What is Project K?

Project K is about the realisation of the Foundations’ long-term objective and activity of providing platforms for its alumni to take their messages and extend their dialogue beyond the parameters of the session room. Following their Peace Foundation programmes, participants often leave feeling inspired yet feel they lack the platform, momentum and perhaps network with which to continue that discourse. The spaces that are created and curated by the Foundation invite participants to be themselves, share, learn, be inspired and be empowered. They do this by living, socialising and learning alongside one another through their programmes. These experiences are unique and special and are often treasured in the aftermath. The ability to continue those discussions however beyond the programmes and give meaning to them in the ‘everyday’ world can often be a challenge once they leave the session room.

In a world filled with challenges, from fear, prejudice and conflict, the overarching aim of our programme work is to inspire our participants to not only educate themselves in understandning their own role in tackling these challenges- but to help provide the means by which they can ‘wage peace’ in their own settings drawing on the inspiration from their experiences with the Foundation.

The essence of what the Foundation does is focussed around human interaction. Our learning is experiential balancing the ‘taught’ with the ‘caught’. This matters, because we recognise the fact people have different styles and approaches to learning and this approach allows them to be told about it as well as to do and experience it. Theory and practice.

What also matters is that they are testing the theories in the room with their fellow peers. This allows them not only to share and explore theories and practice with those they never normally come into contact with – but they hear and learn about the perspectives of others. This very humanising approach to processing means perhaps surprises at what people may hold in common or not, allowing them to move beyond stereotypes to concrete experiences, stories, examples and reference points beyond what they knew before. It is training and developing the most socially intelligent of our organs: the brain; and its recognition of positive and negative, what it likes and doesn’t. Because this governs who we interact with and the choices we make – this is relationship development in practice.

How do we extend that once their programme finishes?

As we always say on our programmes… this is not the end, it is only the beginning as it is now up to you to take what you know and make it matter. The ripple effect.

Project K is a platform with a difference. Based on the fundamental principles of the Foundation and its work (inclusivity, participation and so on), this platform aims to extends our processes into the online, allowing our participants to continue their learning, interaction with peers and the dialogues they have started in session-online. It also gives them a chance to share what they have learnt and to raise their voices. The platform also provides a space for new interactions and new learning. The ripple effect means that people may pick up a thread or introduce a new idea or ‘thinker’. Upon doing this, other are invited to share in the conversation and bring their perspectives and ideas. How they ‘see’ the world allows others to share in those new reference points and broaden their viewpoints.

Encouraging ‘citizen journalists’, the Foundation’s initiative aims to provide a platform and the all important ‘vehicle’ by which participants can be validated and their ideas and thinking stimulated through this online dialogue forum.

Project K aims to engage young people in the research, design, and creation of an interactive digital solution that we are calling an ‘Alternative Narrative Generator’ including:

  • a ‘home portal’ by way of a responsive website integrated with a content management system (CMS) allowing user content generation (‘citizen journalism’) – moving image, stills, audio and text
  • virtual mentors (including THINK programme related material for the online space and administrator input from key professionals – may need a confidential area via password)
  • online community support network (‘walled’ chatroom areas)
  • learning through films and other media
  • a mobile application integrated with other social media platforms
  • access via an augmented reality interface and supporting collateral

The digital solution is known as an Alternative Narrative Generator (ANG) allowing narratives to be created, debated, critically and consequentially assessed, challenged, countered and facts to be communicated ‘in a safe space for difficult conversations’

The intention is to develop a pilot ANG that every young person who goes through our THINK project will receive access to, through a technology interface. It will use innovative techniques to engage them with quality content, but more importantly, allow them to become citizen journalists creating and sharing their own content.  The product will then be enabled to any person who ‘graduates’ through a Foundation project, creating an alumnus of ‘peace builders’ (a social movement for change).

They will be involved in every aspect of the product, from initial idea and concept through to delivery. The intention is that the product take the latest technology (e.g.  smart enabled apps, augmented reality, personal content management systems), and somehow weaves this together within a Project K solution, to enable young people to access content they need, and to create their own content that provides an alternative narrative to that being perpetrated by people who ‘advocate’ for the use of violence.

The product is likely to use ‘smart’ devices as the mobile hardware interface and to enable a bespoke website and application (K) that interfaces with other commonly used applications and uses state of the art solutions such as augmented reality. It will also have a high degree of relevant content and include incentives to participation, push messaging through designed collateral or any other methods, input from credible voices, including selected celebrities or well-known faces. Importantly it will allow the user to create their own content using moving images (film), still images, audio, and text.  This is the ultimate ‘citizen journalism.’  K will also challenge narratives of others and provide fact-based rebuttal and will contain an element of administration through skilled mentors and mediators.

This idea is born of the longstanding work of the Foundation and our work with young people – seeing their potential and equipping them with skills to lead and play positive roles in their communities. Project K is also influenced by the work of economist and futures analyst, Noreena Hertz. Hertz an Economist and futures analyst at University College London was exploring how young people born between 1995 and 2000 (pre millennium) interacted with the world. She came to refer to  this group of young people as Generation K.

“This is a generation who grew up through 9/11, the Madrid bombings, the London bombings and Islamic State terrors. They see danger piped down their smartphones and beheadings on their Facebook Page. Data showed very clearly how anxious they are about everything from getting into debt or not getting a job, to wider issues such as climate change and war – 79% of those who took part in a survey worried about getting a job, 72% worried about debt, and you have to remember these are teenagers.

“In previous generations teenagers did not think in this way. Unlike the first-era millenial’s [classed as those aged 20 and 30] who grew up believing that the world was their oyster and ‘Yes, we can’, this new generation knows the world is an unequal and harsh place.” They are ‘hyper-aware and supremely anxious.”

This is a generation of ‘Insta-danger, Facebook envy and austerity’; a generation where 75% of teenage girls Noreena Hertz surveyed, stated that they are worried about terrorism, which is not surprising with the content that is streamed and accessible on their devices.  Notwithstanding the importance of these formative years (ages 11-25) moreover, which sees multiple hormonal changes; social; familial; and academic pressures also.

In other sources, it is cited that this generation has not surprisingly, transcended traditional verbal and visual learning processes, responding above all to virtual technologies.

The success of future education depends on commensurate learning and teaching styles. To truly engage this audience, to not condescend to them and enable them to be active in their own learning processes, we must engage with them on the same platform and with the same mentality; ‘Students now expect a rich, interactive, and even “playful” learning environments’.

Whilst the internet poses a double-edged sword scenario, a plethora of negative prospects, it also affords people a wealth of information 24/7. Connectivity is fundamental to their existence and identity.  A need for ‘internet savviness’ is a must if we are to effectively and safely equip and engage Generation K.

What must not be exaggerated is the extent to which this is a despondent generation. On the contrary, the pragmatism of these young people, driven by their desire (90% of the females surveyed by Hertz) for high-paying careers or professions, with a disinterest in alcohol and drugs, compels these young people to high expectations and outputs. Their desire to learn and be ahead in the game gives them a competitive edge; a generation of “I connect therefore I am”.

One of the approaches taken by the Foundation is to reduce the exclusion of students from a learning environment, and the inclusive construct of a ‘shared agreement’ that establishes a protected space where people feel safe to explore and express their views. This ethos could be replicated on an interactive digital solution.

Project K is an ambitious aim of the Foundation to connect our alumni and technology and harness it to continue our important work and mobilise (mobile-ise) our alumni to continue to ‘wage peace’.

Opportunity

We recognise that in order to progress this idea we need partners in tech, social media, and many others. If you’d like to talk to us about partnering on this innovative and ambitious idea contact harriet.vickers@foundation4peace.org