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Forest Whitaker receives the 4GAMECHANGER Of The Year award at the 4GAMECHANGER Festival in Vienna

On Tuesday April 25 2017 in Vienna, our CEO Forest Whitaker received from the hands of the President of Austria, Mr. Alexander Van der Bellen, the 4GAMECHANGER Of The Year award in the presence of Híkmet Ersek, CEO of Western Union, Sebastian Kurz, Austria’s Foreign Minister, and innovators from the Austrian business scene. The award came in recognition of the groundbreaking work that Forest Whitaker conducts through the Whitaker Peace & Development Initiative. 

The 4GAMECHANGER festival aims to be the stage for webstars, the hub for future digital projects, the breeding ground for start-ups, the get-together for game changers and the show to beat all shows.

As a stage designed to showcase innovation, notably through information and communication technology, it was logical for the 4GAMECHANGER Festival 2017 to acknowledge and publicize the novelty of such projects as the Youth Peacemaker Network (YPN) that we have been developing in places as diverse as South Sudan, Uganda and Mexico. 

The 4GAMECHANGER Award celebrates Forest Whitaker’s invention of a model that fosters social innovation in vulnerable places affected by violence and conflict, including in settlements for people and communities displaced by conflict. These are places where positive change is most needed. In his keynote address prior to the ceremony, Forest Whitaker had stressed the need to foster such change, quoting, in particular, Martin Luther King Jr: "Our very survival depends on our ability to stay awake, to adjust to new ideas, to remain vigilant and to face the challenge of change".

It is precisely to help vulnerable communities face the challenge of change that WPDI empowers young women and men as agents of social innovation. The foundation equips young people with peacebuilding, ICT and entrepreneurship skills as well as mobile technology so they can actively promote transformative peace and reconciliation in their communities. A key aspect of the project is indeed that young people are in the driving seat and develop their own educational and business projects to benefit other youth of their community. They are the partners, not just the beneficiaries of the program.

The Festival and the award ceremony offered a unique opportunity to highlight the new developments that WPDI is undertaking with the Western Union Foundation to empower young women and men residing in a settlement for refugees in Kiryandongo, Uganda.
Because WPDI is firstly an incubator for youth-led social innovation, Forest Whitaker insisted that he was accepting the 4GAMECHANGER Award in the name of the young peacemakers he trains and who take action to promote positive change in remote communities of their countries:

“They are change makers. They are the game changer whom you honored by giving the Game Changer Award to the Whitaker Peace & Development Initiative. Today, they want to thank you with all their heart. Knowing that people who live far away from them would still recognize their work makes them very proud. They told me to ask you to join them in their quest to achieve peace and prosperity worldwide.”