A Peacemaking Project by Ashley L.
What is the injustice we are solving?
Something I’ve noticed, not just in my community, is a lack of cultural understanding in the U.S. In schools, especially in my area, little time is devoted to teaching students in-depth information about the cultures of the world. Students lack the understanding that is necessary to get along with people of all cultures, and as a result, I’ve seen both covert and overt displays of cultural imperialism which affect those who don’t fall under the cultural “norm.” People fear what they do not understand; that fear of the unknown leads to discrimination leads to injustice. If students were taught more about cultures other than their own, it would help to ameliorate the prevalence of cultural imperialism and discrimination on the basis of culture. Multicultural education and cross-cultural leadership development are critical for young people to expand their worldview, eradicate stereotypes and promote tolerance. However, not all students have access to opportunities such as studying abroad and taking language classes, whether it be due to financial, documentation, cultural, and/or familial concerns. Learning and sharing about culture should not be a privilege for select students. Celebrating culture, something that defines who we are, is a human right. Consequently, unequal access to multicultural education opportunities is an injustice I want to change within my community. Whether it be through direct service such as offering a Digital Exchange Program option for students, or advocating for increased multicultural education and representation in public schools, this injustice needs to be addressed.
Our Compassionate Solution:
To solve this injustice of discrimination based upon a person's culture
we will address a lack of cultural understanding in the U.S.
by providing students with opportunities to learn more about the cultures of the world around them.
Our Project Plan:
- To bring together high school and college students from around the globe to talk about culture, promote mutual understanding, and prepare young people to tackle today’s critical global issues through cross-cultural collaboration.
- To establish a Digital Exchange Program designed to encourage students to learn more about cultures they’re interested in directly from other students within those cultures.
- To serve, educate, and activate: serve the community through service projects completed by Project Exchange Chapters, educate youth in all countries through the Project Exchange podcast and blog, and activate by working to make a lasting change on cultural education in the U.S.
We will increase my / our compassion by...
Giving people was to understand the world around them, set young people in America started on the path of becoming global citizens, and helping to make cultural discrimination a thing of the past.
How will you show courage?
We will show courage by standing up for those who are discriminated against on the basis of their culture. We will make sure that youth in America have the tools necessary to achieve a mutual understanding with the rest of the world.
How will you collaborate with others?
We will collaborate with others by setting up Project Exchange Chapters across the U.S. and working directly with high school students to implement our service projects.
How will you know you are moving in the right direction? (What are specific ways you can measure your impact?)
With the Digital Exchange Program, we can measure our impact by seeing how many people participate in the Digital Exchange Program and taking surveys before and after the Digital Exchange Program to see how far each participant has come in terms of cultural understanding. With Chapters, we can measure our impact by conferring with the Chapter Presidents to see what they have done in their community.
- Set up a Project Exchange website
- Set up the Digital Exchange Program
- Launch the first cohort of the Digital Exchange Program
- Establish Project Exchange Chapters in American high schools and colleges
- Guide the chapters in their service projects
- Continuously come up with new ideas/programs we can develop and implement
How did the project deepen your team's understanding of the injustice?
While designing the initial Digital Exchange Program, our team spoke with various students and organizations both in the U.S. and abroad in order to better understand how various communities faced challenges to access global education. While there were common shared themes, such as high study abroad costs, lack of qualifying documentation, family commitments, etc.there were also different barriers and inequalities for students with different identities. For example, some educational facilities in South America, sub-saharan Africa, and South Asia did not have access to digital devices, which posed a barrier to even participating in the Digital Exchange. Other student communities, such as the LGBTQ community and people with disabilities, faced even more challenges to study abroad not only because of access in local communities, but also due to lack of awareness or capacity to host in the receiving country.
How did your community change as a result of your project?
Students who were part of the Digital Exchange Program brought an increased understanding of cross-cultural collaboration and global citizenship back into their community, which helped promote tolerance and tackle stereotypes. By bringing more stories and first-hand experiences into the community, participants were able to circulate their cross-cultural knowledge and invite community members to also ask questions/have meaningful conversations about cross-cultural collaboration. Thus, the community around each student changed to become more accepting and inclusive, which spread person to person in a butterfly effect.
How many people were impacted by your project?
In addition to those directly impacted, are there additional people you feel were indirectly indirectly impacted or reached? If so, how many? (This might include people who read about your project, families of people that attended your workshops or received services, etc.)
Project exchange matched eight pairs of students (sixteen students total) from seven different countries for the first cohort of our Digital Exchange Program. Thus, we directly impacted sixteen people, and project that we impacted another 48 students at minimum (because in the Digital Exchange Program, we ask participants to share their learning with a peer, present to a classroom, write a blog/make a blog, etc.).
How did your team learn more about the people affected by the injustice?
Our team specifically reached out to students and communities without access to cross-cultural learning experiences in order to better understand their stories (we communicated with these students through a combination of effectively using networks, cold calling/emailing, etc.). Additionally, our team also conducted a pre and post survey for Digital Exchange Participants in order to better understand their experiences before and after the program, which helped us develop a better idea of why access to cross-cultural learning is important especially for under-resources communities.
What did your team learn?
Our team learned that global education is not only important to facilitate cross-cultural collaboration towards the SDGs, it also opens doors for students to broaden their worldview, and expand their perspective on opportunities/challenges. We also discovered the importance of incorporating globally applicable ideas like design thinking and community journalism in order to supplement the SDG learning, and provide students the tools/put agency in the hands of participants to create change. Finally, a huge part of our learning experience stemmed from the challenges of organizing the first cohort — and what could be improved in terms of curriculum, logistics, and team workflow.
What challenges did your team overcome?
One of the greatest challenges our team overcame during the first cohort of the Digital Exchange Program was ensuring each participant fully took advantage of the resources we offered, and were consistently getting in touch with their DEP match and following the video/activity guides provided. Motivating the participants to complete the entire program was something that was extremely difficult, and declining morale among participants lead to declining morale among Project Exchange staff ... thus, our team sought to consistently regroup and provide updates/advice with each other in order to better facilitate the program. By assigning a team member to each DEP match, we were able to work more closely with each student pair (through these experiences, we’ll also be resigning the program to better consider this phenomenon)!
How have you involved others in designing, carrying out, or expanding this project?
The Project Exchange team is always looking for self-directed and motivated students passionate about cross-cultural exchange and quality global education opportunities to join our team and contribute to the work we’re doing. Throughout the course of designing and launching the first iteration of the DEP, Project Exchange engaged a total of ~30 students as Executive Team members. Additionally, our Associate Team Member, Intern, and Ambassador positions also created alternative engagement opportunities for those with less time available. By creating spaces for others to lead and design cross-cultural experiences, we know we are helping inspire and empower the next generation of global citizens who will solve today’s critical issues!
What advice would you give to someone starting a peacemaking project?
Don’t hesitate to ask for help. Before you get started, make a map of your community in terms of power structures and stakeholders, identify who can help, in what way they can help, and why they would help. Also in the beginning, ask yourself if you understand the problem/why you’re “qualified” to solve it! Always find people who can tell you more, and don;’t be shy to pursue understanding throughout your journey (you can always pivot your plan + adapt)! You’ll find that community partners are often more than willing to sit for an informational session/quick interview, so use those as opportunities to get to know people better, share about your initiative, and hopefully invite them to join the journey.