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Where The Rivers Meet The Sky:
A Collaborative Approach
to Participatory Development

Author: Timothy Kennedy

ISBN-13: 978–983–9054–51–4
Published September 2008
210 pages, 14 x 21.5 cm
Paperback: US$20.00 per copy
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Stream the video of the author talking about his work by clicking here.

The SKYRIVER process has received a great deal of recognition for its innovative use of video and film tools to enhance and strengthen citizen participation in the decision-making processes of government. The collaborative process of economic and social development, facilitated within and among Native Alaskan villages, led to direct communication between the villages and government officials and, ultimately, to positive social change. This book provides a detailed review of how the SKYRIVER process evolved and the many lessons learnt from its evolution.

“In Where The Rivers Meet The Sky , we see in action an outstanding example of what Donald A. Schon calls “the reflective practitioner.” Timothy Kennedy not only takes action – in fact this book is a personal adventure story in which the actor is constantly taking action, but at the same time reflecting on what works at what does not work. He learns from his own mistakes and from those others he observes in the Native Alaskan communities and in the white man's bureaucracies of the various community development agencies.

Kennedy writes in non-technical language. He relates the work processes to the attitudes of the community development worker. He shows how pity, sympathy, or empathy toward the community are acted out in the behaviour of the change agent and on how one can expect different responses from the people he or she is trying to assist.

This book should be essential reading for all those involved in community development work. It should be even more useful to enterprising people in the minority community, who want to take over the processes of their community development in their own way. Kennedy shows in his own behaviour a characteristic he has not commented on: commitment. The results he achieved could not have been produced in a short time. He had to go through a process of trying different approaches before he and his Native Alaskan collaborators developed what we now know as the Sky River Process.”

William Foote Whyte
Click here to read the entire foreword

Tim was respectful to the people he came to help. He learned to listen rather than lecturing to the people he came to serve. He became in spirit an Alaska Native. He demonstrated through his work a statement made by Father Oleksa, Russian Orthodox priest, who said, “we need the wisdom of the old and the knowledge of the new.” Tim was respectful of the wisdom of the ancestors and taught the Alaska Native people to navigate through the external decision process (State of Alaska legislative process) of making change through the use of modern film and video technology. The making of the film statement was a process much like the old way of reaching a consensus, to discuss the issue for as long as it takes for everyone to agree. Everyone had a voice. He taught us the knowledge of the new by the use of filmmaking to carry the message to the decision makers and to get a response from the receiver to play back to the senders of the message. Much like the Yup’ik story tellers using the story knife, a picture is worth a thousand words.

Kanaqlak (George P. Charles), Yup'ik PhD
Center Director, National Resource Center for American Indian, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian Elders University of Alaska, Anchorage
Click here to read the entire introduction

Contents of the book
Introduction by Kanaqlak (George P. Charles), Yup'ik
Foreword by William Foote Whyte
1. Into the river
2. From social advocate to social mobilizer: First year as development field worker in Noorvik, Alaska
3. From social advocate to social mobilizer: Second year as development field worker in Noorvik, Alaska
4. The Greater Anchorage Area Community Action Agency
5. Yukon Delta Fish Marketing Cooperative
6. The Lower Yukon Project
7. Comparative analysis of development field worker's attitudes and roles
8. Assumptions of the Skyriver Process
9. Beyond the documentary: Analysis of video and film tools
10. Features of the Skyriver Process
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