Welcoming Community Movement

WCM Logo rgb 2021Ten years ago, the Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities (GCDD) launched its Real Communities Partnership (RCP) initiative to equip community members at the local, grassroots level to work together toward common goals to improve their community.

The initiative, being led by Global Ubuntu, has expanded its reach by becoming the Welcoming Community Movement (WCM). This change will allow it to address the urgent issues many individuals with and without disabilities are now facing in society and across the state of Georgia.

The Welcoming Community Movement’s goal is to pave the way toward an equitable and just society - foundational of welcoming communities - where people across race, ability, ethnicity, culture, class, socioeconomic background, educational status, gender, and religion are treated with dignity and respect. Dialogues and advocacy are poised to shift culture and attitudes so that everyone can regard others with empathy and compassion, and people feel welcomed and develop a sense of belonging. The WCM is a journey through disabilities and racial justice.

Watch our video below to find out more about the Welcoming Community Movement:

Current partners and communities participating in the Welcoming Community Movement are:

GCDD actively supports these communities in a number of ways, including technical assistance, training, popular education, and at times, financial support. Projects are determined by the Welcoming Community Movement local initiatives, as opposed to GCDD staff, and vary according to local needs and desires. They range from community dialogues on ending discrimination of people with disabilities to inclusive youth movements to challenging the stigma of mental health to cooperatives to community gardens. By handing the reins to individual communities and leading by stepping back, GCDD supports these communities as they flourish and achieve real and lasting community-based change.

Connection and Support: Typically, each Welcoming Community Movement local initiative has a community builder whose role is to build the group, support implementation of the work and create sustainability and accountability. Successful community builders work toward the goals of empowerment – helping people mobilize, obtain resources and develop strategies that promote their interests or causes. A strong community builder seeks to develop leadership in others, as opposed to working on their behalf. With, not for, is a guiding principle for our community builders.

Capacity Building: We support the training and development of each local community building team via coaching and mentoring. Local initiatives are provided coaching and training in the areas of diversity/equity/inclusion, restorative justice and healing, policy and advocacy strategies, and sustainability. With the transition to WCM, change has been noticeable including greater inclusivity, deeper community cohesiveness and collaboration.

Community Dialogues: Dialogues are integral to the Welcoming Community Movement. These are formal and informal conversations with community members, local government, businesses, and everyone willing to actively participate in creating a welcoming community. Welcoming Community Dialogues require active listening and actionable intent at the local and state level to bring about equitable change and alternatives to the current system.

Welcoming Community Movement draws on four sources of knowledge that give all a common language and core of practices.

  • Asset Based Community Development (ABCD) guides the process of community-building.
  • Person-Centered Support guides the discovery of people's gifts and defines the conditions necessary for them to offer those gifts to the Welcoming Community Movement.
  • Purposeful Learning offers a set of disciplines for gaining a deeper understanding of the work.
  • Popular Education helps individuals and groups develop self-actualization to change the conciousness of society in relation to systems of oppression; provides tools to moblize community to be change agents in creating a society free of discrimmination and structural violence.  

Welcoming Community Movement aims to make choice real for more people with developmental disabilities so that they can exercise the responsibility to act as contributing citizens to make their community better for everyone. A WCM Partner accepts four commitments and four responsibilities for learning.

Welcoming Community Movement Four Commitments

1. People with developmental disabilities are active members

People with developmental disabilities are active members who influence the group's direction and participate in doing its work. Action is with people with developmental disabilities, not for them.

This Means Learning ... to keep asking "Whose gifts are missing?" and discovering how to reach out, invite and actively involve people who need personalized support in order to contribute to their community.

2. Action focuses on making the community better for everyone.

Action focuses on making the community better for everyone.The initiative is not about specialized responses to disability but about engaging people who care about working together on local issues of common interest.

This Means Learning ... to listen carefully to fellow citizens outside the circle of those primarily concerned with disability to discover what local issues people care about enough to take action together.

3. Over time, the initiative builds up local capacity for collective action

Over time, the initiative builds up local capacity for collective action by creating and strengthening continuing relationships with a variety of associations and groups. The initiative is not about single victories but about building communities where people have a growing capacity to act together.

This Means Learning ... to build and strengthen local alliances and networks.

4. Participants take responsibility for sharing what they are learning.

Participants take responsibility for sharing what they are learning. The initiative creates new ways for people with developmental disabilities to do the work of active citizenship and makes what they have found available to other communities.

This Means Learning ... to reflect together on the work and identify and communicate its lessons.

This thoughtful, action-learning approach equips community members at the local, grassroots level to use person-centered supports, community-centered connections, and persistent and reflective learning to work toward common goals to improve their community. Purposefully involving people with and without developmental disabilities in collaborative projects is pivotal to the framework of the Welcoming Community Movement.

By handing the reins to individual communities and leading by stepping back, Global Ubuntu helps GCDD support communities throughout the state of Georgia to flourish and achieve real and lasting, community-based change.

For questions regarding the Welcoming Community Movement, contact project organizing director Sumya Karimi at .