Former Director "Reforming Social Services: Canada-Ukraine Project"

Round-table “Initiative from within the community as a factor in considering differences and achieving respect in the establishment of civil society" 

October 3 

Welcoming Remarks

Thank you for the opportunity to welcome you to the 2013 version of Ecumenical Social Week and this Roundtable discussion on community initiatives in developing civil society.  Although I cannot be present in person, I trust that through my words as spoken to you by my close friend and colleague, Dr. Nina Hayduk, you will know that I am with you in spirit.  I have tremendous respect for the contributions each of you has made to connect the community to the university.  I also want you to know that the significance of this is recognized by all of my colleagues who participated in the Reforming Social Services: Canada-Ukraine Project both during the project phase from 1999 to 2003, and then in the decade that has followed since 2003.  Community-university partnerships are integral to building a viable civil society which respects diversity, builds on strengths and needs, and supports all citizens in realizing their potential. 

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As I look back on this, the tenth anniversary of the ‘official’ end of the Reforming Social Services: Canada-Ukraine Project, I am conscious of three important things that relate to the theme of your Roundtable.

First, I think we recognized early on, as you did, that our initiatives in social work education and supporting inclusion in the area of disabilities would be unsuccessful without the active engagement of the community.  This was the reason for the development of a partnership between the Disability community and the Lviv Polytechnic National University, an early Advisory Committee, the provision of field instructor training and other workshops to community-based professionals, and somewhat later, a course on Innovations in Social Development.  But it is your collective efforts that have taken this much further since 2003, even without much in the way of financial resources.  The development of the partnerships around Ecumenical Social Week, project funding for innovations launched by graduate students, and the graduation of students who are smart, committed to social justice, and engaged in social action in the community are but a few of these examples.

Second is the sustainability of initiatives that were launched between 1999 and 2003 under the umbrella of the project.  Yes, there have been challenges along the way.  But it is important to recognize that the results have been not only the continuation of programs started in the first stage, but also the dramatic expansion of these early initiatives in ways that are making a much bigger difference that we could have imagined at the beginning.  The Disability Component has broadened the understanding of what inclusion really means even if much more remains to be done.  The Social Work Education Component has expanded to include undergraduate and graduate degrees in Social Work and Sociology, and an important partnership between these two disciplines.  As well, important partnerships with other universities have been established that have helped to establish local initiatives and promote education in social work and social welfare at the national level.

Finally there is the question of benefits that come to each of us through the partnerships we establish internationally, nationally and locally.  At an international level, I hope that those of us in Canada have made a small contribution, through the project, to developments here in Lviv and in Ukraine more generally.  But I also want you to recognize how much we have learned through our connections with you – about friendships, about how to work effectively in an international social development project, and about how much can be done when committed people work together to make change happen.  The mutual benefits that arise from your ongoing cooperative efforts between the community and universities are no different – each is empowered and changed by working together in ways that value respectful dialogue, and then share the hard work that follows to make sure that the progressive changes that are envisioned become a reality. 

On behalf of my colleagues in Canada, I hope the presentations and discussions that occur in this roundtable and throughout Ecumenical Social Week make a continuing contribution to this goal.