umuganda work. “If you miss [Umuganda],” says Karekezi, “it feels like you’re the only person out of the 50 houses that has missed, and that is why you are not going to find people missing.”

Amid pandemic lockdowns, Umuganda has adapted, finding ways to continue even when physical gatherings aren’t possible. When a lockdown commenced in Rwanda in March 2020, Rwandans continued to observe Umuganda in their own spaces. 

“The spirit is still there,” says Luc. “I remember during the first lockdown when we were all unsure of what the future was going to be, we still found solace in doing something similar within our own homes.”

umugandaVaccinated citizens and community leaders, through Umuganda, have encouraged their neighbors to get vaccinated. Credit: Paul Kagame Press

In Kicukiro district, however, resident Robert Mugabo has taken part in what he refers to as special Umuganda: Those that take place in a safe manner to meet urgent needs in the community in spite of the pandemic. For instance, soon after Rwanda’s lockdown began, a Ministry of Education analysis found that classrooms were overwhelmed, which would pose a challenge to ridding the country of Covid-19. The government set a plan to construct over 22,500 classrooms and 31,932 latrines across the country​​’s 30 districts, and asked citizens to help. “We were really helping them to bring the bricks and the water, in a nutshell,” says Mugabo. “That‘s something we do happily and in a good way, and in as short a time as possible.”

According to Mugabo, this work was not mandatory.“We don’t take the whole day there, we do shifts,” he says. “For example, I go in the morning and maybe tomorrow I go in the evening as much as I get the time.” 

In other instances, to combat vaccine hesitancy, vaccinated citizens and community leaders, through Umuganda, have encouraged their neighbors to get vaccinated. 

Luc thinks Umuganda has value beyond the projects themselves, promoting self-reliance among Rwandans. “When you see something wrong within your surroundings, you do not wait for someone else to come and do it for you, you just go for it and do it,” he says. “Is your road dirty? There are bushes growing around your house? Does your neighbor have no shelter? Do Umuganda. Solve the problem yourselves.”

The post A Monthly Ritual of Selflessness Has Transformed Rwanda appeared first on Reasons to be Cheerful.

Veteran Poetics

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 12/06/2019 - 7:35pm in

Book at Lunchtime: Veteran Poetics: British Literature in the Age of Mass Warfare, 1790–2015 In this first full-length study of the war veteran in literature, Kate McLoughlin draws new critical attention to a figure central to national life. Offering fresh readings of canonical and non-canonical works, she shows how authors from William Wordsworth to J. K. Rowling have deployed veterans to explore questions that are simultaneously personal, political, and philosophical: What does a community owe to those who serve it? What can be recovered from the past? Do people stay the same over time? Are there right times of life at which to do certain things? Is there value in experience? How can wisdom be shared? Veteran Poetics features veterans who travel in time, cause havoc with their reappearances, solve murders, refuse to stop talking about the wars they have been in, and refuse to say a word about them. Through this last trait, they also prompt consideration of possible critical responses to silence.

Autonomy, Community, Destiny: Re-Imagining Disability

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 07/12/2017 - 11:28pm in

The second seminar in the Disability and Curriculum Diversity series at TORCH The second seminar in the Disability and Curriculum Diversity series at TORCH with Elizabeth Frood (Associate Professor of Egyptology, Oxford), Dom Hyams (Producer and Editor-in-Chief, Power100) and Marie Tidball (Research Associate in Law, Oxford) .
Professor Elizabeth Frood speaks on the way her own acquired disability has had an impact on re-framing how she does fieldwork and how this has led her to adapt the methodologies she uses as an Egyptologist. Entrepreneur, Television Presenter and Editor of Power 100, Dom Hyams speaks on the potential role of the AssistMi app and other assistive technology you work with, could have on revolutionising research, which not only makes fieldwork more accessible for disabled people but enables them as researchers to access important data which benefits academia more generally.
This event was chaired by Dr Marie Tidball.

Social mobility can be much more than just widening HE access

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 12/07/2017 - 9:01am in

Mary Stuart reflects on the diverse ways in which universities can and do work with local schools and businesses to kickstart social mobility and address economic disadvantage and inequality.

The post Social mobility can be much more than just widening HE access appeared first on Wonkhe.

Graduation – the most wonderful time of the year

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 07/07/2017 - 9:03am in

Here's to you, Mrs Robinson! Registrarism reflects on the ups, downs, and quirks of graduation, perhaps the only time of the year when everyone in a university is (or at least appears) happy.

The post Graduation – the most wonderful time of the year appeared first on Wonkhe.