how to build peace?

Around 300 people gather annually at Build Peace conferences. Participants come from more than 60 different countries, working in national and international NGOs, the UN system, academic institutions, civil society organisations, grassroots organizing and the private sector.

Build Peace conferences are brought to you by Build Up, a non-profit that transforms conflict in the digital age.. The conference has to date been held in Boston (2014, hosted by the MIT Media Lab), Nicosia (2015, hosted by UNDP), Zürich (2016, hosted by the ICT4Peace Foundation at ETH Zürich), and Bogotá (2017, co-organized with Policéntrico and hosted by Universidad de los Andes).

We believe that the Build Peace community is defining new pathways to build peace that focus on enhancing citizen participation in peace, using technology and creativity as critical tools, entry points or frameworks. Past conferences have served as catalysts for new projects and partnerships. Our partners and participants regularly express their appreciation for the conference as a venue for both discussion and networking.



Our inquiries build upon one another from year to year. In 2014, we were concerned with mapping the functions of technology in peacebuilding, to understand the scope and scale of the field. In 2015, we asked deep questions about who the work was for, why it worked and when didn’t, and what the potential impacts could be. We also began to ask if our framework could include other tools, those of arts and research, which intersect with technology in their ability to transform how citizens engage in peacebuilding. In 2016, we delved into the transformative potential – how we can begin to use these three innovative domains (technology, arts, and research) to build peace. In 2017, having explored the what, who, how and why of innovation for peacebuilding, we explored a specific topic relevant to the Colombian context and beyond: participation in peace agreements.

Each conference builds on the last, drawing inspiration from past conversations, current events, and groundbreaking ideas developed and deployed on the ground. We shift and experiment with the conference structure to find the best way to share ideas and amplify unheard voices. We use a variety of tools, from keynote speeches to short talks, dialogues to round-table discussions, several different workshop formats, an Unconference to give participants space to explore ideas further, and a hackathon to connect practitioners to developers.

During conferences and among the community throughout the year, we are humbled by the candid approach of practitioners, policy-makers, academics, technologists, activists, and artists alike. Conversations range from measuring polarization, to capturing voices from the Rwanda tribunal; from hacking the border in the Dominican Republic to designing the constitution in Egypt; from teaching activist power in a video game, to building peace villages on Minecraft.


2014 (Boston, USA)

Over 250 people from more than 30 countries attended Build Peace 2014. Participants came from national and international NGOs, the UN system, academic institutions and the private sector. The conference had four broad lines of inquiry, each representing a function technology can play in peacebuilding: information, communications, gaming and networking. Panels and working sessions were also structured around the three stages of peacebuilding programming: conflict analysis, program design and impact evaluation. Read more about Build Peace 2014.

2015 (Nicosia, Cyprus)

Nicosia is the last divided capital in Europe, and served as an immersive experience for the 250 participants from 60 different countries who met in venues in both the Turkish Cypriot and the Greek Cypriot communities across the city. The conference was organized around one key inquiry: how is the use of technology resulting in the creation of alternative infrastructures for peace? From this flowed three sub-themes: empowerment (who is empowered, by whom and how?), behavior change (and empowered to do what?), and impact. Read more about Build Peace 2015.

2016 (Zürich, Switzerland)

In 2016 we asked: how we can use technology, arts and research, toward transformation? The inquiry fell into three broad themes. Political: A central question for many peacebuilders is the extent to which their work can enter politics or must remain impartial. Socio-cultural: Creating a critical mass for peace requires shifts across a society. Ethics: Whether we engage in political or socio-cultural transformation to build peace, there are a set of values that guide how we go about our work.Read more about Build Peace 2016.

2017 (Bogotá, Colombia)

Peace agreements have often been criticised for not being representative of the population beyond the elites. Build Peace 2017 explored innovative approaches to amplifying participation in all phases of a peace agreement, and bridging the gap between top down and bottom up peacebuilding initiatives. The conference aimed to inspire through reflection on challenges and impacts across three sub-themes: inclusion and exclusion in peace negotiations; implementing peace agreements; healing, coexistence and reconciliation. Read more about Build Peace 2017.