Empowering youth to drive change in the Eastern Caribbean | Chisa Mikami

17 Mar 2016

 SocialINNOV4Change was conceived in our office in 2014 to support youth-led citizen-centred solutions to address crime and violence within their communities. Photo: UNDP Barbados

Crime has become one of the main challenges threatening economies and livelihoods in Caribbean countries, according to UNDP’s Caribbean Human Development Report, with murder rates exceedingly high by world standards. Therefore, boosting citizen security is at the heart of our work in the region. And I knew that was going to be a big part of our work at UNDP Barbados and Eastern Caribbean when I joined the team three months ago.

When I learnt of the SocialINNOV4Change project, I was thrilled with this initiative that engages Caribbean youth on issues that matter to and affect their lives. We need to invest in people, particularly in youth, to boost development while preventing violence and crime.

SocialINNOV4Change was conceived in our office in 2014 to support youth-led citizen-centred solutions to address crime and violence within their communities. This initiative was first piloted in the islands of St. Christopher and Nevis, and it was conceived as a methodology which includes the use of theatre education (partnering with the University of West Indies NGO, Arts-in-Action) to bring issues to the fore, ideation workshops to help participants develop concepts, and a final innovation lab to enhance their approach. Based on the success and lessons learned of this first initiative, SocialINNOV4Change was subsequently further developed in Saint Lucia.

So far, SocialINNOV4Change has trained more than 70 young women and men in the three islands in ideation and, formulation of novel concepts relating to crime and violence prevention. 12 proposed solutions have been selected and received funding and support for their implementation in different communities.

In Saint Lucia, for example, we first organized Ideation Workshops together with the National Youth Council and the Ministry of Youth Development and Sports. At the end of the Ideation Workshops I was pleased to officially launch the SocialINNOV4Change call for ideas 2015 and was elated to subsequently learn that 16 youth groups had submitted ideas that ranged from media campaigns and mentorship programmes to sport initiatives and school projects. The potential among Caribbean youth is truly limitless!

We trained youth groups who submitted ideas in communication planning and ideation. Then, through a three-day Innovation Lab, focusing in applying a design-thinking methodology, we worked with them on transforming their ideas into prototypes and quick-impact solutions. Teams pitched their proposals to a panel of three judges and fielded questions. In the end, the six groups who received grants focused on a diversity of methods for addressing crime within their communities including: music, sports, social media and technology, conscious discipline and a variety of community activities.

As the groups begin implementing their ideas, our office is keen to support them throughout the process. We will also support those groups who did not receive grants, but still desire to implement their projects. It has been interesting to see how, through the use of methodologies that foster innovation, UNDP engaged with youth while also working with national counterparts to create new ways of tackling development challenges at the local level. UNDP Barbados and the OECS takes every opportunity to celebrate the achievements of youth in our region and encourage their active civic participation; SocialINNOV4Change enables both. 

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