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If You Want to Be an Optimist

"If you want to be an optimist, stand on your head. The world looks a lot better from the bottom up than it does from the top down." That's how New York Times columnist Tom Friedman, speaking recently at the Brookings Institution, summed up how massive shifts in technology, globalization, and climate change are fundamentally reshaping our world in ways that huge "top-down" governance seems unable to effectively address. "The healthy community is actually the proper governing unit," he says. In other words, those who are living with the effects of climate change, closed factories, or substandard schools, are the very ones we should be listening to and standing with. The "bottom-up" approach should be the heart and soul of our mission to create effective leaders. Unlike top-down learning which comes to us as final, fixed and authoritative, contextual learning is knowledge that comes bubbling up from the ground, from the margins of society. It is experiential, experimental and evolving. It arises out of struggle and is sometimes controversial, but it is utterly fresh and deeply relevant. We believe there IS reason for optimism and we have shifted our energies and resources to impact the world on a global scale - turning the world on its head by creating leaders who are trained to see and act differently. At a time when extremism is gaining momentum, we are working to identify and train effective religious leaders, people of faith and of goodwill who will engage in powerful and effective action for justice and peace in their cities. We are equipping those in churches, mosques, synagogues, temples, neighborhoods, civic and civil rights organizations with compelling, results-oriented tools for building justice and peace.

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