Networks for Peace is a five-year activity funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The activity is implemented by FHI 360 under the Strengthening Civil Society Globally Leader with Associates Award. This project implemented by Search is funded under Networks for Peace’s Pillar 2 – piloting innovations to address dangerous speech and amplify positive narratives.
In Sri Lanka, Search has over 5 years of experience promoting positive alternative narratives through social media and developing the capacities of young people to identify and counter hate speech. Over the past decade, Sri Lanka has experienced varying levels of violence and dangerous hate speech resulting from the deep ethnic and religious divisions that remain after the civil war. Search’s initiatives WT2: Work Together Win Together (commonly known in its shorter form as We Lanka project), implemented in two phases from December 2018 to June 2021, and the Cyber Guardians: Empowering Youth to Combat Online Hate Speech in Sri Lanka project from: 1st March 2019 – 29th February 2020 both build upen the new We-gital Heroes Youth in Digital Peacebuilding Project. The We-gital Heroes Youth in Digital Peacebuilding Project empowers youth to address drivers of dangerous speech and develop coordinated and effective responses to counter online dangerous speech.The 18-month project, proposed herein, is designed to strengthen collaborative action among participating youths in Sri Lanka and cross-sharing with regional practitioners to address online dangerous speech. The project will consolidate Search’s prior work in building capacities and engaging youth on this issue by replicating tested methodologies such as the 3-Cs and combining this with new approaches: a digital edutainment approach, mentoring, collective action, and regional expansion.
Approach and Methodology
Search used the 3C approach of content creation, countering, and championing by focusing on digital edutainment, mentorship, a collective group approach, and regional expansion to engage in peacebuilding work. Through capacity building, soft skills, and gamification within the digital space, integrating mentorship and coaching sessions to analyze dangerous speech and design positive and counter messaging campaigns, and engaging a broader regional network of organizations Search was able to meet young people where they are and bring them together across divides.
Core Objectives and Activities
For this project Search aims to establish a digital learning, networking, mentorship, and professional development platform for youth (ages 18-29) interested in addressing online dangerous hate speech. To accomplish this objective, Search will hold consultations with regional stakeholders and develop an online platform to address online dangerous hate speech. Search also seeks to support youth to collaboratively design and implement social media to counter hate speech through positive messaging campaigns. In order to do so, Search hopes to conduct capacity training for We-gital Heroes, train mentors for We-gital Heroes, and mentor the We-gital Heroes. Ultimately, Search wants to enhance collaboration, learning, and sharing among a regional community of practitioners countering dangerous speech through virtual regional learning exchanges and compiling a lesson learnt document the project can pass on.
The We-gital heroes project looks to produce a regional consultation report developed with findings that inform Search’s project focus and approaches, a digital edutainment platform established to facilitate youth lead actions, capacity development, and networking in addition to virtual dialogues with youth from different ethnic and religious backgrounds. Search aims to train 379 youths in countering hate speech with 20 mentors trained to support We-gital Heroes with 20 mentoring sessions producing 10 youth led-initiatives, including the development of online digital platform that counters dangerous speech and provides space for dialogue and collaboration, and the collective engagement among youth networks across South and Southeast Asia. At the conclusion of the project Search will use the project to inform other regional practitioners to lead more projects similar to it.