We design dynamic learning experiences that address hidden human rights. We work in diverse communities to train youth and educators to lead tough conversations and create long-lasting solutions.
WHAT IS OUR MISSION?
Unsilence breaks taboos and lifts voices to illuminate stories of human rights and ignite action against injustice. We create empowering learning experiences for youth and the public, and teach educators and community leaders, to spark dialogue, support critical thinking, and build empathy to inspire healing and social change.
WHAT DO We 'UNSILENCE'?
Unsilence helps communities talk about difficult topics, including: ◆mental health and suicide ◆sexual and domestic violence ◆political asylum and refugee rights ◆mass incarceration and systemic racism ◆transgender, lesbian, gay, and bisexual rights ◆girls’ and women’s rights ◆genocide, perpetratorship, and delayed justice ◆and many other issues.
WHO IS OUR AUDIENCE?
Young people are our primary audience Unsilence delivers leadership training for young people. To do this, engaging educators is key. We train middle school teachers, high school teachers, and informal educators to support young people to learn about human rights, break taboos, and take informed action.
Real change only happens through cross-society dialogue Every level of a community must be engaged and supportive of the young people and educators working to unsilence injustice. That's why we also train administrative staff, parents, and policymakers in the field of education and in social services, including social workers and health professionals. We also educate the public through community programs and events.
WHAT IS OUR REACH?
So far, Unsilence has reached more than 9,600 people directly, including training 2,500 educators. We work with schools, museums, youth centers, communities of faith, institutions, and in public spaces. Based in Chicago, we have a local, national, and international reach, including: Arkansas, California, Colorado, Illinois, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Wyoming, and Washington D.C., as well as Poland, Israel, and Germany.
Unsilence uses pedagogically-sound, research-driven approaches to draw people into human rights content. Our in-person learning experiences follow our 8 PHASES of UNSILENCING and include leadership training for youth and educators. Our online interactive features are free to all; they include WebQuests, choose-your-own-pathway stories, human rights poems and stories, virtual exhibitions, and other highly-engaging methodologies, accompanied by our education resources.
We use our FRAMEWORK of UNSILENCING to help young adults and educators explore how and why certain human rights become hidden. Institutional Silencing (e.g., laws and policy), Cultural Silencing (e.g., prejudice and taboos), and Personal Silencing (e.g., shame and fear) form barriers that prevent communities from talking openly about important and urgent issues like mental health, sexual violence, and systemic racism.
Through our on-the-ground programs, partnerships, and local groups, communities get to decide for themselves which issues are most relevant and urgent. International treaties like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights provide a foundation for our work. Unsilence programs focus on human rights that society finds difficult to talk about, especially with young people. We address a broad range of issues, because specific human rights do not exist in isolation; they are interconnected.
Unsilence grew out of the doctoral research of learning scientist and fiction writer Danny M. Cohen, under the supervision of Brian Reiser and Phyllis Lassner at Northwestern University. Danny's study of educators at the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center led to his creation of human rights content and educator training programs to help schools and communities "unsilence" marginalized historical and contemporary narratives. Advised by fellow learning scientists and human rights educators, including Stacey Mann, Kelley H. Szany, Alexis S. Morrisroe, and Julia Eksner, the creation of groundbreaking learning experiences and a Framework of Unsilencing led to the founding of Unsilence as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization in 2014.
WHAT IS OUR VISION FOR THE FUTURE?
Unsilence is a movement, and we're growing in reach and scope. We are a community working together to shed light on hidden human rights. By giving voice to the marginalized and by breaking taboos, we help young people take action against injustice, build bridges with others, and create solutions to heal their communities.
Unsilence is a national educational nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization