Making a difference around the world

GTO Group teams up with UNESCO to create PeaceWorX

The Greater Than One Group’s nonprofit subsidiary Greater Good has long partnered with global and local charities to do good work. Its latest project with UNESCO is focused on making the world a better place.

Called PeaceWorX, the project is an interactive educational platform designed to help stem the tide of violent extremism among youth by enabling and encouraging young people to take on peace building as a priority, both locally and globally, through educational activities, community involvement, and social activism.

The seeds for the project were planted in 2015 when GTO Group CEO Elizabeth Apelles met then-ambassador to UNESCO Crystal Nix-Hines through a mutual friend. “She had a vision about preventing violent extremism, and GTO had the capability as an agency to create a digital platform to do something about it,” said Apelles.

Recognizing that young people are particularly vulnerable to the messages of violent extremism, the GTO Group team explored how education could help young people develop a deeper understanding of themselves while encouraging them to consider perspectives that differ from their own. The greater understanding could help them become more resilient to the push and pull of extremist messages in their communities. “When youth are surrounded by violence it impacts their health, wellness, and well-being,” Apelles explained.

GTO Group’s research for the project was eye opening. “What surprised me was how much influence parents have with regards to growing up around violence and extremist views,” Apelles explained. “At a roundtable we hosted in India, we found that some children are taught early on not to interact with those that are different than them.”

To provide education and a safe environment in which young people can absorb it, the Greater Good team created a digital platform with an educational lesson component on preventing violent extremism designed for educators to use with their students. The platform also includes information about inspiring young people living in conflicted communities around the world who have taken on peace building roles in their communities.

“PeaceWorX provides a safe environment for young people to open up about their experiences and opinions on difficult subjects such as identity, empathy, and violent extremism with the support of educators or mentors in their communities,” said Apelles.

Phase I of the digital platform was launched in June 2017 in time for an educational summit in India at the Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Education for Peace and Sustainable Development.

“The impact was immediate and large, with 88 member countries of UNESCO backing the original project,” noted Apelles. “That ensured global reach and visibility.”

Post-launch, GTO translated the PeaceWorX platform into French, Spanish, and Arabic and created a Facebook page. The team is now working on Phase II of the project, with launch expected in late summer 2018. “The idea is to create one global digital canvas to connect those anywhere in the world who are or want to be peace builders to others who share their vision,” explained Apelles.

GTO staff in New York, San Francisco, and Europe participate in the project. Added Apelles, “One of GTO’s core values is giving back to others, so participating in this project fulfills that vision.”