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Youth Peacemaker Network

Training and supporting young women and men to become change makers, peace leaders, economic and social entrepreneurs in their communities.

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EXPLAIN YOUR IDEA

A main assumption behind our work is that lasting peace and sustainable development stem from a set of values, attitudes and behaviors that must ultimately come from within - individuals as well as communities. Our work is to empower youth from remote communities so they can be our partners in promoting these objectives. Northern Uganda is need of such lasting peace due to the pervasive impact of the 1986-2008 civil war, notably with respect to the issue of former child soldiers’ rehabilitation. Although northern Uganda is relatively more secure today, the silence of the arms is not enough. The Whitaker Peace & Development Initiative promotes education and training in the areas of peace education and vocational training and seeks to empower young women and men as active vectors of peace. Our aim is to create in Acholi a new branch of our Youth Peacemaker Network to (1) empower young to become leaders who can pave a way of their own and to (2) promote projects sustainable enough to outlive the interventions of WPDI (hence our promotion of revenue-generating activities). To harness their energy and talent, WPDI trains groups of young women and men in conflict resolution, ICTs skills, project management and life skills. They then move to remote communitires to develop community projects ranging from literacy or intercultural dialogue to small businesses (agriculture, electronic store, hair saloon). The projects are designed, brainstormed and managed by young people.

WHO BENEFITS?

WPDI will select and recruit a balanced group of already experienced motivated young women and men (18-35 years old), from the 11 counties of Acholi. The group of youth will be selected on an inclusive basis so as to reflect gender equality and ethnic and religious diversity. It should be noted that these young people are beneficiaries and also partners of our program. Local communities will benefit from the Community Learning Centers and the community projects undertaken by the youth.

TELL US MORE ABOUT YOU

The Whitaker Peace & Development Initiative (WPDI) is a US NGO with local branches in Uganda and South Sudan; it was founded in 2012 by Forest Whitaker humanitarian and artist, UNESCO Special Envoy for Peace and Reconciliation. Partnerships are central in how we approach our projects in the field

WHERE WILL YOUR IDEA BE IMPLEMENTED?

  • Uganda

EXPERIENCE IN IMPLEMENTATION COUNTRY(IES)

  • Yes, for more than one year.

EXPERTISE IN SECTOR

  • I’ve worked in a sector related to my idea for over a year

HOW HAS YOUR IDEA CHANGED BECAUSE OF BENEFICIARY FEEDBACK?

The strategy adopted by WPDI to train and support young people as entrepreneurs is rooted in the notion that long term solutions for peace and prosperity come from people. The projects proposed Under this application have been designed along the same philosophy: consultations with local communities were integrated to the very development of the ideas. It is central for us that the projects we support are based on local feedback. On of our youth leaders thus started discussing with unemployed young people on the feasibility of an agriculture project, which ended up becoming a hair saloon project because of the expectations of many of the young women attending, who wanted to learn skills in an area they can relate to.

HOW IS YOUR IDEA UNIQUE?

Our idea is unique in that it helps young people generate their own ideas. Our projects are unique in that they rely on a combination of elements in peacebuilding, entrepreneurship and ICTs to ensure that our youth leaders can be vectors of resilience in their communities. We consider them as partners who bring their creativity and committee on the table while we are in charge of channeling tangible and intangible resources towards them.

WHY DO YOU THINK THAT THE PROBLEM YOUR IDEA SOLVES FOR HAS NOT BEEN SOLVED?

In the places where we work, conflict or post-conflict or violence-ridden areas, young people are marginalized in many ways. they are excluded from economic, social and political opportunities. But the most damning forms of exclusion are more invisible because in those places, young people are excluded from hope and trust. Our role is to give them a space for initiative and leadership through which they can provide relevant services, receive an income and, above all, demonstrate their capacity for positive transformative change.

IS THIS IDEA NEW FOR YOU OR YOUR ORGANIZATION?

We have been working Under our model, the Youth Peacemaker Network, for a number of years now, including in Mexico and South Sudan.

WHO WILL IMPLEMENT THIS IDEA?

Our idea is implemented by the young women and men we train and support to become médiators and entrepreneurs.

WPDI works to empower young people from remote and vulnerable places in communities affected by a long history of violence and/or armed conflict. Our experience is that many young people from these places are eager to make a difference. But it is a fact that, in northern Uganda (or South Sudan where we also work), these young people lack access to all kind of resources. Such resources can consist in the skills to conduct prevention/reconciliation processes or the skills and technology they need to use the internet or make a powerpoint presentation - without mentioning the capacity to draw a market assessment and a business plan. WPDI seeks to broker such material and intangible resources for young people who are eager to develop community projects but who cannot access the resources they need if abandoned to themselves. This OpenIDEO challenge is a great opportunity to channel such resources to young people in the remote neighborhoods of Acholi, Uganda.



1. Why Are We Actively Promoting Lasting Peace and Sustainable Development in Uganda

After more than 22 years of civil war, northern Uganda has suffered from a nearly neglected humanitarian crisis. The struggle between the Government of Uganda and the Lord's Resistance Army, one of the most brutal rebel governments in the world, has left a number of scars that cannot heal overnight. Due to the instability and insecurity around 1.6 million people were uprooted from their homes, and countless children were left orphaned and disenfranchised, especially in the case of former child-soldiers who, for many, have lost their families and homes with no community to return to.

Although northern Uganda is relatively more secure today, the silence of the arms is not enough. Peace in the region and throughout the country will not be sustained if north Ugandans cannot reap the benefits of peace, which include political stability, economic growth, and an optimistic society. The post-conflict fate of child soldiers is thus one of the most crucial conditions of long-term peace for the future of the country. Disarming and demobilizing them rarely means that they will be able to reintegrate into their communities as if their military experience was a mere parenthesis in their lives. Their childhood has been robbed from them and they need to heal and regain trust in themselves and from their communities, who often fail or refuse to recognize those children as theirs. Such exclusion has a significant and worrying impact on the access of these youth to such basic goods as education or employment.




2. Overview

2.1. Holistic Peace Training

In every region, district or state where the YPN operates, we start by talking to local leaders and stakeholders to understand the situation on the ground and to identify a core group of young women and men with a passion for peace and a record of service in their communities. Also, we have entered a specific partnership with UN Women to ensure that our enrolment and training practices fully ensure gender equality and women’s empowerment.


This high level group of youth “trainers of trainers”, or ToTs, once fully trained over a year in peace-building, human rights, mediation, leadership, ICT, entrepreneurship and life skills will in turn teach other youths about the YPN and its work in their communities. We take a holistic approach. That’s why we also provide training in life skills like positive psychology, trauma healing and meditation. In addition, Ericsson, one of our long-time partners, generously provides every ToT with a tablet and phone, as well as comprehensive training on these devices, so that they can stay connected to each other as they coordinate their peacebuilding activities.



2.2. Community Projects to Foster Participative Development

After their training, every ToT is responsible for going home to his or her county and finding a group of other young people to become part of the YPN’s work. The ToTs share what they’ve learned with these youths and empower them to pass on this knowledge and values to others. With the support of WPDI and the Advisory Council they will form at the county level composed of eminent figures and leaders, the ToTs and their teams of young women and men design and implement income-generating projects in cities and villages to address the underlying problems affecting their communities and also create opportunities for local youth to be trained in such trades as farming. To us, these youths are in a better position than we are to determine the most-pressing challenges that they and their neighbors face. While we provide guidance and support at every phase of the project, from planning to execution, we ultimately leave the decisions in their hands.



2.3. Promoting education and connectivity – our Community Learning Centers, a Hub of Community Involvement

Education opens doors to new worlds of knowledge and opportunities. But in communities impacted by violence and poverty, young people often do not have access to the educational resources they need to lift themselves out of these vicious cycles. WPDI is constructing a network of Community Learning Centers in South Sudan and Uganda that serve as hubs for education, technology, and civic engagement where all are welcome. We believe that ICTs can be tremendous assets in fragile communities that empower women and men to tap into the world’s entire collection of knowledge, to connect with others in their communities and around the world, and to participate in conversations as informed global citizens.




2.4. Empowering Peacemakers through an Interconnected, Global Network

The Internet and smartphones provided to our peacemakers allow the YPN to function as an early-warning system that provides crucial updates during periods of violence, as was demonstrated during the pilot phase of the project which was interrupted by the ongoing domestic conflict in South Sudan, during which participants courageously maintained contact across ethnic lines and worked to prevent the formation of armed groups in remote villages.


During times of peace, these technologies allow our participants to brainstorm and collaborate to foster lasting peace and sustainable development in their communities. All of our peacemakers are connected through an online portal on WPDI’s website, so—whether they live in the same village or on different continents—our youths can reach out to each other and share ideas for strengthening their communities.



3. Aims

The Youth Peacemaker Network (YPN) / Western Equatoria & Acholi is undertaken by the Whitaker Peace & Development Initiative (WPDI) to empower young people as leaders of peace and development in their communities through a unique mix of peace-building, conflict resolution, mediation, human rights, women’s and girls’ empowerment, life skills, ICT training, entrepreneurship, vocational training, youth-led community projects as well as programs promoting peace through the arts and sports.



4. Measuring Achievements

WPDI constantly monitors its activities (eg attendance of trainings, uses of Community Learning Centers, M&E online system through Ericsson Connect To Learn laptops) and collects feedback from beneficiaries (testimonies from users of Community Learning Centers, from participants in our programs). A key asset embedded in our modus operandi lies in the fact that WPDI systematically builds its projects around an In-country team which is made up of nationals and has a responsibility in monitoring every aspects of the project on a daily basis.


SHARE ONE SENTENCE ABOUT THE IMPACT YOU WOULD LIKE THIS PROJECT TO HAVE FIVE YEARS FROM NOW, AND ONE QUESTION YOU NEED TO ANSWER TO GET THERE.

The impact we envision for our project is to trigger in remote areas of northern Uganda a virtuous cycle of positive change whereby our youth leaders' projects succeed not only in providing tailored services to communities but also in creating an atmosphere of trust in the potential of all young women and men. One key question we need to answer is how to remain a dynamic incubator which can both ensure sustainability and provoke innovation.

MY ORGANIZATION'S OPERATING BUDGET FOR 2015 WAS:

  • Between $100,000 and $500,000

MY INTENDED BENEFICIARIES ARE:

  • Within 100 km of where our team does most of its work

HOW LONG HAVE YOU AND YOUR COLLEAGUES BEEN WORKING ON THIS PILOT PROJECT TOGETHER?

  • Between 6 months and a year

WHY ARE YOU INTERESTED IN JOINING AMPLIFY'S PORTFOLIO OF INNOVATORS?

We are very excited at the idea of joining a community of change-driven entrepreneurs from whom we know we will learn a lot and who will help us think critically about what we do and where we aim to go.

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Photo of Nick Lunch
Team

I applaud this idea to empower youth growing up in conflict zones to become ambassadors of peace!
Good luck with your idea. Please check this video out, I think you will be inspired:
http://insightshare.org/watch/video/clubs-messagers-de-paix.html

Photo of Caroline
Team

Thank you Nick for your support and for the link. This is very good material indeed both for the actual project and for its evaluation. We will definitely look closely at this as we move forward (especially the participatory evaluation).

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