By Gazbia Sorour, Egyptian Streets
The United Nations Development Programme in Egypt (UNDP), in partnership with Misr El Kheir Foundation, organised a two- day ‘Youth Social Justice Innovation Camp’ at the GrEEK Campus early in November.
UNDP is currently in the process of developing the 2015 Egypt Human Development Report (EHDR). Similar to the Global Human Development Report, the EHDR is prepared by national teams to measure and pinpoint human development in the host country. The theme of the upcoming 2015 Egypt Human Development Report is Social Justice.
Since social justice is a broad term and cannot be defined solely by one person, UNDP Egypt believes that the inclusion of citizen voices, especially Egyptian youth, in defining social justice and highlighting perceptions of the subject matter is essential.
Rather than the traditional focus groups and survey-approach, UNDP is keen on utilising inclusive and innovative methods of crowd-sourcing data for the report. For example, UNDP has launched a nation-wide competition for papers on successful local experiments and initiatives tackling social injustice.
“Through the next EHDR, we would like to highlight how social justice can act as a gateway to achieving better socio-economic development for all Egyptians,” explained Ignacio Artaza, UNDP Egypt Country Director.
“The report can build bridges between decision makers and the people, and that is why it is important for UNDP to provide a platform for citizens to share their views and propose ideas, particularly youth who represent 60% of Egyptians and the future of this country.”
The overarching goal of the camp is to provide a platform for young Egyptians not only to communicate their understanding of the term Social Justice, but to actively and collaboratively work on developing innovative solutions for the issues identified.
The camp was divided into a ‘Day of Definition’ and a ‘Day of Action’, where thirty public university students and graduates participated. On the first day, attendees highlighted the main hardships faced in their communities that ultimately contribute to social injustice. Subsequently the participants self-divided into teams and dug deeper into the causes and consequences of particular problems, including issues relating to freedom of speech and access to knowledge, unequal application of the law to citizens, and the accessibility of public services.
On the ‘Day of Action’, using their immense enthusiasm and creativity, participants designed ‘out-of-the- box’ solutions to the main challenges identified on the first day, and built actual prototypes out of low-tech materials such as wood, card, paper and clay. Solutions included ideas for alternative methods of education, inclusive community centres promoting innovation and creativity, as well as the winning idea: a mobile application for reporting poor public infrastructure.
“I was really thrilled when I learned that my team won the best idea and [that] it will be incorporated in the 2015 Human Development Report. This award is just a stepping stone to bigger and better things,” said Abdel Ghany Barakat from Team ‘Salah’a’ (fix it).
The content generated from the workshop will serve as inputs for the EHDR, with the aim of building bridges between policy makers and Egyptian citizens. This is the first time that such an approach to data-collection and research has been applied to the design process of the EHDR. UNDP and Misr El Kheir Foundation are committed to ensuring representative citizen participation, and including those marginalised on the basis of geography, class and gender, and as such will be holding similar workshops in various governorates around Egypt.
“UNDP is very happy with the energy of the youth in the Social Justice Innovation Camp, which is a great signal that our next Egypt Human Development report will be more innovative. We want to hear the voices of the youth; what do they think social justice means to them and what can they do to address challenges in their communities?” said Nahla Zeitoun, UNDP Egypt’s Poverty Team Leader. “Innovation and development solutions can only come from those who experience the issues on the ground.”
The overall structure of the workshop encouraged critical thinking and generated a sense of citizen empowerment; that is, emphasising the idea that the youth are able to take charge and affect positive change in their communities.