MiT Solve invite #MeWeSyria to UN | March 7th

MiT’s Solve have selected #MeWeSyria as a finalist to pitch at the United Nations on 7 March. This could be a big opportunity for our innovative program and refugee-led teams. The event will focus on solutions for refugee education. Follow @MeWeSyria for live updates and also PLEASE VOTE FOR US HERE!

img_8401

Expanding #MeWeSyria spaces in Turkey + Lebanon

img_7678

Because of intense travel for #MeWeSyria, I have had little time to share the many insights, successes, and impacts made since October 2016. Since then, we have expanded refugee-led #MeWeSyria teams in Turkey and Lebanon. I promise to share more in the coming weeks and months. Here is a short summary of basic goings-on. Much much more to come.

January 2017: 

The numbers: 20+ Syrian facilitators and teachers were trained and signed-on to the innovative storytelling for changemakers methodology of #MeWeSyria after an intensive 4 day training of trainers and co-creation session. 20 replicators will implement localized versions of #MeWeSyria in 3 cities across Lebanon, reaching 270+ teenagers and parents.

October 2016:

The numbers: 18+ Syrian facilitators and teachers were trained and signed-on to #MeWeSyria localization. These brave changemakers will implement localized versions of #MeWeSyria in 3 cities in Southeast Turkey, reaching 400+ teenagers and parents.

  • Trends and quick insights:

  • Because of the war, and the level of loss and destruction, every Syrian–be they an engineer, teacher, artist, student—is now being called upon to be healers for the mental health/trauma/emotional paralysis that are epidemics for today’s Syria’s young.

  • Most Syrian refugee youth volunteers have expressed an urgent need to have new engagements and interventions for working with Syrian refugees. Traditional trainings and youth programs are not serving the needs of today’s refugee youth. Youth need opportunities for social and emotional learning, communications practice, and resiliency-building.

  • All Syrian refugee trainees are themselves wrestling with trauma and barriers to social and emotional development as a result of war and forced displacement.

  • All trainees expressed increased fear and pressures with handling youth who have mental health challenges or trauma. Syrian teachers and youth facilitators are noticing more and more Syrian kids are living off the streets and getting involved in either forced childhood marriage or drug abuse.

  • Youth are becoming increasingly vulnerable to apathy, isolation, and anger. And parents of refugee youth remain helpless, frustrated, and ill-equipped to handle these sensitive cases.

  • All expressed a desire to have more access and support for integrating social and emotional learning and wellbeing/mindfulness practices in their youth interventions.

  • Peace is now becoming a divisive and dangerous word among some Syrian communities, because of the death and destruction that has been allowed to persist during the failed processes of attaining cease-fires and peace deals over the past 5+ years of war.

Our latest on UNHCR Innovation hub

img_1590

 

Check out our latest article for #UnitedNations UNHCR Innovation on our storytelling for changemakers work with young Syrians. Please take a few to hear Syrian youth messages and engage w: their creativity and ideas. #MeWeSyriahttp://innovation.unhcr.org/narrative-control-power/

Here is an excerpt:

In life, there are things we cannot control: where we are born; the color of our skin; our parents; or the rapid pace of change in our personal lives and in our societies.

On the other hand, stories,  by nature, are  free. In the face of uncontrollable variables, every person, young and old, possesses the power of narrative and the ability to formulate new realities and ideas. Stories are blank canvases in which the author is in control, using the past and the imagination to create a new reality.

When it comes to the story of Syria, and how the international community and Syrians themselves interact with it, it’s  no surprise that extremists, political plays, and tragedy colonize the narrative space. It’s also not surprising that the production and consumption of stories of suffering, fear, and violence results in the international community’s desensitization to Syrians’ plight and of refugee youth from numerous communities. But less obvious is the risk of Syrian and other refugee youth accepting a world of consequences instead of innovating a world choices, for an entire generation. This risk carries direct implications for humanitarian efforts and for sustainable peace and development.

A story can be a simulator, where anyone can practice control, exercise imagination, build empathy, and test a range of human conditions, failures, and triumphs.

For most of us, the push of  a ‘record’ button on a camera, the push of a key, the ink on a piece of paper seem as though they are insignificant acts. But words and the process of connecting feelings and ideas to paper and media have power.

Check out recent pieces produced and shot by young Syrian refugees from the Darb-Syr community organization in Gaziantep, Turkey during Youth Venture’s #MeWeSyria program. What you see is a finished story, but the real story is what transpired  as young Syrians stepped into their stories and connected mind and heart with their breaths. Through collaborative storytelling exercises, young Syrians practiced working in creative teams, leadership, creative problem-solving skills, and connected passions with problems. What was built was not just a video, but a tangible youth-led space for empathy and ideas sharing that lasts beyond the actual days of the workshops and trainings READ MORE ON UNHCR

 

 

 

 

#storytelling for #Changemakers Darb Syr Questscope Ashoka’s Youth Venture

Innovative Solutions for Refugees Conference

 

ashokaturkeyevent.001

How can we build more collaborative spaces for scaling up ad improving innovative solutions supporting refugees in Turkey and other countries in the region? Social entrepreneurs, Ashoka Fellows and private and public sector partners are coming together in Istanbul to build a team of teams for supporting Syrian changemakers and innovators, civic movements, community building, higher education of Syrians, and other needs.

#MeWeSyria, as part of Ashoka’s Youth Venture, are grateful to have been invited by Ashoka Turkey to pitch on youth-led  for social and emotional learning + changemaking, 14 June.

Details…http://www.ebrd.com/news/events/innovative-solutions-for-refugees.html

#MeWeSyria series for UNHCR Innovation

I am excited to announce that I will be doing a series for UNHCR Innovation on approaches for disrupting status quo youth engagements in education and social development. The first article in this series with UNHCR Innovation shares some insights and recommendations from my recent training-of-trianers session for the #MeWeSyria/ Youth Venture program running with Questscope at the UNFPA/Questscope Youth Center in Zaatari refugee camp, as well as #MeWeSyria’s activation in Turkey with Darb Sy.

An excerpt is provided below. Read the full article on UNHCR Innovation, here.

UNHCR Innovation   Innovating with and for refugees.png

 

“We sat on a bench under the sun conversing amidst sounds of young boys playing soccer and kids running to their next classes.

This is seemingly a normal interaction that could be anywhere, like Central Park in New York for instance. But this was not a normal setting by any means. The bench we were chatting on was in a refugee camp. This was not a park with trees and grass and birds. This was Zaatari camp, where we are surrounded by tents and trailers enclosed by concrete walls and barbed wire. For 5 years now, Syrian families have taken refuge from a civil war that has metastasized across the region and claimed more than 200,000 lives.

The kids we hear were playing on a makeshift patch of turf, where there used be only rocks and dust. The Questscope NGO and UNFPA have managed to bring in a small patch of color to this otherwise binary landscape of grey and brown.

The person I am sitting with is one of the young  trainees I have been engaging while running the Ashoka Youth Venture’s #MeWeSyria program . But he is no ordinary teenage kid. He is a young Syrian who is raising his brother on his own and has his parents and siblings separated in numerous countries as a result of war. As a teenager, in one lifetime he has to play father, mother, and sibling for his younger brother…..”

Recommendations:

A resilient peace and the future development of Syria depends on all of us collaborating as a team of teams towards valuing and supporting Syria’s young change makers today by flipping status quo approaches to youth refugee engagement. Status quo systems enabled the persistence of the war in Syria as we know it today. Let’s together flip systems to raise up, not contain, Syria’s young changemakers. This will require us to apply the following approaches in our youth engagements:

  • Experiential programs that disrupt internal barriers to self-expression, critical thinking, creativity, and pluralism
  • Peer-to-peer learning that self-replicates culture tipping towards: team of teams, fluid leadership, empathy and creative problem-solving
  • Opportunities for young people to step into their own story and tackle the ‘whys’ instead of the ‘what’ and ‘hows’
  • Replication templates that allow for co-creation with community leaders, youth mentors and teachers for localization and relevancy

#MeWeSyria has been made possible thanks in large part to support from the German Mission to the United Nations.

Syrian youth reps #MeWeSyria at #HelloFestival #ici2016

Amr is a young Syrian I trained when bringing the #MeWeSyria program to #Turkey . As a Syrian refugee recently resettled to Germany, Amr carries with him hope, innovation and storytelling for changemaking. We were able to get Amr Raslan to represent our #MeWeSyria program at a special event co-organized by Ashoka Germany called the #HelloFestival that is gathering social innovators from Ashoka teams and Ashoka Fellows to collaborate on how to scale up approaches for supporting refugee communities in Europe. Thank you Amr for bravely bringing a Syrian youth perspective to this event. Proud of you! #ici2016

hellofest1.JPG

Updates: Scaling up in Zaatari Refugee Camp

IMG_7073After introducing #MeWeSyria to refugees in Turkey in January, in February I returned to where #MeWeSyria first launched with refugees back in 2014: Zaatari refugee camp with the Questscope NGO. Since 2014, the program has planted the seed for changemaking and peer to peer communication, critical thinking, creativity and self expression.

Returning to the camp, I saw more babies accompanying siblings playing in the dirt alleys in between tents and trailers. With the war now entering its fifth year, more and more children are being born in the refugee camp and the hope and optimism so crucial for survival and stability seems to be waning for some–understandably. The world continues to fail the people of Syria.

On my first day back in the camp, it became clear that confusion and mistrust had developed among some of the Syrian refugee trainees and myself. In an unstable, unpredictable and mentally taxing environment like the Zaatari refugee camp, time and distance can sometimes allow fiction to become reality. Some of the past trainees had misinterpreted what the program’s goals are, while others felt exploited. In such a sensitive situation, it was important to refresh spaces for listening, trust building and changemaking.

What started as a tough first day back in Zaatari ended five days later with resolve, inspiration and innovation. We together worked through mistakes and enabled a space where failure provided the fuel for stronger and meaningful changemaker impact. Now the #MeWeSyria is stronger and the Syrian replicators are clear on goals and methodologies. 

In order to rebuild trust and design a way forward, I sat with the previous years’ trainees to listen, listen, listen and then present my side of where some break downs happened. I gained much insight as to what the refugee leaders needed to make the program more consistent and impactful.

Pictured below is a list of ideas and demands the refugee trainees decided they needed for carrying out the project successfully. I am now building in their ideas and concerns into a renewed action plan for replicating the #MeWeSyria changemaker youth engagements so that it continues to be taught consistently and more effectively at the UNFPA Youth Center in the Questscope Caravan.

IMG_7084

Another take-away was that too much emphasis was being put on filming and the equipment. This was a clear misunderstanding guided by traditional education programs’ emphasis on outputs and deliverables–with little focus given to emotional intelligence.

In actuality, the making of a storytelling product is not the aim of the Me/We program. Media and equipment are secondary.  Emphasis of the MeWe program is on activating– in the refugee youth– the discovery of their inner changemakers while equipping youth with the mental tools and hard skills for stepping into their story and contributing a verse of positive changemaking  in the theater of our world.

In the following days, I worked with the refugee teachers to deep-dive into concepts of social innovation, changemaking, old world versus new world, building team of teams, fluid leadership and the importance of youth-led communication. Most crucial to this process was making sure the trainees had the space and support to localize and put into context these complex concepts so that there was local ownership of the issues and program. Pictured below: #MeWeSyria replicators co-lead a training session where we explored story-arcs and identifying target audiences.

IMG_7131

I also took ample time to introduce key Me/We exercises that provide an experiential classroom for exercising critical thinking, working in team of teams, express emotion and ideas, and pluralism. One of the main exercises is the writing and video blogging exercises for the youth to identify and express the power of their ‘why’. This is a part of the program where many internal shifts take place for the participants. It pushes critical thinking and fosters spaces of self expression and empathy that is peer-to peer led. Often times we are forced to memorize, repeat and act without any thought as to ‘why’. In a world where society prioritizes ‘the hows’ and ‘the what’, the question of why is a powerful starting point for activating a changemaker journey. Pictures below, a young Syrian participant dives into critical thinking and writing his personal ‘why’.

IMG_7126 (1)

IMG_7129

After first exploring the power of their ‘why’, trainees then run through video blogging their thoughts and ideas on Mac Air laptops I donated. Ideating and writing are only part of the equation. Pushing the record button becomes much more than a computer click. It becomes an exercise in actively eroding internal barriers and fears for expressing ideas. Pushing down on the button becomes an act of changeamaking launched through creativity and self expression. These vlogging exercises reinforce the importance for changemakers to connect their hearts, with their minds and their breath. (See picture above.)

IMG_7128

By facilitating an experiential process for changemaker discoveries and communication, we established a stronger layer of trust, co-creation and deeper changemaker understanding in Zaatari camp with Questscope. These youth mentors will now team up to continue offering the #MeWeSyria program to young refugees in the camp.

On the final day, we handed out certificates and finalized a co-designed action plan in which the Syrian teachers and youth mentors of Questscope will complete facilitating 6 storytelling for changemaker sessions for at least 60 young Syrian refugees (boys and girls), over the next 12 months. They will also organize cinema nights showcasing the changemaker storytelling ideas and messages of the youth. (Pictured below, certificates handed out to Questscope trainees inside the refugee camp.)

IMG_7134

Incentivization is key, especially when considering the diplomas, certificates and histories of millions of Syrians has been lost in the fog of war. Providing documentation of how far we have come and ensuring that MeWe students and trainees have certificates is no small matter.

IMG_7205

The friction and frustration we encountered on the first day transformed as we harnessed it as positive energy needed to break walls and enhance spaces for youth-led changemaking in the darkest of places. More exciting things to come from our brave changemakers inside Zaatari refugee camp. Stay tuned!

**Powered by ….

Ashoka’s Youth Venture | Germany | Questscope 

Video update of #MeWeSyria w/ DARB

Brave young Syrian ‪#‎refugees‬ from Darb Organization share what we have been up to w/ my ‪#‎MeWeSyria‬ program in ‪#‎Turkey‬ & their insights on how/why to make positive change and spaces for expression. They have been through unspeakable hell, and yet here they are fighting for hope, humanity, peace and community building. Watch below…

 

#MEWESYRIA IN TURKEY

 

Thanks to support from Germany, #MeWeSyria is planting its seed in Turkey with a partnership with DARB-SY, a community-building organization. I am leading training of trainers sessions with adult and youth mentors and social innovators. The trainees, with Darb’s support, will then replicate the #MeWeSyria program in Turkey for refugee youth. Each day has shown extraordinary breakthrough moments for increasing spaces of self expression, pluralism, creative enterprise and social changemaking. I am so excited to have found such inspiring and passionate peace-builders and youth advocates with DARB. There is so much to share, but in the meantime here are some visual updates of #MeWeSyria and DARB in action:

IMG_6907 (1)

Sustainability and Equipment: Donation of the #MeWeSyria toolkit, (thanks Germany)

IMG_6914

The adult and youth community-builders of DARB. This team are changemakers who will localize and replicate #MeWeSyria.

IMG_6912 (1)

Changemaker deep-dives. We explore and define pathways critical for thriving in the new framework of a world where change is the only constant. Here we explore the need to equip young people with opportunities to practice building a team of teams and fluid leadership and changemaking.  Ashoka’s Youth Venture has been leading such work with the youth ecosystem for years. 

IMG_6936 (1)

Some of the Syrian trainees made rules for creating a safe space.

IMG_6946

Video-blogging opens up self-reflection, critical thinking and self-expression: A breakththrough moment is using storytelling and communication as a tool for changemaker discoveries. The exercise–which trainees will replicate with youth– will also open spaces for building confidence, expressing their inner-changemakers /ideas, and peer-to-peer cognitive empathy.

IMG_6942

Animation and camera work to express ideas and messages. This builds team of teams, fluid leadership and 21st skills in using new media. 

IMG_6951

Script and storyboard design focused on changemaking and youth-led social innovation and community-building.

More to come!!