Category Archives: Build Peace 2014

Alternative infrastructures for peace (by Helena Puig Larrauri)

[This post was originally published on Insight on Conflict.]

This week, the Coalition Centre for Thai Violence Watch (CCTVW) is busy aggregating reports sent in from the streets of Bangkok to calculate a weighted index of violence risk, which will be published on their website and Facebook pages twice a day. The violence watch system is already very smart, and next week I’ll be joining a developer from Elva (a Georgian tech start-up) to work with the CCTVW team to make their processes and tools even more efficient. Every time I do work like this, bringing technology tools to local peacebuilders, I am reminded that highlighting this area of peacebuilding work was the impetus behind the Build Peace conference.

Rodrigo Davies, Jen Welch, Michaela Ledesma and I set up Build Peace to bring together practitioners, activists and technologists from around the world to share their experience and ideas on using technology for peacebuilding and conflict transformation. The conference had four broad lines of inquiry, each representing a function technology can play in peacebuilding: information, communications, gaming and networking. You can read more about how we came up with these four areas here and read a look-back on Build Peace 2014 here.

The variety and depth of experience shared at the conference demonstrated that technology use is on the rise in local peacebuilding. That alone was inspiring, and generated enough interest that we will be organizing another conference next year. But perhaps more important is the over-arching narrative that these disparate experiences share: we are beginning to see alternative infrastructures for peace emerging that are (to a large extent) the product of tech-enabled initiatives.

In particular, I think there are three alternative infrastructures that point to the future of peacebuilding at the local level. First, digital media tools provide new, creative ways for local peacebuilders to foster alternative discourses and challenge prevailing conflict narratives. These new visions can often compete with existing visions by being bolder and engaging more closely with their audience. Second, networking platforms provide new opportunities for local peacebuilders to foster positive contact between conflict groups, building digital trust networks. Third, online and mobile tools give power to local peacebuilders to counteract calls for violence and make peace viral.
Read more

The future of technology in peacebuilding (by Sanjana Hattotuwa)

[This post was originally published on Sanjana Hattotuwa’s blog.]

In early April this year, I was invited to deliver a keynote address at the inaugural Build Peace conference, held at MIT Media Lab. My presentation was given, almost to the day, twenty years after the Rwandan genocide. Just before I went on stage, we all observed a minute’s silence to remember the victims.

The genocide wasn’t on my mind when I made the slides for the presentation, but brought into sharp focus the thrust of my submission, which was to look ten to fifteen years into the future, and how information and communications technologies (ICTs) would feature in both the genesis and inflammation of complex political emergencies (CPEs) – in other words, violent conflict – as well as aid in peacebuilding and conflict transformation.

Read more

What we learned from Build Peace 2014 (by Rodrigo Davies)

[This post was originally published on the MIT Centre for Civic Media blog.]

Last month at the Media Lab, HelenaJenMichaela and I organized Build Peace, a conference to bring together practitioners from the worlds of peacebuilding and technology to talk about how the two fields could work together. It was an incredibly enlightening and generative three days, and before the first conference had even finished, we had already decided that there needed to be a Build Peace 2015. If you missed it, you can catch up by reading Helena’s lookback. We’re excited by the community that is starting to form around the technology for peacebuilding conversation and the many potential spin-off projects that are emerging. We were incredibly lucky to have such a diverse and talented array of participants and collaborators.

Now that we’ve had a few weeks to reflect on Build Peace, I wanted to share some of our thoughts on how we went about putting together the event.

Read more

Looking back on Build Peace 2014 (by Helena Puig Larrauri)

[This post was originally published on the MIT Centre for Civic Media blog.]

Last week in Nairobi, a group of Somalis sat in a room trying to figure out how to make the most convincing infographic. They have been working for the past 15 years to build the trust and dialogue necessary to make democracy in the Somali region a viable alternative to violence. Recently, they’ve been using a combination of new tech-enabled tools to run participatory polls and visualize perceptions data in new ways. My colleague Michaela and I were there, helping them to navigate these new tools – and we were reminded yet again of why, together with Rodrigo and Jen, we decided to put on the Build Peace conference.

Read more

Taking care not to stifle (by Ellada Evangelou)

Reflecting on the Conference, what stood out for me was the difference in dynamic among participants, and as an extension their practices. What each person brought into the conversation, elements such as institutional affiliation, professional practice, philosophy, language, origin and others, created the interesting mosaic of “the face of technology-related peace building today”. The most intense binary in terms of the dynamics appeared between western and non-western participants. In much of the work presented, represented or spoken of, the basic cultural dynamics became determining factors in the understanding of the work itself. And it became clear to me that much of what the father of post-colonial thought, Franz Fanon writes about in the first part of the twentieth century, are present, and in some cases dominant, even in conversations about peace and technology, even at the haute level of this specific gathering.

Read more

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.

Read more

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.

Read more

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.

Read more

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.

Read more

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.
Read more