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Designing Pathways to Peace and Prosperity through market-based resilience in Malakal, South Sudan

Helping youth in South Sudan map peaceful pathways to prosperity by addressing root drivers of conflict and providing economic opportunity

Photo of Ashley Meek
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*Please Upload User Experience Map (as attachment) and any additional insights gathered from Beneficiary Feedback in this field

“Given the opportunity to do business in Malakal, as youths of different tribes (and ethnic groups), we have no problem doing business together, our problem was the politicians misleading us, but now we realized that their words and acts are destructive to us the future generation and it’s time we need to come together for a common purpose. We are lacking livelihood opportunities and access to credit facilities to initiate small businesses activities and work together". Quote from feedback phase

Why does the target community define this problem as urgent and/or a priority? How is the idea leveraging and empowering community assets to help create an environment for success? (1000 characters)

Young people in Malakal face enormous challenges in accessing education, finding work and earning a steady income, compounded by fragile markets and weak governance. The target community defines youth unemployment as a priority on the basis of its inextricable links to perpetuating systemic ethnic clashes and violence. Limited opportunities for youth to earn an income are widely recognized drivers of violent struggles over resources in the community, as well as engagement in structural violence and recruitment into armed groups.
The idea is leveraging existing community assets, such as market resilience and the will to cooperate with different ethnic groups on mutually beneficial projects such as business, trading and market participation to create an environment of success. This project will capitalize on youth enthusiasm for cooperating to build small businesses, their knowledge of the local economy and their entrepreneurial spirit to earn an income for their households.

How does the idea fit within the larger ecosystem that surrounds it? Urgent needs are usually a symptom of a larger issue that rests within multiple interrelated symptoms - share what you know about the context surrounding the problem you are aiming to solve. (500 characters)

The ecosystem of country-wide conflict has disrupted agriculture, while the economic crisis caused by ongoing conflict has resulted in a breakdown in healthy markets and infrastructure. As resources and opportunities become more limited particularly within PoC sites which are restrictive and host groups who had historically fought against each other in the area, tensions are fueled and unemployed youth are more likely to engage in negative behaviours and fall victim to local political tensions.

How does the idea affect or change the fundamental nature of the larger ecosystem that surrounds it (as described above) in a new and/or far-reaching way? (500 characters)

The new idea of cash transfers to youth to catalyze peace-building for shared economic opportunities, in tandem with peace education and entrepreneurship training, will empower youth to act as agents of change and reduce poverty in their communities. By positively demonstrating mutually beneficial business development and market participation can mitigate tensions within youth groups, youth will be bridge builders for people and beliefs to promote peace and prosperity in a wider ecosystem.

What will be different within the target community as a result of implementing the idea? What is the scope and scale of that difference? How long will it take to see that difference and how will it be sustained beyond BridgeBuilder support? (500 characters)

The impact will extend to the wider community by spurring a shift towards greater social cohesion, reduced conflict, and long-term poverty-reduction in Malakal. The difference will be seen within the first year through cash injections for vulnerable households to mitigate the effects of extreme poverty. This youth-led change will be sustained through the business development and group savings after the first year wherein a small amount of savings will be directed towards new loans for youth.

How has the idea evolved or responded to your user research during the Beneficiary Feedback Phase and any further insights provided if you participated in the Expert Feedback Phase? (1000 characters)

When asked which parts of the project they value the most, the resounding theme was moving beyond ‘peaceful co-existence’ with members from other ethnicities and use peacebuilding as a way to poverty reduction. Based on youth suggestions, two additions have been made to the project idea: 1) Participatory market assessment tools are being developed to help youth identify the most strategic options for group businesses, and adapt to future market trends, and 2) Community sensitization activities, with endorsement from influential community leaders, will be used to foster support for the inter-ethnic group business model. In consultation with potential female beneficiaries, women identified two key obstacles that might prevent them from fully participating: Traditional beliefs against women working outside of the home, handling cash, and household responsibilities. The project idea has evolved to include involvement of group leaders to influence attitudes towards women in business.

What are the key steps for implementation in the next 1-3 years? (You can attach a timeline or GANTT chart in place of a written plan, if desired.) (1000 characters)

1-3 months - Youth will be selected through the vulnerability selection criteria highlighted earlier. A participatory market assessment will be conducted alongside the youth to determine potential market opportunities. Community engagement and discussion with community leaders will be taken to make them aware of the scope of the project. Initial cash transfers will start to the youth households. Youth training curriculum will begin.
3-6 months – Training will be finished at the 6 months mark. Business plans will be developed and approved after training completed. Capital will be provided for the business start-up. Cash transfers will continue to youth households until end of 6 months.
6-12 months – Businesses will be established. Cash transfers up until 6 months to youth households. Ongoing technical support will be provided by War Child Canada and UNYDA.
1-2 years – Youth collaborate on establishment of loan system with UNYDA. Savings into fund begin at 18 month mark.

Describe the individual or team that will implement this idea (if a partnership, please explain breakdown of roles and responsibilities for each entity). (Feel free to share an organizational chart or visual description of your team). (500 characters)

War Child Canada (WCC) will work in partnership with the Upper Nile Youth Development Association (UNYDA) on implementation. WCC will carry out entrepreneurship training, cash transfer and business development support for groups, while UNYDA will facilitate the peacebuilding education and group savings components (using the War Child Canada training packages). WCC will be responsible for overall project management, financial accountability, monitoring and evaluation, ensuring quality outcomes.

What aspects of the idea would potential BridgeBuilder funds primarily support? (500 characters)

BridgeBuilder funds will support trainings, cash transfers for youth and business capital. Trainings will encompass peacebuilding education, life skills, entrepreneurship, business/financial management, and group savings. Unconditional cash transfers will be given to youth participants for the first 6 months of the project for basic household needs. Cash grants for business start-up will be given to youth business groups after business designs are approved and all trainings are complete.

In preparation for our Expert Feedback Phase: What are three unanswered questions or challenges that you could use support on in your project? These questions will be answered directly by experts matched specifically to your idea and needs.

A. Are there placed where cash transfers and peacebuilding have been brought together? What have been the results?
B. War Child Canada is in the process of developing participatory market assessment tools for youth does anyone have experience with, or examples of these?
C. There is skepticism around providing cash grants to young people, but War Child Canada has found it to be positive in previous projects. Does anyone have programmatic evidence to support either the benefits or negatives?

Explain your project idea (2,000 characters)

Ethnic conflict in South Sudan predates the country’s independence from Sudan in 2011. These tensions further escalated in 2013, ignited by a political struggle between the President and former Vice-President. As a result, conflict continues to wage resulting in the death of more than 50,000 civilians, displacement of more than 1.5 million and irreparable damage to the economy, agricultural sector and social fabric of society. According to Human Rights Watch, 2 million South Sudanese children are out of school and more than 70 percent of the population are illiterate.
The second largest town after Juba, Malakal was at the center of the civil war and bore the brunt of its effects. Young people in Malakal face enormous challenges in accessing education, finding work and earning a steady income, compounded by fragile markets and weak governance, leaving them vulnerable to becoming involved in systemic ethnic clashes and violent political struggles.
The project integrates mutually reinforcing components of peacebuilding and income generation in an effort to begin to rebuild trust between groups of youth, with an aim to link peacebuilding efforts and cooperation for economic benefits for all.
Youth will be provided with the requisite tools and skills to start, scale-up and sustain income generating activities including cash transfers and participation in businesses and savings groups, intentionally comprised of young people from different backgrounds. At the same time, youth will be trained in peacebuilding education and conflict resolution to promote collaboration for income generation, savings and market participation. Peacebuilding and conflict resolution will be an integral part of the soft skills component of the project, helping young people to address perceived differences, promote mutual understanding and build healthy relationships as they relate to business development, savings groups, and everyday life.

Who are the beneficiaries? (1,000 characters)

Our beneficiaries will be youth ages 18 – 35 (50% females) who are out of work, school or training programs in Malakal Protection of Civilians site, Upper Nile State, South Sudan. The specific ethnic groups targeted are the Dinka, Nuer, and Shilluk youth in the Protection of Civilians site and Malakal Town which have been victim to the ongoing conflict and politics of the country, yet they share the markets for their livelihoods. They will benefit through the opportunity to form their own business and receive support and training throughout the 24 month period to create a sustainable group of youth business leaders from different ethnic backgrounds and communities. Investing in youth now, will achieve longer term stability of the next generation of youth in Malakal.

How is your idea unique? (1,000 characters)

Livelihoods training and economic support alone do not always prevent youth from becoming involved in violence; conversely, peacebuilding alone does not offer youth economic opportunities or reduce poverty in their communities. Some organizations have begun implementing peacebuilding-economic development initiatives for youth, however; cash transfers to youth as a catalyst to peacebuilding for economic opportunity is not widely practiced. War Child Canada has been working with conflict-affected communities in South Sudan since 2011, providing livelihoods and peacebuilding support to youth and their families. Last year, War Child Canada implemented a successful cash-for-work project with youth in Malakal. Years of experience has informed an in-depth understanding of the communities, the conflict drivers, as well as strong relationships with the youth and community leaders, uniquely positioning the organization to implement this new idea.

Idea Proposal Stage (choose one)

  • Initial Design: I am exploring the idea, gathering the inspiration and information I need to test it with real users.

Tell us more about your organization/company (1 sentence and website URL)

By providing access to education, opportunity and justice, War Child Canada gives children in war-affected communities the chance to reclaim their childhood and break the cycle of poverty and violence


Expertise in sector

  • 5-7 years

Organization Filing Status

  • Yes, we are a registered non-profit.

In 3-4 sentences, tell us the inspiration or story that encouraged you to start this project.

The impetus for the idea came from youth feedback on a recent peace-building project; female and male youth said they had learned to respect members from other ethnic groups, but that they would like to improve the functionality of these newly formed relationships through business start-up and management. They said: “We need something to reduce our economic stress in a way that helps us peacefully engage in small businesses for group benefit and to cooperate to reduce violence among youth"

Please explain how your selected topic areas are influenced, in the local context of your project (1,000 characters).

Peace has been compromised at the national level, further exacerbating tensions in Malakal. Many communities are targeted by political, military, or para-military to mobilize youth groups for their own means . Political fragmentation undermines the peace negotiations and the stability of the country . Prosperity has also suffered by limiting opportunity for investment, sustainable businesses, education, training, or employment. Inflation rates are over 800% with 48% of the population is identified as being in ‘Crisis and Emergency levels’ of food insecurity. Malakal Protection of Civilians site is particularly sensitive, given the restrictive environment and tension within the Protection of Civilians site limiting opportunities for income generation. The resulting cycle of poverty is a challenge to immediate and long-term peace and prosperity.

Who will work alongside your organization in the project idea? (1,000 characters)

Youth in Malakal have been engaged in this project design from the start. Their strengths, needs and interests have been incorporated through participatory focus group discussions. Many of them have ideas for businesses that they would start through cooperation with each other and with cash capital, such as a phone charging centers, a hair dressing salon and charcoal sales. The result is a youth-led project design that builds on the successes of previous initiatives. The Upper Nile Youth Development Association (UNYDA), will work alongside us. UNYDA is a local network of youth associations that foster the capacity of youth to transform their socio-economic circumstances and strengthen peaceful relationships in their communities. War Child Canada and UNYDA have worked in partnership with South Sudanese communities providing youth leadership training, community engagement and capacity building to create sustainable, youth-led peace structures.

Please share some of the top strengths identified in the community which your project will serve (500 characters)

During focus group discussions with local youth, we learned about their enthusiasm for additional market opportunities by working cooperatively with others and building their skills in income generation activities. Their current participation in the market speaks to their resilience, earning income for their households despite existing barriers. They have acute knowledge of market gaps and needs and have already designed business concepts. Our project will respond to this expressed need.

Geographic Focus

South Sudan: Malakal County (Malakal Protection of Civilians site & Malakal town), Upper Nile State

How many months are required for the project idea? (500 characters)

24 months

Did you submit this idea to our 2017 BridgeBuilder Challenge? (Y/N)

  • No


Join the conversation:

Photo of iACT

Hi Ashley,
So great that you are working with youth in South Sudan, caught in cycles of violence, and that War Child Canada is truly including them in the project design from the start! Your idea to combine cash transfers in tandem with peace education and entrepreneurship training sounds promising and we'll be eager to learn about your progress and lessons learned from the tools you develop.

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