Transcript of remarks at the community launch in Belfast for the Build Peace 2018 conference, delivered by Build Up Programs Director Michaela Ledesma. The conference will take place on October 29–31, 2018 at Ulster University. Apply to speak or register to attend on the conference website.
It’s wonderful to be here with all of you today for the Build Peace 2018 conference launch.
This moment marks the culmination of the inspiration and contributions of many of you in the room — John Peto who attended our first conference at MIT in 2014, joined by Enda Young and Brandon Hamber in early discussions about bringing the event to Northern Ireland. Jonny McEwan and BeyondSkin shared their work in Nicosia and Bogotá. This all came together through Eva Grosman whose heart and energy give us the confidence we can make it happen here together, through the commitment, thoughtfulness and generosity of our academic partner and hosts at Ulster University, and with a first grant from Visit Belfast.
Build Peace is a passion project for Build Up and our volunteer organising team. Co-founder Helena Puig Larrauri and I collaborated on our first ‘peacetech’ commuity mapping project in Sudan in 2011, which sparked our curiosity and that of our colleagues about who else was out there using innovative methods and tools for peace. That question was the seed for our first conference at the Massachusetts Institute of Techology in 2014, which has been followed by annual events in Nicosia, Zurich and Bogotá, each attended by more than 200 people from 60 countries.
I have an awkward confession to make, which is that I don’t really like conferences.
I’m a much bigger fan of doing than talking, and what keeps me up at night is the bottom-line impact of our work as peacebuilders, researchers, technologists, community builders, and activists — whether or not that is recognised or celebrated by others.
In a strange way that makes me a great ambassador for Build Peace, because I can honestly reflect the value that we see the conference offering.
It’s a few days each year in which we co-create with our partners, presenters, and participants the world we want to live in. That world is multi-disciplinary, honest, collaborative, disruptive, and joyful.
When it comes to innovation, we are tough on ideas and gentle on people. We collectively aim to bring forward and push forward the cutting edge of creative tools and approaches for peace, sharing and building on the hard-won successes and lessons from the most targeted community initiatives to the broadest national engagements in the Global North and the Global South.
In case you’re not convinced that we see no boundaries in the need for innovative peacebuilding across the globe, I’d be happy to share about an ongoing Build Up project to depolarise social media conversations in the US, my home country that is undoubtedly a current conflict ‘hotspot.’
I’m especially excited to celebrate our 5th annual Build Peace conference in Belfast this October and, in particular, to explore concretely how innovation is and can empower communities to address key economic challenges, grounded in the Northern Ireland context.
In most if not all the places in which I’ve worked over the last two decades, equitable access to economic opportunities and power are core to individual and communities’ lived experiences of peace and, conversely, frequently appear as drivers of conflict. Advancements in technology and innovation provide new, uniquely impactful opportunities to re-shape our societies, but bring with them a host of strategic, ethical, and practical questions and challenges we need to tackle responsibly.
At Build Peace 2018, we hope to dig into this in a way that showcases the impact and lessons from projects from Northern Ireland and from our global community, while surfacing new insights and inspiration that will strengthen and sustain all of us in our long-term work towards positive peace. On behalf of the organising team, I want to express my sincere appreciation for your support and involvement — as partners, advisors, and by helping bring the right people together to make the event as rich and meaningful as possible.