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CAIR-Minnesota's Building Youth Power Initiative

We will empower Muslim youth from immigrant communities and give them the resources they need to fulfill their aspirations.

Photo of Patti Walsh

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What problem does the idea help to solve and how does your solution work? (2,000 characters maximum)

Minnesota is facing tremendous challenges supporting underrepresented groups and providing them with a nurturing, respectful and welcoming environment, including Minnesota’s Muslim community. Over 70% of Minnesota Muslims are Somali refugees, whose youth face additional challenges. Most have lost everything- their homes, country, friends, and family members- before coming to America to start a new life. Many Somali youth are often the only ones in their families who speak English fluently or have any formal schooling. Coupled with an anti-Black and anti-Muslim administration that has singled out Somali residents in Minnesota, this can be a hostile environment for Black Muslim youth. That’s why young people need programs that engage them locally and teach them how to make a difference in their local and global communities. Our research has shown that no youth program exists in the state of Minnesota that address civil rights, civic engagement, public speaking or communication training, or leadership skills for Muslim, immigrant and refugee youth. This is an unmet need which CAIR-MN works to meet. CAIR-MN is uniquely qualified to take the lead on this program; we have the platform, networking, training, advocacy and civic engagement knowledge and expertise to effectively develop young leaders. Through the Building Youth Power Initiative, a community organizing and leadership development program, CAIR-MN seeks to empower Muslim youth and give them the resources and opportunities they need to fulfill their aspirations. Our objective is to give a voice to the Minnesota Muslim youth.

Geography of focus (500 characters)

The Building Youth Power Initiative places an emphasis on Minnesota immigrant and refugee youth from Muslim-majority countries, specifically Somalia in East Africa, South Asia, and the Middle East. It is estimated that around 10,000 individuals meet the target demographics. This number is based on 2010 Census data and is a very low count. Wikipedia places the number at 74,000, and we anticipate that the 2020 Census data will reveal 100,000+ in its final count.

Building Bridges: What bridge does your idea build between people on the move and neighbors towards a shared future of stability and promise? (500 characters)

Deep intergenerational traumas ranging from civil war, racial and religious persecution among others affect the well-being of the communities we serve. Rarely are youth from these communities provided safe spaces to unpack those traumas and learn healthy techniques for addressing those traumas. Addressing traumas helps youth and promises them a brighter future, which leads to a more vibrant community. We seek to build bridges of understanding for all of MN and we know our youth is the future.

What human need is your idea solving for? (1,000 characters)

Muslim youth are dealing with unprecedented amounts of bullying and Islamophobia. When they are not equipped with the tools to address abuse, they internalize and normalize anti-Muslim racism. They are increasingly isolated and lonely, which has a massive effect on not only their achievement in school but their overall well-being. Muslim communities in rural Minnesota are even more isolated than their urban counterparts. Muslim youth are disconnected from community resources and connections which would help address these issues. This trauma has lasting psychological impacts that affect the community. Even though youth face the brunt of Islamophobia, they are oftentimes not engaged or included in anti-Islamophobia work, leading to feelings of depression and lack of joy and a sense of hopelessness. Another symptom of Islamophobia of amongst some Muslim youth is that they are sometimes denying their Muslim faith and identity based on fear of bullying and trauma. It is unacceptable.

What will be different within the community of focus as a result of implementing your idea? (1,000 characters)

When developing and planning this program, we were very intentional about creating trauma-informed and healing-centered spaces. Muslim youth are dealing with the traumas of bullying and Islamophobia, racial and religious persecution, state violence, gendered violence, surveillance and entrapment among other traumas. Our objective is to first and foremost create healing, safe spaces for youth to address and recognize their traumas with their peers and elders. Secondly, we want to demonstrate and help channel their experiences and resilience into informed and effective community organizing. Our program was developed through listening sessions we held with youth to learn about the biggest challenges they face in their neighborhoods and communities. We found that youth want to learn about ways to become more involved with their communities through civic engagement, and we will provide that training. This improves the entire Muslim immigrant community as well as the rest of society.

What is the inspiration behind your idea? (1,000 characters)

Currently, there are no youth-focused and lead networks or convenings addressing the impact of Islamophobia in our state. In the past 18 months, CAIR-MN has documented a marked increase in youth-related hate crime incidents and violence-based bullying of Muslim students. Many challenges facing Muslim youth in our state are similar, yet Muslim youth across Minnesota are disconnected from the resources and connections that would help build more resiliency in being able to deal with the increased Islamophobia. We are inspired by the fact that many of these youth can be a catalyst for change and become resources within their respective communities due to their grasp of American systems. Currently immigrant parents rely on their English-speaking youth to help with understanding complex issues. We understand that by engaging young people, we are also engaging the community at large, and that helps us to stay true to our Mission Statement.

Describe the dynamics of the community in which the idea is to be implemented. (1,000 characters)

The Muslim Youth who will be served by our Building Youth Power Initiative are mostly the sons and daughters of Somali immigrants and refugees. The Twin Cities metro region is home to an estimated 100,000 East African residents, the large majority of whom are Somali Muslim refugees resettled to Minnesota due to the civil war and ongoing instability that has plagued that nation since the early ‘90’s. In Minnesota, the East African communities frequently rank much more disproportionately high in indicators of poverty, unstable housing, education and health compared to white Minnesotans. Language and cultural barriers, racism, religious intolerance and misunderstandings often further complicate the communities’ ability to advance.

How does your idea leverage and empower community strengths and assets to help create an environment for success? (1,000 characters)

Despite the challenges we are describing for this group of Muslim Youth, they are craving a route or pathways to solutions that will address those challenges and create better futures for them and the entire community. They are clear-headed, understand politics, want success in their lives and in the lives of their families. They are inspired by Somalis in the Minnesota area who have become successful politicians and they aspire to also have a place at the table for decision-making in this state and their country. They are willing to work and study hard, and need to have the roadblocks of the affects of bullying and Islamophobia taken out of their way and to really build up resiliency in order to attain their goals. CAIR-MN believes that they can do whatever they set their minds to do and we strive to be the conduit for their success.

What other partners or stakeholders will work alongside you in implementing the idea, if any? (1,000 characters)

In addition to CAIR-MN's staff and Executive Director, we will be executing BYPI with the help of experienced youth organizers from the community who understand the unique circumstances and issues of Muslm youth. We will partner with Minnesota mosques, the majority of which we enjoy close, personal ties and relationships with because of our over 12 years of Muslim advocacy work. It is our intention to eventually engage at least one boy and one girl from each mosque/masjid in Minnesota if possible.

What part of the displacement journey is your solution addressing

  • Arriving and settling at a destination community

Tell us how you'd describe the type of innovation you are proposing

  • Platform: Creating a community or market that facilitates interaction between users and resources

Idea Proposal Stage

  • Prototype: We have done some small tests or experiments with prospective users to continue developing the idea.

Group or Organization Name

Council on American-Islamic Relations, Minnesota Chapter (CAIR-MN)

Tell us more about your group or organization [or lived experience as a displaced person?] (1000 characters)

CAIR-­MN’s mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding. Through civil rights advocacy, media justice, civic engagement, and diversity trainings, we seek to empower Muslims and encourage their participation in political and social conversations while also improving relationships with the greater Minnesota community. Building Youth Power Initiative fits perfectly with our goals and strategies. Current Programs: 1. Protecting Civil Rights a. Religious Discrimination Complaint Resolution b. Free Brief Advice Legal Clinic 2. Training and Education a. ‘Know Your Rights’ Workshops b. Challenging Islamophobia Training c. ‘Positive Interactions’ Diversity Training 3. Civic Engagement a. Leadership Briefings b. Government Relationships c. Building Youth Power Initiative d. Get out the Vote Campaign

Website URL:

Type of submitter

  • We are a registered Non-Profit Organization

Organization Headquarters: Country

United States

Organization Headquarters: City / State


In preparation for expert feedback: What are three unanswered questions or challenges that you could use support on in these categories? These questions will be answered directly by experts matched specifically to your idea. (600 characters)

Need possible suggestions on how to develop language surrounding how we are evaluating and collecting our data regarding the program. Long-term sustainability of program; best practices re ensuring long-term success of BYPI. What is your opinion on incorporating a mentorship model into the program; i.e. older youth matched with some of the younger members? Extra question: should we be focusing more on using technology in our program such as having the youth develop their own app? THANK YOU SO MUCH! -Patti

Did you use the resources offered during the Improve Phase (mentorship, expert feedback, community research)? (2000 characters)

Yes, we did indeed incorporate Sarah's wise and expert advice into our plan's proposal. We added the attached Logic Plan which will give us some guidance as to our evaluation of BYPI. We will give some serious consideration to her thoughts regarding older youth mentoring younger youth, as well as the possible ramifications of developing apps. Her suggestions were very much appreciated. 

In what ways would potential BridgeBuilder funds allow you to pursue your idea that other funding opportunities have not? (1000 characters)

Funding from BridgeBuilder would provide us with the capacity to potentially hire another youth coordinator who could assist with increasing our outreach in addition to helping with additional research and staying in touch with experts, coordinating meetings and workshops and events, etc. These funds would help defray the cost of a one-day Muslim Youth Convening which we are holding in November of 2019. We are hosting this event at no charge for participants in order to give them the opportunity to connect and network with their peers, learn about civic engagement and find ways to discuss the issues that are affecting them. 

BYPI is so urgent and critically needed for our community; it is our intention to incorporate the program along with CAIR-MN's regular programming. 

What aspects or proportion of the overall idea would potential BridgeBuilder funds primarily support? (1000 characters)

These funds would potentially support employment of a youth coordinator for outreach, event planning and execution, ensuring that we can strategically plan for the program's long-term goals into the future. 

What are the key steps or activities for your idea for implementation in the next 1-3 years? (1000 characters)

Please see Project Timeline attached hereto. 

What will community-level impact look like over the timeframe of your idea? How will you determine whether or not you have achieved that impact? And what outstanding questions do you still have? (1000 characters)

Our Impact: We will, by the year 2022, have in place a sustainable, self-governing, well-run CAIR-MN Youth program which offers Minnesota Muslim Youth the opportunities to come to workshops at CAIR-MN to network either in person or online with other youth from across Greater Minnesota. By 2022 we certainly do not know that the problems of Islamophobia will have been resolved and cannot predict into the future, but we need to plan for the strong and urgent needs of our Muslim Youth in Minnesota now and the impact upon the up and coming youth in the next three years. We want a strong and resilient community of Muslim Youth in Minnesota, rural and urban, who can voice their concerns and issues and respond to their needs in an organized and effective way. We do predict a healthier, more knowledgable, civically engaged and connected Minnesota Youth by the Year 2022 as a result of Building Youth Power Initiative. 

Describe the individual or team that will implement this idea (if a partnership, please explain breakdown of roles and responsibilities for each entity). (1000 characters)

Please see Jaylani Hussein biography. 

Lastly, how did you apply new learnings to your idea? (1000 characters)

Yes, we implemented some of the expert suggestions into our plan during the improve phase, especially with regard to the evaluation and sustainability issues.

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Attachments (3)


Project plan Years One through Three

About Us One Sheet Info 2019 Update.pdf

A little background information about CAIR-Minnesota

BYPI logic model timeline reporting.pdf

Goals, methods of data collection and timing

This inspired (1)

ABCD For World Peace


Join the conversation:

Photo of Isaac Jumba

Hello Patti Walsh ,

Great to read your final submission for the challenge. It is exciting to know that the feedback from the expert was helpful.

Could you share an estimate of the total budget needed to be able to carry out the activities you have listed out?


Photo of Patti Walsh

Expenses Budget:
Muslim Youth Lead Conference $50,000
Salary - Youth Program Coordinator $40,000
Other convenings - meet ups 10,000
Food & snacks for planning meetings and convenings (outside of Muslim Lead Convening) 20,000
Travel expenses 25,000
Volunteer expenses 5,000

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