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LEAD with EMPATHY (LwE): globally interconnected, refugee-led leadership development program

LEAD with EMPATHY, a peer-facilitated program, inspires and guides refugees to identify challenges and implement community-based solutions.

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

See attached two User Experience Maps.

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)

LwE invests in refugees’ long-term success by creating a space and structure for refugees to learn new information and exchange ideas, providing access to information and skills critical for leadership and management, and supporting the implementation of refugee solutions with funding and access to expertise. Community feedback: [Chad] We have been in camps for 14 years and still we do not have rights, a voice, and opportunities to advance our lives, says Oumda Tarbosh. [USA] Resettled refugees are served by different agencies but there is not a sense of being home. The mothers are suffering the most. We must empower one member and engage the entire family, explains Maria Khani. [Greece] Zarlasht Halaimzai describes unaccompanied minors who have turned 18 have little-to-no access to services. They are particularly vulnerable as the usual protections for the transition to adulthood are completely missing. LwE will help give them agency and voice over the next steps in their lives.

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)

iACT is in the process of further identifying all of the forces that prevent refugees from having ownership, agency, and voice over the daily decisions and “solutions” that affect their lives. What we know so far is that the existing top-down humanitarian system is disempowering for the very people it seeks to “protect” and aid and that the interrelated symptoms span from global politics, status quo programming, to negative perceptions of refugees, and seeing them as a problem, not as assets.

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)

LwE challenges the top-down humanitarian approach by empowering refugees with resources, agency, ongoing partnership, and support to design, test, and scale solutions they identify for their community and global goals. We believe in the process as much as the outcome. For different refugee participants, the completion of LwE and designing a solution might not be perfect; there may be mistakes and misunderstandings but these will facilitate growth towards stronger leaders and global citizens.

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)

By scaling LwE, we're testing an idea that develops the capacity of displaced communities to become self-reliant. The 70 million displaced are caught in a short-term, disempowering cycle of emergency aid. Once emergency funding dries up, services cease and refugees are moved to “self-reliance” w/out having received capacity development. If scaling is successful, this lightweight, culturally adaptable curriculum can easily be implemented in any refugee setting and create an impact after 4 months.

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)

The target population has evolved based on discussions with partners and beneficiaries. Participants in Chad will be male and female refugees from Sudan employed by iACT Refugees United Soccer Academy. Participants in Cameroon will be women preschool teachers and trained by iACT. In partnership with Refugee Trauma Initiative (RTI), LwE will be completed by formerly unaccompanied youth who have turned 18 and aged out of services provided by Greece. RTI is housing these young adults and seeks to provide leadership and skill development programs that prepare them for employment and leadership positions. In southern California, we learned that incentives for the participants to complete the curriculum and child care are essential. There will be two groups of women working together (10-18 in each group) living in the same apartment complex in two cities who will meet in the morning while their children are in school.

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)

Please see the attached timeline for key implementation steps.

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)

Please see the attached LwE team roles and responsibilities chart.

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

Funds will support curriculum adaptation, printing, on-site training of facilitators and introductory meetings with communities, communication with iACT and between participants (mobile phone credits), facilitator stipends, meeting expenses, incentives, and a budget for the community-identified solutions. iACT believes strongly in providing stipends for community facilitators and incentives for participants that help meet their essential daily needs, which would otherwise prevent participation.

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.

1. iACT would like to build a global team of experts who are on hand to help support the ideas that refugee leaders come up with. What is the best way to build this team and are their existing networks we can tap into? Should we begin building this network now or wait until the refugees are working through the curriculum and have at least identified their general challenge area?
2. Are their aspects of the community-driven solution that we are not being clear about? How can we clarify without being repetitive?
3. Is their opportunity for impact investing here? If so, in what ways?

Final Updates (*Please do not complete until we reach the Improve Phase*): 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)

We've learned more specifics about the target participants and their needs. 1) Participants in Chad will be 32 male and female refugees from Sudan employed by iACT Refugees United Soccer Academy. 2) Participants in Cameroon will be 48 women employed as Jesuit Refugee Service preschool teachers and cook and trained by iACT. 3) In partnership with RTI, LwE will be completed by 20 formerly unaccompanied youth who have turned 18 and aged out of services provided by Greece. Based on youth feedback, RTI suggests stipends for four youth participants who will serve as the facilitators. 4) In southern California, we learned that incentives for the participants to complete the curriculum and proximity to a meeting location are essential (instead of child care). There will be two groups of women, all mothers, working together (10-18 in each group) living in Claremont and Anaheim in the same apartment complex who will meet in the morning while their children are in school.

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

In speaking with each group of beneficiaries and partners, the context, culture, and real needs vary greatly across the four population groups we aim to reach through LwE.

Male and female refugee participants in refugee camps in Chad do not see any barriers to completing the curriculum each week and instead see it as an opportunity to gain control over their lives as humanitarian services dwindle. All international support is decreasing exponentially and self-reliance will be a primary focus moving forward. The community is facing multiple challenges for everyday survival, and by using the concrete skills outlined in the curriculum, refugees will have a roadmap for identifying and piloting solutions that meet immediate and long-term needs.

Participants in southern California, who are all recently resettled mothers shared that they feel isolated and overwhelmed in meeting their monthly needs, such as rent, and so they valued the experience of completing the curriculum with peers each week so they can “form bonds, share stories and needs in a safe environment, and encourage each other to be more active in American society.” We heard from mothers that mental health challenges and the effects of long-term trauma are very present in their daily lives. In speaking with Syrian-American advocates and the resettled community, it was decided that one Syrian-American will act as a point person and co-facilitator with a more recently resettled refugee in order to provide stability but to also show that resettlement can be successful.

Refugee youth who have aged out of assistance in Greece reported a high desire for soft skills to help them enter the job market as well as psychosocial support. Trauma remains a barrier to entering the job market, so providing psychological and individual resilience tools will be provided as further incentive to be part of the program.

LEAD with EMPATHY will be adapted with each group to ensure the curriculum and information meets their immediate and long-term needs and desires. Our implementation, observations, learnings, and curriculum iterations with each group will provide diverse and actionable insight for adapting, impacting, and scaling LwE to empower refugees to address the immediate and long-term needs and desires faced by refugees globally.

Additionally, from the feedback phase, we have identified new topics and content that we will include in the LwE curriculum. In summary: 1) When problem-solving and managing a project, recognizing what is working and the positive components, not just the problems or issues, and learning how to build off and expand what is working. 2) When designing a solution, start by imaging the ideal and best version of an end-product or project. What does that look like and now, what steps do you need to take to get there?

*Please see our updated "LwE User Experience!" map attached.

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:

We have made updates to the target participants and number of participants based on our partner and beneficiary feedback. This information has been noted above in the "Final Updates" question. Additionally, we created and attached a "LwE User Experience!" map.

Explain your project idea (2,000 characters)

We believe that if we offer the combination of human rights education, concrete community organizing, leadership skill development, access to global peers and experts, and the opportunity to identify, implement, and test their solutions, refugee youth will become global citizens who are empowered to address global goals in their community.

The LEAD with EMPATHY curriculum and training was developed in partnership with refugees in eastern Chad as a solution to address inequalities in decision-making power in their community. The curriculum is rooted in empathy and nonviolent communication and is designed to provide information, tools, and guidance for individual and collective leadership development. Each lesson begins with a mindfulness exercise which serves to ensure all participants feel mentally and emotionally “in the moment,” and sets a peaceful and calm atmosphere. Each of the thirty lessons allows for youth to dive into each topic, practice and adapt the learnings to their daily life and community, and reflect. The curriculum begins with understanding empathy and nonviolent communication before defining various leadership styles and moving into goal setting, facilitation skills, human rights (Convention on the Rights of the Child, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women), gender equality, peacebuilding, empowerment, and community organizing. The curriculum culminates with a group action project that guides participants in identifying a problem and implementing a solution in their community. While working on this curriculum together locally, we will also connect the refugee facilitator across locations to foster an interconnected community working together to ensure a more peaceful world. Perhaps most importantly, we will honor the resulting ideas and solutions of youth who complete LEAD with EMPATHY with financial and expert technical support.

Who are the beneficiaries? (1,000 characters)

Currently, there are 22.5 million refugees worldwide. As refugees, these men, women, and youth lack decision-making power and agency over resources. The inequality springs from a spectrum of causes, including traditional social habits, economic status, displacement, and, perhaps most seriously, the loss of power within the top-down humanitarian structure. In this next iteration, our beneficiaries include youth under age 30:
- Refugees from Darfur, Sudan, representing various tribes living in refugee camps in the remote area of eastern Chad. Despite ongoing challenges and critical gaps in services, UNHCR’s 2018 budget was only funded at 13%.
- Refugees from the Central African Republic living in integrated refugee sites in eastern Cameroon.
- A combination of Syrian and northern African refugees in Thessaloniki, Greece, living in the urban city center and who were recently relocated by the government from suburban refugee camps.
- Resettled refugees in southern California

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

iACT has on-the-ground experience and evidence-based results from facilitating refugee-led programs that empower refugees and increase their agency and voice, including the first iteration of this curriculum. We do not leave U.S.-based staff in countries where we work; rather, we employ refugees to manage programs and partner with established humanitarian organizations to leverage resources. iACT already has refugee employees in each of the targeted African communities requesting leadership development curricula, and a volunteer team member willing to facilitate a U.S.-based participant group. iACT is uniquely positioned to quickly hire refugee facilitators in order to offer these communities the opportunity to see themselves as part of the larger world, engage in a global community working towards a cooperative and planet, and implement solutions that restore dignity, foster peace, and create a better future for their community and the world.

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)

Since 2005, iACT has facilitated refugee-led education, sports, and human rights programs that build resilience and cultivate recovery in refugee camps with a focus of filling a gap in humanitarian response and in improving the way we create and implement programs with refugee populations. http://www.iactivism.org

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.

Inspiration sprang from conversations with Darfuri refugee women trained and employed to lead our early childhood education program in eastern Chad. The women were struggling to speak at camp meetings and lacked the confidence and tools to make decisions in the face of opposition and traditional gender/social roles. Hearing this, we went to the drawing board and asked, “How might we empower refugee women to feel more confident and effective as leaders of the program and in the community?”

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

As crises continue and resources become scarcer, refugees are at the forefront of where peace, prosperity, and planet intersect. Sudan, CAR, and Burundi are all part of the top 10 countries of origin for refugees worldwide and are considered least developed countries. According to the World Bank, conflicts “drive 80% of all humanitarian needs, while they reduce gross domestic product (GDP) growth by two percentage points per year, on average.” Peace is threatened by ongoing cycles of violence endemic to displaced communities: Darfuri refugees have been displaced since genocide began in Sudan in 2003; Central Africans in Cameroon came in waves in 2004/05 and 2012; and Burundi refugees in Tanzania have experienced violence just a decade apart. According to the UN Refugee Agency, developing regions hosted 84% of the world’s refugees in 2016. Combined with the lack of agency and decision-making power afforded refugees, prosperity is threatened by the lack of opportunity in host nations.

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

iACT works directly with refugees and establishes dynamic partnerships in each of the four communities we propose for this project. In Chad and Cameroon, iACT works in partnership with Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS), and in Tanzania with PLAN International (PLAN). Being registered NGOs in each country, JRS and PLAN provide in-country logistics and facilitation of iACT projects. Through a local volunteer team member in southern CA, iACT will work with a diverse group of refugee youth recently resettled and connected through the Islamic Center of Hawthorne’s women’s committee. In addition to the LEAD with EMPATHY pilot, iACT facilitates Little Ripples, a refugee-led early childhood education and development program, and the refugee-led, gender equality-focused Refugees United Soccer Academy in Chad, Cameroon, and Tanzania. Further, iACT is supporting an early-stage refugee-initiated livelihood solution to support the decreasing food rations and environmental challenges of eastern Chad.

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

Refugees arrive in camps with the entire experience of their lives, not just the violent one that forced them to leave their home. They come with community assets, education, local knowledge, aspirations, culture, and more. They are the resident experts in challenges facing their community and possible solutions. LEAD with EMPATHY simply provides a structure to utilize their strengths and grow new leadership and human rights-based skills in order to address critical gaps in aid and services.

Geographic Focus

Refugees living in Chad, Greece, Cameroon, and five cities in southern California.

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

For full implementation and roll-out, iACT anticipates a 30-month timeline, with roll-out of the initial curriculum happening in the first 12 months across all four locations. Participants will take 30 weeks to complete the curriculum. They will then have the opportunity to implement solutions to community challenges they identify. Finally, debriefing with each community, sharing lessons learned among the four groups, and iterating upon the leadership curriculum will follow.

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

  • No
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Attachments (8)

LwE User Experience! .pdf

Please see our revised LEAD with EMPATHY user experience map!

Lesson 2 Leading with Empathy (1).pdf

LESSON 2 of the LEAD with EMPATHY curriculum. This is to provide an example of the format and design of each lesson.

LwE overview.pdf

A document which provides an overview of LEAD with EMPATHY.

Table of Content.pdf

A list of all the lessons/topics completed by users of LEAD with EMPATHY.

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Photo of Brittany Finney
Team

What is groundbreaking about this idea is that iACT is not just implementing programs that are deemed necessary by outside sources, but also by what the refugees themselves have asked for. It is often the case that refugee providing services may only provide to the refugees on a short-term, unsustainable basis. What iACT is offering is something that not only directly meets the needs the refugees have stated themselves, but is sustainable and can lead towards a higher level of economic, social, and psychological sustainability. Best of luck and I look forward to learning more of the results of this project!

Photo of iACT
Team

Wow, thanks for the message, Brittany! We'll certainly be sharing learnings and results as the project progresses. Feel free to email us for more information!

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