New Volume Presents Perspectives on the Longtime Collaboration Between KF and Cuban Environmental Organization

Active Citizenship compiles some of the most compelling presentations from the 2016 conference, including many stories of how citizens in Cuba, as well as the US, have worked to address problems in their communities.

If you’re a regular participant in Kettering research exchanges, particularly our multinational ones, you have probably heard that Kettering has been engaged in ongoing learning with a Cuban nongovernmental organization (NGO), but may not know much more than that. That’s why we’re so excited to have published Active Citizenship, which illuminates this particularly unique relationship and the learning that has emerged from it.

The Kettering Foundation and the Antonio Núñez Jiménez Foundation for Nature and Humanity (FANJ) have been engaged in a nearly two-decade exchange that has evolved and deepened the understanding of how active citizenship can be strengthened and nurtured throughout the Western Hemisphere. To date, there have been five conferences: two held in Cartagena, Colombia, in 2008 and 2009, and three held in Havana, Cuba, in 2014, 2016, and most recently in late January 2018. 

For KF, there is particular interest in learning how NGOs that work with citizens in communities are able to align their work with that of an active citizenry—especially in addressing the kinds of complex problems that require an array of community actors to address them. There are rich opportunities for learning from the work of FANJ and other organizations it works with in encouraging active citizenship to address domestic issues in Cuba, particularly at the local level of neighborhoods, villages, towns, and regions.

The recently published volume is based on the February 2016 exchange titled “Active Citizenship for a Sustainable Economy.” While building on the 2014 exchange, this one took a sharper focus, allowing Kettering to highlight its research on civil economics or the role of citizens as economic actors strengthening their communities. Judy Braus, president of the North American Association of Environmental Educators, describes her organization’s efforts to encourage deliberation about environmental issues in schools and other educational settings; while Betty Knighton, then director of the West Virginia Center for Civic Life, focuses on a statewide initiative to encourage people in communities to think about the economic future of the state and how they might help to shape it. The piece by Liliana Núñez, FANJ president, and Roberto Sánchez, director of the FANJ nature and community program, speaks to the role of active citizenship in developing a sustainable economy in their piece, “Cayucas SOS: Active Citizenship for a Sustainable Economy.” So does Rafael Hernández, director of Temas magazine, in his article, “Cuba: Spaces for Citizenship in the Political Context of the Transition.” The central conflicts that need to be worked through in order to have a sustainable economy are addressed in the piece by John Dedrick, KF vice president and program director, and in the overview of Cuba’s economic trajectory by Ricardo Torres, professor with the Center for Studies of Cuban Economy CEEC; while Marta Núñez, a sociologist and professor at the University of Havana, focuses on one of the “unresolved issues,” as she calls female employment in the new Cuban economic model. The last piece in this collection is based on the closing remarks delivered by KF president David Mathews on the value and role of an active citizenry in reinforcing the work of institutions. 

The exchange that this publication represents also opened up opportunities to further explore the work of active citizens in communities that are facing severe environmental disasters and the effects of climate change. This work forms the core of the recent exchange held in January in Havana. Look for a full report on that to be published in the next year.

Download your free copy of Active Citizenship.