APPROACH AND METHODOLOGY
OHI believes that the private sector can play a unique role in diplomacy by engaging people in the spheres of everyday life. OHI aims to be a catalyst for finding common ground between America and the Arab and Muslim world, and taking what is different about the two cultures to build friendships and create something entirely new, like a superhero that reflects shared values. For example, OHI is bringing together youth with disabilities because they have the same hopes and challenges everywhere, but have unique cultural perspectives to share.
The Open Hands Initiative launched its inaugural program on August 1, 2010 in Damascus, Syria, and brought together disability advocates from the United States and Syria to engage in collaborative effort called the Youth Ability Summit. The youth worked with artists and experts to create the world's first disabled superhero that reflects Syrian and American values. In the coming months, OHI will work together with Liquid Comics to develop the story to include the youth's ideas.
OHI views this as a unique opportunity to work with young people in the Muslim and Arab world to create new superheroes that are emblematic of their unique and rich culture. OHI's hope is that these fictional heroes will also serve as positive role models to youths in the region and help eliminate the influence of hateful and divisive messages.
IMPLEMENTATION, TIMELINE, AND DELIVERABLES
The Open Hands Initiative commits to producing an original comic book story featuring a superhero with disabilities that extols American and Syrian values. The comic book will be released in the United States and Syria no later than February, 28, 2011 with subsequent issues to be released on a regular basis thereafter.
The Open Hands Initiative grew out of United States' President Barack Obama's famous pledge to extend open hands of friendship and dialogue to all people of the world. OHI takes this pledge as its mission. Only through mutual understanding and open communication can trust and goodwill be established.
Through the comic book, which features a superhero created jointly by American and Syrian youth with disabilities, OHI will help establish trust, confidence, and understanding between the people of Syria and the United States and bring the two peoples together for mutual celebration and education of each other's respective cultures. This platform will enrich both nations, deepen our interdependence and respect, and help to build a reservoir of goodwill that can withstand even the most fundamental policy differences. Additionally, the comic will serve as a vehicle for promoting the inclusion and empowerment of people with disabilities, while helping to explore solutions for improving the conditions of the disabled.
The comic series will eventually expand to address contemporary issues in other Arab and Muslim countries. By creating positive and culturally sensitive role models, the series will seek to raise awareness of common human values and enable youth to better handle difficult real world situations.