Outer Justice, Inner Peace: Activating Empathy through Human Rights Education
The Advocacy Lab promotes empathy among youth by teaching them about human rights and guiding them in taking action to protect those rights.
About Your Organization
The Advocacy Lab
United States, NY, Brooklyn, Kings County
Country where this project is creating social impact
United States, NY, New York, New York County
Is your organization a
Non‐profit / NGO / Citizen sector organization
Your role in Education
The type of school(s) your solution is affiliated with
How long has your organization been operating?
More than 5 years
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Select the stage that best applies to your solution
Established (past the previous stages and has demonstrated success)
How long has your solution been in operation?
Operating for more than 5 years
The Need: What problem are you trying to solve?
Empathy is necessary in order for the next generation to stand up for human rights for all and work towards a peaceful and secure world. Young people need to be taught how to participate in creating change, how to advocate for human rights. The need for human rights education in which young people learn about how people all over the world live, and for advocacy skills training, including supported opportunities to advocate on issues they care about, is essential for the next generation to become empathetic, real world problem solvers.
The Solution: What is your solution? Be specific!
The Advocacy Lab (AdLab) empowers youth to take action for human rights. Partnering with teachers in New York City middle and high schools, AdLab brings yearlong, weekly human rights education and advocacy skills training programs into classrooms. Guided by facilitators, students learn about local and global human rights issues in the first semester. In the second semester, students carry out an advocacy campaign on an issue of their choice, thereby gaining the knowledge, tools, and confidence to create positive social change. When the students start to take action to change something they care about, apathy turns to empathy. They feel they can make a difference, and are compelled to do so.
The Model: Walk us through a specific example of how your solution makes a difference; include your primary activities
Students in Crown Heights, Brooklyn reported being subjected to many incidences of racial profiling. The Advocacy Lab supported them as they created an awareness-raising and advocacy campaign on the issue. As students gained the knowledge, skills, and confidence to confront injustice, they also educated their peers, building their presentation and leadership skills and reinforcing their learning. They practiced stating their rights in a dignified and respectful manner when engaging with police officers through a Know Your Rights presentation by the New York Civil Liberties Union, and taught their peers to do the same. In fact, two AdLab students used the knowledge they learned when confronted by police officers on the street within a week of that Know Your Rights presentation. They excitedly and proudly shared their positive experience with their peers and teachers.
The Marketplace: Who are your peers and competitors? Identify others also working to address the needs you are and what differentiates you from them. What challenges could these players pose to your success or growth?
The Advocacy Lab brings guest speakers into the classroom, takes students on field trips, and shares resources and services with organizations such as the New York Civil Liberties Union, Community Service Society, Picture the Homeless, ECPAT-USA, the United Nations, Amnesty International USA and Concern USA. Our students advocate on issues these organizations target. We have consulted with successful peers such as Eric Dawson from Peace First and completed extensive research on similar organizations such as Global Kids and Border Crossers. While these organizations are doing meaningful work, none provide comprehensive yearlong human rights education and advocacy skills training programs in middle and high schools with a goal of building empathy among youth.
Now that you have thought out your entry, help us pitch it.
Define your company, program, service, or product in 1-2 short sentences [136 characters]
AdLab promotes empathy among youth by teaching them about human rights and guiding them on taking action to protect those rights.
Identify what is innovative about your solution in 1-2 short sentences [136 characters]
Students are guided in executing human rights campaigns in the real world. Through the experience, they learn they can affect change.
This Entry is about (Issues)
What has been the impact of your solution to date?
The Advocacy Lab directly affects young people’s lives. The students are personally transformed by working on local, often personal issues such as domestic violence and racism, and global issues such as sex trafficking and child soldiers. Throughout the program, they gain confidence and become empathetic leaders of change, educating and mobilizing their peers and community members. AdLab students improve their communities, impact the world, and gain skills they can use for the rest of their lives. We have educated over 1000 students directly. Thousands more students, teachers, and community members have learned about human rights from participating in the students’ advocacy campaigns. The schools we work in begin to develop a culture of peace and tolerance, as year after year students are exposed to human rights language, learn about different human rights issues, and participate in advocacy campaigns.
What is your projected impact over the next 1-3 years?
We plan to expand in breadth in 2013 by starting AdLab programs in new schools in New York City and expand in depth in 2014 by starting an alumni group for students who completed the yearlong program. We are creating professional development programs to train teachers and other facilitators who want to bring human rights education into their schools or community programs. Additionally, by ensuring our curriculum aligns with state standards, we are supporting teachers in the classroom in their core curriculum requirements and providing them with the means to differently and creatively engage students in mandated lessons.
What barriers might hinder the success of your project? How do you plan to overcome them?
A lack of funds would present an obstacle to the success of our programs. If unable to fully fund the Advocacy Lab this year, keeping the organization at its current size, we will spend another year building on our current success in order to strengthen our track record and show funders we are a worthwhile investment. We will explore alternative revenue streams and continue our major volunteer and intern recruitment efforts that have proven successful on a small scale to aid in our development.
Winning entries present a strong plan for how they will achieve and track growth. Identify your six-month milestone for growing your impact
In 6 months we will have updated our curriculum for the 2012 – 2013 year and formed partnership with two new schools in NYC.
Identify three major tasks you will have to complete to reach your six-month milestone
Work with a curriculum development professional to show our curriculum aligns with social studies and other standards.
Build relationships with administration of four new schools in NYC, in order to secure partnerships with two schools.
Bring the seven schools together to motivate each other and collaborate on building a more peaceful and secure world.
Now think bigger! Identify your 12-month impact milestone
By creating an alumni program, young people may continue their human rights work with guidance and resources from AdLab.
Identify three major tasks you will have to complete to reach your 12-month milestone
Secure a central meeting space for AdLab alumni to come together to meet each week to work on their human rights campaigns.
Complete a curriculum for the alumni program that builds on the skills the students have already learned.
Recruit and train facilitators to run the alumni program.
Founding Story: We want to hear about your "Aha!" moment. Share the story of where and when the founder(s) saw this solution's potential to change the world [125 words]
At 12 years old, in questioning my parents about the lack of minority students in my school, I learned all schools were not equal and districts with few resources and inexperienced teachers often had a high population of minority students. As passionate as I was to change this and other injustices I was exposed to as I grew to adulthood, it was not until college that I learned about human rights and tools to advocate for those rights. If young people were to have a voice in creating a more peaceful and secure world, I knew they would need to learn about human rights and advocacy. My passion led me to create human rights education and advocacy skills training programs for middle and high schools, and co-found what is now the Advocacy Lab.
Tell us about your partnerships
We place a high priority on connecting students with people and other groups working in the field by facilitating guest speakers, field trips and participation in real-world campaigns and events. Past speakers have included Jimmie Briggs, former journalist, author of Innocents Lost and co-founder of the Man Up! Campaign; Jenna Arnold, creator of MTV’s Exiled; and Gerry Martone, Director of Humanitarian Affairs at the International Rescue Committee. We also collaborate with local human rights NGOs to support their efforts in reaching young people and to extend opportunities to our students.
What type of team (staff, volunteers, etc.) will ensure that you achieve the growth milestones identified in the Social Impact section? [75 words]
We currently have a staff of 1.5 employees, ten volunteer facilitators, and a six member board. They, along with dedicated supporters who include former AdLab facilitators, staff, and students; partner teachers; and other "Super Fans" who care about the success of the Advocacy Lab, make up a robust team of over one hundred people. We can draw on their commitment to the Advocacy Lab so that they may contribute their time, skills, and resources to help make the Advocacy Lab a success.
Please elaborate on any needs or offers you have mentioned above and/or suggest categories of support that aren't specified within the list
We believe in the power of collaboration, not competition, in working towards a more peaceful and secure world by promoting empathy in youth. We seek out and welcome opportunities to collaborate with like-minded individuals and organizations.