Felix Byaruhanga of Uganda speaks about his experience at the Commonwealth YouthCAN Innovation Lab, held in Rwanda in February 2016.
On 10 February I made my way to the Commonwealth YouthCAN Innovation Lab in Kigali. Immediately, the enthusiasm with which everyone introduced themselves was more welcoming and affirming that everyone was here to share and learn on activism around countering violent extremism (CVE). Personally, this was the time to attach faces onto the people behind the emails and the people who put together this experience.
The lab kicked off the next day with over 30 young people from 11 African countries. The first session was very engaging and in a short time everyone got to know each other; there were no strangers, there were colleagues, friends created irrespective of where one came from or what they did. What made the sessions more easy and engaging was the will to learn, share and the common objective of advocating for peace in our respective communities.
As the morning session came to a close we made our way to the Kigali Genocide Memorial site. This place put everything we discussed into perspective. Also, it gave a clear picture of how far Rwanda has come and where it’s going. In Uganda, I have been told stories about the genocide by my elders. I’ve followed up by watching documentaries and movies about the genocide, but visiting the memorial site breaks you emotionally. This is one place I would recommend to everyone who visits Rwanda. One thing I learnt is that whatever we do today, it prepares us for tomorrow, therefore we should always strive to be better versions of ourselves as each day passes.
The lab was hands-on, which made it unique, engaging, and exciting. On day two, we were split into teams to address different scenarios. With guidance, we developed our ideas that will be implemented in our respective countries/regions. This process was one of my most exhilarating experiences because the skills of the people from different regions were put on the table to address an issue that is bigger than us. In the process, each person’s voice/idea was heard in order to contribute to a solution to address peace-building. The lab was made up of people who use different methods to execute their advocacy work, from sport activities to the creative arts.
One of the things that stuck with me from day two was “Backward mapping”, a method used to come up with advocacy campaigns. This is one method that will integrate into most of my projects. Why? Because it helped us design a campaign in less a few hours with clear objectives, goals and methods to execute it. I highly advise to use it in your advocacy work.
We went ahead to develop a campaign titled “Together Against None (#TAN)” that seeks to address religious radicalisation and discrimination. There was a good energy that saw us collaborate and bring the idea to life by producing a short video.
There was never a dull moment, people pushed themselves to see their ideas brought to life. To keep the network alive and growing, we suggested that a structure be put place to implement the outcomes of the lab.
Facebook: Byaruhanga Felix Felifed
Innovation Labs will be conducted in each Commonwealth region throughout 2016. To get involved in these youth peacebuilding efforts please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo credit: Raymond Odum
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