What I learned at Build Peace (by Jonathan Stray)

[This post was originally published on Jonathan Stray’s blog.]

The organizers of Build Peace tell me it was the first conference specifically on peace and technology, and they should know. I don’t know the peace building field very well, but I could see that some of its leading lights were in attendance. I learned quite a bit, and I am very glad I went.

I have to start by saying I don’t think “technology for peace” is a sure win. My understanding is that peace building is incredibly difficult work, and rarely truly successful, and I don’t see why technology necessarily changes that. Yet I am also a technologist and I presented some of my own data-driven peace work at the conference. Clearly I believe it might be good for something. There is a great need for conversations between capable conflict resolution workers and thoughtful technologists — hence this conference. Here are some of the things I think I learned.

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Complex information systems, homophily and the importance of assessments (by Kate Cummings)

The working session, “Creating Complex Information Systems” was a standout because it reminded me of the multi-dimensional nature of information sharing in and among communities in conflict and/or challenging circumstances. These communication channels may at times appear linear, moving information from one point or person to another as if moving through links in a chain, but in fact these channels are shaped, branched and forked by social trust, modes of storytelling, the quality of the telecommunications infrastructure, freedom of information and how to access what is available. There is a whole network of factors affecting how information is made, shared, receive; information systems are complex from the beginning, and ICT projects aiming to improve communities’ relationships to information have to remember that is starts with complexity and solutions have to agile enough to adapt to an interconnected web of social relationships.

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Peace and Prevention: Like Two Peas in a Pod (by Jennifer Grove)

[This post was originally published on the NSVRC blog.]

“If you want peace, work for justice.” – Pope Paul VI

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of attending the Build Peace conference at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  The conference centered on the idea that we can harness technology for use in peace-building efforts around the world.  I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect.  I mean, building peace sounds awesome, does it not?  And harnessing the power of technology to bring about peace?  Super awesome.  And although I felt that the theme of the conference would fit well into my professional goal of learning more about using social media for prevention efforts, I really wasn’t certain exactly what I would gain from this conference.  But, based on the description alone, I felt confident it would be a good use of my time.  And I was pretty stoked to attend a conference that was a bit outside of the “sexual violence prevention” box (and where I had no workshop presentation or exhibiting responsibilities – let’s be honest here). So, off to Cambridge I went.

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Libyan Youth Voices at Inaugural Build Peace Conference (by Ayat Mneina)

[This post was originally published on the Libyan Youth Voices blog.]

Libyan Youth Voices founders, Ayat Mneina and Ayman Grada, had the opportunity to attend the first year of the Build Peace Conference hosted at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Media Lab in Boston on April 5-6, 2014.

The goal of the conference was to bring together peace builders from the field to share their ideas and experiences using technology for peace building and conflict resolution.

The use of information and communication technologies was explored over the two-day program where practitioners, activists, and experts shared how games, networking platforms, and other tools were used to promote social cohesion, policy advocacy, and dialogue.

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The energy of Build Peace 2014 (by Bob Frye)

First I write these notes with the understanding that I only attended the first day of Build Peace, but continued to follow the ongoing work via Twitter @thenuclearworld. What really jumped out was the energy as the conference went on, certainly the combination of the Ignite Talks and the themes of the first day talks created an atmosphere for ideas and developing the linkages between the projects presented and as the talks emphasized the use of technology.
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Improving practices, disrupting narratives (by Chip Hauss)

There were two key meta-themes to the conference that may well define two ways we could and should move:

  • Some participants want to use IT tools to improve our existing practice
  • Others are more interested in using IT to disrupt our field so that we do qualitatively different things and work in entirely different ways in addition to improving what we are already doing. In Steven Wunker’s talk, how do we use technology to disrupt the narrative of peacebuilding.

Perhaps because my own technical/methodological training dates from the 1970s and is largely statistically and small-data driven, I was struck by three possibilities, the second of which got less attention than I expected. I present them in increasing order of their importance to me.

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Technology to Wage Peace Not War (by Andrew Greene)

[This post was originally published on Andrew Greene’s blog.]

Technology can be used for building Peace not War. Whilst some folks may be wracking their brains to produce technology that is tantamount to accelerating conflict or causing blatant mayhem, a small but very influential organization ‘Build Peace’ has just done the reverse. They have proven that technology can be used for the greater good and to promote peaceful coexistence or mitigate conflict.
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