OWN IT is a community empowerment initiative that fosters and promotes strong working alliances between stakeholders from all three sectors (private, public and civic) to promote a safer, healthier and more prosperous Canada.
The initiative supports existing research and public safety practices through research, counselling, training and community partnerships intended to decrease the number of criminally radicalized youth in Canada.
OWN IT's Best Practice is the way it facilitates better relationships between people and organizations by first reducing prejudices that may exist between and across cultures and groups.
Increasing contact and communication is an effective tool to help all parties understand and respect the diverse and dynamic factors affecting each other's way of life but the contact must be positive.
Research has suggested that positive intergroup interactions will result if the parties involved feel they are of equal status, are working collaboratively towards a common goal, and have opportunities for developing personal and informal relationships.
To this end, during the Calgary Muslim Summit, OWN IT paired community leaders from different levels in the hierarchy with leaders in law enforcement, academia and government, to ensure feelings of equal status and promote collaboration. OWN IT also held follow-up meetings with each stakeholder to discuss alignment on goals and tasks to achieve those goals.
These strategies ensure that an outcomes-based working alliance can produce results while the prejudiced or outdated policies that had previously
kept these organizations apart are removed. This requires continual maintenance and monitoring to achieve optimal results.
This young initiative was based on its founder's long history of identifying gaps in practice with culturally diverse populations.
Mahdi Qasqas is the President and Founder of 3OWN. He attended the US State Department's International Visitor Leadership Program in 2009, where he met and dialogued with experts in terrorism, crime prevention, prisoner release programs and religious freedom, as well as with Muslim community leaders. Mr. Qasqas saw that experts in the public sector, activists in the private sector and the communities they intended to work with, were disconnected from one another. In addition, the importance of culture and religion was either ignored or considered a risk factor by some.
The lack of representation and communication that existed between various sectors of American society was also a problem in Canada. It was then that Mr. Qasqas's idea of empowering large and diverse communities, such as the Muslim community in Calgary, to OWN IT was born. He wanted Muslim communities to be able to move beyond questions of integration and dependence, so they could occupy an integral and interdependent role with other stakeholders in the promotion of safety, health and prosperity for all Canadians.
This initiative brings stakeholders together to:
When stories hit the news about radicalized youth who were leaving Canada to join terrorist groups, Calgary was deemed a hotspot for homegrown terrorism. The narrative seemed to label various cultures, some aspects of religion, mosques and community leaders in a negative light. The problem was one of communication and contact, in particular, between the Muslim community, the public and various public stakeholders. The OWN IT 2014 Conference helped to build authentic partnerships to respond to these critical and potentially life-saving issues.
Making a Difference
Working alliances forged through OWN IT focus on mutually agreeable tasks and goals, and an ongoing fostering of trust and respect.
Diverse groups are collaborating on optimal practices that will identify, assess and manage criminally radicalized youth while also promoting empowerment practices.
Community stakeholders are taking a stronger role in owning the narrative, the problem and the solution while also working with public leaders and institutions towards a 'Made in Canada' strategy. At a systems level, the roles of the Muslim community and multicultural groups are being considered more integral to the solution than ever before.
One initial hurdle was in gaining support from a community that was in a state of shock over the
situation, but Mr. Qasqas's background helped to overcome this challenge. The challenges of limited resources and capacity were made less daunting by the assistance of volunteers.
Vision for the Future
OWN IT's primary objective is to improve the way the Muslim community and other diverse, multicultural organizations and communities participated with law enforcement, government, academia, media and other stakeholders to prevent crime and promote youth empowerment. Such partnerships require maintenance; a one-time event is not enough.
3OWN's vision is to live in a safer, healthier and more prosperous world where youth and families receive timely, effective and culturally responsive services. It empowers youth, families, the communities they live in, and the organizations that serve them through counselling, training, research and community development initiatives.
Best Practice Contact
Mahdi Qasqas, President and Founder