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Summer program will rally activists from around the world

by Alison Ramsey

Community activists from around the world, professional and amateur, will gather at Concordia in mid-June for six days to share information and learn how to be more effective.

The program is titled Developing Civil Society Through Community Action, and marks the first time in its seven-year history that the Institute in Management and Community Development's summer program has gone international. Preparing for the event took two-and-a-half years.

"It got started by setting up an Internet network to better connect and learn about each other's projects," said coordinator Mireille Landry. "With globalization, it's important for communities to have a voice in decisions as well as help make local changes that are needed, which have an impact world-wide."

In 104 sessions throughout the week, more than 1,000 participants representing 450 organiz- ations will foster community activism. Two styles predominate: sessions to develop concrete skills -- the staple of previous years, or sessions that reflect on the practice of community organizing and development.

Members of the Third Avenue Resource Centre in Montreal will both attend sessions and take the stage to show how neighbourhood parents can have more say in their schools.

A Vancouver activist, Brian K. Murphy, will share his thoughts on building a vision to guide daily actions. "So many of us are busy on a day-to-day basis," said Landry, "but it's very, very important to develop your work and unfold a direction."

Newfoundlanders will demonstrate innovative ways that they have used all sorts of media, from radio programs to the Net, to connect people and promote discussion of common issues.

A joint presentation by youth groups in Santiago, Chile and Montreal, who have worked together for a few years, will present ways to work with teens and young adults to lessen their feelings of alienation.

Since traveling to Montreal can be a burdensome expense for these grassroots groups, the Institute has arranged about 50 bursaries to help defray costs for the most needy. It has been able to do so thanks to support from the International Conference on Community Development, the Canadian Association for Community Education, and the International Association for Community Development, who are partners in this year's Summer Program.

In another new twist, two Applied Human Sciences courses have been designed around the week of activities. Students define their own project, based on their interests, attend sessions and talk to participants, then write a paper based on their work.

"They meet to share what they've been learning during the week," Landry said. "It's a very active way of learning and a wonderful opportunity to connect with people in their field."

To find out more about the Institute for Management and Community Development's Summer Program, taking place June 11-16, please call 848-3956.

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