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

The Changemaker Program – Create lasting, locally-led change to foster peace and prosperity

Support and empower disadvantaged local youth so they can run their own sport project and create dramatic positive change in their community

Photo of Berit Moneke

Written by

Explain your project idea (2,000 characters)

In times of war, natural disaster and displacement, the need to support children and youth is as crucial as ever. The number of displaced people around the world has risen to an incredible number of 65.5 million, more than half of them being children. We at Capoeira4Refugees believe they should have the chance to experience a normal childhood and not become involved in militias or criminal gangs, drug abuse, or recruitment by extremists. They desperately need positive role models, purpose, and a safe space, so they can reach their full potential. Our decade of working locally shows that investing in these young people today will ensure prosperity and peace for tomorrow. We provide informal education and contribute to conflict resolution where formal structures are not available or insufficient. We use the unique artform of capoeira, consisting of music, sport and play, to provide psychosocial support and create positive change for disadvantaged communities. Capoeira is a peaceful, non-physical sport based on values such as discipline, respect and teamwork, which makes it a powerful tool to foster peace and teach life skills. Our participants learn how to peacefully address their traumatic experiences, stress and frustrations, as well as core skills such as critical thinking and leadership. Within the safe spaces we create, we help these children realize their full potential. In line with the overall development in the third sector towards the localization of aid, we do not run capoeira projects through international trainers but help locals set up and run their own. The Changemaker Program supports local youth in disadvantaged locations, such as conflict zones or refugee communities, gain the skills and network to make their projects a success. Our main goal is to get young people off the streets, support them in overcoming their mental health issues and improve their overall wellbeing, thereby preventing violent behaviors and increasing their employability.

Who are the beneficiaries? (1,000 characters)

Our beneficiaries are: i our Changemaker Award fellows and ii the vulnerable children and youth they work with. Our fellows: aged 18+, from disadvantaged communities, talented, committed, bridge-builders. All of them show the drive and passion to initiate change in their own communities through sport, but lack the support, skills or knowledge to set up and run a project. The Changemakers will receive financial support, mentoring, and training to enable them to successfully run their own social sport project and make it sustainable. The Award also fosters their personal development, which increases their employability and makes them integral role models in society. Our students: children and youth aged 4-18 from marginalized communities, such as refugee camps or slums. These kids often show serious mental health issues as well as negative behaviors. The idea will help them overcome their trauma, improve their overall wellbeing and teach them how to peacefully interact with others.

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

Our USPs: - Innovative: combining an Ashoka-like model with brand-new tech-solutions to have a collaborative and lasting social impact - Built on sustainable success: we are proud to have seeded independent capoeira projects run by locals in the Middle East and beyond - Grassroots: starting off as a truly local organization with a bottom-up approach addressing real local needs, we empower those locals nobody else wants to work with - Domino-effect: each fellow trains up students to become assistant trainers, so they in turn set up their own classes and train up others, which supports sustainable grassroots change and ensures future capacity for our project even beyond our presence - Experience: we have been in the field for 10 years with a proven record of successful projects working with vulnerable children and youth in refugee camps, prisons, safe houses - Shifting power structures: we listen carefully and are fully responsive to what locals need and want – they take the lead.

Idea Proposal Stage (choose one)

  • Early Adoption: I have completed a pilot and analyzed the impact of that pilot on the intended users of the idea. I have begun to expand the pilot for early adoption.

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

Having worked in war and conflict zones, including in areas occupied by ISIS, for more than 10 years, Capoeira4Refugees aims to truly localize aid by empowering local youth to run their independent social capoeira projects and promote peace and prosperity in their own communities.

Expertise in sector

  • 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.

When the war started in 2010, we had to leave Syria, close the office and stop our amazing projects which were helping thousands of children. What drove us to start the Changemaker Program, was the realization that despite our absence, brilliant local trainers continued running our capoeira projects, helping promote peace and prosperity in their own communities. We saw there is no need for internationals to do the job, but we should rather help locals be heard and receive the support they need.

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

We work in locations impacted by crisis and displacement, characterized by instability, violence and poverty. Children and youth often suffer the most from traumatic experiences and the lack of educational and leisure activities in these contexts. A ‘lost’ generation vulnerable to terrorism, radical violence and loss of hope. We see an increase in tensions between refugee and host communities, in youth gang criminality and in extremist thinking, which terrorists are keen to pick up on. Many young people are unable to benefit from formal education because structures have broken down or they do not have the support or mental health to engage in learning. Employment opportunities are rare, and the lack of education makes it incredibly hard for them to find a job. The consequence? Frustration, anger, violent behavior and hopelessness – threatening society’s peace and prosperity. To overcome this vicious cycle of poverty and violence, young people need support to reach their full potential.

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

- We deliver trainings in partnership with local and international partners, for instance psychosocial aid trainings for our fellows - Local communities are closely engaged as they actively shape the design and implementation of the project. This includes families, teachers, community leaders. Only that way can we truly empower local assets and provide effective capacity building for young locals - Academic and expert partnerships support the development of programme materials and the monitoring and evaluation of our projects. Together with the University of East London we have for instance published academic research on the impact of our work; psychologists and child-protection experts helped us draft the first version of the Changemaker training curriculum - By engaging IT/technology experts, we will be able to further develop the tech side of our idea, enabling us to remotely support the fellows - Supporters of C4R around the world will also help Changemakers run their projects.

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

Most people in the communities we work in are under 18 – young people willing to learn, work and grow. Despite difficult living conditions, war, inequality, these communities are highly resilient. They know best how to negotiate the complex security, cultural and political minefield of war zones or poverty. They are often incredibly talented, committed, and show the drive and passion to actively contribute to peace and prosperity and overcome the difficult social conditions they live in.

Geographic Focus

Pilot in refugee camps/slums in Syria, Jordan, Palestine, Turkey, Peru. Now expand to other regions.

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

The Changemaker Award is a 24-months fellowship program supporting young locals to develop the skills necessary to work in conflict and other difficult settings with children and youth traumatized by their experiences of war, poverty, and inequality. The training curriculum is designed to support Fellows over a period of two years in which they set up their own social sport project to support vulnerable children in their own communities, and make the project sustainable to create real change.

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

  • No


Join the conversation:

Photo of Ashley Tillman

Hi Berit Moneke great to have you in the Challenge! Can you share a few more details around how you've seen your work foster peace and tangibly impact prosperity in the communities you work with?

Tagging in Dima Boulad and Luz Gallo for any additional questions or thoughts!

Photo of Luz Gallo

Since your are going to be tranfering knwoledge to each community, Have you thought about making a network of these communities in order to make events and gather with capoeira as an excuse?

Photo of Berit Moneke

Hi Ashley Tillman,

thanks for your question, glad to share some details!
As mentioned before, Capoeira is non-competitive, which makes it such a powerful tool to bring together people and provide a safe space for dialogue and understanding. At the same time, our classes have a real impact on the personal development of students, fellows, and the wider community, providing them with life skills and the tools to fully participate in society, including in education and employment. Here are a few examples of how we have seen our work foster peace and prosperity:

- One of our first projects was in a UNHCR school in Damascus, Syria, running social capoeira classes for Iraqi refugees. Around 30 kids joined our first class outside. Everything was going fine. Until it suddenly started to rain heavily … but stones and rocks! We had to run for it. We asked the students what was going on and were told: “it’s the Syrian kids – they’re stupid and dirty”. We asked the teachers if it was ok for the Syrian kids to join us. They started laughing and said: “they hate each other, they will never play together”. The school was in a really poor area of the city, the Syrian kids were of course jealous of the Iraqi refugee kids, their new school, their new activities.
The second week we managed to get three Syrian kids join the class. Actually, they just played the music and the Iraqi kids practices movements. But at least: no stones. The following week, the Syrian kids brought some friends… But they still didn’t want to mix with one another. The thing is, capoeira doesn’t work like that. Our classes are based on respect and tolerance. Capoeira is about playing a beautiful game together, there is no space for hate or ‘the other’. In our classes, we do a lot of partner exercises, you shake hands to show respect to the other player, you keep swapping partners and end up practicing with everyone. For the Palestinian and Iraqi kids in that project it was their decision: either you play together, or we cannot play at all. By the fourth week, the Iraqi and Syrian kids were practicing together even before the actual class started. The teachers couldn’t believe their eyes. At the end of each class, students and trainers also sit together and discuss, openly and in a safe space, issues around ‘the other’, around violence and extremism, and positive behaviours.

- The successes we achieve in class also transfer to the wider community, to teachers, parents, siblings, community leaders. Regular community events help us bring together the different communities. They all want to watch their kids play capoeira, and naturally end up clapping and singing next to another proud parent, regardless of where they come from. Sharing these positive experiences and the joy and fun of capoeira is a powerful bridge between even deeply alienated communities.

- The amazing thing about the Changemaker Program is that we can have a real impact on two groups at the same time: the fellows, and the kids they work with. During the first pilot phase of our Program, we had 7 fellows complete the curriculum, including trainings on M&E, marketing, capoeira training, psychosocial first aid, amongst others. We have seen them grow throughout the process, gaining self-confidence, getting a huge motivation boost, and a sense of worth in their often difficult lives. The range of skills and the network developed through the Program helped fellows gain employment outside of our support.
At the same time, we have seen the great impact the social capoeira classes have on the children and youth participants. On top of the skills directly gained through the project, they experienced improved mental health and overall wellbeing which helped them engage in learning, better perform at school, find a job. They learned how to deal with their frustrations in a healthy and positive way, which led to a significant decrease in violent incidences, tensions, drug abuse and other negative behaviours. Many children joining our classes went home with a sense of positivity and hope, which transfers to all areas of life.
13-year old Basem (changed name), a Syrian refugee in Jordan, is one example. When we got to know him, he showed many symptoms of trauma, he was a frustrated young boy. Instead of asking, he would use violence to get what he wanted. Capoeira brought harmony into his life. In capoeira class, Basem was taught how to peacefully deal with his frustrations and how to interact in a respectful way with others. He no longer hits other children but communicates with them, and practices moves together. His parents say that their son is more energised and now eager to run errands for them – something he had never done before. The facilitators at his school report that they can see Basem feels calmer and listens. He performs better in class, enjoys studying. As Basem explains himself: “Capoeira offloads all the negative energy and makes me feel happy. It is beautiful!"

Photo of Berit Moneke

Hi Luz Gallo ,
thanks for your comment and bringing up the idea of networking, great thought!

Networks are an essential part in capoeira, and even more in our work. Playing capoeira means being part of the global capoeira family, which our students and fellows also experience (and I can tell you, it IS a real family with all its support, love, ups and downs!). To bring this essential value of capoeira to a more formalized level, we have created our Changemakers Hub, the first online platform to connect capoeira projects around the world and offer a forum for them and us to exchange knowledge, learnings and best practices, seek support from volunteers and donors, and gain visibility. This helps us amplify the impact of individual capoeira projects around the globe, even beyond our immediate support/efforts around working in and with individual communities. Through the Hub, groups and individuals also organize events to gather and play capoeira, which further increases intercultural dialogue and exchange. The events we organize on a small scale, as well as the ‘bigger’ impact through the hub significantly contributes to conflict resolution and peace building through networks. But you are right, we should more stress this part of the Program and promote our regular events to bring together different communities!

View all comments