Monthly Archives: January 2013

Mapping the Peace Process… Easier said than done!

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How do you put half a century’s worth of peace and reconciliation efforts into an excel sheet? You don’t. You sweat and stress and visualize it, and get “ridiculously enthusiastic” throughout the process. That’s how this team gets it done.  

“When Florin and I were first appointed as the ‘Mapping Consultants’ for the development of the Peace Map, we somehow knew we were about to experience something quite challenging and inspiring. Both having an academic background in social sciences and research, it was enough for us to be utterly and almost ridiculously enthusiastic once we started getting our hands on databases, conducting interviews, scanning archives, setting categories, comparing and contrasting, making sense of data and analyzing.  The truth is we are often called ‘nerds’ by our team members…

We began with collecting and archiving all the projects, organizations and initiatives that contributed to the reconciliation process since the 1980s. Unfortunately though, the sources documenting Cypriot civil society initiatives are scarce, and for that reason we were concerned about how representative our database was going to be. In order to overcome this barrier we tried to get our hands on local and international databases, reports, and articles and also interviewed several key stakeholders to counterbalance our reliance on written material. As part of the Peace it Together Knowledge and Innovation Team, we envisioned the Peace Map to be an interactive tool. Upon its launch, it will be possible for stakeholders to improve the Map. But being the perfectionists we are, it has been an anxious ride from the very beginning as we knew that it is would not possible to document everything. Luckily enough, we found comfort in our mutual anxiety.

Florin worked miracles with his impressive skills in organizing the data. For those who don’t know yet, there is a phenomenon called “Florin colours”. When we decided on our categories and variables, in minutes those variables turned into a beautiful colour scheme, making our lives so much easier. Excel can be boring, but not if you have Florin as your colleague. Upon finalizing the database, it was then time to make sense of our data. We dived into the ever so mesmerizing world of infographics to experiment a little bit. Our data was now telling a story in different sized bubbles and in appealing colours, revealing trends about the work of Cypriot civil society that we had not been able to predict.   This was just a little glimpse into the potential of the Peace Map in terms of innovation and creativity and more is sure to come.

There are some basic principles in our vision of the Peace Map. It will tell the story of the peace and reconciliation process in an easily accessible, understandable and innovative form. It will be a tool for research as well as a platform for further action. Our vision flourished and became a strategy after spending an intensely inspiring retreat day at the beautiful village of Kakopetria with the team. It was perfect timing. We are now ridiculously enthusiastic again and are discovering more and more critical moments within the timeline of the reconciliation process in Cyprus. We are also looking forward to having the IT crew on board to brainstorm even more ways of visualizing our research.

At last our hard work is starting to take shape and we can rest assured knowing that this research really will reach people. And make a difference.”

Rahme Veziroglu

Mapping Consultant for ‘Peace-It-Together’ and Knowledge Innovation Product / Team Facilitator

Global Innovations on Technology and Peace Building: Training Retreat

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The Peace it Together officers, get together in Kakopetria, to discuss the upcoming Knowledge Hub

When I was invited to take part in the workshop “global innovations on technology and peace building” that was to be facilitated by Michaela Ledesma and my friend Helena Puig Larrauri, my excitement was not just that I would get to see Helena in action again as I had enjoyed working alongside her so much at the Power of One conference in 2012, but also that I would have the opportunity to be a participant rather than a facilitator. A rare treat for me.

From the outset I knew this was destined to be an experience I would enjoy as I had a fabulous catch up with another great friend on the journey up to kakopetria village. As we arrived in the village, snow began to fall and settle, and as we took the short walk from the coach stop to the hotel, we were all lightly dusted in white promise. The raging fire in the corner welcomed us as my techno savvy fellow participants frantically pulled out i-pads, phones, laptops and every other wifi receiving device in order to catch up on what they had missed during the drive up. I thought about it, for a moment at least, and decided against it, sometimes I like a break from the shiny silent square face that can tell me what is happening around me in real time, either in pictures or words. When I checked into my room I had to smile as I saw it as a reflection of the challenge we had set ourselves for the next day. My room had a wonderful dated four poster bed, a classic (in working order) 1950’s radio, complete with analogue dial, yellowish flickering light when turned on, and authentic crackling in the background. The amazingly warm modern under floor heating kept the snow chill at bay as I watched the news on the wall mounted TFT. The traditional bed and radio happily fitting in with the modern tv and heating.

And this is how I saw the workshop that was offered to us. We were given the opportunity to see ourselves, our products and our histories easily combined with the world of crowd sourcing, gapfinders, quizlets, insightshares and city changers to name just some of the floated ideas. The facilitators smiled and cheered us on as we changed location three times till we finally settled in a corner of the hotel restaurant that had intermittent wired access to the internet for one laptop only, so that the totally high tech and internet based workshop could be delivered in the traditional surroundings of quaint dated restaurant, complete with checked tablecloths and Cypriot straw seated chairs. Intriguingly, even as we were offered such a volume of information the absorption was made palatable by the sound-bite size snippets Helena and Michaela offered. There was always just enough information there to get the interest going so you could make the connection between the presented idea and the project in your mind.

As the afternoon sun melted the snow, we worked on the links between the components of the hub, the content of the hub, the potential user base, the interest, the maintenance, the look, the potential challenges and the dreams we could include. Having generated so much data I left satisfied that progress was made. However, I wondered on the journey home how and who would work on the mountain of ideas and information we had collectively pulled together. Some ideas made the hub more tangible in my mind, as I could start to see not only its use as repository but also as a live hub of activity, while some ideas were technically beyond me. In the end I knew, with Mehmet and Ellada in the mix, the hub will continue to be viable and grow.

Sylvie Mantis – Knowledge Innovation Product / Team Facilitator


Watch this space for an upcoming briefing on what the new Knowledge Hub is going to be all about!

Our Grantees Present their Ideas

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From documentaries, to gaming to mapping, peace-building very obviously has no limits.

Introducing yourself to a social or professional group is challenging enough and our grantees had to go a step further this week and introduce their winning proposals amongst themselves. As an outsider looking in however, you wouldn’t be able to tell that participants were anxious and perhaps a little shy during their presentations because all ideas sold themselves. When an idea is innovative enough to spark creative dialogue, new ideas are born and solutions to challenges emerge easily and naturally. The brainstorming session amongst the winners of the Knowledge Innovation Fund had this exact characteristic. Short summaries of the winning projects, based on our grantees personalized presentations, follow:

Longfish Productions will be finalizing a docudrama by the end of the year that deals with romantic relationships across the border, regardless of gender or sexual orientation. This promising idea will be promoted through an online product that will be released in March – which will entice viewers with trailer interviews, comments and feedback from the developers, participants and the general public. Stavros Makris pointed out that one of the biggest challenges the team is facing with this idea is that while quite a large number of relationships have been developed between the two communities in Cyprus, anonymity is being asked for before testimonials are collected. The team have come up with a couple of out-of-the-box ways to tackle this issue which include innovative angle-shots, enacting testimonials and using voice-over talent. The film will be called “The Thin Green Line”. Keep an eye out for these guys…

ARCHIS will be mapping the village of Rizokarpaso. The map will be interactive and digitalized and the team’s main challenge while developing their proposal is how to transform this very localized idea into an international case study. It was suggested that the team develop a communication outreach strategy once the project is in its final stages in order to introduce their idea to other regions (especially those in conflict) that might find this tool useful. An interesting little detail that was added to the presentation was an informal quote by one of the members of the ARCHIS team. Upon explaining that the final version of the digitalized map would be trilingual (English, Greek and Turkish) she stated with a laugh: “it’s funny, in the village people actually know each other’s languages, so they don’t have complicated communications problems like translating info into three different languages just to get their messages across.” Food for thought indeed…

Peace Players is developing a series of 5 short animations that follow the story of a young girl and her coach. The general idea is to explain how sports can be used in order to overcome conflict and build trusting relationships. The animations are based on the five chapters of the ‘Anatomy of Peace’ tool that had been previously developed by Peace Players. Some interesting elements that were discussed during the presentation was the difficulty of choosing the main character’s name, which needed to remain as neutral as possible and not refer to a particular religion or community, while also personalizing the character as much as possible in order to represent the viewer. The team overcame this obstacle by creating an online poll and disseminating it through facebook, so that partners and affiliates can actually become part of the creative process, thus “building momentum throughout the development process” as one member of the team pointed out. The idea of linking the final product with an educational ‘quiz-like’ tool was also discussed. The team shared their thoughts on the impact of animation and how it’s actual design also needed to be strategized. A neutral observer would immediately see that the team have already visualized their end product and were very enthusiastic about each phase of development. And as we all know, when it comes to innovation, enthusiasm is 9/10ths of the law..!

Language Bridge presented their proposal for an educational tool for learners of Greek or Turkish. They are working on the improvement of language skills through the use of common words. The two languages share a myriad of words and linguistic elements which could be used to promote peace-building for both communities. As one member of the team quotes “we’ve come to realize that the more people realize they have in common with the ‘other’ community, the more people are interested in really learning about the ‘other’ community”.  Applauding the idea with promise, the rest of the grantees and facilitators wanted to know if they could submit words of their own. The Language Bridge team, enjoyed the engaging discussion that followed, welcoming the idea of new submissions, but emphasized the need to monitor any incoming information. Who needs cement and steel, when bridges can be built with words…

AHDR proposed the development of a geographical online game that would map Nicosia and develop into stages of competence based on the users knowledge of the city. The game is targeted at children from 8 to 14 years old and was described as an interactive educational tool that would offer both communities an opportunity to get to know the ‘other side’, of the last remaining divided capital in Europe. The team went on to explain the nature of the game which included online puzzle completion, drag and drop features of landmarks and the identification of major parts of Nicosia through historical photographs. Geography and history made fun? Who knew?

The Management Centre and the NGO Support Centre have worked together on numerous successful projects over the years and have joined forces once again for the development of a winning proposal for the Knowledge and Innovation Fund. The proposed project includes the development of an interactive and engaging webinar platform that will help peace-builders around the globe access the information and knowledge the two centres have gained as Civil Society representatives in a country in conflict. The team proposed the finalization of seven generalized challenges that many peace-builders around the world often face and answer questions based on these challenges. The team was interested as to how the two Centres were planning to make the webinars as compelling as possible as far as the online format was concerned and the representative of the two Centres was eager to hear as many suggestions as possible. The two centres are very active online, as are many of the grantees, so please make sure you follow-up with their progress, give them your feedback and encourage them as much as possible!

The Mediation Association proposed documenting the history of mediation and training on an online platform. This would include personal experiences and testimonials as well as partial gems of knowledge that would be useful for mediators around the world, especially when one considers the unique nature of peace-related mediation and training in Cyprus. The goal is to create a map in tagged with 2-3 minute videos that aim to open up new active dialogues amongst mediators in Cyprus and abroad. It was emphasized that the documentation of the Civil Society’s work over the course of the years would serve as interesting and useful research but is also quite culturally significant. Good luck guys!

Watch this space for more updates soon!

Kristy Eliades
Communications Officer
Peace it Together

Knowledge and Innovation Fund Projects Under way: Getting to know the New Face of the Peace Process

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Cyprus civil society has truly stepped up!

The Knowledge and Innovation Fund of the Peace it Together network was developed to offer new perspective and approaches to peacebuilding. By its very nature it encouraged people who are active in peacebuilding either voluntarily or professionally to think entirely outside the box and develop new and innovative ideas to promote peace and reconciliation, to enhance dialogue and to build bridges. The creativity showcased in the ideas that have poured in were a pleasant and welcome surprise to us also! We wanted to invite you to take a look at what is in store by Spring 2013.

The Fund accepted 29 proposals in its first phase, with a total of nine proposals making it to the second phase. Between seven to nine knowledge products will be finally implemented. Among them are these incredible ideas:

An Online Game on the city of Nicosia, implemented by the Association for Historical Dialogue and Research. The game features a unified Nicosia. Children and adults will be able to play it and learn about the rich history and culture of the city.

An online Video Toolkit based on the manual “The Anatomy of Peace”, implemented by the Peace Players International (Cyprus) and the Cyprus Community Media Center.

An interactive and digital, social & cultural map of Dip Karpaz/Rizokarpaso village, based on architectural and anthropological data, implemented by Archis Interventions (Cyprus).

An interactive documentary entitled “The Thin Green Line”, exploring romantic and sexual relationships across the Green Line, and looking into the personal aspect of transformation, implemented by Longfish Company.

An interactive video Webinar on the collaboration model of NGOs in post-conflict societies that come from different sides of divides, implemented by the NGO-SC and the Management Center of the Mediterranean.

An interactive crowdsourcing map that curates videos produced by mediators and trainers around the world, implemented by the Mediation Association and the Bicommunal Trainers Group.

We would like to invite you to follow the progress and development of the chosen knowledge products on the program website (www.peace-it-together.net), our Facebook page and Twitter (@KI4PiT).

And please TELL US WHAT YOU THINK! How do you feel about these innovative approaches to peacebuilding? Join the conversation at #innovationcy !