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Youth Girls & Boys Design Summit : Taking action together

Working with Melchior on his idea of creating an online platform to trigger a global conversation on genders' role and gender inequality, we realized how difficult creating such a community was without an opportunity to meet face-to-face, in particular with internet access (and language) being an issue. We came up with the idea that like openIDEO has meet ups, we should create design summits for kids from different communities to meet and start engaging in a conversation and designing solutions together.

Photo of Anne-Laure Fayard
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At the core of this challenge are beliefs and assumptions about genders and genders' roles, which lead to the negative behaviors that put girls and women's safety and empowermant at jeopardy. Behaviors as well as beliefs are difficult to change and take a long time to evolve. Kids are the best ambassadors for change and it is important to engage them in designing solutions as they will be the ones implementing them tomorrow.

Melchior's idea started from this premisse as well as two other premisses (emerging from his own experience and his reading of the research phase): 
  • This is not only a girl and woman problem, but it's also a boy and man problem, and the only way to address it, is to have both girls and boys, women and men, talking together.
  • While the issue of girl and women safety and empowerment might be more acute in low-income urban areas, it is a global problem, spread across geographies and social classes. 
Theirproblemisours tries to address the issue of women safety by providing an online platform for young people, girls and boys, from around the globe to start a conversation, share experiences and ideas, and discuss ways of taking actions and bringing change.

Working with Melchior for the last few weeks, we realized that while there was a lot of interest and positive feedback (including from NGOs working in low income urban areas), it was very difficult to engage people on the platform. One reason is the difficulty of internet access. Melchior has tried to address it by developping conversation starters for offline conversations but for the moment, no one has tried them except him. 

As we brainstormed about ways to create more engagement (we both believe this is an important endeavor!), I heard about the Youth Design Summit run by KidMob, a mobile, kid-integrated design firm. They organized a one week workshop in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, bringing together 24 students (from 3 different communities) to work on local community challenges to co-design solutions. 
This also reminded me of the Girl Effect workshop organized by Nike Foundation and Frog Design .  This is an inspiring workshop but I like the idea of having  girls and boys mixed as well as different communities working together.

This led me to the current idea: oganizing a design summit with a focus on Women safety where girls and boys (high school age) from 3 different communities would meet for a week to share their different experiences and start designing solutions that are relevant to their local communities. They will then be able to keep interacting through an online platform similar to Melchior's Theirproblem is ours. They will also be able to become ambassadors and organize local workshops to create content. (see below for a description of the summit). Ideally, if this was successful, you could imagine having two summits per year.


Explain your idea in one sentence.

Connect girls and boys from around the world with a shared goal: take action and change behaviors in order to increase girls safety and gender equality.

What is the need you are trying to solve?

- Engage girls and boys in a productive dialogue. - Connect young people around the world to allow them to share their experiences and beliefs and realize their similarities across countries. - Start designing and building solutions

Who will benefit from this idea and how would you monitor its success?

Kids, girls and boys, in low income urban areas as well as all around the world. Success would be monitored by the number of events organized by each group but also by the exchanges on the platform.

Who would be best equipped to implement this idea in the real world? You? Your organisation? Another organisation or entity?

I would love to help brining my expertise teaching design thinking (at the grad level). Yet, I think the lead should be taken by an organization such as KidMob. I contacted the KidMob team and they expressed interest in developing this idea if we had the opportunity. The design summit team will have to partner with the educators in the different communities.

Where should this idea be implemented?

Everywhere, anywhere. Ideally, I imagine the first summit organized nearby one of the local NGO, but the location could then rotate. Ideally, one of the groups would "host" the other groups.

How might you prototype this idea and test some of the assumptions behind it?

Aim to organize a first design summit next year (maybe in the spring) to see the interest, observe the feasibility of creating interactions across very diverse communities and see the results of the solutions designed. Prior to the summit, we will still invite the participants to post on a platform to start knowing each other. We will also see if after the summit, communications are maintained and the solutions are tested by the kids in their communities.

What might a day in the life of a community member interacting with your idea look like?

Imagine that next spring, a group of 8 high school students (boys and girls) from Brooklyn Prospect High School ( meet with 8 kids working with YP Foundation in Delhi ( and 8 kids from KGSA ( working with in Nairobi. These 24 kids would meet in one location: for example, in Delhi at the YP Foundation offices. There they would be welcome by the design summit team (a group of design thinkers who know to work with kids working with some of the chaperons of each group). On Day 1, after an introduction and a few ice-breaking exercises, the kids will be taken through the principles of the design thinking process. The day will end with a sport activity (e.g. soccer) and a dinner. (The sport and shared dinner will take place every day. Many inspirations and ideas have highlighted the importance of sports in creating links and equality. I think it'd be particularly important when language might be a barrier). On Day 2, each group of kids will work in the morning in developing short scenarios (using role play, sketches, music, etc.) to describe their perception and experience of what it is to be a girl or a boy in their community. This will allow kids in the same community to start sharing accross genders. In the afternoon, they will share across groups and start a conversation about the similarities and differences. On Day 3, each group will be assigned another group for which they will have to design solutions for. They will brainstorm a first set of ideas in the morning and also will have a chance to go and ask more questions to their "users". During the afternoon, each group will present to others and see their first reaction. On Day 4, based on the feedback they received, each group will choose one or two ideas that they want to prototype for the other group. On Day 5 morning, each group will share with others and get their feedback. They will start discussing how they might be able to implement each of the ideas in their different contexts. These 24 kids will be given account on theirproblemisours (a revamped version). They will present to their communities the solutions they were presented with as well as the other solutions presented. They will also be in charge of organizing small events, workshops or campaigns and post them on the platform. They will also be responsible to share positive stories like the story of Laksmi who after attending the summit decided she wanted to study journalism, received a grant and convinced her parents to let her study. This idea (the summit and its online extension) will therefore also have an impact on adults as the children will also invite parents to the presentations in their local communities.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Meena Kadri

Awesome mother & son ideation mash-up!

Photo of Anne-Laure Fayard

Thanks Meena! :-) It's been a lot of fun collaborating on this challenge and thinking of ways to create awareness and change.

Photo of DeletedUser


I think this is absolutely brilliant! The work we have been doing with the children and adolescents at the YP Foundation has looked at gender, discrimination and violence in the community, and last Month the children designed an event where they wanted to advocate for the rights of adolescent girls, the right to safety and the right to be free from violence. They scripted 3 plays, 2 dance performances and wrote 2 songs on the issues, and had an art display. We had over a 100 parents attend the same and it was fascinating to see the commitment and the understanding the group put in to their productions.

This engagement platform sounds exciting to look at how other adolescents across the world are doing similar work, and we were trying to factor something like this into our next three year plan for the programme. :)

Photo of Anne-Laure Fayard

Thanks Aditi for the positive feedback. I'm glad to know the idea makes sense to you.
I've been in touch with the KidMob team and they are interested in exploring the possibility of prototyping the idea. So we should definitely explore the idea.

The event you described looks great! It'd be great to know more. Maybe you could share of it on Melchior's blog. :-) It'd be great to know what the children and teenagers came up with.

Photo of Bettina Fliegel

Hi Anne Laure et al. I understand your frustration around finding youth and getting them activated to jump in online and offline re: Melchior's work. I have been thinking about ideas as well. For kids with internet access I am not sure whether it is that they are so distracted with their regular lives or whether they are only interested to participate if the subject is something that already grabs them and draws them in. Melchior's approach is terrific and I have tried to spread it without much success yet. Perhaps this type of work needs to grow organically. That being said I like your idea to formally bring groups together to build bridges, practice this approach together, and then to spread it locally.
Have you considered starting locally now as a formal offline workshop targeted at youth programs in NY? Since the conversation about gender equity is ultimately tied to safety and violence prevention how about approaching the NYC Dept of Community Affair/ and NYPD? Local precincts run youth programs which address violence prevention. The Police Athletic League is a huge program serving youth in low income communities with a variety of programs. If this was a successful partnership then when you meet internationally you can bring your stories with you to share.

( Here is a link to a communications campaign rolled out in Vancouver to address the issue of rape. I bring it to this conversation because it was initiated by local law enforcement. It was a very successful initiative. Law enforcement is involved in violence, hence at least in North America involved in prevention initiatives as well. In many areas of the world it seems not very much. As optimists perhaps we can look to these examples as models for future interventions that police in other areas of the world can adopt going forward. I found this on the Stark Summit website - which was posted by Sonali in a comment thread on Sandiip's posting The Bro Code.)

Photo of Anne-Laure Fayard

Thanks Bettina for your comments and thoughts.
I did not mean to make this idea look like emerging from frustration.
It was more based on an observation from Melchior's prototype, the openIDEO meet ups as well as some research on the intersection between online and offline groups. Last, I was inspired by the summit organized by KidMob. :-)

I also think that to be able to create a global conversation, and allow young people to share views and start developing ideas across countries, having some offline physical encounters is important, in particular in the light of some of the technology issue that were mentioned on this platform and that were also mentioned to Melchior and I as we were trying to invite several organizations to post on the blog.

I'll check the links you sent. Starting locally is indeed an interesting option. I will think about it and see if I can find an organization which could take the lead on this in NY.