The Institute for Social Change and Sustainable Solutions

5A Elite Youth Empowerment’s PeaceBuilders Institute addresses issues of violence, disharmony, and chaos in local schools by promoting peace through our interconnected learning model for IMPACT​.


Building a Framework

During the summer of 2017, we embarked upon a journey of epic proportions. In a partnership with the Learn & Earn Summer Employment Program, we facilitated a summer long youth participatory action research cohort of 15 high school students from various neighborhoods in Allegheny County. During an intense time of research, we discovered Dr. John Paul Lederach and his "Conceptualization of Peacebuilding" framework. The discovery of Dr. Lederach's original research, in relationship to our urban youth context has led to the creation of an interconnected learning model which we call the 5 Impact Zones. The creation of an original interconnected learning model has stimulated the development of a more robust PeaceBuilders Institute framework for youth led social change.

Elementary School Builders
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Middle School Builders
High School Builders
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What we learned...

1. Peacebuilding must be undertaken simultaneously at every level of society.

2. Short-term goals and long term vision must be linked.

3. Critical issues must find a response while broader structural change is envisioned and set in motion.

4. A framework to support our findings would need to be developed.

5. How to partner with students to create and co-facilitate such a framework. 

Image by Subhajit Jana

More Theory. More Research. More Practice.

5A Elite’s civic education focus areas are founded on the original research developed by The Center for Engaged Democracy, which is housed within Merrimack College’s School of Education under the leadership of Dan W. Butin. Based on 5A Elite's knowledge and work in the civic engagement arena, Dr. Butin’s model has been adapted for relevance to the specific needs of the youth we serve. 5A Elite also makes use of Betty Reardon’s research, further describing the purpose and scope of peacebuilding as “oriented towards nurturing citizen capacities and the political, economic and social structures necessary for assuring the conditions for positive peace...constituting the conditions for the existence of justice, in the sense of the full enjoyment of the entire range of human rights by all people.”


Through an adaptation of Stanford University's design-thinking model, PeaceBuilder Institute students are empowered to identify and solve problems that affect them and their communities and are challenged to question, examine, and dissect social systems in order to develop the confidence, motivation and agency to address and deconstruct inequalities, while constructing a more just and equitable society. 


Perhaps, the most intriguing research we've incorporated into the fabric of The PeaceBuilders Institute framework has been that of The Earth Charter. The Earth Charter is an ethical framework for building a just, sustainable, and peaceful global society in the 21st century. The Earth Charter is a product of a decade-long, worldwide, cross-cultural dialogue on common goals and shared values. The Earth Charter project began as a United Nations initiative, but it was carried forward and completed by a global civil society initiative, and has helped guide, shape, and inform the development of The PeaceBuilders Institute for Social Change and Sustainable Solutions.

Plastic Polluted Ocean

"The only thing constant is CHANGE"

The PeaceBuilders Youth Fellowship for Social Change

Image by Zachary Nelson

Youth Voice. Youth Choice.
Youth Power.

Young people want to be engaged as change-makers in their own lives, their families, schools and in their communities. Because they are disproportionately involved in and impacted by the problems that beset their communities—they must become part of the solution. We assist in employing these skills to alter power relationships and create meaningful change. Simply stated, we teach students to draw upon logic, imagination, intuition, and systematic reasoning to better explore possibilities of what could be—and to actually create the desired conditions of safer cities and thriving communities. 

What Is The Fellowship?

The PeaceBuilders Youth Fellowship for Social Change is a unique opportunity designed for those students who are passionate about social justice, community engagement, and meaningful service. A  cohort of high school students were hired to engage in workshops, trainings and real-world experiences that combine design thinking, political education, civic engagement, trauma informed holistic wellness, and transformational leadership development in order to design and launch youth driven social change initiatives.

Happy Girl Texting
Image by Jack Finnigan

What else...

The Youth Fellowship for Social Change engages the young people most affected by systemic inequities, providing a platform where students gain access to the people, places, positions and processes that affect and govern their daily lives. Fellows will create and live into a holistic and revolutionary vision of power, peace, voice and change. The Youth Fellowship for Social Change is funded by The Pittsburgh Foundation and it's Small and Mighty Grants program.