The Ubuntu Initative

The Ubuntu Initiative consists of parents and friends of particular individuals who have a developmental disability. We come together to imagine and to create, with these individuals, a different and more hopeful future, rooted in gentleness, interdependence and deep friendship. All who share such imaginings and aspirations, particularly those who long for a more abundant and life enhancing future for their own son or daughter and themselves are welcome to join us in our endeavours.

We feel that the name The Ubuntu Initiative represents us as a collective which sets as its mission the building of a society that is gentle, kind, caring, inclusive and that recognizes our sons and daughters who have a developmental disability as leaders in the process.

Ubuntu is a south African concept, described by Bishop Desmond Tutu

as "the essence of being a person. It means that we are people through

other people. We cannot be fully human alone. We are made for

interdependence, we are made for family. None is an outsider; all are insiders;

all belong....the distinctions make for a rich diversity to be celebrated for

the sake of the unity that underlies them. We are different so that we can

know our need of one another, for no one is ultimately self-sufficient."

As The Ubuntu Initative, we are initiating a number of actions. We have come to know that the primary action is to deepen our friendships with each other, to broaden those friendships and relationships and to invite others to do the same. In studying the work of John Macmurray, a twentieth Century Philosopher, we have come to learn that friendship is central to our well-being as individuals in communion with one another. We are called to be with the other, to care for the other first and foremost. Thus ubuntu (to know that my humanity is inextricably bound up in your humanity) is our mission.

The central work that we have undertaken is to be engaged with families in the formation of circles of support and creating a context for making connections and establishing friendships.

Our goal is;

To create a context, a community of friendships, that will endure overtime "where the sharing of the same truth binds us together "( i.e. the experience of collaborating with particular individuals who have a developmental disability) in ways that bring life to us all.

The Ubuntu Initiative is deeply committed to finding ways for people with developmental disabilities to be held strongly as fully participating members of society. We see that they more than anyone are at the heart of widening the circle of inclusiveness. We often think of it in the reverse, but it is the invitation to us by those so labelled, to be included in their circles, that brings community together.

We desire to be friends with one another. We desire to hold our sons and daughters within the realm of friendship. We are pursuing a philosophy, building a movement where relationship among vulnerable people, family members, and friends and neighbours remains central to the good life. The concrete expression of this desire is to find a vessel or container (a context) within which people, who share this truth, are compelled to join together to seek this common purpose. We do envision some form of collaborative, alliance, association or consortium with individuals, groups and organizations who share our central truth. We have learned, that, before all else, faithful relationships of mutuality and love are essential to human thriving inclusive of and centred by our sons and daughters who have been labelled with a developmental disability.

editors note: Presently gatherings such as these are organized in Toronto by PLAN Toronto and take place at their Ubuntu Coffee Houses. Check out the website for times and location.


Definition of Ubuntu

The word “ubuntu” is a South African Zulu expression meaning:  “My humanity is inextricably bound up in your humanity  …  I am a person through you as a person...we are different so that we will know our need for one another...I am because we are" or as Desmond Tutu says passionately in a You Tube clip, "I need you to be fully you in order for me to be fully me."


Western cultures

The concept of ubuntu traditionally runs counter to the creed of individualism of Western society. At times, however, it is voiced in the public sphere.

Republican US president Theodore Roosevelt alluded to the underlying principle of ubuntu in a speech in 1903: "It is all-essential to the continuance of our healthy national life that we should recognize this community of interest among our people. The welfare of each of us is dependent fundamentally upon the welfare of all of us, and therefore in public life that man is the best representative of each of us who seeks to do good to each by doing good to all; in other words, whose endeavor it is not to represent any special class and promote merely that class's selfish interests, but to represent all true and honest men of all sections and all classes and to work for their interests by working for our common country....”[11]

Likewise, in June 2009, in her swearing-in remarks as U.S. Department of State Special Representative for Global Partnerships, Global Partnership Initiative, Office of the Secretary of State (served June 18, 2009 – October 10, 2010), Elizabeth Frawley Bagley discussed ubuntu in the context of American foreign policy, stating: "In understanding the responsibilities that come with our interconnectedness, we realize that we must rely on each other to lift our World from where it is now to where we want it to be in our lifetime, while casting aside our worn out preconceptions, and our outdated modes of statecraft."

In the same way that Secretary Clinton has often said that ‘it takes a village to raise a child,’ we are now realizing that we must apply a similar approach worldwide. It takes a shared, global response to meet the shared, global challenges we face. This is the truth taught to us in an old South African principle, ubuntu, or ‘A person is a person through other persons.’ As Archbishop Desmond Tutu describes this perspective, ubuntu ‘is not, “I think therefore I am.” It says rather: “I am a human because I belong. I participate. I share.”’ In essence, I am because you are.

We are truly all in this together, and we will only succeed by building mutually beneficial partnerships among civil society, the private sector, and the public sector, in order to empower the men and women executing our foreign policy to advance their work through partnerships.

This is Ubuntu Diplomacy: where all sectors belong as partners, where we all participate as stakeholders, and where we all succeed together, not incrementally but exponentially.[