Youth, Peace and Security

Youth, Peace and Security

The Youth, Peace and Security (YPS) Program is designed to identify and then act on the linkages between urban conflict, violence, youth and security, and to elicit and develop best practices among youth leaders. This is based on our guiding premises that community building is peace building, that social change requires a bottom-up approach accompanied by a top-down effort, and that youth possess the leadership potential and creativity to transform their social contexts.

The Youth, Peace, and Security (YPS) program aims to:

  • Systematically identify the relationships between urban conflict, youth, and security.
  • Promote innovative research, practice, and education to strengthen and develop the sustainable peace leadership capabilities of youth in urban communities.

Under the leadership of Dr. Beth Fisher-Yoshida, the YPS program partners with grassroots youth organizations, including Fundación Colombia Somos Todos, Corporacion Cultural Diafora, as well as the United Nations, to further develop youth leaders. It began in the cities of Medellín, Colombia and Newark, New Jersey. After co-developing a successful model, we will then expand to other cities. In these selected cities, gangs and other forms of violence have been endemic for decades. This violence has been paired with poor education and lack of employment opportunities. In spite of these difficulties and adverse conditions, many inspiring young leaders have emerged. They are passionately working to bring about positive change in their communities.

Current projects work with youth leaders and youth organizations to enhance their already existing enthusiasm, motivation, and knowledge, and to support their role as change agents in promoting peace. Through hip-hop, graffiti art, and sports, these individuals and organizations are working on community building initiatives. The YPS program offers academic and educational support with new practices and processes for the youth to use in their local community efforts, such as  giving recommendations on fundraising or holding workshops on systems thinking concepts or conflict resolution skills. Additionally, we shine a light on their successes, sharing their stories and initiatives on a bigger scale and to a wider audience.

The overall intent is to develop a learning network in which youth leaders learn from each other. Bringing attention to the selected youth-led initiatives will in turn enable these young leaders to receive support that is necessary and helpful for sustaining their efforts. For example, particular workshops are offered on Dynamical Systems Theory (DST) and Coordinated Management of Meaning (CMM). With DST workshops, youth leaders map out the systems they live in and how the systemic dynamics impact one another. From CMM workshops, participants define their own personal and social narratives and the interplay between the two.

We believe that if the following conditions are met, then urban centers will become settings for safe, resilient, and thriving communities:

  1. Youth in conflict with the law are able to transition out of violence.
  2. Youth are able to discover their talent and design their career path towards gainful employment.
  3. Youth are able to develop transformational leadership capacity and youth networks.
  4. Youth-sensitive public policy discourse and practice are developed and implemented.

YPS

Current Projects

Through fieldwork observation and participatory processes, the following projects have been designed, and/or are being supported, to test and deepen these principles and to ultimately build a worldwide community of practice:

  • When alternatives are presented, youth choose a more constructive path to fulfill their needs.
  • When collaboration is recognized as a value, leaders create networks that scale up and deepen the change work, while making it sustainable.
  • In order for change to happen, you need capable and effective leaders, who have vision and know how to implement it, motivate others to join in, and model in a congruent way the behaviors and values needed for the desired change.

Youth Learning Network, Comuna 8:

The construction of a sector-based “epistemic hub” that joins all the efforts of youth grassroots organizations working to enhance the living conditions of their community is essential in order to have effective and sustained social change.

Comuna 8, in Medellín, not only has been a setting of intractable conflicts during the last 30 years with gang, paramilitary and drug-trafficking activity, but also, and most importantly, it has recently become a center for youth-based organizations that through art, local politics, sports and environmental initiatives, have disobeyed the historical patterns left behind by their predecessors.

The Youth Learning Network aims to bring change to the C8 community by shedding light—locally and globally— on the work being done by the existing youth organizations, supporting their initiatives, and putting at their disposal new knowledge, methodologies and practice in the fields of conflict resolution, conflict management, and peace and community building. The goal is to thereby strengthen their capacities and reach by creating the conditions of possibility where a network to exchange knowledge, methodologies, tools and practice can effectively flourish within the community and beyond. 

Escuela Popular de Arte (E.P.A) Resisto y Pinto:

E.P.A is an initiative designed by two graffiti artists. It is informed by their experience as youth growing up in a marginalized neighborhood and by coming to terms with the intricacies of their individual life-histories in relation to their shared social context. The organization started with the idea of producing spaces within historically marginalized communities that enable community members to experience art beyond the aesthetic and recognize it as both cathartic and full of possibilities of social change.

Guided by popular pedagogy, E.P.A provides paint, sculpture and graffiti workshops for children in Comuna 5, Medellín. They partnered with three other graffiti-hip hop schools in Comuna 5, and together they strive to form the new generation of children artistically, politically and ethically.

Their main lines of work are:

  • Artistic Formation
  • Economics and Political Formation
  • Entrepreneurial formation
  • Participation and Community Life

Featured Resources

Progress Study on Youth Peace and Security Medellin Case Study by Beth Fisher-Yoshida and Joan C. Lopez

Getting Involved

The YPS Program is actively building partnerships around the world. For more information on getting involved, please email jl4736@columbia.edu.


Photos provided and taken by YPS Team in Medellín, Colombia.