OpenIDEO is an open innovation platform. Join our global community to solve big challenges for social good. Sign Up / Login or Learn more

Youth Bridge: Young People Bridging Divided Communities in the Twin Cities

Youth Bridge empowers Somali and non-Somali youth to improve social cohesion and resilience in volatile communities.

Photo of Hannah
6 11

Written by

*Please Upload User Experience Map (as attachment) and any additional Beneficiary Feedback in this field

Talks with Ka Joog, the Somali American Leaders Coalition, neighborhood relations/community development offices, the Minneapolis Foundation, the New American Soccer Club and Citizens of Loring Park revealed a need for youth-driven approaches to bridging divided communities. We heard about feelings of otherness: “Muslim women are being called names solely because of their faith.” Others said Somali youth face identity issues, seen as both “American” by their families and “outsiders” by others.

Explain your project idea in two sentences.

We will create opportunities for purposeful connections among Somali and non-Somali youth to map community assets that will be galvanizing points for stakeholder teams to implement community projects.

What is your organization name? Explain your organization in one sentence.

FHI 360 ( improves lives via integrated, locally-driven solutions for development.

Is this project idea new for you or your organization? If no, how much have you already executed on?

Our project idea contains both existing and novel aspects. YouthBridge builds on two existing FHI 360 methodologies: Community Youth Mapping and SCALE+. We will execute in a new format, marrying the approaches in a US-focused project designed to address a pervasive national challenge.

What is the problem you aim to solve with this idea? How would you define this problem as urgent and a priority in your target community?

We address marginalization experienced by Somali youth and perceived separateness by others, the effects of which play out every day in schools, at parks and around communities. Entrenched perceptions of separation and lack of social cohesion decrease opportunities for peace and shared prosperity.

What is the timeline for your project idea? What are the key steps for implementation in the next 1-3 years?

Over 2 years: -Map Twin Cities actors, pick Community Advisors (CAs) -Identify organizations, recruit Somali & non-Somali youth -Train mixed CYM data-capture teams -Youth map community, analyze data, share with CAs -Recruit leaders & adults from youth support “system” -Convene system to review CYM findings, share effective practices, pick objectives & activities using SCALE+, fund projects -Promote inter-group communication, link teams to resources -Showcase project, share results

Describe the individual or team that will implement this idea (if a partnership, please explain breakdown of responsibility).

FHI 360’s Barney Singer & Riley Abbott (a Minnesotan) will facilitate CYM, SCALE+ and the overall project. Both are expert systems integrators and facilitators. Significantly, implementation will be carefully constructed so young people and stakeholders in their support system take the lead.

What do you need the most support with in this project idea?

  • Understanding your User and Community

What is your primary goal over the next 6 weeks of Refinement?

  • Better understand my user or community

How do you currently measure (or plan to measure) results for this project?

-During CYM and at project end, we will perform a stakeholder network analysis to measure social capital strength among participating organizations who are part of the system. -Skills attainment resulting from the CYM training. -Most Significant Change evaluations: First, following completion of CYM we will probe changes in attitudes towards other ethnic groups. Second, at project end we will assess changes in and with organizations that received grants.

How has your project proposal changed due to your user research during the Beneficiary Feedback Phase?

-Zeroing in on target age range -Clearer view of organizations, levels of sophistication -Themes emerged: inter-generational trust (older Somalis view younger generation as “American;” younger generation feels unaccepted as American); perceptions that Somalis are distorting Western values; American political context is fueling anti-immigrant/minority fears -Consider participation stipends

(Optional) What are some of your still unanswered questions or concerns about this idea?

We are excited to implement this new model, merged from two methodologies we have used independently in different contexts in the US and beyond. We want to see how best to weave in FHI 360’s expertise in education, citizen engagement, social and behavior change, and evaluation, as well as to coordinate with other community projects, including GHR's new project with FHI 360. We also want to assess the degree to which this model may be replicable or adaptable in other US and overseas communities.

During this Improve Phase, please use the space below to add any additional information to your proposal.

Outreach to beneficiaries and stakeholders allowed us to confirm assumptions and refine ideas in the following areas. Target geographies: “In the ‘Cities’ things aren’t that bad. But when you are in the suburbs, you need to look over your shoulder. You can’t be sure whether the people looking at you have just come from watching Fox News and are riled up against immigrants. For women who wear hijabs, it’s a lot worse.” Target organizations and events: "Build off existing community resources" as well as existing structures and activities, e.g., Somali Week, Somali Museum of Minnesota, Coalition of Somali American Leaders, Somali-American Parents Association. Opportunities: 1. "Kids don't trust their own communities" -- YouthBridge can build trust within the Somali community, as well as between Somali and other communities. 2. The Minnesota Parks and Recreation Board is hiring Community Connectors to engage the community in development decisions to address racial equity -- YouthBridge will reach out to them for CYM as well as SCALE+ engagement. 3. "With the Trump administration and their focus on building walls, deporting immigrants, it’s getting increasingly stressful" -- With tensions on the rise, YouthBridge will provide a safe space to form new bonds and connections between young people and adults from different backgrounds. 4. Existing programs have already identified youth leaders. For instance, participants in the East Africa Youth at Work program have completed Jobs for America's Graduates program with Hennepin County Technical College -- YouthBridge may involve program participants as Mappers and in grant programs. 5. "Job-readiness and skills training is a widespread problem" -- CYM training can support young people in acquiring marketable skills. 6. "High instance of 'disconnected youth'…not involved in education, sports, arts, training or work" -- CYM will identify available assets and opportunities to address these gaps, and community grant projects may engage young people in them. 7. Leaders from government may step up to support YouthBridge implementation, for example, Rep. Ilhan Omar, whose staff has expressed willingness get involved and put YouthBridge before her for consideration. Motivations: According to Ka Joog’s program manager, Somali (and non-Somali) youth appreciate the importance of civic engagement. If given the opportunity, they will choose civic participation over contributing to divisiveness or being apathetic. Also, young people are seeking employment and educational opportunities, and mapping will broaden their horizons. Time commitments from youth will vary depending on age, school status, etc., but desire to fit in and "belong" is high. Uniqueness: Program manager at Ka Joog: "I am not aware of a program with the same objectives or approach as YouthBridge.” Sustainability: One of the experts stated in part: "I think these efforts are important and for effectiveness to be sustained, they must be long-term in nature and decidedly diverse in terms of stable partnerships that are Somali and non-Somali. It must shift broader behaviors and penetrate hearts and minds in a way that there is a sense of shared fate that is discovered and nurtured over time.” We agree. Our monitoring and engagement over time with SCALE+ participants reveal a one-heart, one-mind effect that leads to short-term collaborations and the achievement of mutually agreed-upon actions, as well as long-term increases in social capital. Community Engagement: Another expert asked: "How do you plan to run outreach for community participation? How do you plan to focus development of common projects that demand collaborative work and valued outcomes for all participants?" Outreach for community participation will be run by the community members themselves--the leaders who step forward to support the activity. One noteworthy aspect of the SCALE+ Whole System in a Room gathering is that all participants must agree on joint, cooperative goals versus competitive ones; any that do not have unanimous support are not considered. The group exercises the power of self-determination in setting priorities. Viability: A commenter on the IDEO Challenge site noted that the project “would be of great help in ... multi-ethnic areas.” The investments in CYM, SCALE+ and grants have yielded significant social impact returns as individual interventions, and we believe the same will be true of the combined approach. If YouthBridge is successful, we will adapt and/or replicate it elsewhere and incorporate it into similar projects and future work. User Needs and Human-Centered Design: Another noteworthy aspect of SCALE+ is that each participant can claim his/her voice and make his/her needs known to others.

Note that you may also edit any of your previous answers within the proposal. Here is a great place to note any big final changes or iterations you have made to your proposal below:

As we conducted community outreach, events such as the Portland attack on Muslim women and their defenders underscored the importance of strengthening the American social fabric. While interpersonal contact and collective action alone will not overcome racial and ethnic prejudice, we are confident that Youth Bridge will strengthen social capital and lead to more resilient individuals and communities. According to Ravi Iver, Executive Director of Civil Politics, “There is a rich psychological literature on how positive contact between groups increases the likelihood that greater cooperation and less demonization across groups will occur. This can occur either between individuals or at the group level.... Evidence for the utility of promoting positive relationships between groups is ... prominent [in] examples of cross-group cooperation” (“Two Evidence-Based Recommendations for Civil Disagreement, March 2015, We hope to have the opportunity to build these positive relationships between Somali and non-Somali youth in the Twin Cities, and to partner with GHR in strengthening peace and prosperity around the world.

Youth Bridge is a community-driven initiative to promote peace and shared prosperity by facilitating dialogue and collective action between groups of Somali and non-Somali young people. The initiative will identify and address community-level stresses and factors of vulnerability through its use of two signature FHI 360 methodologies:

Community Youth Mapping (CYM), a youth-led data collection and analysis process, empowers youth to identify their aspirations, assets, needs, and factors of resilience and vulnerability. It involves young people in positive activities, helping them develop new skills and work together with adults.

SCALE+ uses the concepts of systems change and social capital as entry points for relationship-building, cross-sector problem solving and collaboration. The “Whole System in the Room” Workshop brings together diverse stakeholders to discuss challenges and create action plans for positive impact.

Explain your idea

The Somali community in Minnesota is experiencing an increase in social exclusion and marginalization. Although violent extremism from within the community is rare, Somali residents and Somali-Americans are often perceived as terrorists or terrorist sympathizers by mainstream society. Other factors, including racial and ethnic tension and socioeconomic differences, further threaten the community’s enjoyment of peace and opportunities for prosperity. Through the use of CYM and SCALE+, Youth Bridge will catalyze youth to identify drivers of social exclusion, and support multi-stakeholder dialogue and collective action to strengthen social cohesion. In doing so, Youth Bridge will pioneer a model for promoting resilience in communities around the world. Training on Participatory Methodologies: Youth Bridge will work with community partners in and around Minneapolis Cedar-Riverside and Phillips, Saint Paul and Eden Prairie to train 20-30 Youth Mappers from Somali and non-Somali communities. These partners, selected for their experience engaging youth and credibility in the community, will coordinate the mapping process and SCALE+ workshops. Community Mapping: Trained Youth Mappers will map their communities to identify stakeholders and key factors related to youth vulnerability. Local partners will work closely with the Youth Mappers to collect and analyze CYM data. The CYM process will result in a defined set of challenges facing youth in their communities, a group of actors with a stake in those challenges, and a list of related resources available to youth. Based on this data our partners and Youth Mappers will invite key leaders to serve on an Advisory Committee. Leaders may include imams and priests, business owners, teachers and coaches, celebrities, activists, and representatives from government and social services. Whole System in the Room Workshop (WSR): Youth Bridge will guide the Advisory Committee to lead outreach to additional stakeholders and convene a large-scale workshop centered on the challenge defined by Youth Mappers. The WSR will build relationships among diverse groups and develop collaborative action plans that build and promote resilience against the identified stresses in their community. Implementation of Community Resilience Activities: Post-workshop, Youth Bridge will determine which of the collaborative actions to support through small grants, and will then work closely with relevant community stakeholders and partners to finalize and implement grants. Youth Bridge will monitor grant activities and provide needs-based capacity building to community stakeholders.

Who Benefits?

Youth at risk: Youth Bridge will empower youth and develop leadership qualities among a population facing exclusion and frustration. Young women and men, girls and boys, will reveal opportunities and lead projects promoting, for example, conflict resolution, youth employment, college and career readiness, and postsecondary access and success. Minority groups and the broader Twin Cities community: Youth Bridge will produce positive media related to the Somali American community in the Twin Cities that will inform and educate other citizens. The increased attention and community engagement will deconstruct the “otherness” of the Somali community, in turn promoting increased feelings of belonging for minority communities. SCALE+ will result in concrete initiatives that will strengthen communities and contribute to improvements in quality of life. By bringing together groups for constructive dialogue and action, Youth Bridge will build overall community cohesion and resilience.

How is your idea unique?

Youth leadership: Our approaches provide critical skills for young people, and opportunities for them to overcome divisions between Somali and non-Somali communities and work towards a common vision of peace and prosperity. Community resilience: Our approaches produce relationships of trust across social groups and increase familiarity between institutions and communities. This social capital is critical for withstanding existential threats. Collective efficacy: Volatile communities can devolve into places with high crime and social disorder, or evolve into places that aim for and achieve a high quality of life. Our approach promotes the ability of a group to take action together – not an easy task when groups are not listening to one another. Emergence. Our approach changes the rules by engaging diverse stakeholders and creating space for dialogue and shared understanding, creating opportunities for emergence – for positive social transformation.

Idea Proposal Stage

  • Research & Early Testing: I am exploring my idea, gathering the inspiration and information I need to test it with real users.

Tell us more about you

FHI 360 is a nonprofit human development organization dedicated to improving lives in lasting ways. With 4,000 staff and a presence in more than 60 countries, FHI 360 focuses on strengthening the capabilities of individuals, local organizations and governments in the US and around the world. For decades FHI 360 has worked to equip youth with the skills, opportunities and services they need to reach their full potential. We engage youth as well as local partners, policymakers and the private sector to promote peacebuilding and community renewal. FHI 360 is uniquely qualified to implement this activity because we are: Experienced Neutral Brokers: With decades of experience supporting youth engagement and inclusion of marginalized groups, including in Muslim communities, we are positioned to bring a fresh perspective without political baggage and perceived sympathies to one group or interest over another. Experienced in Social Change: FHI 360 has implemented CYM and SCALE+ in resource-poor, volatile communities around the world. We have led similar programs in marginalized communities in the US – in urban centers of Philadelphia, San Francisco and Miami, and in rural communities in the Mid-West and Mid-South. In San Francisco FHI 360 used CYM to help youth identify paid internships by uncovering data about the area’s fastest-growing industries, their needs and their expectations of employees, which helped schools better prepare students for college and work. In Niger, FHI 360 implemented CYM for youth employability, and integrated activities in governance and media that targeted groups vulnerable to violent extremism. FHI 360 has also used its SCALE+ to address challenges related to youth empowerment. In Mali, a recent WSR highlighted the contributions of youth to peace processes, and action plans prioritized youth involvement in conflict mediation efforts, for instance by training youth leaders to introduce peacebuilding programs at local schools. FHI 360 Youth Bridge Program Staff include: Riley Abbott, a native Minnesotan, is an expert in applying systems approaches for collective impact, especially in volatile communities. He has led FHI 360’s adoption of the SCALE+ methodology around the world to improve environmental, peace, governance, and youth programming. Mr. Abbott is a skilled trainer, with experience leading sessions on development issues for youth. Anne Salinas is a specialist in democracy, governance, and peacebuilding program design and implementation. For the past 18 years, she has managed and designed CVE, CYM, and peacebuilding projects in conflict affected and post-conflict countries around the world. Barney Singer brings 30 years of experience designing and implementing multi-sectoral domestic and international programs. Mr. Singer has overseen civil society, youth, civic engagement, media, and strategic communications programming. He is a lead SCALE+ facilitator and expert in leadership development.

Expertise in sector

  • 7+ years

Organization Filing Status

  • Yes, we are a registered non-profit.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Joan Mumaw

Hannah and Team,
I found your project very interesting. I am sorry FHI 360 has pulled out of South Sudan. I think that your project would be of great help in the multi-ethnic areas of South Sudan where you could gather youth from a variety of ethnic groups to study the surrounding communities as to the needs of the various groups. In the process they would get to know each other and model ways of being and working together across ethnic lines. Of course, it would need to be in a time of peace. So perhaps in the future. This complements what we are trying to do in multi-ethnic institutions in S Sudan.

View all comments