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September 2005

 

A capital of connections

- Alan

Introducing the Universal Citizens of Auroville initiative

 

“Is Auroville only the 2000 people who live here, or is there a larger, invisible Auroville made up of all those who feel connected to this place?” The questioner is Enzo Fazzino, who has visited Auroville a number of times over recent years. Enzo is sure of the answer. “Since its foundation in 1968, thousands of people have developed a relationship with Auroville through visits, the books of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, or through strong personal contacts with Aurovilians. Auroville is a capital of connections and heart linkages that represent a strong presence beyond the physical City.”

Enzo FazzinoEnzo's idea is to make this invisible Auroville more visible, and to strengthen the relationship between those who live here and those who are part of the larger Auroville, through an initiative which he provisionally terms ‘Universal Citizens of Auroville'. The benefits would include giving those who live outside Auroville a sense of belonging to the family and of being able to participate in Auroville's development, while Aurovilians would be able to call upon material and non-material support from this larger circle in developing Auroville and disseminating its ideals. “Of course,” says Enzo, “the Auroville International (AVI) Centres already perform this function to a certain extent. But I'm convinced that there are many people out there who have a strong connection to Auroville and yet do not belong, for one reason or another, to the AVI movement. In France , for example, there are only 100 members of AVI, yet I'd guess there are at least ten times that number who have some relationship to Auroville.”

The first step in realizing this initiative, as Enzo sees it, is to recognize that the ‘invisible Auroville' exists. He stresses, however, that the people who make up this larger Auroville “have a deeper ‘quality connection' with the community. It's not simply anybody who has passed through.” One way of identifying them would be through asking Aurovilians and AVI members to give names of those whom they know have such a connection. “The next step would be to contact these people and to ask them, through a small questionnaire, what their interests are, what they would like to contribute, how they would like to be connected etc. On the basis of these replies, a simple organization can be created to exchange and share energies.”

Enzo sees good communication as being the key to the success of the initiative. As the man who coordinates the website portal for the whole of UNESCO, he knows what he is talking about. “My experience is that when you try to communicate to the general public, most of whom may have no interest in your project, you lose focus and energy. It's much better to tailor your communication tools to a particular public which you know is already interested. This way you can make them feel more and more part of the family.” He suggests that universal citizens could receive a monthly email newsletter which would focus on a different area each time, plus a short news and events calendar. Unlike in Auroville Today, however, the information would be very condensed; websites and other linkages would be indicated for those who want further information. What about those who have no internet access? “There should be a simple printed version that could be translated into local languages. This could be carried out by AVI centres, among others.

“Better communication to the outside also implies better communication and coordination inside Auroville. For example, my impression is that you have good communication resources here but that they are rather scattered at present and not really communicating with each other. So another possible benefit of this initiative is that it gives you a chance to ‘cross the border', to step beyond the interests of your particular group, to exchange with others, and to reorganize Auroville's resources in more efficient ways.”

In terms of organization, Enzo believes in a minimum of structure. Nevertheless, a small group would be needed to coordinate the ‘energy-sharing', serving both Aurovilians and universal citizens. “The group would match up offers from universal citizens with needs in Auroville. For example, the Auroville Press is at present looking for a chemist specialized in paper production and preservation. The core group would also ensure the quality of the exchange: you can't invite somebody to come and work with you if you cannot provide the proper facilities. As to finance, this has to be discussed in more detail, but personally I'd have no problem in paying a subscription to ensure that such a service exists.”

Enzo has floated his idea in a number of different groups over the past two weeks in Auroville. What has been the response? “There is consensus on the idea of opening up Auroville to those who have a ‘heart' relationship with the community, and there's a feeling that now is the time to begin something. My role in all this was simply to set the ball rolling. Most of the details have still to be worked out but, hopefully, this will be done by a group which has already expressed interest in developing the project.”

 

Enzo Fazzino has worked for UNESCO for the past 18 years. He has worked on heritage protection and on the Culture of Peace project, which saw 75 million people commit themselves to practising peace in their daily lives. Today he coordinates the UNESCO internet website portal .

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