Empowering Local Peacebuilders: A Transformative Co-Creation Journey with Peace Direct

Peace Direct
International Non-Governmental Organization
May 2023

Peace Direct is an INGO dedicated to supporting local people to stop war and build lasting peace in some of the world's most fragile countries. They have been working since 2003 to support grassroots peacebuilders in over 25 countries around the world. Peace Direct's work is focused on three key areas:

  • Advocacy: Peace Direct speaks with high-level representatives from governments, international organizations, and policy-making bodies to amplify the voices of local peacebuilders on the international stage.
  • Research: Peace Direct produces ‘Peace Insight’, a leading online resource for local peacebuilding in conflict zones worldwide. This research maps and profiles over 1,500 local peacebuilding organizations working on the frontlines of war.
  • Projects: Peace Direct supports various organizations to carry out practical work to stop war and build peace. This work includes training young people to turn away from violent extremism, creating jobs to rebuild livelihoods, and supporting women's peacebuilding initiatives.

The Challenge:

The current global peace-building system is largely a ‘top-down’ system that centers viewpoints and approaches from the Global North and developed countries. This approach pushes local actors and peacebuilders into a ‘support role’, ignoring the skills, expertise, and insights that they bring to the process.

The Approach: 

In an effort to address this challenge and empower local peacebuilders, Peace Direct has embarked on an 18-month program that would bring together a group of local peacebuilders from around the world to identify and co-design strategies to drive forward the changes they want to see in the global peacebuilding system. 

In order to achieve this, Peace Direct partnered with InsightPact to design and facilitate the initial sessions that would see the local peacebuilders get together and connect for the first time, develop a shared understanding of their individual experiences, and support the development of a co-created campaign that pushed forward the ideas of the local peacebuilders.

The Solution:

In order to achieve this, InsightPact designed and facilitated 12 interactive sessions that helped the Global Team to:

  • Get to know each other and discover ways to communicate and collaborate as a team.
  • Develop meaningful relationships and prepare the group for multiple months of continued collaboration
  • Develop and implement principles of collaboration that would guide how the team communicates cross-culturally, solves problems, resolve disagreements, and addresses conflict within the team
  • Develop a comprehensive understanding of each person’s peacebuilding career, and how their experiences influence their approach to collaboration with fellow collaborators.

InsightPact also created, facilitated, and implemented processes that allowed team members to identify their individual pain and stuck points from their peacebuilding journeys as well as methods for empowering the global team to successfully facilitate conversations with stakeholder groups about the blockers and enablers in the peacebuilding system. This involved:

  • Translating global peacebuilding data into key insights
  • Facilitating the identification of various stakeholders and developing strategies to engage with these stakeholders
  • Introducing various tools from co-creation and design thinking methodologies in order to empower the team to continue conversations 

Throughout the engagement, InsightPact and Peace Direct held weekly planning and alignment meetings that allowed the two organizations to:

  • Prioritize asynchronous participation as the primary mode of engagement.
  • Ensuring digital access by making the process mobile phone compatible.
  • Employing a variety of engagement methods such as surveys, face-to-face interactions, written communication, video calls, and WhatsApp communication.
  • Using simple and direct language to facilitate comprehension.
  • Introducing concepts while allowing co-creators to define them in their own language.
  • Ensuring a well-functioning network by empowering co-creators to take the lead.

As the sessions were delivered, this regular planning and alignment meeting allowed InsightPact to make changes to the various sessions that improved the engagement and general sentiment of the global team participants. These changes and tweaks also ensured better program results. 

Throughout the program, it became clear that due to the sensitive nature of the stories being shared, as well as the varied engagement and participation mechanisms needed, having a facilitator who understands what it means to be vulnerable as well as finding ways to embrace and encourage that vulnerability through flexibility, empathy, and the use of technology to empower participants rather than be a hindrance, will always be of vital importance.

The Results:

It was rewarding to see how the program successfully engaged co-creators in collaborative sessions, resulting in the development of relationship guidelines, stakeholder engagement plans, and prioritized insights for potential campaign message ideas to amplify the voices of local peacebuilders around the world. It demonstrated the importance of considering the co-creators’ needs and preferences and making timely adjustments to ensure an effective and inclusive co-creation process.

"We worked with InsightPact to plan and facilitate a three-month-long virtual co-creation process with 10 participants from all over the world. InsightPact understood exactly what we needed to achieve. They delivered a seamless and fun process that turned a group of strangers into a solid team of collaborators." - Amal Atrakouti, Campaign Coordinator, Peace Direct