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We are building a youth-centric movement of making-care in other ways that can support the life and mental health of refugees in Africa.We do that by creating safe spaces for inner growth activities in a mutual learning setting that fosters the local need for creating long-term holistic solutions that empower people to thrive and heal.



There's a lot of humanitarian help to provide the basic needs, which is very needed — and one can ask “what does their need want that can re-introduce their humanness?” The Open Up project is approaching the inner state of humanity in places that have been made ill as an opportunity to transform culture and inform culture differently. A breath work and inner world work project that aims to aggregate experiences and practices that can begin to genuinely and generously generate insight that can catalyze a new story that enables action for systemic change. Founded in 2020 by Katrien Franken, the project was launched in 2021 in Uganda, Africa.


The process Open Up offers, opens both to a real rootedness in Life and the actualities of trauma, of living, of trust, of care, of euphoria, of imagination and of creativity - and can open a deep connection to something beyond us that fills us with energy. Through this shared, immersive experience where our perceptions shift, creative explorations can increase our sense of possibility, which through practice is shared and opened further in the camp. 




1.5 million refugees are living in Uganda. We are currently working with youngsters in Nakivale refugee settlement in Uganda and are positively affecting lives of people from seven countries. The camp shelters over 12,000 families and 150,000 refugees from neighboring countries and cultures; including the Congo, Burundi, Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, and South Sudan. 

This video below was initiated and produced through our local partner Unidos in Nakivale, and filmed two months after we completed the first cohort of 6 weeks. It shares experiences and insights of our work together, and hope for the future.


Futures are us

Creative mission: a return

Making possible participatory governance for refugee youth to connect and share their wisdom.


Making possible the power of empowering spaces for younger refugees in the age of 16-35 after the acute need or crisis


Making space for the unseen. Making knowledge shared.


Making visible the local stewards of change that can catalyze systemic change. Co-generating new practices in partnership with local communities and autonomy, while simultaneously being profoundly interdependent and connected in a complex system.

Making possible to becoming caregivers for a movement forwards that leads us to vital places for renewal. 

We return to make change, in creating together, in breathing and opening up together, a reality of collaborative effort for social change.


We return to the breathing “body” as a voyager, as a host for collecting experiences, to re-consider, to re-turn and re-member to finding solutions together. 


The results will not present itself straight away. We know that this takes time, space, practice and cultivation. We hope to create possibilities for many alive learning environments, along with spaces for cultivating joy, uninterrupted play, abundance and enchantment. To reach a movement at this scale, it must be spread far beyond the immediate reach of the Open Up initiative and our local communities in Uganda and Tanzania. 


Making Practice Together

Our Mycelium

opening a research inquiry

The perspective of thought as creative energy. Actively but intimately engaging with the world through the practice of inquiry. Opening with what is most alive to come alive, because that's often where life is. Cultivating presence and learning skills for facing complexity in a conscious responsive way. Allowing for improvising to come up with ideas.

opening interconnectedness 

The perspective of connecting with the inner dimensions of change and healing. Breathing acting as gut microbiome for opening up to different states of consciousness. Opening to rhythms and rupture as fertilizer for earthing down in our body, and sensing beyond the rigidity of concept. Loosing the perception of the familiar.


opening wonder and imagination

The perspective of relating, appreciating and caring for the human and more than human worlds. Learning how to be with the irrational as relational in an immerse exploration and expression. Building grounds for whole systems change through

our inner lives, and through the connections between us.

opening action and possibilities

The perspective that living is in the action. Becoming ready, courageous and available for stewarding action with flexibility and persistence and purpose. To investigate our place in the world, whilst deepening our relationship with each other as the most vital source for change.



Why Open Up?


Open Up re-imagines education; Alive Learning education

We live in a world where we have stopped perceiving the full spectrum of who we are. We are taught to be and think a certain way. Our contemporary discourse of education silences and delegitimizes the idea that there are diverse visions, many knowledge frameworks, and many streams other than mainstream visions of what learning, knowing, sensing and being could be. There is a fundamental paradigm shift from frameworks that centralize teaching and the teacher, to others that emphasize learning and learners; and, from learners as passive recipients of content to learners as active co-creators of meaning. Katrien's desire for a form of education, by a form of Alive learning education that is not solely determined by its principles of standardization, is coming from an place of being over consummated with explanations without real human interactions. We imagine education to come alive differently. We thrive to inspire the extra-curricular to open up.
Open Up is a Practice


As a practice Open Up fosters connected openness and curiosity about the inner dimensions of change and healing. We breathe-with, learn-with, fail-with, experiment-with Life and encourage a conscious engagement; an intimate observation and experience; a research inquiry that enables us to open to new vistas within and outside of ourselves. We invite full-body intelligence and presence to make possible the release of what’s taking hostage in our fear, in our joy, in our power, in our movement, in our connectivity, our imagination, and in our agency. Through practice, opening up becomes an actor of attracting new resources within. 

Open Up is Vital


Together we are in the knowing that we are not alone. In community we allow individually for more of our humanness to become part our journey. Open Up is an invitation to give voice to unmet life, and to show up for all life in the emergence. The process gives space for a whole new set of generative questions that can be explored and experienced and can co-create a body of social transformation that will begin to address these questions. 


Open Up is Possibility

An approach that encourages people and communities to support and create positive relationships that will benefit society and our environments by allowing the system to evolve and adapt to changing circumstances.


Open Up is a Movement

This project is only the foundation for a wider cultural youth movement that is needed to open the structure of the whole system at the base of our culture today. Our mission will only be realized by acting as a catalyzing agent. In addition to the process we create, the project becomes home to a generative community that will grow through innovation, facilitated dialogues, partnerships, and trust based collaborations. By sharing and highlighting our processes for doing so it can become a portal into new vistas within ourselves, and into a community that supports further development.


Scaling our work

We want to globally create inner growth possibilities for (refugee) youth in a regenerative way. This means that we want to enable and educate people locally in the Open Up approach to develop the skills and knowledge to be shared in the communities, and develop according to what locally actually works, what not, and what is needed for each other. With financial support we are ready to launch the project in Nyarugusu camp in Tanzania, and create possibilities for and with refugee youth in Kenya, and DR Congo and all of East Africa, and beyond.  

Collaborate with us

Strategic partners allow us to grow and expand our work, and access insights from multiple perspectives. We are looking for support and collaborations of other non-profit organizations and humans who invest beyond financial capital. We seek to create collaboration with partners rather than traditional grant-giving. If you have any questions, or if you are interested in making a large/sustaining donation.

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Our partner in Uganda

Eight months into the COVID-19 pandemic, we started a conversation with Paulinho Muzaliwa Josaphat who lives in Nakivale refugee settlement in Uganda, which shelters over 12,000 families and 150,000 refugees from neighboring countries and cultures; including the Congo, Burundi, Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, and South Sudan. 


His nationality is Congolese and he fled his country in 2017 and became a refugee in Uganda in 2018. He is founder of Unidosproject; transforming the Nakivale refugee settlement into a regenerative community

A new brick in the wall

We helped fund and make possible a school for Unidos in Nakivale refugee settlement. The school was completed in November 2021 and provides room for 15-20 people.




"Breathing New Life"

Katrien was interviewed by Evolve Magazine which was published 13/11/2021

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What we are not

There are already many healthcare organizations, traditional educational organisations, and political and social movements. What Open Up is seeking to do does not fit into any one of these categories. We are not gathering to confirm what we already know, but enliven a quest to sit with the shocking unthought to learn from, and share. We are not driven by the size of our audience, favorable coverage or journalism prizes. We are building integrity in the emergence of a cultural transformation that opens as collective intelligence and participation to build regenerative solutions that humanity is facing. 

This Open Up initiative is an interdependent project, aiming to improve the health and development of refugee youth and society, and create a virtuous relationship between the two. We give voice to the future of people; to making humans possible and truth visible. We 
abide faith in the human spirit, in the capacity of people to be generous, compassionate, creative and kind–no matter what. We work inter-culturally in spirit of Ubuntu.

Contact us

The possibility and strength of this project  and potential depends on its alliances. If you have a special skill, are part of a partner organization, want to help, or want to help spread the word, please reach out. We value your feedback and look forward to beginning a dialogue with you.

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