We started the day at our home base, the second floor classroom at CINDE where we’ve met every day this week to hear from speakers, watch videos and presentations, and take pages and pages of notes. This morning, our group’s voices were the only ones in the room as we talked through the progress and evolution of our research questions and brainstormed ways that CINDE and CUNY might stay in touch past the end of this incredibly fast-moving week!  Our conversations aligned with a theme that would emerge time and again throughout the day: cultivation. We moved forward with thoughts of how to cultivate our research, our practice, and our relationships.

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Cultivating Self.

Plato stated “Apply yourself both now and in the next life. Without effort, you cannot be prosperous. Though the land be good, you cannot have an abundant crop without cultivation.” With that being said cultivation of anything provides the ability for ultimate growth. Listen to one Youth Studies student narrating more on the cultivation of self.

Cultivating Youth.

We met with and learned about the organization Colombia Joven, an entity of the Administrative Department of the President, which conducts youth participation in formal spaces. Law 1622 of 2013 allows youth to participate in civic engagement. The two strategies used by Colombia Joven to engage youth are detailed below:

(1) Fútbol to promote peace. An interesting concept to their approach is an adjustment to the rules which insist that a woman must make the first goal of a soccer game. The added stipulation allows for women to be seen as equal to men to combat the inequalities women in Colombia face (which is similar to the U.S.: lack of employment, wage gap, conforming to traditional gender norms). What happens next? Much more needs to be done than just shooting a goal. What can Colombia Joven do to start bridging the gap between this disparity?

(2) Paz a la Joven: Workshops that promote the social construction of peacebuilding. Topics include teamwork, technology, and the portrayal of violence in the media. Youth receive incentives for their participation.

Despite their efforts, youth participation has been relatively low. Youth councils have been formed, but it does not guarantee that the youth are heard. There are more than 12 million youth in Colombia that face many issues including access to education and health, unemployment, motorcycle accidents, suicide, pregnancy, gender roles, and lack of investment in technology. While the government has researched the issues youth are facing to create policy to eradicate them, involving youth in the process will allow for more meaningful work and participation to occur. Seeking out the youth and working alongside them will allow the government to understand why the youth are suffering. It will also allow a youth–adult partnership to be built to demolish the negative perceptions that society has about youth as well as the negative perception that the government does not care about youth.  The missing piece of the puzzle is the incoming president, who begins his term soon. How will his administration affect how youth work is done? Hopefully, youth are included in the conversation so that they receive the appropriate supports.

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http://www.colectivoagrarioabyayala.org/2011/05/colectivo-agrario-abya-yala.html

Cultivating Community.

Today’s speakers came from a variety of backgrounds but all emphasized the importance of cultivating community in their respective work. Listening to the speaker from ColombiaJoven, his commitment to nurturing a community of practice through research to improve youth engagement in political processes and bodies was clear. Hearing from the Abya Yala agrarian collective, the horizontal nature of the organization and the focus on connecting urban and rural youth around disparate struggles and common causes painted a picture of deep, intentional community-building. The speaker from Wayra del Sur spoke to building local community around a physical place—the garden—and actions: shared work, shared love of soccer, and shared hope.

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Cultivating the Earth.

Today’s experience around public policy and participation with youth brought to light a new perspective of how public engagement is viewed. This new perspective arose from conversations that we had throughout the week around the displacement of indigenous peoples, Afro-Colombians, farmers in Colombia and the idea that the displacement of these cultures has disconnected the true identity of Colombia. In numerous dialogues, various presenters emphasized the ways the country can learn about peace and prosperity if they take the time to learn from these cultural values while also teaching them to learn from one another so that these lost cultures are made visible again. After all, they are a part of the larger community that makes Colombia whole. Today was an extension of that conversation in which this way of thinking can activate participation in youth. So you may ask: what is this perspective?

This afternoon the two collectives from Abya Yala and Wayra del Sur spoke about the need to preserve and cultivate the earth for after all the earth is what nourishes us, created us and unifies us. The group’s name Abya Yala stems from and translates to “fertile land”/ “land of vital blood.” Their mission is to reconnect with indigenous and Black roots and advocate against their displacement and destruction of their agriculture. Participation roots from supporting lost cultures becoming visible once again and that these cultures are recognized as a part of the society through the appreciation of natural resources in which they live. This appreciation comes from realizing that these rural areas feed the country and provide all of the resources that the country uses, so how is it possible to dignify these cultures? Wayra del Sur exercises cultivation of the earth by organizing projects for youth to create community gardens in Bogota. These community gardens allow for public spaces to be redefined and have all members of the community participate in the cultivation of their growth. In addition, they also received funding from the Mayor’s Office of Bolivar to host annual street festivals where the community can participate together in numerous activities, allow local farmer markets to generate business within the community and appreciate the “grounds” in which they live. This ideology of participation of/for the earth creates a new discussion about the way we view citizenship, community connection and mobilization of peace.

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