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#MeWeSyria: Activating youth to discover, reclaim, and unleash healing and change

#MeWeSyria is a refugee-led platform leveraging the process of storytelling as a vehicle for healing, community building, and changemaking.

Photo of Mohsin

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What problem does your innovation solve?

Forced displacement strips youth of safety and agency, which often translates to a loss of control of how the mind and body respond to the world around them. Refugees’ education journey is limited because traditional programs aren’t refugee-led, they lack opportunities to exercise social and emotional development, structures of psychosocial support, and interpersonal communications. #MeWeSyria addresses these losses by restoring agency and community-healing through storytelling.

Explain your innovation.

#MeWeSyria (MWS) is an education platform that leverages storytelling, self-awareness, and entrepreneurship to build safety and agency for refugee youth. The MWS program, through a training of trainers system, creates a growing network of “replicators” in partner communities trained in therapeutic and pedagogic knowledge that syncs narrative therapy, somatic experiencing, and communications literacy. The MWS program is then localized and delivered by replicators to young refugees in spaces like refugee camps, community centers, and mosques. The “replicators” are Syrian refugees themselves--selected with our local partners-- ensuring sustainable upkeep of the program due to their intimate relationship with MeWe methodology. Skills learned and bonds built through MWS are then leveraged to design community changemaking projects, restoring individuals’ sense of control and opportunity for refugee youth. Replicators mobilize the community to participate in the program and activate youth-led storytelling for changemaker hubs where youth literally and figuratively author their futures, while enhancing social and emotional learning, wellbeing, and inter-personal communication.

Who benefits?

MWS targets female and male refugee youth (ages 10-20) in rural and urban areas with limited access to education or psychosocial support. To date, more than 500 youth, parents, and caretakers have completed the MWS program in eight cities across three countries. Over the next 18 months, MWS aims to reach 2,000-3,000 additional participants (including 60% female beneficiaries). Girls in conflict zones face specific vulnerabilities to violence and restrictions on self-expression. MWS works to re-establish an environment where girls are empowered by unlocking their voices, creativity, and agency alongside trained and trauma-sensitive female “replicators”. Additionally, MWS will assess impacts on learning, wellbeing, and stress through the use of psychometrics that have been developed with academic partners and mental health practitioners. This measurement survey is taken before and after implementation. Data so far shows consistent and meaningful growth in all four of these categories.

How is your innovation unique?

First, MWS infuses the knowledge of neuroscience and trauma psychology into a curriculum that links mental health support and emotional development, with storytelling and communications skills. Second, MWS is a refugee-led program embedded within pre-existing youth organizations, ensuring maximum outreach for refugee youth. Third, the curriculum’s pedagogic and therapeutic core (mind-brain education, mindfulness, and storytelling) can be integrated into existing activities taught by other youth professionals. Fourth, MWS works alongside the Ashoka Changemaker framework, an established network of social entrepreneurship and community activism. Lastly, embedded in MWS are tools for evaluation where stories are seen as data points that can inform policy and practice. Our separate psychometric tool allows practitioners to assess behaviors and attitudes, (empathy, stress control, collaboration, leadership capacities) pre and post intervention.

What are some of your unanswered questions about the idea?

While MWS replicators are highly trained, there is a risk that MWS activities can trigger traumatic memories in refugee youth. Over the coming months, our teams will undergo even more specialized training and utilize “trauma toolkits” that we will create with clinical professionals. These toolkits will teach skills necessary in coping with trauma and stress during MWS sessions and ensure youth are safe from retraumatization. Additionally, MWS is exploring ways to maintain beneficiary engagement after they complete the program or move away from MWS hubs. Current solutions include providing “startup” funds for community projects and creating a mobile storytelling app to continue skill building, self-care, and community mentorship.

Tell us more about you.

MWS was founded by Mohsin Mohi Ud Din, current director of Storytelling Innovation at Ashoka’s Youth Venture (YV). MWS works with a small network of dedicated individuals in YV, key technical partners including neuroscience researchers Michael Niconchuk (MWS’s technical adviser), and others at Harvard U and Northeastern U, as well as clinical psychologists. Most importantly, MWS is driven by our dedicated team of refugees who run activities in Jordan, Turkey, and Lebanon.

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

  • Armed conflict
  • Prolonged displacement

Emergency Setting - Elaborate

MWS is currently implemented in eight cities across three countries. Each country presents a unique set of challenges for young refugees and has its own internal challenges brought on by an influx of refugees. While MWS is primarily adapted to a context of prolonged displacement, the program has been tested in under-resourced communities in South Africa and the United States. We hope to expand our innovation to refugee communities in Europe, Latin America, East Africa, and North America.

Where will your innovation be implemented?

MWS is being replicated in Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan by 20+ Syrian refugees, in partnership with community-based organizations. Currently, MWS has been implemented in Gaziantep, Osmania, Shanliurfa, Marsin (Turkey), Beirut, Bekaa Valley camps, and Tripoli (Lebanon), and Za’atri Refugee Camp (Jordan). As we expand, partners will be selected based on overall capacity, need for education programs, and ability to link MWS with ongoing activities in their communities.

Experience in Implementation Country(ies)

  • Yes, for more than one year.

In-country Networks

MeWe methodology has been tested since 2009 with NGOS in Morocco, Kashmir, and South Africa. Since 2014, MWS has built local partnerships in refugee communities in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan. Current community partners include DARB, Questscope, and Mobaderoon. MWS is supported by Ashoka’s networks: Youth Venture, Changemaker Schools, and Ashoka Fellows and has strategic partnerships with UNHCR Innovation, the German Mission to the UN, Vice Impact, Global Citizen, MiT Solve, and Beyond Conflict.

Sector Expertise

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

Sector Expertise - Elaborate

#MeWeSyria is implemented through community partners with legal registration, transparent management, and between 2-25 years of experience implementing refugee/youth education programs in their communities. MWS core staff and trainers come from diverse backgrounds, from neuroscience to international affairs, with anywhere from 3-6 years of experience in complex emergency settings and refugee crises.

Innovation Maturity

  • Roll-out/Ready to Scale: I have completed a pilot and am ready or in the process of expanding.

Organization Status

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

Organization Location

Youth Venture is based in Arlington, VA but MWS is globally implemented in Lebanon, Turkey, and Jordan with local partners, Questscope and DARB-Syr.

Website

See link below for video unable to upload because of unsupported platform: https://impact.vice.com/en_us/article/53n9v3/watch-vice-impacts-new-short-film-solve-at-the-united-nations Additional Links: https://www.ashoka.org/en/program/youth-venture www.bit.ly/meweunite

How has your Idea changed based on feedback?

All outside feedback is what refugee users have already been sharing with our team in the current ‘Tune Up’ phase. For OpenIDEO feedback, we created two User Experience Maps to further explain the processes of MeWe methodology for replicators. Concerning education feedback, MWS enhances a refugee’s social/emotional development and changemaker skills (empathy, leadership, teamwork, problem-solving) necessary for resiliency in their education journey, and to connect passion with purpose.

Who will implement this Idea?

The founder of MWS, Mohsin Mohi-Ud-Din, is a full time staff member of Ashoka Youth Venture (YV) and the director of Storytelling for Innovation. Mohsin and YV staff collaborate with a Syrian refugee coordinator based in South Turkey, two regional coordinators (RC) based in Lebanon, and two RC based in Jordan. All teams work within existing youth organizations in the 8 cities MWS operates in and are in contact with all 30+ replicators. In addition to these team members, MWS has three part time staff that are experts in the field of neuroscience and clinical psychology.

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?

On a daily basis, refugee youth and their families are concerned for their physical safety, legal status (work/residence permits, education permissions, host country stigmas), and risks of deportation. Furthermore, the geopolitical climate of refugees changes weekly which impacts funding and policy. This constant state of insecurity transforms into re-traumatization, aggression, and isolation for a young person. To alleviate this high-risk situation, the MWS methodology is continuously updated and informed by neuroscientists, refined by clinical psychologists, and co-created with refugee replicators who already work within community organizations with established protocols on severe trauma cases.

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

Our sustainability model is founded on co-ownership of the program with refugee youth communities since our replicators are Syrian refugees themselves. They are eager to co-own the unique methodology. Furthermore, MWS is fortunate to have secured wholesale partnerships and are currently exploring partnerships where entities integrate changemaker and storytelling culture into their broader youth programming and strategies.

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?

By 2021, we aim to have the MeWe platform (both online and offline) engaging marginalized youth communities across Africa, Central, South, and North America, and MENA regions with wholesale partners so our young changemakers inform policy and become active participants in the “Everyone a Changemaker” world. How can our core MWS replicators, who are refugees themselves, continue to launch, activate, and engage young changemakers even when they resettle or are forced to migrate?

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

MWS has designed and piloted a psychometric scale measuring learning progress, empathy capacity, stress, creative collaboration, and problem-solving. Staff report weekly to assess challenges, insights, and updates. In conflict/emergency settings, MWS enhances resiliency assets and social/emotional development so youth can thrive as changemakers. Our 9 years of experience in three countries informs us that education in emergency should address both the head and heart, not just facts and figures.

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

Until January 2018, MWS is in a ‘Tune Up’ phase where staff and replicators collaborate on needs-assessments and refinement of MWS tools . Existing replicators will engage in capacity building for communication, neuroscience, and trauma-informed care. By February 2018, we plan to complete the ‘Tune Up’ phase, reaching 400+ new refugee youth across Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey. Then, we plan to commence a ’Scale Up’ phase and expand to five total countries, reaching 2,000 youth over 1.5-2 years.

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 registered in all countries where we plan to implement.

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

  • More than 2 years

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

  • Business Development / Partnerships Support
  • Business Model Support
  • Other Technical Expertise

12 comments

Join the conversation:

Comment
Photo of Ruth  Guevara
Team

Thank you for the article. Very informative.

Photo of Rasal Lia
Team

Congratulation

Photo of Boni Jam
Team

Thank you for article. I am a writer of a nonprofit called Buyanessay at http://buyanessay.co/ Refugee children find it difficult to learn without the support of organizations like you. They are much more difficult than other teachers, but they are trying to do everything.

Photo of Elisa Coronado Bonilla
Team

Mohsin
Congratulations on your team´s idea.
It is really amazing to see how is possible to reimagine education, give a voice to the most vulnerable and restore people´s sense of control in the middle of one of the cruelest wars in the past decades.
The link between neuroscience and trauma psychology with storytelling tools is definitely a creative and innovative way to heal deep wounds, face sex gender related vulnerabilities and have an option to express freely.
Best!
Elisa

Photo of Calistus
Team

My dear Mohsin,
Congratulations. Your idea is very good, it will cut the circle of violence in those area you operate. Bravo for you and your team.
-Calistus

Photo of Nancy Welsh
Team

Congrats Mohsin! Well deserved!

Photo of Gilda Given Silayo
Team

Congratulation

Photo of NDUME ELIYA NDUELIB
Team

Congratulations to the whole team! Your idea is very great; I wish it gets one day implemented in my country, DRC. All the best

Photo of Ashley Tillman
Team

Hi Mohsin, just wanted to share that you've been featured on our blog! Check it out at: https://challenges.openideo.com/blog/mikta-education-in-emergencies-challenge-themes-designing-for-educational-success-for-girls-in-emergency-settings

Photo of OpenIDEO
Team

Hi Moshin and Team!

We’re excited to share feedback and questions from our experts with you. We encourage you to think about this feedback as you continue to improve and refine your Idea. You are welcome to respond in the comments section and/or to incorporate feedback into the text of your Idea. Your idea and all associated comments will all be reviewed during the final review process.

Based on your knowledge and experience, is this a new approach or bold way of answering the challenge question?

One expert shared, “The project has a comprehensive approach to solving the problems of refugees youth. The diverse background of the support network, together with the use of 'replicators' who themselves are refugees and measuring the impact of the program along the way make the project quite innovative.”

“Based on the research I have done into providing psychosocial support for refugee children, the use of storytelling as a vehicle for healing is a novel approach. Additionally, the use of refugee children themselves as 'replicators' is also novel and bold as existing interventions tend to train aid workers to provide this support and not members of the community.”

A question came up around how you also support learning outcomes for young people.

Is this idea human-centered?
“The use of trained and 'trauma sensitive female replicators' and the use of psychometrics that have been developed with academic partners and mental health practitioners, and measuring before and after implementation, helps in making a tailor made solution to the problems of female and male refugee youth with limited access to education and psychological support.”

“The write-up is not very clear about the actual training and work that facilitators go through in order to achieve the results in beneficiaries. The description is a little thin and somewhat jargonistic. It is therefore hard to gauge how tailor-made the idea is for the ultimate beneficiaries.”


Expert’s thoughts on your business model:
More info needed! One expert shared, “One of the strongest components of this project is the network of refugees adopting and replicating the program ensuring sustainability of the program.”

Final thoughts and questions:
How exactly do you think that your work actually leads to more education on the part of your beneficiaries? Because this is what the challenge is about -- how to ensure education service delivery during emergencies? - How is this model sustainably funded? How do you ensure no harm of the children involved? Do those involved get updated training every month/year? How willing are refugees to act as 'replicators'?

“I love the comprehensive approach they have taken, using other refugees as replicators and incorporating neuroscience and trauma psychology into the program.”


In case you missed it, check out this Storytelling Toolkit for inspiration for crafting strong and compelling stories: http://bit.ly/2uXI0xN Storytelling is an incredibly useful tool to articulate an idea and make it come to life for those reading it. Don’t forget - August 6 at 11:59PM PST is your last day to make changes to your idea on the OpenIDEO platform.

Have questions? Email us at hello@openideo.com

Looking forward to reading more and thank you for the important work you are doing!

Photo of Ashley Tillman
Team

Hi Mohsin, thank you for sharing your work in the Challenge! Excited to hear about the impact of your work and that you are looking to grow from 500 to 3,000 in the coming months. Would love to learn a little bit about how you are approaching and preparing for this time of growth and expansion and setting things up for success? Would also love to learn how you select 'replicators'?

Excited to learn more!

Photo of Mohsin
Team

Hi Ashely,

Thanks for the comment! To answer your question, I have to give you more context so I apologize for the long winded answer.

The 3,000 target is actually meant for the next 18-24 months and assumes that we have the budget and resources to reach that many refugees. Over the past 3 years we have been engaged in deep co-creation with refugee replicators of our program, and over the last 8 months we have reached more than 500 refuge youth with the most reined version of our program to date, and this was with limited resources. With our present situation, the 3K number is still a reach but we hope with the connections and opportunities from organizations like OpenIDEO we can reach that aim soon! Everything is co-created and led with refugee replicators in #MeWeSyria's network.

Presently, we are going through a 'tune up then scale up' phase. The 'tune up' phase, what we are in now, means that we are refining our methodology and outreach with the help of existing refugee-led teams in #MeWeSyria. We are exploring our impact, listening to refugee feedback, and strengthening our psychosocial support methods with the help of neuroscientists and psychologists. These tune-ups are part of our human centered design approach. After this is done in the next 4 months, we will then scale up to reach 300-400 more beneficiaries with the updated version of #MeWeSyria program, ToT and tools. Since we are presently in a tune up phase, the 3,000 target is our next goal for the next 18-24 months. However, in the next 6 months we hope to expand our outreach from 500 total - 800 total refugees in the 3 countries we presently operate in (Jordan, Turkey, and Lebanon). Once we have the proper resources, we are confident that we can go from 800 total reach by end of this year to 3K total reach in the coming year 2018 and beyond.

In regards to your replicator question, it is a three step process. First, we identify pre-existing local partners where refugees have agency and are co-leading programs with other refugee youth. Next, we reach out to these refugee leaders and share our criteria with them (which I am more than happy to send to you). Third, once our criteria is shared and co-created with our identified refugee leaders, the local implementing partner selects the 20-30 local replicators who will undergo a 4 to 6 day #MeWeSyria co-creation programming and TOT to experience the platform and tools, and then localize it to meet their current contexts. Once local action plans are co-craeted with refugee #MeWeSyria replication teams on the last day of the ToT, there is a 3 to 6 months pilot phase where the refugee teams replicate #MeWeSyria and activate youth and caretakers in storytelling for changemaker hubs, powered by additional equipment and tools we donate. A key part of our work is a psychometric scale designed to track behavioral/attitudinal impacts from the program--pre and post. This data we will use to track which pieces of our methodology are having the most impacts.

I am happy to talk more over the phone as well (917 971 7939) and since this comment system does not allow for attachments, I can email you our trauma-care pedagogy. Below are recent links:

Vice article:
https://impact.vice.com/en_us/article/a3dwzz/facing-turmoil-and-conflict-syrian-refugees-tell-their-own-story

https://video.vice.com/en_us/video/solve-at-the-united-nations/58c962c9783f7cc93115a365?ref=impact?utm_source=impacttwitter

Video of refugee youth testimonials:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=10fUZbWnARQ

Global Citizen:
https://www.facebook.com/GLBLCTZN/videos/1371874712908293/?pnref=story

UNHCR Innovation:
http://www.unhcr.org/innovation/tag/mewesyria/"

Thank you for your questions!