#PeacehackDC generates new tech tools to counter violent extremism (Fall 2015)

By Jillian Slutzker, Creative

For 36 hours, 20 peacebuilding experts and technologists huddled around laptops in a rush to hammer out new games, applications and tech tools to counter violent extremism as part of #PeacehackDC.

Hosted by Creative Associates International in partnership with International Alert, #PeacehackDC joined concurrent hackathons in Barcelona, Beirut and London in a global effort to develop tech solutions to promote peace and mitigate violent conflict.

“I think one of the biggest opportunities for technology and countering violent extremism is the fact that technology, mass media and other tools are already widely used by people who are extremists,” says Ayan Kishore, Senior Associate in Technology for Development at Creative.

Taking a technological idea from design to fruition in 36 hours is no easy task, but the chance to make something tangible is not to be missed, according to #PeacehackDC participant Derek Caelin, a specialist at The PeaceTech Lab.

“So often in the peacebuilding community we are confronted with difficult problems where we have to think, we have to write, we have to communicate. And all these are absolutely necessary,” says Caelin. “But the fun thing also is creating something… to share with your community, start a conversation and initiate a learning process, not just for you but for others.”

In four groups’ hackathon participants developed four unique interventions:

  • Global Peace Hub, a platform to connect peacebuilders worldwide;
  • Ask Me Anything, a tool using artificial intelligence to understand why youth in the West are motivated to join violent extremist groups;
  • Disrupt, a game that generates positive, pro-peace social media messages to counter violent extremist messaging; and
  • Vallation, an early warning system to track hate speech toward particular groups and trigger a response system.

Judges assessed the four projects on nine criteria, ranging from innovation to market viability to the team’s expertise and teamwork.

Winning 300 hours of consulting services from Development Solutions Organization was Disrupt, the game to create and amplify positive messages of local peacebuilders.

The team behind Vallation was awarded $500, tickets to the 2016 Build Peace- Peace through Technology conference in Zurich, and the opportunity to pilot the tool with a future Creative-implemented project. #PeacehackDC took place on Sept. 25 and 26.