When you hear the Word “Democracy,” what first comes to mind? For me, well it’s some sort of combination of images involving a bald eagle, a waving American flag with its stars and stripes, and maybe superimposed over all that the first few words of the Constitution in gold letters, “We the people of the United States….”
So when my Canadian friend, Francisco, calls and tells me that he’s presenting at a Democracy conference sponsored by a Argentine university here, my immediate reaction is: What do any of those people have any idea about Democracy? Don’t they still swear allegiance to the Queen up there in Canada?
Well, after four intense days of lectures and presentations and discussionat the Rosario International Congress (www.congreso2010en.com.ar/home), its turns out that people from other countries do have at least a couple good ideas when it comes to democracy and civic participation (I mean, they really could have saved all that time and effort if they had just asked my opinion on the topic, being American and all, but they must not have had my number to call or something….)
Truthfully though, I came away from that weekend in Rosario (quite the nice city by the way) realizing just how flat my understanding of Democracy and participation had been. I still have so much to learn, but at least now I know what it is that I don’t know. I was so impressed by the number of people who are already doing such great work.
Just to highlight one example, Francisco presented on the involvement of you in the community of Dorset Park. This case is unique because in the process of designing the community center, the input and perspectives of local youth were actively sought after and included, with great results.
Also during the week, the conference organized a visit to the “Isla de Invención” which is a sort of kid’s center for creativity. Pretty outstanding place, with all sorts of things for kids to do- practically free. But as you can see, Francisco and I had enough fun just posing with the statues…
Overall, it was a really great conference, gave me an appreciation for the importance of seeing the participation of those whom projects are designed to serve…seems so basic, right? But yet for some reason it’s not…