Great Lakes Consortium
Each year, the Great Lakes Consortium for International Training and Development supports international programming for both local communities and communities throughout the globe. The program has supported humanitarian, community development and educational initiatives in Africa, Asia, Europe and the Middle East. The consortium has also supported delegations of visitors to the United States, specifically the northwest Ohio region, to build connections between local and global leaders.
The Great Lakes Consortium for International Training & Development builds global connections that make local impacts. In its 20-year history, the consortium has welcomed more than 1,200 international guests from 18 countries to the United States, and has sent nearly 1,000 Americans overseas for professional development to address cultural, economic, humanitarian and other needs.
The consortium began in 1999 and is a cooperative effort of Bowling Green State University, Lourdes University, the University of Toledo and Great Lakes Community Action Partnership.
There are four fundamental strategies available to neighborhood groups to address community problems: community organizing, advocacy, service delivery or development. There is no right or wrong strategy – each organization has to choose among them constantly. Each group should specialize – the skills needed to do a good job in one are seldom those needed for another. Sometimes, groups use a combination of strategies. What is important here is that you know what you’re doing – that the method matches the strategy you’ve chosen and they both match the mission the group has adopted.
Community organizing is characterized by the mobilizing of volunteers. Staff roles are limited to helping volunteers become effective, to guiding the learning of leaders through the process, and to helping create the mechanism for the group to advocate on their own behalf. Community organizing almost always includes confrontation of some sort. The people who want something get themselves together to ask for it, often the people who could give them what they want get jumpy. Community organizing strategies include meeting with corporate or government decision makers to hold them accountable for their actions, designing programs for others (not the group) to implement that meet the needs of the community, and aggressive group action to block negative developments or behaviors (highway construction that leads to neighborhood destruction, etc.).
Community organizing is the process of building power through involving a constituency in identifying problems they share and the solutions to those problems that they desire; identifying the people and structures that can make those solutions possible; enlisting those targets in the effort through negotiation and using confrontation and pressure when needed; and building an institution that is democratically controlled by that constituency that can develop the capacity to take on further problems and that embodies the will and the power of that constituency.
Shaping Participatory Democracy
The Shaping Participatory Democracy Professional Fellows Program is a two-way exchange program for professionals and leaders from the United States and Albania, Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, and Slovakia. The first step of the program starts with international fellows traveling to the United States for professional development opportunities with host organizations throughout the country. Mentors help international fellows learn American methods in shaping participatory democracy in communities while comparing one another's professional experiences. The U.S. mentors then make a reciprocal visit to international fellows’ countries for consultations and trainings.
International Program Specialist