I am Mohsin Mohi-Ud-Din, artist, activist, survivor, and founder of #MeWe International Inc. I’ve survived war, violence, and sexual abuse, making me acutely aware that allowing external events and narratives to colonize my agency and potential is dangerous because doing so disconnects the brain from the body, and this arrested narrative of self translates to an arrested development of my community.
Inequality and suffering are weaponized in language and communication, and an under-representation of voices and narratives fuels systemic inequality. It is also true stories are formulas for change; and that communication provides pathways for healing, agency and community.I believe that the stories you tell yourself about yourself shape how you treat yourself, your community, and the future.’ More than 3000+ refugees, migrants, and local leaders across 15+ countries have have benefited from my start-up organization #MeWeIntl through community led programming and field-tests.
#MeWe International Inc.
One-line project summary:
#MeWeIntl provides communications tools that enable every individual to unlock their agency, reframe their narratives, and author the future
Present your project.
War, poverty, climate-change, COVID-19, and systemic inequalities make communications and stories weapons that silence vulnerable communities. At the individual and community level, when communication isn’t transformed for equality, leadership remains trapped as potential, healing elusive, and agency remains only in the hands of a few.
#MeWeIntl designs transformative spaces where individuals begin to exercise communications skills and narrative interventions anchored to psychological well-being, leadership development and community engagement. Our specialized training of trainers model activates communities of practice from within each community who then lead and scale the communications method to their peers and progressing neuro-education, mental health/psychosocial support, and leadership skills to those most in need. Simultaneously, community content is unleashed removing the invisible voices, and silence from isolation that enables status quo systems to perpetuate inequality.
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What specific problem are you solving?
Threats to mental health are growing across the world due to systemic inequality and external influences seemingly beyond our control. This crisis is exacerbated by COVID-19, which both disproportionately affects forcibly displaced people and people of color. In 2019, UNHCR reported 26 million refugees in the world and 45.7 million internally displaced people (IDP); 2.6+ million In the Middle East, over 8 million IDPs and 1.9 million asylum-seekers in Latin America, and 30,000 refugees in the USA.
There is a need for community leaders within these communities to cultivate spaces for communication, psychological well being, and leadership development. Language and communication must be reclaimed as tools for healing, agency, and positive transformation exercised by all people equally. Systemic and cultural change demands a command of language, communications-skills, and stories unleashed by all people, not just a few. The amalgamation of arrested narratives transfers to the arrested development of entire communities and social systems.
What is your project?
#MeWeIntl is a communications methodology that supports a global training network where communications skills and narrative interventions enhance individuals’ psychological wellbeing, leadership skills, and community engagement. Partnering with local community organizations and volunteer facilitators, #MeWeIntl trains the community leaders on customized communication tools that enable each individual to improve psychological well-being, leadership skills, and community development. After a series of community trainings, local community facilitation teams are activated and supported with resources and specialized tools to scale #MeWeIntl hubs in their communities. Each of the #MeWeIntl exercises goes through three levels of communication:
internal communication: gaining knowledge and exercising the knowledge for how the brain and body communicate with one another and how this connects to our wellbeing and decision making
interpersonal communication: exercising active listening, and non-verbal and verbal means of expressing feelings, ideas, needs and perspective taking
Community communications: connecting mind, heart, and breath to reshape the world we live in with voices of empathy, diverse perspectives, and ideas/messages.
Simultaneously, volunteer facilitators scale the community of practice and program locally; creative content and stories shared among individuals and communities, with consent, are packaged and shared in creative processes promoting empathy, wellbeing, perspective taking, and agency.
Who does your project serve, and in what ways is the project impacting their lives?
#MeWeIntl serves, at-risk youth, vulnerable caregivers, and individuals that suffer the injustices of inequality and lack of representation. Over the past 10+ years, my project has reached 3000+ individuals including but not limited to Syrian refugees in two Jordanian refugees camps, the Syria/Turkey border, Germany, and Lebanon; migrant youth and migration impacted families in Mexico and Honduras, and survivors of violence, and youth asylum seekers in the USA.
My organization’s process of engagement is founded on active-listening and empathy, which is why every engagement, across the more than 15 countries we have done this work, is community-led and the #MeWeIntl program is customized directly addressing their needs and hopes. Through carefully selected local implementing partners, volunteers within the community are trained to facilitate the program in their neighborhoods. This scales our programs by cultivating a community of practice that enables the community facilitators to train other leaders and facilitators in their community. We have field-tested our program and methodology, and are currently working with a neuroscience lab to gather more quantitative data, but initial quantitative and qualitative results indicate the #MeWeIntl improves each individual’s communication skills, emotional regulation , perspective taking, and goal-setting for the future.
Which dimension of The Elevate Prize does your project most closely address?Elevating understanding of and between people through changing people’s attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors
Explain how your project relates to The Elevate Prize and your selected dimension.
By providing the tools and cultivating spaces of healing, psychological wellbeing, leadership and community development through a community led design stories are unleashed to positively change individual, community and then cultural and social attitudes, behaviors and beliefs which can influence and impact entire social systems to reduce inequality. Additionally, the voices that are often silenced and under or not represented, are empowered and through new found agency, being used, creatively, to shift and influence social constructs, directly connected to Elevate's dimension of lifting opportunities for those who have been left behind. #MeWeIntl is poised to scale Elevate's 3 dimensions.
How did you come up with your project?
My project was born out of a need for survival and reconciliation. Having survived bomb attacks and abuse during childhood between the United States and Kashmir, my lens on the world was informed by trauma, inequality, and a tenacious resistance to accept the world as it is.
A 2009 Fulbright scholarship helped further research and the evolution of my personal ideas and formulas around arts therapy. I was then able to pilot diverse programs and techniques with over 300 street children and migrants across 3 cities in Morocco at 2 youth shelters. We observed attitude and behavior changes, particularly reduced aggression, better emotion regulation, and self-esteem. Over the next 5 years, the gradual success of my program enabled fellowships with the UN Alliance of Civilizations, small grant awards from the government of Germany, and country pilots with community building organizations in Turkey and Jordan. After winning MIT’s SOLVER competition at the UN in 2017, I began to build formal design partnerships with neuroscientists and psychologists. Today, #MeWeIntl, which I built as a small program for my own survival and wellbeing, is now an international NGO which has impacted thousands of people across 15 countries.
Why are you passionate about your project?
Kashmir is where I faced death, loss, culture, faith, and awareness. My family is from and lives in the ‘valley of saints.’ I as the first American born, spent my childhood in 1990s back and forth between Kashmir and America, at the height of the war. I grew up in protests, funerals and weddings. I became accustomed to dodging bullets, smiling in the face of humiliation as my human rights and body were violated. Amidst all of this, I’d land back in America, as a minority, often dismissed or mocked because of my brown skin, sound of my name, and my religion. Throughout my life, my weapon for reconciliation, connectedness and mental health were words and art. Spaces to exercise communication with myself, and creative outlets built my agency, resilience, and leadership. Communications and the art of story saved my life from the stories I endured of abuse, violence, and underrepresentation; all imposed upon me by the external world. Through stories and words, my inner world was no less true or powerful than the stories inherited by me from the systems I was physically living in. #MeWeIntl has codified communication tools to positively impact thousands of people like me
Why are you well-positioned to deliver this project?
The birth of #MeWeIntl stems from my personal journey through violence, trauma and discrimination in Kashmir and America. No individual in our network is practicing something I have not done myself.
The transformation of #MeWeIntl from a personal project to a start up non-profit operating in 7 countries demanded 10 years of international field testing, diversifying partnerships with community organizations, and a tenacity of purpose shared across our network. Successfully piloted programs began scaling in 2014 in Jordan’s zaatari refugee camp. Then began my designing and packaging of #MeWeIntl as a curriculum and community-training, co-created with the communities I was serving, and with experts across the fields of neuro-education, psychology, and narrative therapy. Synthesizing these seemingly siloed subject areas is a skill, and successful application of it can open up behavioral and social impacts of what a program can do.
I personally built the funding pipelines and global training networks through listening, trusting, and connecting across our network’s experiences of trauma, anger, fear, and injustice. As a person of color, a survivor of violence and trauma, a minority in my own country, there is an authenticity in how I lead my organization’s work. Co-creating and co-leading the programs with the communities we serve is essential. This shared leadership is by design, and guides how we operate. This is the magic of our approach because it gains value and local ownership the more we let go and enable others to lead it.
Provide an example of your ability to overcome adversity.
My survival is a living example of overcoming adversity. As a young person, after being in a bomb attack in Kashmir and suffering abuse and humiliation at the hands of the military, I had to find a mode of release for the anxiety, fear and confusion inside me. Writing and reflection in nature was my tool for healing. After suffering physical abuse at the hands of those in my community, and witnessing the shared experience among peers who were silenced, I searched for how to liberate our stories to help reclaim agency of our narratives and futures. This realization pushed me in high-school to lead a multi-media storytelling project with victims of war, which I presented to the State Department, Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch. As a 17 year-old, it was terrifying, but witnessed how communications processes are tools for healing and empowerment.
My discoveries fueled my determination to apply what helped me to marginalized communities who never had access to the arts therapies, knowledge, agency tools, and leadership opportunities I did. #MeWeIntl started to take real form after launching successful pilots in Morocco, Kashmir, and Jordan, but not without rapid innovation, leaning into failure, and community co-creation
Describe a past experience that demonstrates your leadership ability.
Leadership can be measured by the number of individuals who you inspire confidence in to exercise their agency.
I am unafraid to make mistakes, valuing authenticity and providing spaces for the community partners to lead and innovate what their solutions could be instead of me or anyone to make those decisions. This approach has been specifically relevant during COVID-19. During this pandemic, our funding is under threat, our communities are under lock down and are the most at risk of dying from the virus. This was the stress test of all stress tests. Instead of reacting quickly to global disruption imposed by the pandemic, I held my teams to be slow, thoughtful, and listen to our network before unilaterally developing a rapid course correction. Informed by past lessons and community insights, we thoughtfully cut our budgets, while minimizing gaps in programming and disruptions of financial support to our vulnerable community partners. Despite the pandemic, we have successfully adapted our programming, renewed community parnterships, scaled to new areas, and continue to enable our local networks to lead our innovation so that leadership and facilitation skills remain community owned and community led. This is something I am really proud of.
How long have you been working on your project?
Where are you headquartered?Suwanee, GA, USA
What type of organization is your project?Nonprofit
- Mohsin Mohi Ud Din Founder, #MeWe International