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Youth Peace Project provides alternative solutions to student conflicts

This story is part of a series that will look at and profile each of the six startups in NewBoCo’s Fall 2018 accelerator programs.

Kids First Law Center opened in Cedar Rapids in 2005 with the goal to give children a voice in custody and divorce conflicts. Three years ago, the organization started the process of looking into ways to expand the scope of students they were helping. Last year, launched Youth Peace Project, a program that focuses on restoring relationships when conflicts occur.

Being piloted at McKinley Middle School in the Cedar Rapids Community School District, Youth Peace Project uses restorative practices to resolve conflicts that arise between students.

“We really wanted to help kids resolves conflicts who are not necessarily dealing with a divorce or custody issue at home,” said Youth Peace Project Director Arianna Eddy. “We considered how we could intervene and stop youth violence and that led us in our research to restorative justice and we launched a restorative justice initiative called the youth peace project in the Cedar Rapids community school district for middle school students.”

Since beginning the program last year, more than 90% of kids we served were able to resolve a conflict right then and there through the process, Eddy told Clay & Milk.

“What we’ve seen so far is kids are learning conflict resolution skills when they are introduced to restorative justice,” Eddy said.

Youth Peace Project was recently accepted into the inaugural cohort of NewBoCo’s Social Good Accelerator.

“NewBoCo’s Social Good Accelerator has been amazing. It’s really given us an opportunity to do some customer discovery and figure out how to best in the school system and if there are other markets out there where our service can be beneficial for kids,” Eddy said.

Currently, Youth Peace Project is looking at how to best design the program so it is most effective going forward.

“This is a perfect opportunity to think about where we want to take the project,” Eddy said. “We are assessing program design, whether we should be providing circles for schools who already have training in restorative practices or if we should be training teachers. We’re researching other programs like ours around Iowa and the country to see what other agencies like ours are doing.”

Youth Peace Project provides alternative solutions to student conflicts | Clay & Milk
A central Iowa ag-tech accelerator has secured more backers and finally has a name. The Greater Des Moines Partnership first announced the accelerator last year, naming four initial investors. On Monday, the Partnership said the program will be called the "Iowa AgriTech Accelerator" and named three new investors. The new investors include Grinnell Mutual, Kent Corp. and Sukup Manufacturing, all Iowa companies. They join investors Deere & Co., Peoples Co., Farmers Mutual Hail Insurance Co. and DuPont Pioneer. Each investor has agreed to put up $100,000 for the first year of the accelerator. Startups entering the program will receive $40,000 in seed funding in exchange for 6 percent equity. Tej Dhawan, an angel investor and local startup mentor, is serving as interim director until the AgriTech Accelerator names a permanent leader. Dhawan held a similar role with the GIA before Brian Hemesath was named as managing director. As interim director, Dhawan said his main job includes hiring the accelerator's executive director, establishing a business structure and initial recruiting for the first cohort. The accelerator will place few filters, such as location and product, on the applicant pool, Dhawan said. "When you’re seeking innovation, innovation can come from every corner of the world so why restrict ourselves," he said. One area the the AgriTech Accelerator won't recruit from is biotech. For its first cohort, the AgriTech Accelerator will work out of the GIA's space in Des Moines' East Village, Dhawan said. A future, permanent home is still to be decided. The accelerator's program will host startups from mid-July through mid-October, ending with an event connected to the annual World Food Prize. The GIA, which the AgriTech Accelerator is based on, also ends with presentations at an industry event. The accelerator has also started lining up a mentor pool. The Iowa Corn Growers Association, Iowa Soybean Association and the Iowa Pork Producers Association have agreed to provide mentors, as has Iowa State University. While the AgriTech Accelerator is loosely based off of the GIA, it will differ in its business structure, Dhawan said. The GIA runs through a for-profit model for both operations and its investment fund. The AgriTech Accelerator will have a nonprofit model for its operations and a for-profit setup for its fund. Dhawan said the nonprofit model is being used so the accelerator can better work with other nonprofit partners, such as trade associations. "These are all organizations that are nonprofits and can be amazing stakeholders without ever having to be investors in the accelerator," he said. "It becomes easier to work with trade associations in their nonprofit role when we are also a nonprofit." When it's up and running, the AgriTech Accelerator would be one of a handful of ag-focused startup development programs in Iowa. Others include the Ag Startup Engine out of Iowa State University and the Rural Ventures Alliance from Iowa MicroLoan. Matthew Patane is the managing editor and co-founder of Clay & Milk. Send him an email at
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