The Living Library
April 11, 2018
About our project
For our community action project, we hosted a living library, a community event where participants come to “read” the human “books.” At our Living Library, participants experienced first hand accounts of adventure, adversity, and tales from around the world. Our human “books” included representatives from different cultures, professions, and marginalized groups within the Victoria community. We had a representative from the Victoria Police Department, Victoria City Council, Indigenous Perspectives Society, as well as advocates for mental health, for the LGBTQ+ community, and a youth from the Muslim community. We chose these community leaders specifically because we wanted to tackle issues about gender equality, islamophobia, indigenous relations and reconciliation, and well as stigma around mental health. Through the Living Library we provided a platform for these six leaders to speak their truth while also opening up a safe space for participants to be inquisitive, to ask difficult questions, and to seek a deeper knowledge of these issues.
Through this event we created a safe, inclusive space to break down stereotypes and dismantle prejudices through the power of human connection. At our event, people of different backgrounds, cultures and experiences were able to express themselves, have the chance to be heard, and the chance to be understood and accepted. Participants were able to ask questions, to listen, and to engage with decision makers in our community on a personal level. These decision makers heard directly from community members regarding their personal experiences, concerns about discrimination, and inequalities; as well as potential solutions and what community members are currently doing to address these issues. In hosting our event, participants expressed that they gained a better understanding of marginalized groups within our community while also forging a deeper sense of connection and respect for people that are often seen as “others” and “different”. Participants expressed that they felt inspired and were so grateful to have an opportunity to collaborate with fellow participants and with community leaders. Many encouraged us to do another Living Library event!
Human rights are fundamental rights that belong to all people simply because they are human, thus it is imperative that they be upheld in our communities. It is our responsibility to create and maintain a society that respects human rights. Though this may seem like a difficult and overwhelming task, each one of us can integrate a human rights lense into our daily lives in simple yet profound ways. We can promote and protect human rights through our words and actions, through the way we interact with others, by spreading awareness, educating ourselves and others, speaking out, and taking action in our communities through projects and initiatives. Through our Living Library Event, we took action to educate others about current human rights issues in our community. Our event provided a platform for six representatives of diverse backgrounds to speak out about issues of injustice, discrimination, and prejudice. In creating a safe space for people to interact and learn from one another, we hope that their attitudes and behaviors will shift to be more in line with human rights. Participants expressed that this event was very successful in its goal and expressed that they felt incredibly inspired to carry this work forward.
To a group of youth wanting to take action in their community through a project, we highly recommend that you put time and effort into getting to know one another so that you can successfully work as a team. Come up with a set of guidelines and team values that everyone can agree to follow. This way you can better navigate stressful situations that may come up including conflict, decision making, and changes as they arise. Team members all have something great to contribute; therefore, stay open to people’s ideas and suggestions and be flexible when things change throughout the process. Tap into each team member’s unique skills, personal networks, and resources to contribute to the overall project goals. In order to stay organized and on track, meet frequently-once a week if possible! Check in with each other and follow up on action items. Do not underestimate how much time you will need to complete tasks, to get in touch with decision makers, to book space, etc. It worked very well for us to have a shared google doc where we kept all notes from meetings, ideas, schedules, contact information, project descriptions, etc. This way all group members have access to the document at any time. One piece that we wished we would have done a better job on was promoting our event. From this we learned that it would be best to have a strategy for promotion that includes multiple platforms and to do this in plenty of time before the event. When setting a day/time/place for your event, be mindful of your target audience and make sure that it is convenient for them. Finally, be sure to reflect on your progress, goals, and outcomes.
After we have completed the Living Library portion of our project, our group took a step further by facilitating a workshop on human rights for youth groups in the community. We wanted to share our knowledge and our arsenal of fun, educational activities to help leadership groups incorporate a human rights lense into the projects they do. We have already made a workbook for this, completed with information about human rights, activities, icebreakers, and tips on project management. At this workshop we showcased our project through the video, photos, and feedback that we had from our Living Library event. This way, the event will be carried forth and multiplied by other youth in the community. Our overall goal to empower youth to take action through leadership and create a ripple effect that brings increased awareness around human rights issues in our community. Going forward we want to be available as a resource for other youth doing projects in our community and to share the workbook we made with other groups and schools. We plan to use what we have learned and apply it to future school and work environments!
The Living Library Video!
click here to see our video!