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Bridging Community and Government Perspectives in Trinidad and Tobago

To advance empathy as a basis for positive social transformation & policy development in Trinidad and Tobago.

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Explain your project idea (2,000 characters)

What leads to changes in attitudes, values, & behaviors in Trinidad and Tobago's diverse Muslim community at the individual and group level? Unpacking the complexity of individual choices in a context of social change is challenging work for those who seek to create lasting, systemic interventions. This project seeks to provide local actors in Trinidad and Tobago with systems thinking and design thinking tools, which they will use to engage with the island nation’s myriad Muslim communities & governmental actors. Both of these community types share a common interest in designing new approaches to address social phenomena that manifests in under/unemployment, criminality, & in some extreme cases “radicalization.” Community-level and policy-level responses will benefit from an empathy-based exploration of the multiple perspectives (their own and others’) regarding the causal & contextual factors for these outcomes. This project will employ systems thinking techniques to capture the diversity of community and individual narratives on changes in attitudes, values, and behaviors. The mapping of the corresponding mental models will derive from (locally) facilitated workshops with Muslim civil society groups, & governmental entities at various levels. The resulting concept maps will be analyzed to reveal convergences and divergences in structural-conceptual patterns within and between the groups. Participatory interpretation, discussion and reflection on these maps (as artifacts of multiple dialogues with different groups) will build greater empathy among the participants. With an increased baseline of empathy and trust, the concept maps will be used to support the community & governmental participants to ideate on parallel policy and community level efforts to address the cause-and-effect systems that they identified. The concept mapping process will provide a shared canvas for the framing, prototyping & iterative evolution of community/policy-level programs.

Who are the beneficiaries? (1,000 characters)

The participant-beneficiaries of this project will consist of two broad groups in Trinidad and Tobago: first, the diverse Muslim community and second, Trinidad’s government actors. Trinidad’s Muslim community cannot be discussed by treating them as a single entity. Afro-Trinidadian converts, Indo-Trinidadian converts and Indo-Trinidadian Muslims all have different perspectives and experiences. Equally, the government entities are clearly not unitary; e.g., the Defence Force, Police Service and the Strategic Services Agency all have different perspectives and approaches. There are also varying degrees of trust within and between the groups. Mapping exercises will create greater empathy, shared elements of analysis, and a precursor to ideation phases wherein each group will explore what community and policy-level approaches can be developed into programs that contribute to positive social outcomes of increased security and prosperity.

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

Our project is unique based on its integration of systems thinking methods into a design-thinking process, focused on empowering the evolution of community and governmental co-design. Systems thinking will be employed to surface and make explicit the tacit understandings of multiple stakeholders in Trinidad. By unpacking the definitional, contextual and causal factors surrounding connected social phenomena (e.g. un/underemployment, criminality, radicalization) our approach has the potential to unlock creative thinking within the subject communities, based on empathy and increased self-awareness. The concept mapping process will provide a path for each participant to more clearly understand their own subjectivity, as well as that of other communities. This empathy-focused process offers the potential for community-led shifts in attitudes, and corresponding opportunities to design and evolve programmatic and policy interventions that shift toward holistic “bridged" approaches.

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)

With its mission of disrupting the defence/security space, Valens Global uses systems thinking to provide analysis-informed interventions that are localized, dynamic, & collaborative across a wide range of disciplines and stakeholders. For this effort, Valens will team with the Sir Arthur Lewis Institute of Social and Economic Studies, University of West Indies St. Augustine Campus, as well as renowned Trinidadian lawyer and defence/security expert Dr. Sanjay Badri-Maharaj.

Expertise in sector

  • 7+ years

Organization Filing Status

  • Yes, we are a registered company.

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

This project was catalyzed by a Trinidad-based team member who recognized a pattern of incongruence between community-led versus security paradigms for peace-building (especially in so-called "Prevention of Violent Extremism"). After seeing a unique opportunity to bridge this divide between development and security perspectives in Trinidad and Tobago, the team swiftly mapped a systems-thinking methodology and design-thinking framework, embedded with localized dynamics and considerations.

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

While Valens is project managing the effort, the idea-generation and localization has been largely shaped by Dr. Hamid Ghany, Director of the University of West Indies's SALISES Center, and Dr. Badri-Maharaj, who has written extensively on this subject and engaged with countless local stakeholders on security issues. Fully apprised of the dynamics of current thinking and engagement on social, political, and economic issues in Trinidad, Dr. Ghany and Dr. Badri-Maharaj connected to the systems-thinking methodology and design-thinking framework, and validated the approach as applicable and timely for Trinidad and Tobago. As the lead Trinidad partners in the effort, they have committed to provide their analytical expertise, local administrative support, and to serve as the primary interface between the projects international partners (OpenIDEO/GHR Foundation & Valens) and the diverse subject communities that will be invited to participate.

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

The project’s local institutional partner is the SALISES Center, under the leadership of Dr. Hamid Ghany. In 2012, Dr. Ghany received Trinidad and Tobago’s second highest national award, the Chaconia Medal (Gold), for “long and meritorious service to Trinidad and Tobago.” He has served on two Constitution Commissions of Trinidad and Tobago (1998-1990; 2013-2014) and chaired the Public Consultations on Constitution Reform from 2009-2010. He advised the Prime Minister on the grant of Internal Self-Government for Tobago (2012). Dr. Badri-Maharaj has served as a consultant to Trinidad’s Ministry of the Attorney-General on reforms to the Strategic Services Agency (SSA) Act. He was an instructor in the SSA teaching analytical writing, and a consultant to the Ministry of National Security. He has also written on the subject of radicalization in Trinidad and Tobago. Dr. Ghany & Dr. Badri-Maharaj will be the conveners and hosts of engagements with local stakeholder.

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

Trinidad and Tobago is ripe for bridge-building on the topic of security and prosperity. While peace-building and "PVE" have been trending topics around the world, Trinidad and Tobago has received little support both in terms of participatory community-level engagement. Families and communities are traditionally left outside of policy-making processes even though they share a common interest with officials to address social phenomena of unemployment, criminality, and radicalization.

Geographic Focus

Trinidad and Tobago

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

12-18 months - depending on number of workshops

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

  • No


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