GUST participates in P2P: Challenging Extremism Initiative
Gulf University for Science and Technology (GUST ) is one of 45 schools worldwide participating in the Peer to Peer (P2P): Challenging Extremism initiative. The program, sponsored by the US Department of State, and facilitated by EdVenture, an organization dedicated to developing innovative industry-education partnership programs, tasks student teams to create digital media content that empowers networks of youth to counter the social media presence and effectiveness of violent extremists’ online messaging.
This program is a pathway for young people, social networks, and engaged communities to help counter violent extremist messaging and recruitment. By enlisting tech-savvy, digitally aware students from throughout the world to create and implement culturally relevant and credible digital campaigns that engage civic minded university students and hopefully create progress with social impact.
As part of the initiative, undergraduate students at GUST have formed a student-run agency to develop and implement a campaign aiming to build among Kuwait’s university students the willingness to speak openly against extremist violence on social media channels. The communication strategy devised by GUST students is dubbed “Raise Your Words”, and is designed to empower the silent majority, while emphasizing notions including solidarity with victims, humanitarian values, and raising awareness of the threats from violent extremism.
Dr Fahad Al-Sumait, Head of the Mass Communications and Media Department at GUST, said, “Mobilizing against hate and empowering the silent majority to come together to voice their disapproval of what is going on in the world, in an organized and measured way, is a movement we hope will grow and be the catalyst of change we desperately need right now”.
Results of a survey conducted to support GUST’s Team in the global P2P campaign shows that 62% of Kuwaitis college students believe that violent extremism can affect their life; 30.5% are high or very concerned about this issue, while only 22% feel totally free to discuss the topic with their friends. Furthermore, 61% agree that open public discussion on social media is important in countering violent extremism.
The campaign mounted by the students was multifaceted. Two Skype conferences with leading experts on the Middle East were organized. One with Dr F Gregory Gause III from Texas A&M University, and one with Hugh Naylor, the Middle East Editor for the Washington Post. The students also organized a fun afternoon whereby well-known graffiti artist, “Monstariam”, was invited to create a mural on the subject, and GUST’s very own DJ TRQ spun tracks from a set list specifically put together for the occasion.
The top three participating schools will be invited to Washington, D.C. in January 2016 to present their research, plan, and results to senior government officials and industry leaders at the US Department of State, to determine the P2P: Challenging Extremism winner. The top team will receive a scholarship prize of $5,000, followed by $3,000 for second place, and $1,000 for third.