Technology, Engaged Citizens and early Warning-Response Systems

The ACTION Support Centre is conducting one of four research projects that were selected in the first call for proposals by the Making All Voices Count initiative (MAVC), making it one of 29 projects selected from over 540 proposals. The research project, “From Early Warning to Response in Preventing Violence: Transforming Conflict Through Citizen Engagement”, draws on the broad contextual knowledge of three ASC partners: the Zanzibar Interfaith CentrePeople’s Voice for Peace (Gulu, Uganda), and Local Peace Committees in Gauteng. In addition, the Centre for Peace and Reconciliation Studies (CPRS) is joining in as the research partner on the project.

In line with ASC’s overarching vision and mission, and reflecting research on the intersections of technology and development, our research will be grounded in human relationships and interpersonal engagement. Through a conflict transformation process, we will learn from our partners about opportunities and challenges for technological and communications innovations in warning-response systems. Our research aim is to provide helpful analysis and guidance to improve warning-response communications between engaged citizens on the ground and those with the potential to respond to citizen concerns, such as government, other policy makers and civil society.

Since May, we have been coordinating with our partners to build energy behind the project, to establish and refine our collective inquiry, and to coordinate visits. Starting in September, ACTION facilitators will begin work with the Zanzibar Interfaith Centre through a weeklong engagement. Community leaders, youth, religious leaders, and many others will shape our interaction, deepening our understanding by sharing their experiences. Their reflections will guide the project, as we learn what research questions are important to them and as we collaboratively develop strategies for inquiry and change.

Similar visits will occur as we begin work with People’s Voice for Peace and the Local Peace Committees in Gauteng. At present, ASC and CPRS are reviewing relevant literature, establishing a preliminary research approach, and strategizing to bring our eventual findings to policy makers, academics, and funders. The first audience of our research, however, will be our local partners, and it is their voices we hope to reflect and amplify. To that end, we are in conversation with our three partners about what sort of research outputs will be most useful to support and advance their work. With the Zanzibar Interfaith Centre, for example, we will research the existing communications infrastructure in order to strategize and support the music video-based campaigns of their youth drama club.