What is the best way to engage youth? This is the question that we have been asking ourselves for the past few months while restructuring our programs. We conducted brainstorming sessions, brought in a new board member, discussed with partners and other fellow educators and youth engagement experts and all this brought very interesting angles and ideas on how to best engage youth. However, the most relevant information came from our participants themselves telling us what they want learn and do and what was missing for programs like ours. The answer was clear: "we want to learn about the world, to network and communicate, to talk about our daily lives, to engage our peers, communities, and families, to use digital and communication tools, to exchange ideas, and most importantly to have the prospects of a better future and feel like we belong to our society."
We are currently reshaping our curriculum making sure that all the elements raised by our participants are addressed. This curriculum is focusing on connecting, empowering and activating youth around the world through digital media and community advocacy. We are developing classroom specific toolkits in two languages (English and French), reviewing the components of our new online platform (that we are planning on piloting in September 2015 and launching in January 2016), and starting on the schools and clubs recruitment process.
We know what our youth participants want and what is important to them. We pledge to create a space online and offline to allow them to connect, discuss, exchange, advocate and shape the world they want to live in.
Board members of Dounia Project met to revise and agree on a new vision for the organization. The meeting focused on how to enhance the global collaboration between the existing sites and new sites and on ways to making these exchanges more interesting contentwise and more beneficial for youth participants.
The first element would be to create a special platform dedicated only to the Global Collaboration project sites where youth and adult facilitators could access a specially designed curriculum and guide, a videoconferencing site, a space for exchange, debate and discussion via a forum, and a wall where youth participants’ media pieces will be displayed.
The second element would be to have participants learn to create and produce Web TV shows and Podcasts and showcase these media pieces onto the online platform to share with their peers and start debating around the issues raised.
The final element would be to invite schools and youth clubs around the world to apply to the project and provide a global debate in our platform facilitated by our multilingual community managers.
We are planning on launching this space in May 2015. In the meantime, sites in Casablanca and in New York will be trained to create web TV shows and/or podcasts and the best work will be displayed on the launch of the platform with a special videoconference discussing best practices and challenges.
Let’s get started!
Early this month, our president and co-founder, Zayn Abaakil presented the Dounia Project model during a UNICEF-led conference on Innovating for Children’s Rights in Arcachon, France. She conducted workshops on ways to engage young people online and offline and on strategies of sucessful global collaboration. We had a great feedback from the attendees including propositions to implement the project in high schools in France.
The Dounia Project team has now started working with a developer based in Greece on a new collaborative online platform and developing and updating new curricula for school and after-school settings.
Participants in Morocco, after a two-month long break came back and worked on a recycle project conducted by the Moroccan visual artist Maria Karim. They gathered abandoned objects and materials and they are in the process of creating furniture and decorative objects. The most important during these workshops is for the participants to understand the process of reusing materials that are usually discarded and their role as responsible global citizens caring about their environment.
Simultaneously, a group of new participants in Casablanca is starting a three-month long writing, video production and editing for fiction and non-fiction workshop conducted by the Moroccan videographer and Dounia Project assistant director Abdelhadi Zaatari. Participants will receive a certificate after completing all sessions and will apply for video contests relevant to their final productions.
Participants in all locations continue to use the closed Dounia Project Facebook group to communicate with each other, debate on issues and share their activities, talents, and creations. We are planning on migrating all content to the new platform by March 2015, where participants will once again have a dedicated space to debate, create, collaborate and exchange.
During the past 3 months, participants in Casablanca, Morocco and the Bronx, NY focused their time in preparing for their final examinations and completing their college applications. Dounia Project in Casablanca became a space for only school curriculum review and baccalaureate preparation. Teachers, college professors and college students volunteered their time by providing high school seniors with academic assistance and support in Math, Arabic, French, English, History, Geography and Philosophy. In New York, we had wonderful news on a few college applications; actually one of our youth participants will be attending Baruch College at the City University of New York in the fall with a full scholarship.
We are now planning for the summer sessions in Casablanca and it seems that we will have a busy summer. The summer assignment for participants will be to develop different videos on the theme of Ramadan. Each group of three youth will be provided with a camera and will have to produce, record and edit a 5 min-video from July 1st to August 7th . Moreover, the great Moroccan visual artist Maria Karim will return during the second week of August to conduct a one-week intensive photography workshop with the participants.The goal will be to organize a screening of their videos and exhibition of their photos early September.
Considering that all NY participants have graduated, we are currently in the process of seeking possible partnerships with local youth development organizations and enroll new participants to the program starting the fall 2014.
Finally, we are developing an online private platform to allow our youth participants to communicate, exchange and debate using a safe online space. We are still working on development specifics.
The year 2014 started with great news and great results for our participants in both the United States and Morocco.
Our student leaders in the Bronx are increasingly developing their Web TV project by involving more young people in the production and the editorial phase of each episode. Their latest work was on coming up with ways to inform companies and other corporations on how to efficiently communicate with youth while advertising for their product as well as developing ways to demonstrate social and corporate responsibility in ads. Participants gathered and created a list of recommendations that they are planning on presenting for the April episode as a skit.
I had the opportunity to visit Dounia Project in Morocco last weekend to participate in their activities, conduct the mid-term evaluations, and hear about participants' individual stories. I was struck by five participants who explained to me how they became financially independent and/or social activists thanks to the skills they have acquired while being part of the program. All five were part of the first cohort of the program in Casablanca and have now leadership roles within the organization including being co-facilitators. Some examples are:
Rachid has started a non-profit organization to provide safe access to water in his village of origin in the south of Morocco. His focus is also to start an adult literacy program for the women of the community.
Asmaa created her own photography company. She is now hired to be the photographer in weddings, baptisms, and other social events in her community. She uses social media to advertise her work.
Mohamed creates monthly videos depicting marginalized youth to help them overcome personal and social issues. He also uses his video production skills to record weddings and other social events.
Mohssine is now a life coach. He sometimes works with Mohamed to provide support to at-risk young men and women in their community and to direct them to relevant institutions for further assistance.
Ghizlane is a social media specialist and have been working with E-Motion Productions a Morocco-based communications agency as a community manager.
All five participants transmit their skills to the new cohort of Dounia Project participants by facilitating sessions and also serve as positive role models.
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