The LearnServe Fellows Program is a unique after-school youth development program that cultivates leadership and entrepreneurship skills among high school students in the Washington, DC region. Students learn and reinforce business planning, innovative problem-solving, and cross-cultural team-building skills as they lead community-based change efforts – social “ventures” – in their schools and communities.
In 2014 LearnServe will host its first “Venture Team Summit,” an opportunity for Fellows’ team members to build relationships, exchange ideas, and strengthen leadership skills across schools. The gathering of approximately 250 LearnServe Fellows, alumni, and their team members will build tighter bonds between students from different DC area schools and will offer peer-to-peer exchange of skills and ideas.
The project appears well suited to enhance the cross-cultural and social venture skills of the youth involved. Intentional diversity of participants, and conscious attention to cross-cultural issues as well as substantive topics, will increase the effectiveness of this innovative program to empower youth action. Video recording of the summit will extend its impact.
Music for Peace
Until recently, northern Uganda was the site of a series of protracted conflicts between the government and various rebel groups. Although the guns have fallen silent, the people of northern Uganda are struggling to repair broken relationships in their communities and hold those responsible accountable.
“Music for Peace: Engaging Conflict-Affected Communities in Northern Uganda in Music Advocacy for Justice and Reconciliation” is a joint project between Music for Peace, an initiative of Ugandan artists that promotes music in peacebuilding, and the Justice and Reconciliation Project, a Ugandan organization that empowers conflict-affected communities to participate in processes of justice, healing and reconciliation.
Like Lisle International, Music for Peace recognizes the transformational value of bringing together diverse groups of people in intercultural, intergenerational dialogue. In northern Uganda, where musical traditions remain strong, song is an underutilized avenue for community-building, personal expression, and education. Through the engagement of diverse groups, the project aims to develop three songs that can be used by local communities and civil society as educational and advocacy tools for justice and reconciliation. The three songs—on topics of gender justice, victims’ conflict and post-conflict experiences, and the basic components of transitional justice—will be composed through interactive workshops, with participants including ex-combatants and victims from four ethnic groups as well as professional artists, which will culminate with participants recording their songs in a professional studio.
Participants will also develop strategies to promote these songs in their communities, and the songs will be launched publically on a popular radio station that reaches more than a million people across the region.
This creative project combining the arts and peacebuilding demonstrates an excellent fit with Lisle’s mission of cross-cultural work for reconciliation in a post-conflict environment, with thoughtful planning given to dissemination of the songs, detailed project evaluation, and eventual continuity and expansion of the work.
Intercultural Competency through Sustained Dialogue
With more than 750,000 international students currently studying in the United States, there is the opportunity for cross-cultural interaction and learning. Unfortunately, this potential is often neglected or underutilized. The very structure of orientation at colleges often means international students only get to know each other, beginning a process of limited interaction between international and US students. In addition, when they do interact, students often are not equipped with the knowledge or skills about how to communicate successfully. The proposed project, “Building Intercultural Competency across Colleges and Universities” is designed by the International Institute for Sustained Dialogue to address this issue.
Since 2002 the Sustained Dialogue Campus Network has trained student leaders with the skills and knowledge for how to interact across lines of difference. Across 25 campuses in the US, Latin America, and Africa groups of 8-12 students meet weekly for results-oriented dialogue, building relationships around topics such as race, class, gender, and faith, while simultaneously addressing pressing needs in their communities. More than 4500 students participate in the Sustained Dialogue process annually.
This proposal identifies a need for improving understanding between international and US students at US colleges, and provides a creative and effective solution by adapting the unique Sustained Dialogue model to a new setting. A set of intercultural competency resources including Issue Sheets, Dialogue Guides, and suggested resources will be developed to provide materials for students to engage in 6-8 week dialogues to deepen intercultural understanding. The proposal includes plans for incorporating the learnings into the organization’s models and expanding the lessons to additional campuses.
Global Educator Training
Global Visionaries is a youth-led organization that challenges and transforms young people into socially and environmentally conscious global leaders. Global Leadership is a methodology and a course developed by Global Visionaries to empower and engage middle and high school students’ global leadership skill building and service learning within and beyond the classroom. In Global Leadership, students study the social justice and environmental impacts of complex, interconnected global issues, such as water scarcity, climate change, access to education, and food security. In turn, they develop action projects that propose sustainable solutions.
Teachers of Global Leadership need to be trained in democratic pedagogy so that they can turn the classroom into a laboratory for establishing relationships between teacher and student and student to student into those based on mutual respect and equality, rather than rely on the power endowed by them by the educational institution. Students have the experience of being active, civic minded, global leaders whose in-class relationships are a model of how to interact with and address 21st century problems through collaboration, innovation, and awareness of global social inequalities.
The proposed Summer Intensive Training program for educators will allow Global Visionaries to expand a Global Leadership Class currently taught in one Seattle high school to educators throughout the region. The link between democratic pedagogy and complex social justice issues, combined with a commitment to train equal numbers of educators serving low-income and higher-income communities provides a unique model for international education which closely aligns with Lisle’s goals.
Greensboro, North Carolina
Known as the “Gateway City,” Greensboro, North Carolina, has welcomed newcomers from diverse cultural, linguistic, and national backgrounds for decades. Whether fleeing war or seeking better opportunities for themselves and their families, newcomers encounter a host of cultural differences, underlying racial tensions due to the legacy of slavery, and budget constraints and limited social services in a weakened economy.
“YouthLEAD: Promoting Peacebuilding and Cross-Cultural Communication” is designed to bring together immigrant youth from diverse communities in Greensboro and provide a creative means of advancing cultural understanding across barriers of language, race, gender, religion and income. The collaboration of the Department of Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and the nonprofit Center for New North Carolinians in support of the project provides a strong foundation.
By focusing on youth ages 10-20 years old, the project hopes to equip a new generation with the critical cross-cultural skills, conflict transformation techniques, and leadership capacities so that they may advocate on behalf of their families and communities.
Youth Community Forums will draw participants from communities representing over a dozen national and ethnic backgrounds, including the Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Iraq, Montagnard (Vietnam), Bhutanese, Burmese, and Latino families, among others. The project will model cooperative, democratic leadership and participation and will enable the YouthLEADers to practice their communication skills, promote tolerance among peers, and deepen community ties within and across diverse ethnic neighborhoods in Greensboro.