I Am...Kit -- Building understanding across differences and fostering belonging
This project also has a Changeshop where you can read more about its latest progress.
Go to Changeshop: I Am...Kit -- Fostering Inclusion, Belonging.
L'Arche knows the transformative impact of relationships with people with intellectual disabilities. Its educational kits open students to ourshared humanity.
About Your Organization
Canada, ON, Richmond Hill
Country where this project is creating social impact
Canada, Across Canada
Is your organization a
Non‐profit / NGO / Citizen sector organization
Your role in Education
The type of school(s) your solution is affiliated with
How long has your organization been operating?
More than 5 years
Select the stage that best applies to your solution
Start-Up (a pilot that has just begun operating)
How long has your solution been in operation?
Operating for less than a year
The Need: What problem are you trying to solve?
The need is to give young people a transformative experience and a vision that will help them want to build a school community of inclusion and belonging, and then some tools to start to talk about and implement their vision. Young people often fear those who seem different from them, and they fear being different. Associating with people who are seen as “the other” might jeopardize their own belonging and inclusion. It is easier and "cool" to exclude those who are different, and even to bully them. But at the same time young people have a great desire for fairness and they want to make a difference and to change the world for the better. The vision of L'Arche and Jean Vanier, summed up in our motto, "Help Build a World Where Everyone Belongs!" calls forth student leadership.
The Solution: What is your solution? Be specific!
The solution is to change understandings, perceptions and attitudes towards “the other.” When mainstream students can discover together that they are not so different from those they perceive as "other," in this case, people with intellectual disabilities, their understanding and their actions change. The “I Am…” Kit provides the kind of “aha” moment that is transformative. Students engage the content first themselves in conversation with each other, completing the sentences, “I am..., I love…, I hate…, I dream….” They then watch a short, powerful video in which young adults with intellectual disabilities complete these sentences. Silence invariably reigns! A class discussion is followed by questions and activities to deepen the learning of empathy and transform it into action. Curriculum Services Canada evaluated the “I AM...” Kit and recommends it. We know this is a powerful resource that touches students profoundly. Our contribution to the solution is to make "I AM..." go viral.
The Model: Walk us through a specific example of how your solution makes a difference; include your primary activities
This resource creates a space where students can first talk about their own experience of who they are. This helps them to view the video at a much deeper and more personal level. The Curriculum Services Canada (CSC) evaluation of the “I AM…” Kit states, “The DVD component is based on the actual experiences of individuals who have intellectual disabilities. The information is reliable and relevant , the language is accessible for the targeted audience” (gds. 6-12) and the “Kit presents a balanced perspective.” CSC describes the methodology: “The resource approaches the topic of inclusiveness by providing students with an experiential awareness of the common ground that exists among all people. The pre-viewing activity supports students in deepening their understanding of the DVD’s content. The post-viewing activities provide opportunities for students to engage with the DVD’s content at different levels of understanding. There are opportunities for students to develop their communications, thinking, and problem-solving skills and make personal connections as well as connections to the school community and beyond.” Art and journaling are included. The Kit inspires students to want to get to know those who have intellectual disabilities and, by extension, others who seem different. It also invites them to learn about the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which Canada ratified in 2010, and to work with people with disabilities and others for its implementation in their school and region. (CSC site: http://curriculum.org/resources/258/i-am-kit.)
The Marketplace: Who are your peers and competitors? Identify others also working to address the needs you are and what differentiates you from them. What challenges could these players pose to your success or growth?
L'Arche materials flow from our lived experience. Little similar material exists. The focus on disability extends diversity education beyond ethnicity and race. Anti-bullying material focuses on the negative and tends to exclude the bully. L'Arche offers a positive approach. It awakens empathy through encounters that dissolve stereotypes. Many people in the disability field, trying to change attitudes, focus on the person with a disability, not on mainstream students. Empathy springs from a shared belonging. When we help others belong, we discover we also belong. In fact, no one can truly belong unless everyone belongs! A student wrote, this material "gave us permission to talk about loneliness, belonging--things we think about all the time but other course content does not lead into."
Now that you have thought out your entry, help us pitch it.
Define your company, program, service, or product in 1-2 short sentences [136 characters]
L'Arche Canada's Educational Resources engage students in self-discovery and inspire them to build a world where everyone belongs.
Identify what is innovative about your solution in 1-2 short sentences [136 characters]
Through the "I AM..." Kit, students discover their similarities with those who seem very different from them in ability or limitations.
This Entry is about (Issues)
What has been the impact of your solution to date?
Both teachers and students love "I AM...". Since we began making the "I AM..." video known as an educational resource, its use by teachers has been growing quickly. On Vimeo, since 2009, there were 11,800 loads. In the last year, from March 29, 2011 to March 29, 2012, there were 8208 loads. The week of March 19, there were 236 loads from 16 countries. The video is also on YouTube and has been seen 14,084 times in about 2 years. The Vimeo graph (see jpg) shows that it is educators who are accessing the video--use increases greatly during the school terms and falls off dramatically in the summer, at Christmas, and at March break. We have ourselves used the video with approx. 700 teachers and principals and 3000 students in the Toronto area. I AM.. is an amateur video. We had it enhanced and put on a DVD and wrote a short teacher's guide for it last year. This is the "I AM..." Kit. While most teachers use the online version, we have sold or given away 200 Kits in the past year.
What is your projected impact over the next 1-3 years?
We project that use of "I AM..." (both the online video and the hard copy Kit) will continue to grow exponentially and extend across the USA as well as Canada. In February 2012, we had the Kit evaluated by Curriculum Services Canada. The CSC recommendation and the fact that the Kit is now on the CSC website as a supplementary resource adds much credibility to it for teachers across Canada and beyond who go to this site searching for materials.
What barriers might hinder the success of your project? How do you plan to overcome them?
A lack of human and financial resources limits L'Arche's ability to reach youth in traditional ways, but by engaging social-media-savy young people and by leveraging partnerships we are working to overcome this. We are on some list-serves. We will extend this. We have developed credibility with provincial Departments of Education. Alberta has an online resource for social studies using our materials. Ontario has invited us to give curriculum feedback as a stakeholder in inclusion, diversity education and the disability sector. Most provinces “recommend” our online resource "ibelong.ca." We will leverage this credibility and work with the 50 L'Arche communities across Canada and the USA to spread "I AM..." We have strong local public and Catholic (govt. funded) school board connections.
Winning entries present a strong plan for how they will achieve and track growth. Identify your six-month milestone for growing your impact
We will have a strategic plan in place for a multifacted dissemination of I AM... and will be beginning to implement it.
Identify three major tasks you will have to complete to reach your six-month milestone
Hire a part-time media-savy young person with a passion for increasing empathy among youth.
Develop a multifaceted strategic plan. Develop on-line advertising, splash pages etc and success measurement tools.
Introduce "I AM..." to the 50 L'Arche communities across North America and bring them on board.
Now think bigger! Identify your 12-month impact milestone
"I AM..." will be widely talked about and used by educators in intermediate and senior secondary schools.
Identify three major tasks you will have to complete to reach your 12-month milestone
Apply measurement tools to assess success.
Get "I AM..." recommended by school boards in 10 provinces and 8 US states.
Production of a French version of a video similar to "I AM..." will be underway in Quebec.
Founding Story: We want to hear about your "Aha!" moment. Share the story of where and when the founder(s) saw this solution's potential to change the world [125 words]
(This is a founding story about "I AM..."--not about L'Arche itself, which is a much bigger story told by Jean Vanier in a book.) About 2 years ago a high school principal in the inner city with many at risk students called me to see if there was something L'Arche had--perhaps a video--that he could use for a half-day he was going to spend with grade 11 vocational students. "They are easily bored," he warned. I had just recently viewed the short "I AM..." video and suggested he ask the students to take a few minutes to complete the 4 sentences in the video with each other in several ways, and then show the video and invite their thoughts. The students were very attentive and touched. Of course, they expressed surprise that the responses of people in the video were very similar to their own. The session was a big success. The video's popularity spread by word of mouth. We put the video on Vimeo on the larche.ca Education page, enhanced it to make a DVD, and wrote a short study guide.
Tell us about your partnerships
1. We are linked to 136 L’Arche communities around the world, 50n in North America, each with boards of directors and friends including teachers and social workers. Few have resources for schools. 2. L’Arche Canada’s Educational Initiatives has a strong collaborative curriculum-writing relationship with the Toronto Catholic District School Board, and through its Character Education Program, the York Region District School Board. (Both boards are publicly funded.) 3. Provincial Departments of Education invite us to collaborate on Social Studies, Inclusion, Equity and Diversity curricula.
What type of team (staff, volunteers, etc.) will ensure that you achieve the growth milestones identified in the Social Impact section? [75 words]
Our team will be passionate about the well-being and growth of empathy in young people so as to create a society where every person can belong and contribute. Members will care deeply and optimistically about all young people. They will need good team, and organizational and communication skills, and imagination to innovate. One team member will be a web and media-savy young person eager to spread “I AM…” through social media. Team members will also work well with long-time national and international L’Arche people. Our network of volunteers and educators will help us with dissemination.
Please elaborate on any needs or offers you have mentioned above and/or suggest categories of support that aren't specified within the list
We need $10,000 to implement our marketing plan. Suggestions on sources of investment would be welcome.
We would like immediate advice on how to market "I AM..." to schools in the U.S.A. Later, we want to market internationally to English and French schools.
We can be a resource for the ways people who have differing abilities are represented. We have some editing expertise.