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Stoddard: Global Vermonter, George Hamilton

10/03/12 7:55AM By Fran Stoddard
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(Host) Vermont is home to a remarkable number of businesses and non profits doing positive work around the globe. They are exporting Vermont values and know how and importing a deeper understanding of our rapidly changing world. Fran Stoddard has been taking note of some of these innovators that bring the best of Vermont to international development.

(Stoddard) The Institute for Sustainable Communities was founded 20 years ago by former Governor Madeleine Kunin, after a visit to Bulgaria. She saw the need in countries without a tradition of democracy to learn and create a new way to govern. Vermont has a lot to offer in helping countries making that transition. She asked George Hamilton, her policy director at the time, and on that seminal trip, to lead the newly formed organization.

(Hamilton) The original goal of the Institute was to help other countries develop solutions to local problems that last, because coming from a place like Vermont, where community is so strong a value; where different people can come together around a common set of problems and solve them together, was an idea in eastern Europe, that was v. popular. People wanted to have decentralized decision making. People want the ability to have a say over their future and the future of their family.

ISC has now extended its reach and impact to 80 projects in 24 countries, focusing on helping citizens develop skills to improve the environment and create sustainable communities. And it still holds the Vermont vision that created it and the Vermont values that guide it.

(Hamilton) I think it's partly the feeling of a sense of responsibility and this community spirit that we have. People want to be listened to and in Vermont we have that by nature. You cannot ignore your neighbors, Right? It's very close; it's a very small community and I think that gives you this idea that you've got to respect each other. You've got to work together. And that is not easy in many places in the world where there is a lot of conflict.

Hamilton and his team organize powerful partnerships with business, government, and universities committed to solutions that stand up to the complex threats of climate disruption and unaccountable institutions.

(Hamilton) Having all those groups work together is critical... it's about actually realizing that we all have a part to play in the solution and if we work together it will be much more efficient in achieving a solution.

The formula is simple; bringing people together to listen and learn, identifying possible pathways for change, and supporting locals as they move toward creating strong organizations and networks. From Mississippi to Russia , Serbia , and China , people are finding a new confidence to solve their own problems into the future.

Hamilton also recognizes a benefit of international development work for Vermonters.

(Hamilton) I think we bring back a lot of fresh ideas. From where we work around the world we can come back and help VT solve diff problems for example we're working on Resilient VT. We've worked in the Gulf after Katrina, we worked in Sichuan, China after the earthquake; we're working several areas and... we can bring those lessons back to VT to help VT communities.

A growing number of Vermonters are taking on the planet's thorniest challenges with profound results.



 
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