Inclusive Innovation in Peacebuilding

Inclusive Innovation simply means ideas and developments in policies and technology that accommodate the majority and minority of a population. Inclusive Innovation creates development in terms of active inclusion of those who are excluded from the mainstream of development. Foster and Heeks (2013) purport that “differing in its foundational view of development, inclusive innovation refers to the inclusion of groups who are currently marginalized.”

Inclusive innovation in peacebuilding involves adopting new and creative ideas for peacebuilding solutions. Such ideas should include multi-stakeholders and local actors in intent, peace process, impact, structure and post structure. An innovation in peacebuilding is inclusive if that innovation intends to address the needs and wants of the excluded group; the excluded group is involved in the development of the innovation; it has positive impacts on the life of the excluded group and lastly if it is created within a structure that itself is inclusive.
The conventional approach of peacebuilding is seeming ineffective in containing the steady rise in violence across the world. This highlights the need for more innovative and inclusive processes, and especially adopting the processes in more efficient and measurable ways to stimulate peace and economic development in the long run.

Innovative approaches to peacebuilding

According to Galtung, “peace is an ability to handle conflict with empathy, non-violence and creativity.” Considering the current global situation of fragile states and fragmented societies, there is a growing need for innovation, creativity and interdisciplinarity when it comes to peacebuilding (Qadir, 2021). Some innovative approaches to peacebuilding include:

Digital peacebuilding
With conflict increasingly shifting to virtual spaces, peacebuilders need to expand their efforts and reach out to conflict stakeholders and peace constituencies online and mitigate the new threats these altered conflict dynamics impose on the non-digital world (e.g. by directly mediating online conflicts by seeking dialogue with online users — e.g. through Twitter spaces).
Information communication technology (ICT) provides opportunities to collect data about conflicts and reduce the gap between warning and response. For example, an early warning and early response (EWER) system, conflict mapping and analysis, and crowdsourcing tools can help generate data on conflict indicators. A typical example of an EWER system is PIND Foundation’s Partners for Peace (P4P) Peace Map. The data generated from these tools can help identify patterns associated with conflict and peace in order to better inform conflict prevention efforts, or design peacebuilding programs.


Digital technologies also innovate forms of engagement. Digital spaces provide a new platform for peacebuilding organizations and civil society to meet, network and coordinate. Mobile phones and social media also present opportunities to empower people and transform the relationships between people (e.g. network of peacebuilders — PIND Foundation’s Partners for Peace Network, Building Blocks for Peace Foundation — Nigeria Youth for Peace Initiative, etc.) who can communicate, plan peacebuilding activities and interventions and mobilize participation and support online.

Real-time photos and videos uploaded to social media can increase government responsiveness to citizen concerns. These technologies have also revolutionized people’s ability to organize and coordinate peacebuilding processes.

Notably, while digital technologies increase the inclusiveness and transparency of peace processes, they might also reinforce certain patterns of exclusion within society, as marginalized groups might have less access to digital participation processes.

Festivals and films
Festivals in the form of multicultural events for global change that celebrates the unity and diversity of global culture through periodic events such as music festivals, cultural celebrations, and carnivals are essential peacebuilding tools. It is well known that music is emotional and connects people through the emotions and feelings that bring peace in people’s hearts and minds as it overcomes all barriers. Music as a change agent has the power to bring people together to make them understand each other beyond all colors, borders, language barriers or origins.

Films are also useful. This can be from the angle of films that promote peace and films that do not promote violence. For example, Abraar (2020) asserted that violent Hollywood movies promote gun violence in the USA. There are also assertions that Nollywood movies promote the killing of people for ritualistic purposes in Nigeria due to the series of movies that have promoted the act. The data are clearly limited on whether violent movies directly cause violence, but we know with certainty that movies do impact people. There is need for films to challenge viewers to examine their values as citizens and human beings. Movie producers need to take viewers on a film journey that takes notice of the world we live in, and proactively seeks paths to personal and ecological peace that help end the cycle of violence.

Alternative livelihood options
Conflict leads to livelihood disruption. An innovative approach could be one where several peace actors come together to undertake community-level development initiatives to rebuild the productive foundation of a region plagued by conflict. A typical example cited by Cast & Burgess (2013) happened in Afghanistan, where illegal opium production was used to fund the Taliban insurgency. Several organizations introduced alternative development projects. For instance, some peacebuilders offered incentives to grow legitimate crops in “micro-agro enterprises.” Others instituted peace education and factional conflict resolution programs, strengthening social structures for peaceful transformation. These programs furthermore contributed to the growth of Afghan civil society.

Engaging in entrepreneurship issues offers the chance to improve social cohesion and promote inclusion by providing at-risk youth with a sense of identity, solidarity and opportunities. Empowerment can take the form of workshop training in skills such as photography, film, painting, sports, etc.

Inclusive approaches to peacebuilding

A peacebuilder once said, “peace cannot be sustainable if we cannot see and sit face-to-face with a sex worker, with an ex-combatant, with a radical group. Also, are the people that are deemed ‘not important’. Everybody is important in peacebuilding” (Dumasy, 2018)

Inclusion does not mean giving everyone a seat at the negotiating table. It means creating opportunities for people with a stake in lasting peace to shape it. According to the UN, it is “the extent and manner in which the views and needs of parties to the conflict and other stakeholders are represented, heard and integrated into a peace process” (Dumasy, 2018).

Conventional peacebuilding work involves working independently with decision-makers to help them understand the needs of local communities or working with local communities to better understand political elites (Interpeace, 2017).

While building this understanding is important, it is equally important to adopt an integrated approach, where actors across the different levels of society are engaged in peacemaking. Inclusive peacebuilding entails reducing the gap between decision-makers and grassroots actors. Involving everyone helps establish trust through the collective identification of issues and solutions and joint implementation of social transformation.

Strengthening the links between the different levels of society should be the foremost priority for peacebuilding. These levels include political elites and decision-makers, civil society and local government, and the local communities and individuals. The aim of this strategy can be achieved through inclusive multi-stakeholder dialogue, empowering local actors in the process of social change, reducing the gap between decision-makers and grassroots, linking findings on the ground to more policy reform and transforming public institutions.

An inclusive multi-stakeholder dialogue involves the establishment of dialogue spaces, engagement of actors and publishing the results of such dialogue through reports. We also need to enhance the constructiveness with which we address many challenging issues. It will not be enough for us to be more understanding, respectful, and tolerant of one another. We must adopt more constructive approaches to these issues and become civically active.

Women are also central to an inclusive approach. The world continues to fail women in fragile and conflict states. There is plenty of evidence proving that women’s peacebuilding and presence in peace processes makes a significant positive impact on their outcomes. Women indeed pay a disproportionately heavy price in armed conflicts worldwide every day. They are caretakers of families, and everyone is affected when they are excluded from peacebuilding. But they have also shown that we can overcome these difficult challenges with strong determination, loud voices and firm actions. Women are also advocates for peace as peacekeepers, relief workers and mediators. (ICAN, 2021).

When designing and implementing peacebuilding programs, administrators should be mindful of: false compliance — controlling and handpicking participants for the inclusive process; sabotage — blocking the access of people to an inclusive process, sensitive information about the process, or the decision-making setting; foot-dragging — delaying, neglecting, or finding various excuses for not implementing agreed-upon steps for inclusion and vocal resistance — speeches that express and justify anti-inclusion attitudes and behaviors.

Achieving a peaceful world today and in the future depends upon adopting a different approach to address the root causes and drivers of conflicts. With an increase in the incidents of conflicts and the onset of new conflict dynamics in Nigeria, Africa, and the world at large, there is a need to respond more effectively. This highlights the need for more inclusive and innovative processes. Policies and programs intended to promote peace and resolve conflicts should be designed with consideration of contemporary trends and with the ownership of those the actions will affect the most. Inclusive peacebuilding approaches include dialogues that bring together multi-stakeholders, empower local actors, reduce the gap between grassroots and decision-makers, and adopt findings on the ground for policies. Innovative approaches also involve adopting new and creative ideas for peacebuilding solutions. It combines skills, knowledge, and digital tools for peace practice. Combining inclusion and innovation for peacebuilding changes the pattern of dialogues and interventions to enable more fluid approaches that bring a greater diversity of interests and identities into the peacebuilding process. If the approaches for inclusive innovation in peacebuilding are implemented, we will see a reduction in military spending and support for nonviolent conflict transformation nationally and globally; resilience within our societies to withstand the shock of climate crises, political instability, and economic shocks.

Chukwudi Njoku and Faith Elijah