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Making A Big Bet: Should Peace First Expand Youth Programming Into the Middle East?

Eric Dawson founded Peace First in 2009 to empower young people to work toward a more just and peaceful world. He began in Boston and over time grew his nonprofit and its powerful movement into 140 countries. A small grant from the Gates Foundation allowed Peace First to explore expanding into the Mideast and North Africa, the so-called MENA region, by supporting a set of teams in different countries.

But recently, as the grant was ending, Peace First reached a “choice point,” says Eric. “Do we continue at a slow pace of growth, winding things down in the MENA region, or do we scale up, and place one of our two or three big bets in this region? Each pathway had a myriad of issues connected to it that could put the organization’s future at risk. That’s one of the reasons I turned to AREA; I was unclear how to understand the choices, let alone make the decision.”

Eric began by identifying Peace First’s Vision of Success: Peace First’s programming is well suited to successfully support young people’s peace projects in the MENA region while continuing to honor and enrich its other commitments.

He then derived his Critical Concepts:

  1. Impact: What does impact mean in the MENA region and how does that align with Peace First’s core competencies? Is the need there for young people and is Peace First’s model effective there?
  2. Philanthropic landscape: Is there a funding stream for Peace First to work in the region?
  3. Competitive positioning: Should Peace First expand in the MENA region instead of expanding in other locations? How unique was this opportunity versus opportunities in other places?

Listen to my conversation with Eric and learn how he and Peace First made this big decision.

One Comment

  • Steven Moolin says:

    The interview with Eric is 30 minutes well spent.

    Eric’s comment that AREA helped him understand the choices is key. His identifies how we can align our decisions with our values in any complex problem. This, coupled with hiring an external evaluator, sound like a really great process!

    The ability to identify trends by asking consistent questions seems to be a great tool to recreate the factors, not just the map but also the terrain, that influenced a decision so that in the future when conditions change we can understand the factors that helped form the decision and then isolate ‘what’s different now’ at that future time.

    Thanks Cheryl, and thank you Eric!

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