A Blueprint for Pro-Peace Innovation

Jason Miklian and Kristian Hoelscher for Harvard International Review (HIR): “Innovators and scholars can meaningfully collaborate to shape peaceful societies. We offer five steps they can take together.

Peace and conflict studies knowledge has expanded dramatically over the last 25 years, and we know much more about why conflicts start and how they can be prevented. At the same time, innovation and technology startups have started to try to tackle peace and conflict issues, beginning new efforts to create more peaceful societies. But innovators have thus far had little interaction with peace scholars as they try to build peace, even as many express a deep interest to positively improve the lives of those in fragile and conflict-affected regions across the globe.

While allocating tech billions for future moonshots seems commonplace, it’s much harder to get funding for projects that actively help those suffering from conflict and violence today. We contend that there is untapped value in promoting joint efforts between academics and innovators to build new violence prevention and peacebuilding tools, and being guided by state-of-the-art peace research will maximize their chances for positive societal impact. By integrating researchers’ deep knowledge of the economic, political and spatial dynamics of peace and conflict processes with innovation and entrepreneurship, we can develop new technologies that support human security and peacebuilding around the globe.

In support, we outline here several opportunities for those working in innovation spaces to become peacebuilders, and call to for innovators and scholars to dramatically increase collaboration. Highlighting the state-of-the-art innovations that are trying to build peace today, we examine select challenges that actors in this space currently face, and outline how innovator-academic partnerships can help address some of today’s most intractable global peace and conflict problems. We call for five ways to take peace innovation forward:

  1. Build the scholar–entrepreneur–policy triad of peace innovation
  2. ‘Disrupt Conflict’ – but do so with informed purpose
  3. Promote ethical innovation through culturally-sensitive engagement
  4. Make innovations that deliver specific positive impacts in conflict environments
  5. Globalize the peace-innovation playing field…(More)”