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Youth-Powered Peace in Somalia, 365 Days a Year

Powering young people in Kismayo, Somalia to live out their dreams for peace and change, each and every day.

Photo of American Refugee Committee
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Explain your project idea (2,000 characters)

The city of Kismayo is in transition. On the southern coast of Somalia, it’s seen an influx of thousands of former refugees, coming home for the first time in decades. With more than half of those former refugees under the age of 30, there’s a big need for programs and activities that focus around young people. That’s where the Youth Center comes in. It's a place where young returnees can grow job skills, meet people, gain confidence, and find positive, productive outlets. Young people learn useful job skills – like hair cutting and henna design, business, and IT skills. They organize performance and artist's groups. And, the center offers English, design, and computer classes, too. As more and more young people come back to Kismayo, it’s incredibly important that they have places like the Youth Center where they can come to learn and be with friends – and just be themselves. Peace is still tenuous. Violence is not uncommon. The Youth Center is an outlet that so many depend on and grow with, but they need ways of amplifying their work - of taking what they do best and simply doing more of it. Our proposal is simple. Power these kids to make one small change of their choosing, every single day, for 365 days, and in the process change what it means to be a young person living in post-conflict Kismayo. The ideas will come from youth, will be implemented by youth, and their impact captured by youth, mobilizing a new generation of changemakers in the city. One idea per day will help to craft a new, positive identify for these kids, helping to show them abundance in the face of scarcity. Our role, aside from powering this daily change, will be to provide the back-end support and foundation these youth need to live out their dreams. A model that could be replicable in any post-conflict setting, this idea puts the ability to generate lasting peace and change into the hands of those who need it most.

Who are the beneficiaries? (1,000 characters)

The people who will benefit most from this idea are young people (ages 10 - 30) living in Kismayo, Somalia. The majority of them are returned refugees from places like Dadaab, Kenya, Eritrea, and Ethiopia - for many, this is their very first time in Somalia. Some of the young people who come to the Youth Center are not returned refugees, but their support and empowerment is just as important. It is only together that these young people will bring lasting change to their city. These are incredible young people who are thirsty for knowledge, marketable skills, and opportunities. They're also looking for an identity, one that flips the narrative of what it means to be from Somalia. For too long, Somalia has been known for perpetual violence and instability. With the ability to take change into their own hands - to see their ideas come to life each and every day - that narrative can begin to change.

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

This idea's beauty is in its simplicity. It's change, every single day, for and with people recovering from conflict. The ideas come straight from Somalia youth and are implemented quickly, giving them the confidence they need - we believe that the experience of having an idea and seeing it come to life is one that every young person should have. The project builds on the idea that a strong and capable generation of Somali youth is the best and only way to ensure Somalia's peaceful future - but in simple, doable steps. Confidence is built slowly yet steadily. Relationships are forged. Opportunities uncovered. And, this idea is replicable. ARC will provide the backbone for the changemaking in Kismayo, letting the youth have creative control over their ideas and how they're done. We'll provide back-end and behind the scenes support, help them generate ideas, and provide guidance when needed. It's their dreams - with our backing.

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)

Everything we do begins with refugees. They know better than anyone the challenges they’re facing, the things they need, and what will make the biggest difference in their lives. When we deeply understand their experience, we’re able to co-design solutions that create new value and make meaningful change. We’re transforming the way we work around the world, making practical and breakthrough improvements in the way we help refugees return to normalcy.

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.

In February 2018, an ARC team traveled to Kismayo to see how we could make small, yet high impact change - and what ideas Somalis had to change their world. We were floored by what we found. It was youth who had the brightest, most creative, and powerful ideas for change - and they had so many of them. We asked ourselves, what if we could power those ideas to empower youth, each and every day for a year (or beyond?)? What if peace could be generated by simple acts of hope over time?

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

Peace is tenuous in Kismayo, but it's fueled by opportunities, positive identities for young people, and perceived abilities to thrive and achieve dreams. In this context, it is all too easy to fall into the trappings of violent armed groups who prey on the vulnerabilities and lack of strong positive identity of youth. By showing young people that they can and will achieve their dreams, strengthening their identity as positive changemakers, we can take small steps toward making lasting peace a reality.

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

We will work closely with the youth at the Youth Center and ARC staff who help to manage it. These Somalis will be instrumental in envisioning change and helping to see it through. We will also work to engage the Somalia diaspora around the world, providing a platform for them to give back to youth in Somalia. Through visibility of the projects, the diaspora could be mobilized to help fuel the campaign, giving the initiative further and longer-lasting reach.

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

Young people in Somalia have so many ideas to give back to their communities. They're looking for peace. They're searching for opportunity, change, and hope. They have an abundance of enthusiasm, creativity, and goodwill to share with the world. They just need a way to share it.

Geographic Focus

Kismayo, Somalia.

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

Ideally, we would implement one idea per day for 365 days. We could begin immediately.

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

  • No

7 comments

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Comment
Spam
Photo of Andrew Salema Ludigo
Team

Young people in Somalia need all the support they can get in ensuring that this beautiful country can reclaim everything evil has tried to take away. Meeting and getting to know Somali people here in Kampala is teaching me so much and makes me optimistic about what can be achieved as new dawn beckons. I believe in this, only time can tell when but with such a project who can deny Somalia of possessing resourceful and determined individuals willing to see to it.

Spam
Photo of Allison Pinto
Team

We similarly believe deeply in the talents and ingenuity of kids, and the everyday ways in which they can lead transformative change - especially when opportunities to do so are amplified! It is great to read your description of your role as one of "providing back-end and behind the scenes support," so that the efforts are truly youth-generated and youth-led. Our efforts are focused on coming together around younger children - up to age 10. Might be fun to consider how kids of different age ranges, in different countries/cultures, could provide consultation to one another!

Spam
Photo of American Refugee Committee
Team

Hi Allison! Thanks so much for your reply and thoughts on this. Really exciting to hear that you are taking a like-minded approach! And that is certainly an interesting thought - I love the idea of youth from Kismayo not only generating ideas within their own communities, but across ages and cultures. That prospect for peace building is really intriguing!

Spam
Photo of Allison Pinto
Team

This could be akin to the Positive Deviance approach, which facilitates direct connections among and between local innovators, rather than the professionals or experts "harvesting" or "distilling" knowledge and wisdom and then taking it elsewhere. Vidhya Shanker shared a term she uses in describing the purpose and outcomes of their work through Ta-Valema Learning Lab - "epistemic justice" - this seems relevant here as well!

Spam
Photo of Julia Frei
Team

Dear American Refugee Committee. Your project sounds very interesting and the way you work is very much in line what our organisation is doing too. You described that the project is running already, how long is it running since the establishment? How many people join the Center? And what are some examples of one idea per day?

Spam
Photo of American Refugee Committee
Team

Hi Julia - thanks so much for your comment! And great questions :-) Yes, the Youth Center in Kismayo has been up and running for over a year, and we've been so excited to see how things have progressed. Over 200 young people come to the center every single day to take computer classes, art classes, English classes, and other marketable skills like plumbing and carpentry. It's also simply a place to get together and get to know one another. A few months ago, we prototyped the concept of one idea per day with the youth - small and quick yet high-impact projects, the ideas of which came right from young people themselves. We were floored by the results. Some examples include getting all the supplies for and hosting an art day at the center, where resident artists taught curious young people about how to express themselves through art. Another was a community planting day (pictured above) where the students beautified the Youth Center with fresh, green, and lush trees and plants - it was all about taking pride in where you live and sharing that with others. Another idea was getting costumes for the traditional dancing group, so that they could perform in the community and build friendships, all while fostering a deep pride in the place they come from. The list could go on!

How does your organization express similar ideas in your work? Thanks again!

Spam
Photo of Julia Frei
Team

Thank you American Refugee Committee for your answer. Good to see how this idea evolved so quickly to a running centre and how much exciting projects come from the youth.
Same Skies works with refugees in Indonesia and Malaysia as partners. We co-design our projects and give refugee actors responsibility over and for the project implementation. One of our projects is called Transformative Leadership in Action starting mid June 2018. Professionals from the humanitarian and corporate sector and refugee leaders study over 7 months in an online course to get theoretical background on different management and leadership topics. To transfer this knowledge into practice, another part of the programme is to set-up a community centre in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The participants will meet for two weeks in Malaysia to get to know each other and the context. They will assess the needs of the refugee community in Kuala Lumpur, on which the services provided in the centre will base. After the two weeks, the refugee leaders will take over the establishment and management of the centre on spot while the rest of the team is advising and participating remotely. If you want to check out the programme, here is the link to the website: www.sameskies.org/leadership. We are very happy over feedback and comments too. The idea is also launched for the BridgeBuilder Challenge :)
Best wishes,
Julia