A recent upsurge in violent extremism and the conflicts it has ignited around the world have led to a global conversation on how to tackle this far-reaching and increasingly complex issue. Governments and international bodies have rushed to formulate adequate policy frameworks and conference after conference has been convened to discuss possible solutions. However, arguably the most powerful – and ultimately the most credible – response has come from ordinary citizens. In communities world over, small-scale civil society initiatives have sprung up to counter extremism in its various manifestations. Although they have registered varying levels of success, often due to lack of sufficient resources and supportive infrastructure, many believe that they remain our best hope thus far.
In Pakistan, where extremism-related conflict has exacted a heavy toll on civilians, a unique initiative is, for the first time, applying social innovation in its efforts to counter extremism. The logic behind this is simple but potent. Why not harness the benefits of technology, community participation and cross-sector collaboration to address this problem? After all, it has long been evident that extremists adeptly manipulate tech and digital advancements to their advantage, often more effectively than governments and civil society alike.
This ‘Peace Accelerator to Counter Extremism’ is the inaugural program of the Social Innovation Lab at HIVE – a first-of-its-kind space recently opened in Pakistan’s largest city, Karachi. According to its website, HIVE [karachi] is “dedicated to training, research, resource development and social innovation to counter extremism and work towards an inclusive, peaceful society”. Startup Weekend Karachi will be doing first ever peace edition in partnership with Hive.
The Peace Accelerator will gather selected activists, entrepreneurs, techies, artists and CBO reps to participate in its 2-month program. Apart from a co-working space designed to encourage collective brainstorming and the cross-pollination of ideas, the program will provide mentorship from supporting social innovators and experts in the field, as well as access to a resource library and dedicated support facilities. In order to ensure that early-stage ideas have the best chance of success, the program is also offering seed funding of up to 2,000,000 PKR (20,000 USD).
The Peace Accelerator program will run from 15th May – 15th July 2015, and applications to enrol are currently open here.