Within five years, 50 per cent of Australian children could be “inoculated against hate”. It’s a bold ambition, but one Industry Professor Mehrdad Baghai is confident he can achieve.
As a Baha’i, growing up in Iran, Mehrdad he was persecuted for his beliefs. He says, “I felt firsthand what it’s like to be an ‘other’ and a member of a group that’s vilified and hated.”
It’s an experience that led him to ask: how do we stop hate?
At age 40, Mehrdad (who studied human behaviour at Harvard) and his wife Roya founded High Resolves – an organisation that delivers learning experiences to inoculate students against hatred and galvanise them to take action in their communities.
What began in a single school, is now in over 350 schools across Australia, and expanded to hubs in the US, Canada, China and Brazil. Over 13 years, in Australia alone, the program has engaged over 200,000 young people, or 4 per cent of all high school students, and is on track to reach 50 per cent of all Australian high schoolers in the next five years. The potential impact is unprecedented.
That’s why, in October, Mehrdad and High Resolves was named the 2018 Winner of the John P. McNulty Prize – a prestigious global award that recognises bold and courageous leadership to address the world’s toughest challenges.
Mehrdad says, “Hate, prejudice and inequality are universal afflictions. High Resolves has designed a powerful and proven system to stop these destructive forces, starting with young people. We can be as systematic about citizenship education as we are about core subjects, and given the state of the world, we have no choice but to do just that.”
Former US Secretary of State, and chair of the McNulty Prize jury, Madeleine Albright, agrees. “Around the world, we are seeing a rise in hateful discourse in communities and at the highest levels. High Resolves is tackling these pressing issues head on by training the next generation to resist propaganda and division and stand up for what’s right. It is a program we urgently need right now.”