Access to technology provides people with power. This is the idea behind the peacebuilding organization PeaceGeeks. PeaceGeeks focuses on connecting peacemakers to the technology necessary to communicate their ideas to the rest of the world. By providing small, grassroots organizations with not only technology but also management and communication skills, PeaceGeeks helps make small, grassroots peacebuilding organizations have a larger impact.

PeaceGeeks was established in 2010, and since then has grown to over 700 tech-savvy volunteers. Even though it is relatively young, PeaceGeeks has already partnered with 26 non-profit organizations to share their stories. PeaceGeeks operates through two different programs—Public Engagement and Tech Capacities Projects. Tech Capacities works with the peacebuilding organizations PeaceGeeks supports to provide training, design branding, and help structure a plan for integrating technological solutions into the organization. The Tech Capacities program also works to identify and solve technological problems even after the process has been completed. On the other side, the Public Engagement program, while also sponsoring and creating events to raise awareness about peacebuilding, regularly hosts PeaceTalks. PeaceTalks allow experts in the area of peacebuilding and human rights to educate others, facilitate discussion, and help bring awareness to peacebuilding projects around the world. In addition to their programs, PeaceGeeks has developed open source software that allows the organizations they partner with to set up a website with relative ease. PeaceGeeks has also developed a web app called Service Advisor specifically for Syrian refugees to find information about services for refugees more easily.

If you are interested in learning more about PeaceGeeks, check out their website.

Source: PeaceGeeks

Photo: Peace via Steve Rotman [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]

The Harvard library is where one may find shelves of books unearthed with valuable resources that include nearly every territorial and tribal judicial decision since colonial times. It provides priceless information for everyone from legal scholars to defense lawyers trying to challenge a criminal conviction. Now, Harvard librarians are taking off the spines of all but rarities and running them through a high-speed scanner. This would allow a complete searchable database of American case law available on the Web. Retrieval of these vital records were once usually paid for. Now they will be completely free.

“Improving access to justice is a priority. We feel an obligation and an opportunity here to open up our resources to the public.” said Martha Minow, dean of Harvard Law school.

Though the primary documents can be found in the public domain, it’s not in a convenient format, if at all. Legal groups spend approximately thousands to millions of dollars a year depending on the size of the office to find cases and trace doctrinal strands. Harvard’s “Free the Law” project can offer a floor of crucial information and offer sophisticated techniques for visualizing relations among cases and searching for themes.

“Complete results will become publicly available this fall for CA and NY, and the entire library will be online in 2017,” said Daniel Lewis, chief executive and co-founder of Ravel Law, a commercial start-up in California that has teamed up with Harvard Law for this project. The cases will be available at Ravel is paying millions of dollars to support the scanning project. The cases will be accessible in a searchable format and will be presented with visual maps developed by the company. It hopes to make money by offering more advanced analytical tools still being developed, like how judges responded to different motions in the past all for a fee.

Legal aid lawyers and public criminal defenders called the Harvard project a welcome development that may save them money and make the law more accessible to struggling lawyers, students and even inmates who try to mount appeals from barren prison libraries.

Alex Gulotta, executive director of Bay Area Legal Aid in Oakland, CA, called the project “brilliant” and put it in a broader context of making government information more readily available. “Knowledge is power. People will always need lawyers, but having resources available for self-help is important.”

Article via NY Times, October 28, 2015

Photo: Law books 2 via Eric E. Johnson [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]

The Alliance for Peacebuilding, a global peacebuilding organization, boasts a membership of over 100 peacebuilding organizations and 15,000 individuals, allowing for stronger connections among peace organizations and opportunities to collaborate on projects that would be too large for any one organization to tackle alone. The organization’s main goals are to develop new peacebuilding practices, influence policymakers in Congress, the military, and other US departments, and build relationships between peacebuilders and other leaders to encourage the sharing of knowledge and new ideas.

With this in mind, the Alliance for Peacebuilding hosts events such as workshops on topics including advocacy and the power of dialogue. The organization also brings people together by supporting affinity groups focusing on topics like Education and Training or Women and Peacebuilding. Affinity groups meet at least once a year during the Alliance for Peacebuilding Conference, which is held annually. Next year’s conference will focus on the newest innovations in peacebuilding and look ahead to potential solutions that are still in development. The event also allows many individuals involved with peace and security to meet and collaborate. To learn more about the Alliance for Peacebuilding and their work, check out their website.

Sources: Selected Definitions of Peacebuilding, August 12, 2013; Alliance for Peacebuilding

Photo: Peace via Steve Rotman [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]

Inneract Project, an organization established by Yahoo designer Maurice Woods in 2004, will be holding a panel discussion next month titled “Valuing Diversity in Design and Technology” in San Francisco. The panel will include a variety of leaders in technology that focus on sharing their skills with young people in minority populations.

Woods founded Inneract Project with the intention of helping underrepresented students learn about design in technology. Based in San Francisco, the organization offers three free programs: Youth Design Academy, an eight-week course for middle-school students, Learning Labs, one-day educational events for students and parents alike, and Designed, a video series that follows designers.

Design is vital in the implementation of any technology being used by a broad consumer base, and as a result, designers today are in high demand.

“Technology needs to be considerate of empathy, of how people learn and how people use devices, and that’s design,” said Woods. “That’s what designers do. Without that, it’s hard for the consumer to be able to digest and understand that technology.”

Maurice Woods also speaks about using “cultural context”—the idea that kids learn based on their surroundings outside of school—when planning programs for students. He states that minority students are familiar with music and sports, which is why Inneract Project will soon introduce a basketball program in which kids can design jerseys and logos, thus learning design in a context they’re familiar with.

Each of Inneract Project’s programs contributes to Woods’ mission to “see kids succeed and get into design and tech fields.”

Article via TechCrunch, November 1, 2015

Photo: Minority Serving Institute Partnership Program via Sandia Labs [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]