Make Music. Make Change.
The first Amani Project was launched in Bagamoyo, Tanzania in 2017. While our vision and mission hasn’t changed much since the beginning, we’ve worked hard over the last few years to articulate and employ our values, which informs our day-to-day work:
Alongside our partners, we trust, celebrate, and amplify the voices and experiences of our partner communities.
We understand that people hold many different experiences and perspectives and that no community is defined by a single narrative.
We honor all participants, regardless of musical competence or prior exposure to emotional intelligence programs.
Build on evidence
Where possible, we use data to inform and validate decisions, always prioritizing local needs and challenges.
Making music as a part of a group is a proven way of building connections among people.
Our Vision is this: A world where young people use music to amplify the power of their emotions to feel connected with one another. Amani means “Harmony” in Swahili; and while that is a musical term, we also think about harmony as what it can be like to live in a community where everyone has access to what they need to thrive.
Our Mission is to support local organizations around the world to provide opportunities for young people to embrace music-making and social and emotional learning as a way to explore emotional health, connectedness, and community engagement.
Social and Emotional Learning
We like this definition of social emotional learning by the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL):
Social and emotional learning (SEL) is the process through which children and adults understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.
Studies shows that music-making (especially in a group setting) can have a similar effect to your standard SEL intervention. For instance, in Koelsch (2013), the researcher found that “when playing music in a group, individuals have contact with other individuals, engage in social cognition, participate in co-pathy (the social function of empathy), communicate, coordinate their actions, and cooperate with each other, leading to increased social cohesion. Music making is special in that it can engage all of these social functions effortlessly and simultaneously.”
Even better, Bailey and Davidson (2005) report, “music can provide opportunities for people to emotionally invest in one another. For example, within a choir of homeless and other marginalized individuals, group singing was found to offer powerful social benefits, namely a sense of camaraderie and a social support system.”
We know there are a lot of Social Emotional Learning programs and opportunities for music instruction out there for young people — what we’ve done is create a curriculum that integrates the two together. Through our work, we’ve seen how the combined power of music-making and emotional learning has the ability to help young people understand and effectively communicate their emotions as well as develop the resilience and the skills needed to become action-takers and decision-makers in their communities.
Creative Youth Development
The Creative Youth Development National Partnership currently is building its movement in the United States, but hasn’t been expanded much globally. We’re excited to apply the key characteristics of CYD to our work worldwide and be part of building a CYD movement globally:
CYD programs nurture individual growth, youth leadership, and quite often, civic engagement with intentional practices to spark social change and social justice. One way to recognize CYD programs is through the presence of six key characteristics:
- Youth are engaged in Safe and Healthy Spaces
- Programs focus on Positive Relationship-Building
- Programs are Artistically Rigorous and Set High Expectations of youth participants
- Programs are Asset-Based and help youth to build upon their inherent strengths and talents
- Programs are Youth-Driven and honor student voice
- Program approaches and outcomes are Holistic, recognizing a range of youth needs and often integrating with other service providers to create a coordinated community response to those needs.
We’re part of an emerging field called Creative Youth Development (CYD) that promotes exposure to the performing arts as a means for young people to increase interpersonal skills (such as managing and expressing emotions) and to build life skills necessary for success in school and the workplace.
Executive Director, Amani Project
Erik has visited thousands of underserved communities across the globe and believes that the first job of anyone working in the not-for-profit world is to simply listen. At Pearson, Erik was responsible for working with local leaders to co-develop educational technology solutions. These solutions were based on the needs of people who might benefit from such programs.
Director of Programs, Amani Project
Andy realized at a very young age that music was the best way to channel his energy and emotions – especially because he couldn’t sit still (he still can’t). He’s been a drummer for multiple touring bands, and graduated from the conservatory program at the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute in New York. He lives in New Orleans with his wife and daughter.
Director of Evaluation and Learning, Amani Project
Priya owns two guitars and a tambourine. She writes songs, sings, and plays whenever she can but her 3 year old daughter isn’t keen on sharing her attention. She found public health and arts-based education through her love of theatre. A graduate of the British American Drama Academy in Oxford, England, Priya also…
Director of Development and Communications, Amani Project
Bree Kessler is and educator, researcher, and writer based in Alaska. She is the owner and principal of the design firm “Dry Cabin Club” where she experiments with the concepts of do-it-yourself urbanism, “Home as Public Space,” and civic dis(courses) – a community meal and conversation. She’s been known to play “Have you ever seen the rain” on guitar in exchange for a free drink. She has almost all the graduate degrees.
Learn More: Keep clicking here to find out more details about us, like what we eat for breakfast and our numerous (totally useless) graduate degrees. And of course, you want to see our board of directors! We aren’t sure what they eat.
Amani Project is a curriculum builder – but we’re so much more than just that. Our Team at the home office has over 78 years of (collective) experience in the fields of education, evaluation, international development, and yes, we were also the band geeks and theater kids.
Founder and Board Chair
Roy is General Partner at Knighted Ventures, an investment firm focused on entertainment and gaming. He also serves as President of KCM Agency, a multicultural marketing agency. In his nonprofit work, Roy is Executive Producer and CEO of Kollaboration, a nationwide nonprofit 501(c)(3) showcasing emerging Asian Pacific artists and performers. Kollaboration began in Los Angeles and is now in 15 cities across North America. Roy graduated with honors from USC with a BA in Cinema from the School of Cinematic Arts.
Fathima has worked in education all her adult life. She is currently Managing Director of Oxford Education and Chair the board of OxfordAQA qualifications. She serves on the board of Oasis Asset Management, and has been an active board member to affordable school chains, Omega (Ghana) and Spark (South Africa), Bridge (Kenya) and a tech start-up in India, Zaya. Fathima also is Chairman of Africa Ignite, a not for profit, working with rural community development, and a trustee of MIET, an NGO working with vulnerable children in Africa. She enjoys working with people, particularly committed, talented, innovative thinkers who want to change the world! She loves the idea of working in an education business, bringing together education and efficacy with the edge of business.
Joe is a turntablist and director best known as the DJ and sampler for the American rock band Linkin Park, one of the most successful rock bands in music history. Joe is also a founder and board member of the nonprofit Music for Relief, bringing the music community together to create awareness and raise funds for those in need.
Jieho is Managing Partner at Knighted Ventures and leads operations and investment strategies. Previous to Knighted, he was head of International Business Development at POM Wonderful where he oversaw business development, sales and marketing for the Asia Territories. Lee also served as GP at Blue Horizon Capital, where he co-led an investment strategy team focusing on acquisitions in the business information sector. Jieho began his career in the entertainment field: writing, producing and directing commercial productions for clients such as Ralph Lauren, Victoria’s Secret and Tommy Hilfiger. He also wrote and directed the feature film “The Air I Breathe” and oversaw development and production of several other projects for Lionsgate Films, Circle of Confusion, IO Interactive, HS Films and Samsung Entertainment.
Lisa, an award-winning journalist, goes on a gritty, breathtaking journey to the far corners of America, on her CNN Original Series, “This is Life.” Before CNN, Ling was a field correspondent for “The Oprah Winfrey Show” and contributor to ABC News’ “Nightline” and National Geographic’s “Explorer.” She has reported from dozens of countries, covering stories about gang rape in the Congo, bride burning in India and the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda, among other issues that are too often ignored. Ling got her start in journalism as a correspondent for Channel One News where she covered the civil war in Afghanistan at 21 years of age. She later went on to become a co-host of ABC Daytime’s hit show “The View,” which won its first daytime Emmy during her time at the show. Ling has also served as a special correspondent for CNN’s “Planet in Peril” series and is a contributing editor for USA Today’s USA Weekend magazine. In 2011, her acclaimed documentary journalism series, “Our America” with Lisa Ling, was created and began airing on OWN. Ling is the co-author of “Mother, Daughter, Sister, Bride: Rituals of Womanhood” and “Somewhere Inside: One Sister’s Captivity in North Korea and the Other’s Fight to Bring Her Home,” which she penned with her sister, Laura. She also serves on the Board of Directors for the California Museum.
We don’t just email our curriculum, My Amani Journey™, to a new partner and leave it at that. There are a lot of Skype, Zoom, and Hangout calls, site visits, more calls; then we begin the larger process of training and collaborating with on-the-ground staff to ensure our curriculum meets the needs of each partner organization. So far, we’ve translated our curriculum into seven languages! We think of our curriculum as part of a broader capacity-building effort with our partners to ensure that Amani Project can be successful in the long-term.
Our product (if we were an education start-up, you’d call it that) is much more than a curriculum. We’ve created an Ecosystem, a Toolkit, a Framework (whatever word helps you think about our work extending past a piece of paper) that is adaptable across countries, cultures, and partner organizations.
We currently have six community-based organizations as partners:
FUNDACIÓN ESCUELA NUEVA
Where we work together: Colombia
Home base: Bogota, Colombia
Year founded: 1987
Year we partnered up: 2017
Number of Amani Clubs: 20
Where we work together: South Africa
Home base: Durban, South Africa
Year founded: 1993
Year we partnered up: 2018
Number of Amani Clubs: 40
Where we work together: Tanzania
Home base: Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania
Year founded: 2015
Year we partnered up: 2017
Number of Amani Clubs: 65
Where we work together: India
Home base: Delhi, India
Year founded: 2002
Year we partnered up: 2018
Number of Amani Clubs: 10
Where we work together: Puerto Rico
Home base: Loíza, Puerto Rico
Year founded: 1994
Year we partnered up: 2018
Number of Amani Clubs: 6
Where we work together: Argentina, Australia, Botswana, Canada, Colombia, India, Kenya, Macedonia, Mexico, Singapore, South Africa, Sri Lanka
Home base: London, UK
Year founded: 2015
Year we partnered up: 2017
Number of locations: over 2000 Early Childhood Centers around the world.
Learn More: Our partners, with over 1032 years of (collective) experience are even more impressive than you can begin to imagine. Click here to hear from our partners, in their own voices, about how they are ruling the world.
Our Partner Organizations are key (musical pun intended). We’ve built a robust curriculum, but it’s our partners who are the real experts in how to make the strongest impact in their communities. We currently partner with organizations based in Colombia, India, Puerto Rico, South Africa, and Tanzania.
Already, we’ve provided training for more than 150 teachers, school administrators, ministers of education, young adults, partner-organization staff, and other community leaders across the globe.
We really want our curriculum to boost our partner’s missions and build capacity at a local level. We think (and the research does too) the best way to do this is to follow a Train-the-Trainer Model where community members are trained to become Amani Project mentors. And then they train more community members…and so on…and so on…
In some communities, we are providing training for “opportunity youth,” a population often defined as young adults between 16-24 who aren’t in school or working formally. These young adults then go on to become paid mentors with Amani Project.
Amani Project Clubs
Our clubs occur either in or out-of-school depending on a community’s priorities. In the clubs, members complete a series of step-by-step activities in order to earn badges. We offer four levels of activities and each level ends with a public performance.
One of our signature activities takes place early in level one and asks participants to create a musical instrument from found objects as a way to honor their local resources and adaptively reuse an item, that in some cases, would otherwise be thrown out. We aren’t an environmental organization, but we love that we are promoting reusing and recycling.
As club members complete increasingly challenging projects, they gain skills in emotional intelligence, music-making, teamwork, and community activism. Besides the activities that are part of the My Amani Journey lessons, young people participate in group “harmony breaks” (team-building exercises) and governing committees that make certain these clubs are youth-driven.
It’s hard to believe sometimes, because we’ve grown pretty quickly…but we now have over 100 Amani Project mentors who help facilitate our 120 youth-driven Amani Project Clubs globally. By the end of 2019, there will be over 10,000 youth participating in Amani clubs worldwide.
Amani Project is striving to create a safe environment for all participants at every gathering. Elements that contribute to safety may include:
- Partnering with organizations that have a long history of working with young people and have holistic support systems in place.
- Youth-drafted club agreements or charters for each club so participants set the expectations for how they want to feel, be treated, and receive and/or give support during the program.
- Training adult mentors/facilitators on trauma-informed facilitation and/or pedagogical approaches.
- Working with partners to make psychosocial support resources available and easily accessible to youth and adults involved in Amani Project activities
- Connecting youth with additional local psychosocial support services as needed
- Training adult mentors to set the culture of zero-tolerance for bullying, not respecting others, or inflicting physical/emotional harm on others.
Our clubs aren’t exclusive (we aren’t building empathy through golf). They are the physical place, Safe Spaces, where young people complete weekly activities and earn badges by writing empathy songs or making a musical instrument from found objects.
Monitoring and Evaluation
We’re interested in measuring how the program impacts participants’ positive self-concept, interpersonal skills, resiliency, connectedness, and sense of belonging within the community.
As part of our commitment to participants and partners, Amani Project is developing a monitoring, evaluation, and reporting system that prioritizes participatory methods in an effort to make understanding the program’s impact a more transparent and collaborative process.
Participatory approaches include:
- Musical performances that identify participant perspectives and priorities.
- Youth-led projects that track participant growth in music-making, social and emotional learning, and community engagement.
- Youth-led committees that tell us how young people choose to lead and sustain their clubs.
- CBO Partners co-lead the planning, data collection, analysis, and reporting process.
We know we already told you a little bit about how important our partners’ feedback is to us and the curriculum itself. Not only do we offer continuous Monitoring and Evaluation support to our partner organizations, but we also have systems in place to receive ongoing feedback from program participants so that we can better understand how to improve our content and the effects of our curriculum on participants, mentors, and our program partners.
- Goal 1: Young people with stronger resilience
- Goal 2: Young people with a greater sense of belonging in their communities
- Goal 3: Young people active in promoting equity in their communities.
- Goal 4: A program driven by young people
- Goal 5: Our partners become the lead operators
Our Goals are lofty because we want our program to lead to young people with stronger resilience, a greater sense of belonging and broader skills to be active in promoting equity in their communities…but we think if anyone can do it – it’s us (the home team, the community-based partners, our funders, and most importantly – our participants.).
Support Our Work
We are super serious about supporting local economies – it isn’t just all talk. Here is how our (or your) money is spent in-country and not on fancy chairs for our (non-existent) office:
- More than $50,000 in locally made or purchased musical instruments – most made by local artisans in each club location
- More than $100,000 in locally printed curricular materials across program communities
- Salary and/or stipends for hiring local, out-of-work young adults who become assistant mentors in Amani Project programming across the globe
- More than $600,000 invested in local CBO partner organizations
Your money and funding (if you are a foundation or an awesome individual donor or a corporation) goes directly to support these clubs. If you want to Support Our Work don’t forget to click on that little donate button below. If you want to keep hearing our stories, remember to subscribe to our newsletter. #MakeMusicMakeChange