A GUIDE TO REMOTE WORKING

May 7, 2020

Blog by “The Peacebuilding Project”

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At the end of 2021, “The Peacebuilding Project” was awarded the Youth Carnegie Peace Prize. It is an international volunteer-led youth organization founded by Rhea Mahanta. In order to get more acquainted with the organization and its work, they wrote a blog that showcases what peacebuilding looks like in practice. In the blog, the young peacebuilders describe their activities and international projects, such as training and supporting women from Afghanistan. Please find the blog below.

Background
The Peacebuilding Project (PBP) is an international volunteer-led initiative advancing SDG16+ and the Youth, Peace, and Security (YPS) Agenda. Founded in 2017 by Rhea Mahanta at the University of Chicago, U.S.A., the project expanded its operations to India in 2018 with the Rohingya Literacy Project with the most persecuted minority in the world. While promoting conflict resolution and peaceful dialogue, PBP supports the participation of youth in peace processes across borders on matters of international peace and security. The aim of the organization is to educate and empower communities about strategies of peace by promoting a culture of peace and understanding.

PBP has previously hosted Training and Workshops on Conflict Resolution and Mediation, Strategies of Non-Violence, Women, Peace & Security, among others. To bolster academic instruction and discourse with real-life interventions, the project also implements various community engagement programs that include providing humanitarian support to vulnerable populations such as refugees. The organization has worked with Syrian, Afghan, and Rohingya refugee groups in various capacities in the U.S.A and India, including organizing donation drives, hosting community dinners to promote the integration of refugee families with host communities, cleaning drives, and more recently, a skill-building project with Afghan refugee women in India.

The Afghan Women Skill-building Project
Women around the world face taboos around menstruation along with varying levels of accessibility to menstrual hygiene products. With no path to citizenship in India, and livelihoods wrecked by coronavirus lockdowns, many Afghan refugees were left to fend for themselves facing an uncertain future. For a woman seeking refuge in a host country, the challenges are compounded due to socio-economic barriers, stigma, health risks, and lack of access to menstrual sanitation and hygiene. Easy and affordable access to menstrual hygiene products is one of the many challenges female refugees face, and economic limitations further contribute to difficulty in accessing these products.

With this in mind, The Peacebuilding Project, together with People Beyond Borders, joined hands to apply for Asia’s first-ever Human Mobility Challenge organized by UNDP Asia Pacific and Youth Co:Lab. The combined team underwent intense workshops and a rigorous selection process to win second place, securing a small grant to implement their project idea to support refugee women gain access to income-generating and sustainable hygiene products. The project’s goal was to build the capacity of Afghan refugee women by training them to self-produce eco-friendly, and reusable sanitary pads & products which would not only help generate livelihood and income but also offer sustainable access to menstrual health and hygiene products.

The project was implemented over three months from August- to October in New Delhi’s Malviya Nagar with four expected outputs (i) access to proper menstrual hygiene products, (ii) addressing stigma around menstrual health, (iii) tackling waste management through eco-friendly and sustainable products, and (iv) promote livelihood and entrepreneurial opportunities through skills training.

Implemented in separate stages, women were first trained in a peer-to-peer participatory model, to use creative tools such as music, art, and exercises to tackle everyday challenges around menstruation. Through training of trainers (ToT) offered by partner organization Kamakhya India, women were then taught to produce and sell sanitary kits, a proportion of which was bought back to ensure a small profit. Finally, the products were then examined and improvised for quality assurance for potential buyers. To optimize the sustainability and impact of the short-term project, the team paired each beneficiary with ‘Skill Buddies’ for continued mentorship on income generation and related skills development (eg. financial literacy, communication, sales, marketing, digital literacy, enterprise management, etc) so that they could continue to produce and sell their products even after the project is completed.

Although our pilot project was budgeted for 25 women, the number of women who attended the Training of Trainers workshops went above 30 and was not limited to Afghan women only. Somali refugee women who heard about the project also participated in some of the sessions. After assessing and evaluating the impact of this project, we found that the total number of pads sold by Afghan women was 1279, making a collective income of Rs.10,000. The project was able to increase the average income of each woman by 8%.

By conducting training modules that teach women and youth groups to recycle used cloth, sanitize, and manufacture DIY menstrual pads, it can open a conversation around best practices which can only be possible if the necessary resources and funding are made available to the groups who already possess high skills and knowledge. With greater investment, the project could be potentially scaled to other communities, inviting male gender champions and community leaders to promote and support women’s engagement in such activities.

The Peacebuilding Project’s approach is to empower conflict-affected and displaced populations through engaging educational and interactive modules. This not only creates an environment that enables sustainable practices but also hopes to provide a potential pathway for social cohesion and integration with the host community. Our vision is to replicate this model in more communities to empower displaced populations and build a culture of self-reliance, entrepreneurship, and sustainability; one sanitary pad at a time.

-By: The Peacebuilding Project

Peacebuilding from home – a step by step guide to building peace from the comfort of your own home


A Butterfly Works Guide to Remote Working 

By Emily Claridge (https://www.linkedin.com/in/emily-claridge-996387188/)

To get in contact with Butterfly Works, email: info@butterflyworks.org, or visit their website.


Disclaimer: The content is not sponsored by any of the mentioned platforms, we just like them! 

Butterfly Works is a social design studio pioneering the use of co-creation and design thinking  in international development. Building on almost 20 years of experience in 25+ countries, we create education and communication solutions with social impact. 

Co-creation relies on the idea that none of us is as smart as all of us and that problems are best solved by those who experience it. The result is ownership over solutions that shape the future. Over the years, we have developed tools and techniques that can be adjusted to the context and used to tackle almost any social issue. As a facilitator of this process, we connect different people that have different skills, viewpoints and backgrounds. We release creativity, push to innovate and together come to solutions no one thought of at the start.

We have been using remote working tools for many years within our work, particularly in facilitating remote co-creation processes with hard-to-reach communities. We want to share our favourite platforms with you, both those that are tried and tested and our new favourites that we are just getting the hang of. We’ve learnt a few tips along the way, but would also love to hear how you work best remotely.  


Slack: An emoji says 1000 words 

Slack is the instant messaging platform that we use for all of our internal communication. Working with so many different projects at once and with Butterflies often around the globe, it is essential for us to be able to check in and quickly communicate on a topic. Whether it is a follow-up on a task or just a quick hello, we have learnt over time the importance of keeping communication efficient and accessible. Often you miss that human connection when working remotely, and Slack works well for us as a place for more casual interactions and check-ins, especially since we discovered you can upload custom emojis! 


Asana: Organisation is key 

Asana is where we organise our tasks, meetings and projects. This is the home of the actionable ‘to-dos’. Asana is described as the application designed ‘to help teams organise, track, and manage their work’. The best Asana quality for us at Butterfly Works is its versatility. We use Asana to outline agendas for meetings, project plans, travel calendars and more. If there is any piece of wisdom we can share, it is that you have to find a to-do system that works for you and stick with it. You might prefer to have your to-do lists in a notebook or in your phone memos; either way, it is important for the whole team to establish a common location/format and to stick with it; otherwise, you end up with 100 to-do lists and thousands of sticky notes dotted around! For most of us at Butterfly Works, Asana is where we keep all of our to-do lists, notes and deadlines. The best part: the little unicorn animation that flies across your screen when you check something off the list.


Miro: The virtual brainstorming room

Slack and Asana have been some of our tried and tested favourites over the years but our newest found love is Miro. When in the Amsterdam studio, we love having a team session or brainstorm where we can all come together, close our laptops and sticky note the day away! Since moving to working entirely remotely, we needed somewhere for this kind of activity, and Miro has come to the rescue. On this simple yet dynamic platform you can create beautiful collaborative boards full of sticky notes, bubbles, arrows, frames and so-on to help jog ideas and trigger creative thinking.

We will often have a video call open in one browser and be working on the same Miro board simultaneously. You can even turn on and off the option to see everyone else’s cursors roaming about. As our newest addition to the Butterfly Works tool repertoire, we are just finding out how best to use Miro, and also divisively finding out everyone’s sticky note colour of choice (mine is orange). The possibilities are endless: so our main reminder for you here is to have fun and play around! 


Video calls: One size doesn’t fit all

The big debate over which video call platform is best is everywhere right now. We have used Whereby, Zoom, Google Hangouts, Skype, Slack call, Microsoft Teams and more, all at various times at Butterfly Works. We recently tried to pinpoint which exactly is our favourite and best to use. The answer is that one size does not fit all. We held a remote workshop with international partners on gender learning to use the breakout rooms on Zoom last week, but we also had a morning yoga call on Whereby, and a drinks party on Google Hangouts! There are so many advantages and disadvantages of each. You don’t need to pick one holy grail platform and stick to it for life, just see what works best for you, and more importantly for those you are working with.  


Google drive: The home of suggestions

I don’t know where we would be without Google Drive! If there was ever a home for the collaborative document, it is here. We love our internal server where we keep archives of projects, completed documents and so on, but when it comes to working remotely and even more so now than ever, the effortless ability to work on a document at the same time and see what others are doing is essential. If you want to edit directly, you can do so, but also toggling modes to ‘suggesting’ is handy for when you are just proof reading or giving some feedback on a piece of work. The important thing we definitely learnt the hard way is to keep everything on the Drive organised! We know all too well what it is like when more and more files are being created and you never established a decent system in the beginning (my laptop desktop is testament to that), but now that our wonderful organisational wizard Rianne has created a  system on the Drive that mirrors that of our internal server layout (to keep everything easy and clear), Google Drive has become a Butterfly Works must-have. 


Working remotely is a massive learning curve for everyone, and we are learning more everyday what works best for us and those around the world we work with. The best thing you can do, and what we have learnt more than anything, is to keep it human and have fun. Remember to check in with others on how they’re doing; the round-the-coffee machine conversations you miss out on is essential to stay close to, even when working remotely. Play around with tools and platforms and find what works best for you – these applications are meant to make life easier, not keep you up at night with ‘tool anxiety’. And most importantly (well, not really, but don’t forget it) – work out what your favourite sticky note colour is! 

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