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Grassroots community changemakers using sport and culture to provide psychosocial support to children and youth impacted by conflict

A competition that awards local changemakers with a 2 year Fellowship to run and scale their community based sports and cultural activities

Photo of Ummul Choudhury
9 16

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What problem does your innovation solve?

Arab female refugees face issues that are compounded by sexism and ideas of honour and shame; ideas that are often internalized. Girls need opportunities to access safe spaces and networks that allow them to challenge norms, and enable them to deal with traumatic experiences. Psychosocial support is essential to empowering girls to become actors of change for themselves.

Explain your innovation.

A competitive process to award grassroots community Changemakers with a 2-year support and training package, including mentoring, to scale change themselves. We will also tap them into an international network that can support their projects. We have based our innovation on grassroots capoeira projects working with women’s safe houses, girls prisons, and refugees starting a decade ago. We trained up local trainers who were able to reach into their communities to access more girl students, and create a network of support for their students. These trainers went on to run their own initiatives, and benefit from a cloud based network. We are piloting a decentralized network via the trainers themselves i.e. working with projects and fledgling initiatives that are already in place. We aim to expand the Award out of the Middle East context to Western Europe and then potentially to other contexts using different forms of art and culture. A girl’s journey can begin when she learns of activities through a cousin who is singing songs or practicing movements. She can take her mother to the class. Trainers involve community leaders, speak to parents and use their networks to create trust and allow access. Classes can happen in someone’s home, a school or community centre. The girls have a safe space, a role model and figure of trust, a network through which to access other resources, they feel more confident and able to concentrate better, and take instruction.

Who benefits?

Through the pilot awards 4 Changemakers, who themselves are from emergency situations; both protracted and current conflicts, are taking part in a training programme that includes learning psychosocial skills, and are reaching 150 students in their communities. This includes 1 female changemaker who is training up future trainers. The user is both the Changemaker and their students. Ages range from 8 to 45. A condition of the Award is that local winners outreach to girls if they are not already doing so (with support as necessary, and integrated gender training). We design what success looks like with the changemakers, and use a curriculum, and specifically designed measuring system iterated from practical experience. Communities benefit through owning the projects that support them with psychosocial support. We are scaling internationally, through our related online network (which is part of our decentralized network approach) and partnerships with relevant organizations.

How is your innovation unique?

We are the organization that helps big INGOs gain access to conflict impacted communities. Based on these learnings we launched an innovative award process to access grassroots Changemakers. These trainers would normally never be able to access international networks/training to support their community projects. Using a network approach we leverage the prevalence of social media that allows communities to be created at a global level. We have also created a portfolio of solutions for dealing with: the unbanked; risks of working with vulnerable communities; entities that have no legal structure, and data collection. We are pioneers in our awards approach to providing psychosocial support through sport and culture to refugees in some incredibly hard to reach areas. Our track record of understanding who we work with and building up from that for the last decade, and related successes, leads us to know that we, as a community, can make this innovation a success.

What are some of your unanswered questions about the idea?

We need to refine the recruitment process. We have tried a couple of tracks already and iterating again. We are analsying the different ways Changemakers are making their projects successful, without intervention and with intervention. We have to do longitudinal analysis to understand what blue sky impacts these initiatives are having. We work in conflict zones, with people who are vulnerable, so we need to continue to learn from the projects about how we can best support, and to what degree we even should be supporting. We are exploring how the networks we are creating could support the projects, and how we can leverage the behaviours of Changemakers as they leverage their own networks in support of their initiatives.

Tell us more about you.

The founder is a German/Syrian who set up the grassroots organization in Damascus, and funded it through his business. With the war, everything was shut down and the business was lost. We started again in Palestine, and opened a regional HQ in Jordan enabled through our UK charity. We evolved our model, and are now opening a presence in Berlin as part of supporting our network approach. Australian funding has supported our work with refugees as well as an essential partnership with AVI.

What is the primary type of emergency setting where your innovation would operate?

  • Armed conflict
  • Prolonged displacement

Emergency Setting - Elaborate

We work in areas of protracted conflict, as well as with populations that have recently become refugees; both in urban areas, and refugee camps. We aim to scale our work to access conflict impacted communities across the globe. We have been approached for support with local projects, for example, in Sudan, Congo, Pakistan. We have experience of directly implementing in the West Bank, refugee camps such as Al Tanf, Zaatari, Azraq, as well as in urban areas such as Irbid, Damascus, Al Raqqa.

Where will your innovation be implemented?

We are currently piloting in Palestine, Turkey, Jordan, and opening to Western Europe in 2017. We aim to partner to create scale and have started these dialogues. We will iterate the model for outlaying to other locations based on our learnings from the first set of locations.

Experience in Implementation Country(ies)

  • Yes, for more than one year.

In-country Networks

Donors such as the Australian Embassy and Idrottsstiftelse, partners such as Norwegian Refugee Council, Lutheran World Federation; local organizations such as Ruwwad, community centre, Aytam Sina’ai, Orphanage , and Small Projects Istanbul (community center). Network of support for; media, logistics, venue space, design including Brazilian embassies, Australian Embassy, Sketch Design Studio, Jordan. In Europe we are part of the BMW Foundation, the Anna Lindh, and the Ogunte Women’s Network.

Sector Expertise

  • I've worked in a sector related to my innovation for more than a year.

Sector Expertise - Elaborate

The founders worked as trainers with females in some of the most difficult to reach communities in conflict settings (including safe houses for Iraqi refugee women and children, isolated desert camps and urban areas in war settings), speak Arabic, and have cultural understanding of local mores. The senior team are entrepreneurs; creating a culture of innovation, learning from successes, disasters, an aptitude for tech, and exploration of different ways of thinking about opportunities, problems.

Innovation Maturity

  • Existing Prototype or Pilot: I have tested a part of my solution with users and am iterating.

Organization Status

  • We are a registered non-profit, charity, NGO, or community-based organization.

Organization Location

The charity is registered in the UK as Bidna Capoeira trading as capoeira4refugees, it has an office in Jordan, and is opening an office in Berlin.


How has your Idea changed based on feedback?

We spoke to potential users and partners and are adapting our model to account for the sheer variety of factors that affect Users in emergency contexts. Partnerships and creativity in approaching solutions is key to achieving sustainability and making sure that a global model remains relevant and impactful for Users and their students across diverse emergency contexts.

Who will implement this Idea?

Tarek Alsaleh, Founder, and visionary has the necessary creativity and downright obsessiveness to lead this project and make it a reality. An incredibly diverse supporting team provide technical and operational skills including financial, evaluation, governance and risk. Early stage partnerships are Swiss Academy for Development (technical support), the BMW Foundation (marketing, mentoring and financial) Peace and Sport (reach users and support current users). A minimum of 5 staff, with 3 at full time, will be working on this project across the Middle East, and Europe initially.

What challenges do your end-users face? (1) What is the biggest challenge that your end-users face on a day-to-day, individual level? (2) What is the biggest systems-level challenge that affects your end-users?

Our primary and secondary users carry the wounds of their experiences wherever they are, be it in a current war zone or as a ‘lucky’ relocated refugee. At a personal level their ability to live fulfilling lives is defined by these, often invisible, hurts. At the system level, our users’ biggest challenge is that they are reliant on global systems that are likely to change. As illustrated in our user experience map, structural inequalities and discrimination in new communities control day-to-day living– from registering for school, to securing housing, finding employment, and accessing social services. These multi-level barriers to integration destabilize the lives of our users and stop them from being able to follow through on long-term or even short term, plans.

How is your organization considering sustainable growth in order to continue making an impact over time?

As a small organization we use our diverse relationships to raise funds. We have relationships including trust and foundations, institutional funding and sub-contracts (and associated CRM systems in place) which we are tapping. We are mapping our network as part of this innovation and our business model is partnership based. This includes exploring innovative ways of leveraging our networks (so going beyond a more traditional fundraising approach) such as the BMW network, technology partnerships, pro-bono technical support in order to ensure our work sustains beyond us.

Tell us about your vision for this project: (1) share one sentence about the impact that you would like to see from this project in five years and (2) what is the biggest question/hurdle you need to address to get there?

IMPACT. Reaching 15,500 students and 55 qualified Changemakers globally. We intersect technology, and the human touch to realise a vision of a global network supporting Users and their students to learn and fulfill their potential. Data is available in real time on our platform. QUESTION: How do we iterate our model so that it continues to be user-friendly and lead by the users themselves to maintain a fleet-footed, low bureaucracy levels as an outfit?

How do you currently measure (or plan to measure) outcomes for this project?

Outcomes i) Users equipped to scale projects with traumatized children ii) User students, in particular girls, feel physically and emotionally secure leading to positive engagement and educational outcomes in schools and communities Our empowerment approach to measure learning includes remote monitoring, surveys, questionnaires, media material, monitoring visits. We use a theory of change, and have a 360°approach. Tech solutions minimize back-office work and pressure on Users to do ‘paperwork’.

What is the timeline for your project Idea? What are the key steps for implementation in the next 1-3 years?

- Strategy to track progress, prioritise fundraising, governance and operational requirements. - MoU’s with potential partners - Dialogue with potential and current fellows to adapt/design framework - Testing out money transfer solutions, iterating data system, iterating the curriculum - Designing our platform to support data from end users in real time including media - Designing cloud based systems with a view to knowledge management, transparency and ease of access

My organization's operational budget for 2016 was:

  • Between $500,000 and $1,000,000 USD

How many of your team’s paid, full-time staff are currently based in the location where the beneficiaries of your proposed Idea live?

  • Under 5 paid, full-time staff

Is your organization registered in the country that you intend to implement your Idea in?

  • We are a registered entity, but not in the country in which we plan to implement our Idea.

How long have you and your colleagues been working on this Idea together?

  • Between 1 and 2 years

What do you need the most support with for your innovation?

  • Communications / Marketing / Graphic Design
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Attachments (4)

User Experience Map_Capoeira4Refugees.pdf

The User Experience Map outlines the journey of a female and male trainer. They both work with refugees to provide essential psychosocial support services to their communities.

Meet C4R Changemaker Ahmad_small.pdf

Ahmad is a Palestinian Changemaker, working with orphans in the West Bank.

Meet C4R Changemaker Abdullah _small.pdf

Abdullah is a Syrian refugee running psychosocial activities in Istanbul, Turkey with refugees. His project was supported through the C4R network, through helping to find a venue.

Dania story_small.pdf

Dania is a female Changemaker, who is now running her own capoeira class in Jordan, as well as working with other refugees. Capoeira4refugees female trainers spoke to her mother, who also joined classes.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Noémie Phillipson

Capoeira is like magic for these kids! So honoured to have followed this project for a few year now, and can't wait to see it grow. Well deserved support!

Photo of Ummul Choudhury

that is exactly why we do it #creatingmagic through capoeira, and really making inroads in terms of life education and skills that girls and entire communities can own and move forward with independently. Something like this is only possible because we are all in it together - thanks Noemie for your awesome support.

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