Founded in 2016, Mobdiun – Creative Youth inspires youth to lead change and help build a peaceful democracy in Tunisia using arts, citizenship, and technology. With seed funding from the Innovative Peace Fund (IPF), Mobdiun was able to initiate their organization; they are now well-established and receive funding from three donors. Mobdiun work with young people in marginalized communities targeted by violent extremists and provide them with opportunities to build skills and gain access to resources and networks to foster their creativity as builders of Tunisian society. They also mobilize government, private sector, and civil society in order to foster policy dialogue and lead change around youth issues and priorities.
Research, Art, and a Functioning Social State: How to Prevent Violent Extremism?
In 2017, Tunisia had the highest number of foreign fighters per capita in the world, Mobdiun’s program aimed to prevent youth from being recruited by violent extremist groups and inspire them to bring positive change through peaceful and creative means. The IPF support enabled Mobdiun to engage in the first phase of in-depth qualitative research – Being a Teenager in Kram Ouest: Seven Years after the Revolution of January 14th, 2011 in Tunisia – on the drivers and resilience factors towards violent extremism. This entailed looking at the living conditions of vulnerable teenagers, their relationships with their families, and government institutions in hard to access communities. Mobdiun was able to leverage its work and the research findings to engage and inform local and national authorities. They also built trust and gained access to local communities where they could offer programming and services for youth. Mobdiun signed an agreement with the Ministry of Education which gave a directive to all local offices to cooperate with the organization in their work, including giving them access to the schools, students, and teachers. Mobdiun developed a working relationship with cultural centers in Kram, which continue to host many of the activities serving youth in the community. Mobdiun was invited to present its findings to the National Committee Against Terrorism, the body which writes the Tunisian counter-terrorism strategy, to inform the national action and policy planning process. A critical component of their participation in the commission is to ensure that the voices and needs of people in the local communities most at risk and impacted by violent extremism are addressed by the national authorities.
In 2018, additional IPF funding enabled Mobdiun to directly target youth in situations of vulnerability. This includes youth who have experienced social and economic exclusion, and those with relatives, neighbours, or friends that have joined ISIS or illegally emigrated. Mobdiun built upon their previous research, which showed the necessity of developing youth skills and involving youth in vulnerable situations in afterschool activities, to hold a series of workshops. They collaborated with UNDP to train consultants on the “world café” methodology and conducted 21 three-hour interactive workshops with 504 girls and boys, aged 12 to 18. During the workshops, the facilitators used participatory activities and other interactive games to present the research findings to the young participants. Mobdiun also held a theatre workshop for a small group of teenagers, from which four selected teenagers wrote a play about their lives in Kram Ouest and the issues they face. The play presented solutions inspired by the recommendations from the research and was performed in Carthage for the participants’ families, friends, and peers, as well as members of the Municipal Council and media. The mayor of Le Kram attended the play and spoke afterward about his awareness on youth issues in Le Kram. The project enabled youth to speak more openly about their lives and challenges and encouraged them to lead a more active role in their community.
As a result of IPF seed funding, Mobdiun has earned the trust of large donors and institutional actors in Tunisia. Today, Mobdiun offers a set of multiple activities and services to teenagers and older youth such as:
- Arts:theatre classes, voice & percussion workshops, dance, drawing & design, literary writing, slam poetry.
- Citizenship engagement:leadership academy- a tailored program designed with Columbia University Design Studio in New York City to help youth engage in bringing change in their community, games and workshops to debate human rights, Tunisian history and current transition context, and gender-based violence.
- Financial Autonomy:soft and professional skills for school dropouts, psychological support, personal coaching and follow-up, and integration in the government employment agencies and training centers roasters.
- Psychological support: for the most vulnerable individuals in the community.
Mobdiun is also using the experience and knowledge gathered in Kram Ouest neighborhood to write policy briefs informing policy makers about the steps to take in order to prevent violent extremism and provide the right conditions for teenagers and youth fulfillment in marginalized neighborhoods of Tunisia.
Carried out qualitative research on the drivers and resilience factors towards youth involvement in violent extremism.
Invited to present research findings to the National Committee Against Terrorism.
“With small funding from ICAN, we were able to build trust with the youth, then we were able to reach policy makers.”
– Omezzine Khélifa
Founder and Executive Director of Mobdiun