Starting a blog is often the point I dread the most and this time is no exception. Not because of not knowing what to write; Build Peace showcased so many good ideas, shared without fear in a spectacular setting with such a positive energy; but because adding a full stop to that unbounded creativity and energy seems totally wrong. So with my colleagues at International Alert, I intend to keep that energy flowing, by talking to anyone who will listen about why technology for peacebuilding is so exciting and something we all need to work on together.
Working together is hugely important – the Build Peace Database is a great start to this and something I hope to contribute to even more, perhaps creating something like an ‘app store for peace tech’. The more we are able to share our successes, our knowledge, our code and data where appropriate, the more effort can go into the peacebuilding work and the greater our combined impact.Read more
As well as sharing our success, I think we need to be open about sharing ideas and concepts that perhaps didn’t go so well. This is a hard thing to do, but I’m a firm believer in ‘failing fast / failing forward’. There was some challenge to this notion at Build Peace as obviously failing in a peacebuilding context can have some pretty bad outcomes. I agree with this broadly, but when developing tech solutions that are part of peacebuilding projects, I think the tech part ‘failing’ is okay (and dare I say, quite possible) – as long as we share why it ‘failed’ and ensure this is reflected in the next iteration / project.
The context of tech as part of peacebuilding projects is important here too. Having a background in tech rather than peacebuilding, it might be assumed that I’m from the school that believes tech alone will provide the solution. While I’d love this to be the case, I think the way we will succeed is by using tech intelligently within peacebuilding work. International Alert has had nearly 30 years building peace, with local staff on the ground in our country offices and it’s my job to make sure our practitioners know what technology is available, where tech can help and then develop and implement tools and technologies that complement their peacebuilding work.
I was fortunate enough to talk at the Build Peace Labs on day two and I would wholly endorse them returning for next years’ event. Hearing about exciting new projects was really inspirational and being able to provide feedback and hopefully some good advice was one of the highlights. Personally, being picked out as ‘one of the nerds from International Alert’ was a professional high point that may never be beaten.
Our lab talked about our #peacehack hackathon series and thanks to all those who attended and gave us some very probing questions and some great advice and feedback. I’m pleased to let you know that there will be a series of international hacks this year taking place on 26th and 27th September. Sign up at www.international-alert.org/peacehack for more info, to take part or even run a hack in your country.
As for the setting of the conference, I think hosting Build Peace in Cyprus was a masterstroke. To be in a country still bearing the physical scars of conflict inspired me greatly and I had numerous similar conversations with colleagues old and new – the next host venue has a lot to live up to. Many congratulations to the Build Up team, all the wonderful speakers, panellists and participants.
So still full of that inspiration and energy, we move on. I’ll be taking lots of the ideas and learning forward with my colleagues at Alert and hope that we can continue to ‘be dangerous together’.