Promoting Tolerance and Understanding
“Working with the Living Library you realize that everybody has prejudices. We don’t believe that there is a single person on the planet, who can truly say they are free of prejudice.”
JULY 19, 2009 – The Living Library is an innovative method designed to promote dialogue, reduce prejudices and encourage understanding. The main characteristics of this world-wide project are to be found in its simplicity and positive approach.
In its initial form the Living Library is a mobile library set up as a space for dialogue and interaction. Visitors to the Living Library are given the opportunity to speak informally with ‘people on loan’ – this latter group being extremely varied in age, sex and cultural background.
The Living Library enables groups to break stereotypes by challenging the most common prejudices in a positive and humorous manner. It is a concrete, easily transferable and affordable way of promoting tolerance and understanding.
It is a ‘keep it simple – no-nonsense’ contribution to social cohesion in multicultural societies.
Crucial partners in the development
One of the creators, Ronni Abergel, realizing the potential of the idea, decided after the first event, to begin to work to promote the idea to potential new organizers. Since then he has travelled to many countries to organize, launch events and present the idea to interested organizations and public authorities. There are currently organizers in over 30 countries participating in this program. One of the first organizations to take ear to the idea was the Council of Europe. Without the support and dedication of the Nordic Minister Council and the youth directorate of the Council of Europe, this idea might never have had the chance to reach a global audience. Through the past six years the respective organizations have been crucial partners in the development of the Living Library, from supporting the production of the manual to helping with funding for launch events in different countries.
The History of the Living Library
This non-governmental youth movement was self initiated by five young people. Dany Abergel, Asma Mouna, Christoffer Erichsen, Thomas Bertelsen and Ronni Abergel from Copenhagen, after a mutual friend was stabbed in the nightlife (1993). The brutal attack on their friend, who luckily survived, made the five youngsters decide to try and do something about the problem. The aim was to raise awareness and use peer group education to mobilise Danish youngsters against violence. In a few years the organisation had 30.000 members all over the country.
The Living Library organization aims to unite active organizers from all parts of the world and to promote the use of the Living Library in efforts to create more social cohesion and respect for diversity and human rights. Through the global organizers forum and activities in countries around the world, the network works to recruit and train new organizers, share experiences and further develop the methodology. The network is an international non-profit organization and has ties to local organizations. Part of the mission is to try and encourage volunteer regional Living Library co-ordinators, to feed in the information, experiences and developments in their region. The organization also serves as a marker for the principles of this methodology and an entry point for new organizers. The Living Library organization puts focus to staging introduction activities in new territories. This past June, the first Living Library was established in Brazil and South America.
(Photo credit and news source: The Living Library Organization)