Wednesday, August 2, 2017

The Road to Washington via Athens

by: Evans Yonson (Philippines)

(Note: This article originally appeared on Global Spotlight, Vol 10, Issue II, 2017. Several photos and links have been added below.)

“Congratulations! We are looking forward to seeing you in Washington, DC on July 16,” said the email.

I arrived Athens, Ohio on July 6th, more than a week before the Facebook Global Digital Challenge in Washington, DC.

With Prof. Yusuf Kalyango, PhD, SUSI2017 Program Director, taken upon my arrival in Columbus, Ohio on July 6th.
(Photo by Franklyn Charles)
While my SUSI colleagues were enjoying Cleveland’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, communing with the Amish-Mennonites, and visiting the State Hall of Columbus, there I was in hot and humid DC with my students. If only I could teleport between Ohio and DC, I would have done it in a snap.

In July 2016, Facebook, in association with EdVenturePartners, asked if I could gather students and implement a peer-to-peer (P2P) social media campaign in Xavier University (Ateneo de Cagayan).

P2P is a global university initiative being implemented in 160 universities around the world. Over the course of one semester, university teams work to design, pilot, implement and measure the success of a social or digital initiative, product or tool that motivates or empowers other students to become involved in countering violent extremism (CVE).

EdVenture Partners believes that engaging youth in the fight against violent extremism is crucial, and the P2P program offers a creative and exciting way for students around the world to become involved in the effort.

Thus, the birth of I Am Mindanao. I Am Mindanao (IAM) aims to educate college students in Cagayan de Oro City about violent extremism, strengthen their sense of pride as Mindanaoans, and empower them to take part in CVE. When we started the campaign, there were a lot of apprehensions but we were steadfast in our efforts towards peace in Mindanao.

During our first campaign (Fall 2016), we developed original and research-based materials and activities for our online and offline audience such as infographics, videos, online competitions, room-to-room lecture series, a concert, a photo exhibit, and a peace camp. We had a total 15 activities for this term.

Taken during the Peace Camp. (Photo by I Am Mindanao) 
For our second campaign (Spring 2017), we initiated a weekly dialogue with Muslim, Christian and indigenous students. The regular meetings brought more ideas into the campaign. We explored the students’ sense of identity, sense of belongingness, and sense of purpose. This further solidified our campaign’s efforts towards CVE and achieving lasting peace in Mindanao. For this campaign, we had 22 various activities spanning from January to June 2017.

Student volunteers meet to discuss the plans for summer.
(Photo by I Am Mindanao)

On May 23, an ISIS-related group called Maute Group invaded the Islamic City of Marawi (100 kilometers away from Cagayan de Oro).

Two hours after the attack, the IAM Team issued a Statement of Condemnation. The next day, we started a call-to-action initiative, #MealforMarawi. Our target was to raise 200 US dollars to feed 150 internally displaced persons. Help immediately poured in. Before the week was over, we collected close to 2,000 USD.

A post-campaign survey revealed that all 726 respondents are willing to take part in future activities of IAM related to CVE.

Our social media platforms exhibited unbelievable metrics. Our Facebook page has a total of more than 38,000 page likes, 4.5 million impressions. One photo alone was shared more than 100,000 times. Twitter and Instagram have generated more than 3 million impressions.

The I Am Mindanao Team in Washington, DC.
(Photo by I Am Mindanao) 
Bangladesh won the top prize, with Nigeria placing 2nd, Spain 3rd, and the Philippines with the fourth place.

“It’s never about winning the top prize in Washington, DC that matters. What matters the most is made an impact in our community. Coming to the US is only the icing of our Mindanao cupcake,” I told my students.

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