#MeWeSyria in zaatari refugee camp

How can we improve learning outcomes for refugees and displaced people under 24?

Recently, Ashoka’s Youth Venture was invited to be a finalist at the United Nations for Solve MiT’s global challenge concerning refugee education on this very question.

As a finalist, Mohsin Mohi-Ud-Din, Director of Storytelling Innovation at Ashoka’s Youth Venture, pitched Youth Venture's solution, #MeWeSyria, in front of hundreds of UN officials, panelists, and other finalists from all over the world. Finalists were only given 3 minutes to pitch their innovations followed by 3 minutes of Q&A.

#MeWeSyria is a refugee-led platform that leverages the science of storytelling and interpersonal communications as a tool for healing, community-building, and changemaker activation. 

For his presentation, Mohsin wanted the voices of Syrian refugees to be the main focus.

"We created a presentation that enabled our young refugee changemakers overseas to actually be a part of the presentation. Because they are refugees, they would not be able to step inside the UN, so we took our opportunity to speak by action (not words) -- to put their ideas and changemaker work in the forefront," says Mohsin. WATCH Youth Venturea the United Nations below: 

While there were hundreds of innovation submissions, Youth Venture, and the young refugee changemakers on the #MeWeSyria teams in the Middle East were designated as “Solvers” by the MIT Solve community. The victory at Solve MiT marked a major moment of celebration and validation for the brave and selfless changemaker work young refugees with #MeWeSyria are conducitng each and every day, even in the most difficult of circumstances. "This is proving that the 'Everyone a Changemaker' vision of Ashoka, is in fact real, no matter if you are a 15 year old refugee from Syria, or an 18 year old American from Washington D.C. Every young person is a changemaker waiting to unleash his or her potential. What's needed is the space to exercise empathy, leadership, creative collaboration, and creative problem-solving," says Mohsin. 

Youth Venture at MIT

"I think the reason we won was because we were approaching communication and storytelling, not as a transactional process, but as a process that can activate changemaker mindsets in young people while also supporting their social and emotional development, and mental health needs."

Mohsin reflects that being named a “Solver” for the MIT Solve community has “opened up the doors for Youth Venture to collaborate with a broader pool of funding partners that can help us scale our program beyond the Middle East and refugee communities, and to support a youth’s ecosystem as a whole”.

Alongside funding opportunities, Youth Venture were also able to engage with Vice Impact, who created a documentary of Mohsin and Youth Venture during the United Nations event. (WATCH IT HERE!) Since then, the Vice Impact and Youth Venture have engaged in a content partnership and plan to collaborate in the future.  

After the event, Youth Venture was invited to present its solution at MIT where he had formal meetings with the MIT president, L. Rafael Reif, and the CEO’s and Founders of various family foundations and companies,  such as the Queen Rania Foundation, Western Union Foundation, Hewlett Packard and PepsiCo. Following the win for Solve MiT, Mohsin was a featured presenter at the World Economic Forum in Jordan, and presented his work at the UN again this past month as a guest panelist for International Youth Day.    

#MeWeSyria impact slide 1

Youth Venture's storytelling innovation is not stopping here. “Our program is being replicated by refugee youth across 8 cities in 3 countries, launching storytelling for Changemaker hubs that have reached 600+ youth. Our psychometric tool, that we announced at the MIT Solve Event, is recording reduced aggression, enhanced interpersonal communication, and increased community engagement from isolated and traumatized youth communities. Our storytelling innovation is proving that it is possible to support mindset shifts of a young person -- even young people that have been as traumatized and underserved as young Syrian refugees”.

To check out what’s coming up next for Mohsin and #MeWeSyria, check out his recent interviews and story features  with Vice Impact.

#MeWeSyria Vice Impact Story 1




This article was originally published on 22 August 2017


Words: Georgia Horton | Edits: Mohsin Mohi Ud Din

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