Part III
B. How? Human Rights Learning Communities
by Kristi Rudelius-Palmer

No matter how one defines "community"—family, neighborhood, classroom, school, workplace, town, nation, or other association—one must recognize the role of community in the learning process. To facilitate a "Human Rights Learning Community," everyone must recognize that each participant has his/her own identity as well as a collective identity of learning together about human rights and responsibilities. How can we build community? More specifically, how can we create a community which focuses on education "directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms" (excerpted from Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights)?

The Need for Community—A Common Vision and Language

Whether one focuses on a school, town, or other association, each has similar needs of creating a place where every member can learn, feel valued and safe, and connect with others. Schools have been challenged by multiple initiatives placed one upon another (e.g., safe schools, peace schools, literacy projects, educational standards). Towns have witnessed the same separation of issue-based initiatives (e.g., fair housing projects, domestic violence centers, food shelves, immigration and refugee services). However, in both community settings, the unifying overlap is a human rights framework. Whether a community is working on assuring peace and security, housing, education, or food, that community must understand the interdependence and universality of all their needs as human rights. Reclaiming our human rights enables us to share a common vision, speak the same language, and practice responsible actions toward one another.

The Practice for Human Rights Learning Communities

Human Rights Learning Communities aim to promote and enhance effective leadership and responsible action for the realization of human rights. Human Rights Learning Communities should also support and strengthen the personal and professional development of the facilitators and the participants. The Human Rights Learning Community Wheel provides eight characteristics of ways each member of society should act in community to encourage inspiration, exploration, creation, collaboration, and transformation.

The Human Rights Learning Community Wheel

A Human Rights Learning Community includes both individual and collective learning and practices. The following eight characteristics in the Human Rights Learning Community Wheel are interdependent components for nurturing one's creative individual and community spirit. These components aid facilitators and participants to challenge themselves and the other community members to identify what inspires their action and inaction. However, these eight components are not exhaustive: your own community may choose to add others. The characteristics are not presented in any specific order, since all aspects are of equal importance.



Individuals and communities must identify meaning and purpose to inspire themselves and others to develop and grow as human rights leaders, educators, and activists.


Individuals and communities must know their human rights and responsibilities. Such knowledge is itself empowering and an important building block for learning.


Individuals and communities must value human rights. If human beings do respect the dignity of themselves and others, a safe space for developing and sharing is created.


Human beings need to connect both with their full self (mind, body, heart, and spirit) as well as with other people. How one relates with oneself and others determines whether the individual and community will grow to their full potentials and provide ways to reenergize each other.


Every individual and community has suffered loss and pain. In order for the community to thrive, the individual and the collective group must both learn to heal through internal analysis, story telling, sharing with one another, and learning new ways.


Human beings, both individually and collectively, need to act to improve and realize their human rights. Practicing what one might feel or know is "right" empowers the individual and community with an acknowledgement of justice.


Individuals and communities must reflect on the other seven characteristics of the Human Rights Learning Wheel. For example, have their values and actions led to improvements of human rights conditions for themselves and others? What have they learned, individually and collectively?


Individuals and communities must take time to celebrate ways they have been working to foster respect for human dignity and the rights of others. The recognition of the time, commitment, and dedication must be adequately supported for the individuals and community to feel revitalized and cherished.



By offering a lens for people to see the ideal, human rights can revitalize communities on all levels. The Human Rights Learning Community Wheel suggests ways for participants to reconnect with others working with a common vision, shared language, and a unified practice fostering full respect of the human and community spirit.

This section has raised issues about the need for community and ways in which we can be and act in community. The next section demonstrates direct Building Blocks for human rights education in a specific workshop context.