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Community: Philia - A Dialogue On Caring Citizenship

Philia is a greek word meaning the bonds of friendship that unite members of a community. Other sense of the word include the force of caring that binds communities together and "the reserve of human warmth, affect, enthusiasm and generosity that nourishes and stimulates the fellowship that is the heart of civic life."

The meaning in this word has been embraced through the creation of Philia: A Dialogue on Citizenship, an organization built on the following beliefs...

Philia Beliefs

  • Citizenship involves belonging, rights, responsibilities, relationships and contributions.
  • People with disabilities have both the capacity and responsibility to exercise their citizenship.
  • People with disabilities have unique and critical contributions to make to the health and well being of our communities.
  • Focusing on disability and handicap overshadows an individualís gifts, skills and talents.
  • Our communities and neighbourhoods are inherently resilient and hospitable.
  • Ensuring the active presence of people with disabilities in community life benefits families, neighbourhoods and communities.

Belonging

These ideas resonate with Jean Vanier's work in developing communities of belonging.

One of the areas in the Philia website that I particularly like is the section on Foundational Values. This is an important dimension of learning. I can't recall a single instance in my own education when I was asked the question, "What do you value in life?" nor can I recall being introduced to the values that other people have. The approach to exploring values in Philia is an intelligent one:

"Civic values are "universal" in the sense that, despite the varied forms they take from one culture or tradition to the other, they are present in all societies. They are the values that support what we are calling Philia: that reserve of human warmth, affect, enthusiasm and generosity that nourishes and stimulates the fellowship that is at the heart of civic life."

Resilience

One universal value that Philia has recognized is resilience. I captured some of the more pressing challenges with resilience in a previous entry called Resilience - A Teachable Skill? Philia's stance on resilience is:

"An understanding of resilience suggests that individuals, families and communities have a basic integrity and a built in capacity to heal, transform, modify, adapt and survive. It opens up a way of thinking that reminds us we are not passive recipients in need of outside support and intervention."

The phrase "we are not passive recipients in need of outside support and intervention" is vital to developing meaningful ways of building community resilience. In Manufacturing Victims, Tana Dineen introduced us to the darker side of how the psychology industry abuses ideas about resilience as a means to victimize people. Discussions about resilience in Philia are focused on building resilience in communities and recognize that the source is naturally within individuals, families and communities.

If Philia is "the force of caring that binds communities together" then it is also a learning process. It would be nice to see "Learning and Communities" as a separate theme that is focused on exploring and describing the learning processes involved in building and maintaining the force of caring.


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