As a social researcher in Australia, Oliver Percovich studied the economic and social costs of emergencies and disasters. When he traveled to war-ridden Afghanistan in 2007 his plan was to find a research job in a related area. Instead, he found himself spending the afternoons skateboarding with Afghan youth in Kabul’s streets and speaking to Afghans and foreigners of all walks of life about the complex situation and lack of clear solutions. In a country where 67% of the population is under the age of 25 and 50% is under the age of 16, Oliver looked for programmes that were engaging the children, who have the most potential to create positive change in their society. He was disappointed to realise how neglected this large and significant segment of the population was in the development process.
His solution? Establishing a co-educational skateboarding school to empower youth and provide them opportunities in education and leadership. In his talk at the ESOMAR Congress, Oliver will tell the story of creating the NGO Skateistan together with the Afghan street children who needed it most. The notion of a development project based on skateboarding was ridiculed by veteran experts, however Oliver and the Skateistan teams willingness to take risks led to an innovative and extremely successful way of engaging and empowering marginalised youth – particularly Afghan girls – while also harnessing the social support of the global community.