Literature can Change Lives

Written by Ray Gordezky Wednesday, 19 January 2011 01:54

Twenty years ago, UMass Dartmouth English professor Robert Waxler and Judge Robert Kane came up with a revolutionary idea while playing tennis on UMD's campus courts.

“We were disenchanted with turnstile justice,” Waxler said, “and we saw an opportunity.”

The two men, along with New Bedford District Court Probation Officer Wayne St. Pierre began the program known as “Changing Lives Through Literature.”

In Changing Lives, criminals are sentenced to probation instead of incarceration, and as part of that probation they must complete a Modern American Literature seminar taught by Waxler.

The first class of “students” began the program in the fall of 1991. That class was comprised of eight men with significant criminal histories and 148 convictions among them. Just like the now-38 classes that have followed them, these men met and discussed books for 12 weeks in a seminar-style classroom on the UMD campus, along with Judge Kane and their parole officers.

The results have been impressive. In a 1998 followup study, the first 32 men to complete the CLTL program were evaluated and interviewed. Findings showed their recidivism rate — that is, committing new crimes — to be less than 20 percent, compared to the average recidivism rate of 45 percent.

via SouthCoastToday


What could happen if we introduce poetry and literature into organzations and communities without apology, but with full anticipation that it will help engage the heart and spirit?


Developments in Social Innovation


Written by Ingrid Richter Thursday, 13 January 2011 16:01

hello out there, seems like a big news day. Just got this newsletter from the McConnell Foundation, and it contains a lot of good links on social innovation. Check it out! expand »


Complexity and Poverty

Written by Ingrid Richter Thursday, 13 January 2011 15:54

Found this blog, aidontheedge, and if you haven't seen it, I thought you might enjoy the ideas that link complexity with how we tend to approach poverty alleviation initiatives. A quote: expand »

"...Because of our urgency to end poverty, we act as if development is a construction, a matter of planning and engineering, rather the complex and often opaque set of interactions that we know it to be..."


Developmental Evaluation

Written by Ray Gordezky Thursday, 13 January 2011 01:15

Developmental Evaluation is a fairly recent approach to evaluation that combines the rigour and critical thinking of traditional evaluation with initiatives that are high in uncertainty and complexity. Initiatives with multiple stakeholders, face-paced decision making and a great deal of uncertainty require approaches to evaluation that are more flexible and learning-in-real-time focussed. The J.W. McConnell Family Foundation has recently published a practitioner's guide to developmental evaluation. You can download the publication here.


Seeing Other Than

Written by Ray Gordezky Friday, 12 February 2010 19:48

I was born with a wandering left eye that worked as if it had a mind of its own, or perhaps no mind at all. It wandered about its socket, roving from side to side as if what was before its gaze did not hold enough interest for longer than a few milliseconds. As a consequence of this wandering eye, two images of the same thing would tango left-right, right-left. Nothing held still, nothing was static; everything dynamic and doubled.

This wandering eye was my doorway into otherness, meaning I could see things both as most people saw them, and also as something other than. It gave everything a shadow, a way of being that was other than.  Trees could be both still and in movement; faces could be both calm and tense; the ocean not a simple ebb and flow but a complex rush and crash of foam and waterfall. It isn’t wishful thinking, or even psychotic, to see lambs in lions.


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