Wilmette Institute Embarks on New Initiatives in 2016

The Wilmette Institute’s new Advisory Board met in mid October, and during its three day meeting it developed several new initiatives to supplement and complement the online courses, webinars, and Web Talks it is already conducting.

College Credit. The National Spiritual Assembly and the Universal House of Justice are particularly interested in the effort of the Institute to find ways people can obtain college credit for its courses, and that remains a high priority. Board members identified contacts they could approach for assistance, and the Institute is continuing its efforts to upgrade courses through the use of Quality Matters standards. Bahá’ís with suggestions about university credit are asked to contact the director at rstockman@usbnc.org to provide whatever assistance they can. The pursuit of credit is a particularly difficult task, but it can be done.

Reaching Youth and the Community of Interest in Advanced Clusters. The Wilmette Institute has permission to provide services to advanced clusters, groups of youth, and other parties that in the past it was unable to serve. Among the beneficiaries will be the community of interest and year of service volunteers. Any courses it provides will probably be short—a month at most—and will rely extensively on web video to deliver the content. They will also require scholarship subsidies from the National Bahá’í Fund or from fund raising. The Institute is seeking ideas from cluster agencies, other Bahá’í institutions, and individuals about courses that would be useful, and groups of people who could be invited to participate for free or for a very low price.

A Course on the Hands. The Institute has identified a pilot course it will develop to test our services to new audiences: The Hands of the Cause of God. Most likely, the first month-long course will look at qualities of service, devotion, dedication, obedience, and firmness that the Hands exemplified. Study of sacred texts about these qualities will be coupled with stories from the lives of individual Hands. Participants will be encouraged to embark on a service that will help them express the quality. They might also be assisted to interview people who knew specific Hands, so that the community memory of these remarkable vanguards of action will be preserved and expanded. Additional courses focusing on specific hands are envisioned. The Institute seeks suggestions from the friends about ways to design the course, ideas for making it more effective, and people to add to our interview list.

Fund Raising. All these efforts will cost more money than they will raise. Consequently, the Wilmette Institute has set a tentative goal to raise $300,000 during the next Five Year Plan, and seeks to raise $45,000 between now and Ridvan 2016. It is already more than half way to that goal. More details, and a specific fund raising appeal, will be published in the January eNewsletter.

Otherwise, Business As Usual. These efforts will not distract the Wilmette Institute from its existing priorities. In 2015 it offered 48 courses to about 1,200 learners and it tentatively plans to offer 53 courses next year. A new group rate will make it easier for couples to take courses together and to create local study groups as large as ten. Facebook and Twitter will be used more extensively to offer discounts to first time learners, especially overseas. The Institute will also continue its very successful series of monthly Web Talks.

Leave a Reply