Learning Together On December 5, 2019 we inaugurated the WVU Center for Resilient Communities in the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences. It was a momentous occasion; closing a chapter on many years of hard work and opening a new chapter. Surrounded by our university and community partners, colleagues, friends and family we embraced one another and committed to build this distinctive institution for West Virginia. Dean Greg Dunaway marked the event with aspirational words that we continue to hold dear. “I believe what we are about to start today will be truly transformational, not just for the state of West Virginia but the way we think about higher education in general. The Center for Resilient Communities promises to be a conduit for changing communities and, by extension, individual lives. But it also points to a new direction in how academics think about their work and engage communities more effectively in praxis.” (December 5, 2019)
Speaking to the nature of praxis in engaging communities, a guiding partner Marz Attar of the One Foundation urged us to consider the importance of humility and embodying principles of ground up learning and creative action: “The world is in crisis. We need one another to vision together, to creatively imagine, to collaboratively strategize and to take action to heal our communities. In order to serve appropriately, we must begin with attention to the ground to understand the root causes of disharmony, hardship and the realities facing our communities.” (December 5, 2019) Strengthened by these leading words and the posture they demand, the CRC entered 2020 with a unified spirit and a sense of collective purpose. Little did we know how important this moment would be; a kind of calm before a storm whose winds and tests would leave few in its path untouched.
Within just a few short months we are all suddenly and unexpectedly confronted by an unprecedented pandemic, an economic catastrophe, a reckoning with racial oppression, and a struggle over the future of democracy in the United States. For those of us who served the CRC in 2020, these trials not only confirmed the need for our fledgling center and gave meaning to our daily work but also tested our resolve in efforts to develop and deliver on promises to our colleagues, students and our partners; to accompany them in service to communities advancing equity, justice and social transformation. The CRC has needed to adapt our plans, programs and personnel internally to realign our goals with the evolving and uncertain situation on the ground with our current and emerging partners. Through it all, we have been humbled by the limits of our efforts, reinforced by the power of mutual accompaniment with our partners, and carried forward by faith in action that has enabled us to make modest but important gains. In reflection, it is perhaps appropriate that a center whose moniker includes the word resilience would be forced to engage directly with this range of social problems, disasters and tumult in its first year. Indeed, we would need to learn through experience how to live resiliently, work patiently, to make our distinctive contribution to address the root causes of these injustices and to find ways to work with others to build alternatives.
The world is in crisis. We need one another to vision together, to creatively imagine, to collaboratively strategize and to take action to heal our communities. In order to serve appropriately, we must begin with attention to the ground to understand the root causes of disharmony, hardship and the realities facing our communities. Marz Attar, Founder of the One Foundation
While the events of 2020 may recede into our individual and collective memories, the trauma of this past year will not. This past year, we bore witness to the deep problems we must learn to understand and to solve together. We remain ever vigilant to align our research, action and educational processes with the noble goals of a more just, democratic, ecologically sound, and caring society where all people may live with dignity and where each person is afforded every opportunity to develop the fullness of their potential and to share their gifts. As we highlight throughout this annual report, the CRC has learned together that our approaches to listening, action research, education, engagement, development and partnership-building are just beginning to bear fruit. We offer our sincere gratitude to our supporters in 2020 and invite each of you to join us in 2021 as we learn together in the path of collaborative action, collective inquiry and social transformation. In peace and solidarity,
Bradley R. Wilson,
Ph.D. Director, WVU Center for Resilient Communities
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