Budd Hall is founding Director of the Office of Community Based Research at the University of Victoria. I first heard about him decades ago, from friends who counted on him and the university based resources he made available for community action. He continues to inspire class after class of students with his wisdom, passion and willingness to put his expertise at the service of social and economic justice. And he extends his community organizing ways, forging regional, national and global alliances of adult educators and community activists. Here is his contribution to: What would you like to become more visible in 2011? You can also Download Becoming Visible - the complete collection of essays. Budd's essay is new and will be included in an updated version of Becoming Visible.
Towards a Knowledge Democracy Movement: 'Antyodaya ' and Higher Education
In 2011, I want to make visible stories about our universities, communities and social movements creating and using knowledge together in new ways that will support organising for change and creating space for collective action for a more just, sustainable, inclusive and joyful world. I want to see stories on how our collective capacities to 'name the world' as Paulo Freire said, can make a difference to everyone including whom Gandhi referred to, using the Sanskrit word, as 'Antyodya', the last person.
In the city where I live, Victoria, Canada, a wealthy city in a wealthy country, there are 1500 women and men (in a population of 250,000) who do not have a place to sleep at night. In spite of the creation of the Coalition Against Homelessness, the numbers of people who suffer from poor health, violence, substance abuse as a result of poverty and homelessness continues at about the same level.
In India one of the fastest growing economies in the world, 600 million people live without literacy, adequate water and sanitation, poor health facilities and insecure food security.
Indigenous people in North and South America, Africa and Asia have dramatically lower life expectancy and higher levels of health difficulties than the non-indigenous members of their communities. Their languages are disappearing daily and with the languages, extraordinary parts of our human knowledge base and culture.
Climate change is having a more dramatic impact on the poor and marginalized persons in all our communities; one only has to look at the earthquake in Haiti or the floods in Pakistan to see how natural disasters impact the poor.
Concerns with the protection of the wealthy from risk, the protection of access to non-renewable resources and water occupy the minds of vast numbers of the world's inhabitants and a dramatically disproportionate level of government budgets.
The neo-liberal global economic machine produces wealth in historically unheard of quantities but exacerbates the gap between the rich and the poor both within nations and amongst nations.
Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett's exhaustive study, The Spirit Level:Why Equality is Better for Everyone, on inequality and its impacts around the world is a fairly recent study showing that on almost every index of quality of life there is a strong correlation between a country's level of economic inequality and its social outcomes. Communities and nations that are more equal, are healthier and more productive. Communities and nations where levels of inequality are highest have the worst performance in an entire range of social outcomes. And what is more, the evidence shows us that both the rich and the poor fare better in societies with less inequality. This is true whether one speaks of mortality and morbidity, educational outcomes, mental health, obesity, violence, or the status of minorities.
It is the unequal world however that we live in. It is a world where greed continues to be celebrated and economic growth stubbornly put forward time and time again as the salvation. This is the world that in our work as researchers, as teachers, as activists, as scholars and intellectuals, as Higher Education administrators we must challenge.
The Portuguese sociologist Boaventura De Santos Souza speaks of the desirability of an 'ecology of knowledges' whereby the diverse knowledges of all peoples from all locations and all spaces will be respected, acknowledged and acted upon. Fortunately we have many examples already existing of these more inclusive, democratic and movement oriented uses of knowledge. When Nigel Livingstone's teams of adaptive technologists at the University of Victoria create a new device to assist a young person with limited abilities to function more fully in the world, we are witnessing the use of advanced scientific knowledge combined with the deep personal knowledge of the differently abled young person who together create a new technology for fuller participation.
When researchers and food security activists on Vancouver Island come together to find solutions to producing and distributing Island-based foods as part of the UVic Office of Community-Based Research they are using their collective knowledge to accelerate the pace of change.
In June of 2010, hundreds of activists and engaged scholars gathered in Montreal to imagine a new Canadian Knowledge Commons. You are welcome to check out their Ning site and move things forward.
In May of 2011, perhaps as many as 1000 community activists and academics will gather in Waterloo, Ontario for CUExpo2011. It will be a celebration of the emergent knowledge democracy movement. Lots of time to sign up.
At the world level, many networks are working together to change the policy agendas and funding opportunities which would be more supportive of a knowledge democracy movement. The Global Alliance for Community Engaged Research has recently facilitated a Global Dialogue on South-North Collaboration in dramatically new forms of community and university partnerships.
The stories are already here. They are in our families, our places of work and community centres. We want more visibility for these new ways of using our knowledge collectively to, as Nelson Mandela has said, "Turn the World Around"
Please share and distribute to your friends and through your various networks, websites etc. I think you will agree – these are too good to keep to ourselves.