The Watson Fellowship
The Watson Fellowship gives recipients a year to "explore with thoroughness a particular interest, test their aspirations and abilities, view their lives and American society in greater perspective and, concomitantly, develop a more informed sense of international concern"
Each of us lives from day to day with the knowledge and awareness that things not only might, but could and should be different in the world. For our children, for our families, our communities and the planet, we know there is a steep divide between the world as it is and the world as it should be.
In my experience, the best way to bridge this gap is not through policies or programs but by starting at the bottom and developing the capacity of everyday people to have a seat at the table and the power to negotiate for the wellbeing of their communities. The problems in our world do not stem from the fact that CEO's and politicians have a voice in deciding our future, they stem from the fact that ordinary people do not. If we are not at the table, we are on the menu.
To get that seat at the table, people need power. That is where organizing comes in. If there are enough of us, and we are clever, we can begin to bargain on behalf of our interests – be it better jobs, education, healthcare, or environmental regulation. We will not win every time, and there will be compromise.
My Watson explores how people in four countries around the world practice this process of organizing to build power for their communities and asks one vital question: how do we meet people face-to-face and build relationships that create the capacity in a community for leadership development, citizen-led action and strong relationships across the lines that often divide us?
What is "The Watson"?
The Watson Fellowship is a rare opportunity for recipients to engage their deepest interest on a global scale. Every year, the 40 Watson Fellows conceive original projects, execute them outside of the United States for one year and embrace the ensuing journey.
The Watson Foundation formed 1961 in honor of former chairman and CEO of IBM, Thomas J. Watson. The Foundation's stated vision is to empower students “to expand their vision, test and develop their potential, and gain confidence and perspective to do so for others.”
"Politics is not a game. It exists to resolve the largest questions of society–the agreed-upon terms by which everyone can live peaceably with one another. At its best politics creates and sustains social relationships – the human conversation and engagement that draw people together and allow them to discover their mutuality."
– Bill Greider, *Who Will Tell the People*