Rajni Bakshi, author and founder of Ahimsa Conversations |
The Blue Ribbon Movement trains youth to be community leaders by focusing on principles of volunteering, deep democracy and shared power
For Abhishek Thakore, a second generation Mumbaikar, inspiration came from Mahatma Gandhi and Vinoba Bhave. “I love Mumbai, and I believe that if we all felt involved in the city, we could bring a change in the form of deep democracy,” said the 41-year-old.
Thakore founded the Blue Ribbon Movement in 2000 as an 18-year-old. “Back then, it was a bunch of young people volunteering and working wherever needed. I revived the movement in 2011, when we started working on the principles of deep democracy and Bhave's Sarv-Anumati,” he said.
Sarv-Anumati works on the concept of ‘consent of all’, and the Blue Ribbon Movement tries to innovate around this practice of full consent and collective decision making.
Primarily, the Blue Ribbon Movement tries to build a generation of community leaders through action-reflection, systemic understanding and fostering a culture of shared power through the process of deep democracy. At the root of the idea is that these connections and partnerships can effect long-term social change.
The movement works to build community participation in civic actions, primarily in and around Mumbai. "Community Connect encourages youth to initiate social change by taking them through a step-by-step journey. This involves building awareness, increasing knowledge and empowering them with skills and leadership tools to take action,” Thakore said.
“At the Blue Ribbon Movement, we believe in long term, self-initiated change. We believe in invoking deep democracy through different initiatives that start with a three-hour ‘act-a-thon’ where youth learn the tools of accountability within the civic system, then a three-month challenge, followed by a three-year fellowship. This helps them build a lifelong connection with the Blue Ribbon Movement,” Thakore said. The Blue Ribbon Movement volunteers are all below 30 years, and those who cross that age become ‘friends of the movement’.
Leading up to the upcoming Municipal elections in Mumbai, they are encouraging involvement from a larger public through interactive games, civic sessions, conversations with prominent citizens, local audits and a Citizen Manifesto.
Author Rajni Bakshi, founder of the YouTube channel Ahimsa Conversations, said she is fascinated by the energy of the Blue Ribbon Movement, their internal cohesion among a large group of people from diverse social backgrounds, and their processes for internal dialogue and mutual creativity.
“At a time when social and political lives are becoming increasingly polarised, they are making an attempt to listen to everyone, and are trying to find ways to go beyond the polarisation,” Bakshi said.
On the Blue Ribbon Movement’s work on Sarv-Anumati and self-governance, Bakshi said,”For a young group in Mumbai that has no other direct connection with the Gandhi-Vinoba legacy, the work they have done and to be willing to learn from that legacy is amazing.”
Thakore, who also works on leadership development for youth through various organisations, believes that the biggest challenge while working with young people is their shrinking attention span. “It has become ever so difficult and yet important to bring to their attention means of achieving small changes through persistence,” he said.