By: David J. Smith, May 15, 2017
This past week Saturday (5/13) I was at the Youth Peace Conference at Sandy Spring Friends School in Sandy Spring, MD. The conference brought together students from the school and neighboring schools to focus on the “Intersectionality of ‘Isms.'” It was my first time presenting at the school, though the second time in recent weeks that I have worked with a Friends school. On April 28, I visited State College Friends School in State College, PA.
For my session, I focused on “Peace Entrepreneurship,” which I have emphasized lately with high school and college students. In the future, because of the increasing complexity of conflict, we will need an entrepreneurial approach that looks beyond traditional structures and models, and emphasizes creativity and innovation. The earlier we get young people to think this way, the better for all of us.
I had a small group of students, all guys, in my session. I first was interested in what they were planning post high school (several were seniors). They were interested in finance, film, science, and athletics. Finding out what they are interested in studying in college and pursuing through work is an important starting point.
My first activity had been my peace career bingo game. But because they were older we didn’t engage in the game, rather, we used the game to talk about the range of peacebuilding approaches that can be taken including the arts, science, education, and technology.
We then talked about entrepreneurship, starting with a few definitions and examples of how it appears today. Technology provides good examples: the I-Phone, Google, etc. But the sharing economy can also be full of examples: Airbnb, Uber, etc. We also considered corporate social responsibility.
I then divided them into pairs to work on a product or service that could be used to benefit youth.
The first pair looked at using sports and mentoring to engage young people who might be adrift and susceptible to negative influences, specifically extremism. One student was part Tunisian, so he talked about the need to have programs in parts of the world like Tunisia where recruitment of young men is taking place. Their program would focus on setting up soccer clubs for youth.
The second pair looked at technology. They recommended an “app” that would provide resources to young people on conflict, peacebuilding, and social justice. It would be a site for discussions, events, and communication for those interested in promoting peace activities.
The third group looked at after school programs that would teach young people conflict resolution and peacebuilding skills. These programs would be located in community centers, and school counselors could send referrals to these programs after a student has exhibited ant-social behavior (rather than the traditional disciplinary process).
I found that the students focused on the specific needs that were present in their communities (local and global) and with youth. Young people are often in a better positions to identify ways of making positive change in society than are adults. Our job is to allow them to create, and then provide them with the pathways to do important work.