Thursday, December 08, 2005
Have you heard about Habitat JAM?
JAM is a worldwide, web-based conversation that occurred recently for about three days. I expect it plans to open up from time to time. The 72-hour Internet event (i.e. web chat conference) that discussed issues of global sustainability, was held Dec 1-3.
In its own PR words: "Tens of thousands of diverse people will join representatives from national/local governments and international organizations, elected leaders and legislators, urban planners and architects, grassroots organizations and global NGOs, experts and academics, financiers and builders, and development specialists in the JAM."
During the three-day event, JAM covered these topics:
Improving the Lives of People Living in Slums
Sustainable Access to Water in Our Cities
Environmental Sustainability in Our Cities
Safety and Security in Our Cities
Finance and Governance in Our Cities
Humanity: The Future of Our Cities
We are still trying to figure it out. But, it is an amazing resource, venue, phenomenon to say the least. Check it out at http://www.habitatjam.com/index.php.
People from around the world posted comments during JAM. And the poor, the very poor were engaged in a powerful way.
I found the following post while rambling around on the site recently:
UN Habitat Executive Director Tibaijuka moved by power of the JAM (December 3, 2005)--
Mrs. Anna Tibaijuka, Executive Director, UN Habitat was moved, today, in an exchange in the JAM on the question "why the habitat jam??"
JAMMING with participants from around the world, Mrs. Tibaijuka said this about the power and potential significance this event could have in driving decision making:
"You are quite right that the problem of slums will not be solved by research alone. However, I am informed that as of last Kenya had the second highest number of registrants participating in the Habitat Jam [today]. The fact that thousands have been willing to patiently wait in line sometimes for hours in order to be able to contribute to this debate has been a profoundly moving experience for me. The fact that the debate on slums has moved from the academic world to streets of cities such as Nairobi, Dakar, Cape Town and Mumbai, Rio, Lima and Manilla is in and of itself powerfulll signal to world leaders on the need for concerted action."
Our experience across the past almost 12 years at CDM fits with what Tibaijuka observed. Low -income people, very low-income people want to be engaged and they have much to offer in every way. Any attempt to understand a problem, much less to really develop strategies to adequately address a problem, that omits the poor and the intelligence of those suffering in poverty from the process is doomed to fail.
JAM was successful and inspirational, at least in part, because it included the people who face the problem daily in the discussion about solutions.
We need to take our low-income neighbors much more seriously than we normally do, especially in our cities in America.