Peacetech Today: Outcomes of the 2016 Build Peace Fellowship

In the last year, Build Up, funded by Interpeace and PeaceNexus, ran a pilot program of the Build Peace Fellowship, focused on mentoring peacebuilders through strategically embedding a tech tool in their process. It was an experiment to see if we could transmit our knowledge of peacetech methodologies and best practices while supporting local actors. Across all facets of the project, it’s been an inspiring and impactful process. Our Fellows told us about significant growth in their personal confidence approaching technology and design processes, and we learned a lot about how to mentor the Fellows and manage the process, which we’re eager to share. Finally, as the Fellowship draws to a close, we want to talk about the pilot projects that emerged from a year of hard work.

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Technology: Rumour Tracker

Maude Morrison has created a rumour tracking app for Android phones. The app is fully functional and currently only available to members of CDNH’s local network.

Unlike other reporting apps, the rumour tracker prompts users to check other rumours reported in their area prior to reporting a new rumour, thus avoiding duplication and encouraging users to build upon each other’s’ information.

Users can comment on reported rumours, providing evidence for or against. CDNH also adds comments and eventually closes a rumour report marking it as “verified — true”, “verified — false”, or “unverified”. The app thus improves both CDNH’s and their network users’ understanding of the rumour environment. The alpha version of the app was developed with gracious pro-bono support from Just Peace Labs.

By the numbers:

  • 50% of CDNH’s local network in pilot states use the app at least once a week
  • 90% rate the app as a useful tool in obtaining information on rumours
  • 72% say they get new information from the app
  • 66.7% consider the app is helpful in controlling rumours related to communal conflict
Maude Morrison

“In an early evaluation of the pilot, one of the participants wrote ‘I feel like a peacemaker when reporting and analyzing the news on the app’. Another wrote ‘when using the app, I feel like I am doing peacebuilding for Myanmar’.

“It was exciting to see that they considered this tool a part of peacebuilding and that it had the potential to make them feel empowered and part of a broader movement. If asked how they felt when providing CDNH with updates through the phone, it would be unlikely that they would consider that ‘peacebuilding’. We have broadened the scope of our monitoring process to include local network members in a more interesting approach for them.”

Screenshots of the rumour tracking app in process.

Technology: Nuestro Desarrollo

Diana Dajer has created a web platform called “Nuestro Desarrollo” (“Our Development”) that provides information to the public about the participatory budgeting process run by the Medellín’s Town Hall.

Medellín’s citizens getting informed about projects and delegates to vote for in the 2016 Participatory Budgeting Process.

The platform also offers various ways to connect with the process, both online and offline. The web platform also hosts an online game called “Nuestra Comunidad” (“Our Community”) that provides an entertaining and engaging way to educate the public about local planning, priority setting, project allocations and budget balancing — critical elements of the participatory budgeting process. The game also offers a reflection on the common ground community members have in a city fragmented by conflict.

Diana is working with Medellín’s Town Hall to pilot the platform and game. During the pilot, different hypothesis will be tested to assess the role of technology in producing peacebuiling outcomes through budgeting and planning participatory processes.

An image of the game “Nuestra Comunidad”

By the numbers:

  • 34 semi-structured interviews with citizens, community leaders and Town Hall staff
  • 3 focus groups with 80 participants in Medellín’s participatory budgeting process
  • Pilot of the tool and game with participants from two neighborhoods in Medellín
Diana Dajer

“The different discussions and presentations of the project in different local, national and international scenarios have helped to increase and shape the discussion on how online participatory budgeting in Colombia could contribute to peacebuilding objectives.

“Likewise, since the project is part of a PhD research, it has contributed to shape the academic debate towards it.”

“The past months have been highly challenging for participatory peacebuilding initiatives in Colombia, but the project had given me a critical and long-term approach to understand the situation and try to find meaningful context-based approaches to tackle polarization and build a more cohesive society.”

Technology: Participatory Analysis Tool

Jean Marie Ndihokubwayo has created an online participatory analysis tool to display the quantitative survey data CENAP collected on Burundian youth’s aspirations for the future. It is currently available as a web-based, password protected platform that contains and visualises all the survey data.

Front page of the CENAP analysis platform.

The platform is used in workshops facilitated by CENAP where key stakeholders can comment and discuss results and compare them to the qualitative element of the research. Users can query the data by question and demographics. Results are easily visualised, enabling discussion on meanings, contexts and other considerations that then feed into the research findings.

The participatory analysis platform therefore makes quantitative data accessible to a wide range of stakeholders without requiring prior technical knowledge. It enables their participation in the overall analysis, directly contributing to greater transparency of and trust in the final research outcome as well as ensuring early buy-into any policy recommendations stemming from the research.

What we accomplished:

A sample of the analytic dashboard.
  • Fully functioning analysis tool with youth survey data loaded
  • Pilot participatory analysis workshop with youth and key stakeholders
  • Buy-in from local stakeholders for continued roll-out of participatory process to reach
Jean Marie Ndihokubwayo

“Now my organization is aware that technology can help being effective. Most of all, my colleagues understood that with tech tool, we can achieve our objective of helping different stakeholders to participate and engage in dialogue. They saw also that introducing a technology tool is also a process.”

Building Forward

As we look toward our second cohort of Build Peace Fellows, we’re taking stock of the challenges and accomplishments of the past year’s work. No single project that our Fellows brought on the first day of the training progressed to a pilot without sometimes deep and radical changes to concepts — but every step along the way was guided by deep investigation and understanding of what forces are working in our Fellows’ communities.

Peacebuilding is highly process oriented. It’s often difficult, and gains can seem small when considering the vast challenges our communities face. The best we can do at Build Up is to pass on what we’ve learned through our collective experience, and build a community of practice at the intersection of peace and technology. We’re excited to view these Fellows as partners, and we look forward to continuing to work with them as they break new ground in peacetech.