Study Circles: Creating Grass Roots Democracy, Informed Citizenry, and a Third Political Alternative
Athar Osama August 17th, 2007
By: Athar Osama
Study Circles are not a new concept–either to the world or to Pakistan. The idea of Study Circles to promote “informed” community participation in decision-making originated in Sweden in the 19th Century. They promote collaborative learning and knowledge sharing, community participation, and grass roots deliberative democracy. Study Circles can be highly informal–or highly formal–networks (6-10 people) who meet regularly over tea, coffee, or a potluck meal to discuss an issue of mutual interest to the members.
The purpose Understanding Pakistan Project is to help Pakistanis around the world enhance the understanding of their country and become ”informed” citizens who could actively and meaningfully participate in the democratic process.
We Pakistanis often gripe about the lack of well-informed and well-intentioned participation of the more educated out of us in our democracy. In our desperation to find an alternative to despotic military regimes or corrupt civilian rule, we often ask ourselves a question: Is there a third way? Can we create an alternate political force that can rise above the petty politics of the day to steer Pakistan towards its destiny.
We, at Understanding Pakistan, believe that there is an alternative — a third way. That third way is for all of Us–Pakistanis in Pakistan and around the world–who have so far stayed on the sidelines of Pakistani politics and democracy–to educate ourselves and get involved into the politics of our country. There is no higher calling for a patriot–that all of us claim to be–but to educate ourselves and get involved with our country’s political scene.
With that aspiration in mind, Understanding Pakistan is hoping to take one step further than merely serving as a web-based tool to ”inform and educate” ourselves and take this learning and interaction to the real-world. We’re encouraging Pakistanis around the world to create Understanding Pakistan Study Circles over the next several months in major cities of the world to empower Pakistanis–and Friends of Pakistan–to educate and get to know each other and build a community committed to taking on the difficult task of engaging with, reforming, and rebuilding Pakistan through the underlying principles of the Understanding Pakistan Project. This, we believe, is the surest way to creating decentralized and grass-roots democracy in Pakistan.
We, at Understanding Pakistan believe that this project presents an ultimate opportunity to put the concept of grass-roots, informed, deliberative democracy into action. To learn more about how and why, please click here.
Register your thoughts and ideas in the comments section, register on the mailing list by sending a blank email to UnderstandingPakistanemail@example.com to receive regular updates about study circle in area/city or send us an email at Athar.Osama@gmail.com if you’re interested in championing the cause.
We strongly encourage you to consider creating or joining a study circle and take one more baby-step forward towards creating a better, more democratic, and prosperous Pakistan.
Join one so that tomorrow, when you hand over the reigns of Pakistan to your children, you leave it better than what you got from your parents and that you are atleast able to look them in the eye and say, “I probably wasn’t able to solve all the problems, but I did the best I could”. Ask yourself the question, are you doing the best you can?
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