Build Peace Turns 10: The conference through the years

Build Up
4 min readJul 20, 2023

It has been ten incredible years of advancing peace through technical and creative innovation. As we approach the tenth annual Build Peace conference, let’s reflect on the evolution of this unique gathering and revisit some of the impactful memories from along the way.

Build Peace is a global conference series and community of practice that brings together practitioners, activists, academics, policy makers, artists and technologists from around the world to share experiences and advance knowledge on emergent challenges to peace in a digital age, and peacebuilding innovations to address these challenges.

Under this umbrella, each year Build Peace focuses on one central theme, linked to the location where the conference takes place.

Build Peace 2014: The Inception

The journey began at the MIT Media Lab in April 2014, with over 250 participants from more than 30 countries. With a focus on technology as an instrument for peacebuilding, we explored four key aspects — information, communications, gaming, and networking — across all stages of peacebuilding programming. The conversations were diverse, tackling issues from hacking borders to designing constitutions. It was here that the Build Peace community was born.

Build Peace 2015: By Whom, For Whom?

In 2015, the conference took us to Nicosia, Cyprus, the last divided capital in Europe. In this compelling backdrop, 250 participants from 60 different countries explored the intersection of technology, art, and peace. We dived deep into how technology is creating alternative infrastructures for peace, emphasizing empowerment, behavior change, and impact.

Build Peace 2016: Towards Transformation

Build Peace 2016 in Zürich, Switzerland, marked a shift in our journey. We dove into a critical analysis of how technology, arts, and research could contribute to transformation, focusing on political and socio-cultural transformation, as well as the ethics of such transformation.

Build Peace 2017: Citizen Participation in Peace Agreements

The 2017 conference in Bogotá, Colombia, brought more than 350 peacebuilders together to discuss new forms of citizen participation in peace agreements. We strived to bridge the gap between top-down and bottom-up peacebuilding initiatives, addressing inclusion and exclusion in peace negotiations, implementing peace agreements, and healing, coexistence, and reconciliation.

Build Peace 2018: Re-imagining Prosperity

In Belfast, Northern Ireland, we examined the role of technology in reshaping economic opportunities and structures that impact peace. We explored how digital and creative economies can provide alternative economic models that tackle inequality, reduce social exclusion, and enhance community resilience. It was here where we first questioned if technology was actually ‘just’ a tool, or rather if it was ‘tooling’ us.

Build Peace 2019: Bridging Communities

Taking place across the US-Mexico border in San Diego and Tijuana, Build Peace 2019 centered on borders — physical, social, or digital — and their role in both dividing and bridging communities. We explored how technological, storytelling, and artistic innovations can bridge physical, social, and digital borders.

Build Peace 2020: Social Justice in the Digital Age

The pandemic pushed us to go digital in 2020. Amid this shift, we honed in on social justice issues exacerbated by the pandemic in South Africa and elsewhere, discussing identity polarization, urban space, and surveillance capitalism. It marked a significant exploration of the impacts of digital technologies on the landscapes affected by the pandemic and social justice issues.

Build Peace 2021: Digital Peacebuilding in the Pandemic

The digital transformation continued in 2021, with reflections on the accelerated shift towards digital peacebuilding. We explored the creativity, challenges, and potential of digital adaptations and tools applied to peacebuilding work, alongside their risks and the dark sides of digital work.

Build Peace 2022: Exploring the Unseen

Most recently, in Chemnitz, Germany, Build Peace 2022 explored the unseen aspects of our digital and physical societal spaces. We questioned unseen power structures, celebrated unnoticed transformations, and delved into sub-themes like turning points, supremacy, and polarization, and connecting spaces.

As we look forward to our tenth year, we reflect on the rich weaving of topics, people, and action that have made this conference what it is. Each year has brought new insights, pushing boundaries, and challenging us to think differently about peacebuilding. Here’s to the next chapter, where we continue to define new pathways to build peace together.

You can see the full account of each of these conferences on the archives page here.

Whether it will be your tenth or your first year, we hope that you will join us in Nairobi this year, Dec 1–3!

Register for the conference here.



Build Up

Build Up transforms conflict in the digital age. Our approach combines peacebuilding, participation and technology.