On May 23, 2012, the Roundtable on Technology, Science, and Peacebuilding convened a workshop at the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) to investigate data sharing as a means of improving coordination among US government and nongovernment stakeholders involved in peacebuilding and conflict management activities. The following question was the focus of the workshop.
What needs must a data-sharing system address to create more effective coordination in conflict zones and to promote the participation of federal agencies and nonfederal organizations in peacebuilding?
In addition, the workshop served as a means to obtain feedback on the UNITY system, a data-sharing platform developed by the Department of Defense (DOD) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
The Roundtable was established in 2011 as a partnership between USIP and the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) to make a measurable and positive impact on conflict management, peacebuilding, and security capabilities by bringing together leaders from the technical and peacebuilding communities. Its members are senior executives and experts from leading
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1 Introduction, Overview, and Themes of the Workshop O n May 23, 2012, the Roundtable on Technology, Science, and Peace- building convened a workshop at the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) to investigate data sharing as a means of improving coordi- nation among US government and nongovernment stakeholders involved in peacebuilding and conflict management activities. The following question was the focus of the workshop. What needs must a data-sharing system address to create more effective coordination in conflict zones and to promote the par- ticipation of federal agencies and nonfederal organizations in peacebuilding? In addition, the workshop served as a means to obtain feedback on the UNITY system, a data-sharing platform developed by the Department of Defense (DOD) and the United States Agency for International Develop- ment (USAID). The Roundtable was established in 2011 as a partnership between USIP and the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) to make a measurable and positive impact on conflict management, peacebuilding, and security capa- bilities by bringing together leaders from the technical and peacebuilding communities. Its members are senior executives and experts from leading 1
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2 DATA SHARING TO IMPROVE COORDINATION IN PEACEBUILDING governmental organizations, universities, corporations, and nongovernmen- tal organizations. Its principal goals are: 1. To accelerate the application of science and technology to the pro- cess of peacebuilding and stabilization; 2. To promote systematic, high-level communication between peace- building and technical organizations on the problems faced and the technical capabilities required for successful peacebuilding; and 3. To collaborate in applying new science and technology to the most pressing challenges faced by local and international peacebuilders working in conflict zones. The Roundtable is strongly committed to action-oriented projects, and the long-term goal of each is to demonstrate viability with a successful field trial. The Roundtable has selected a portfolio of high-impact peacebuilding prob- lems on which to focus its efforts: 1. Adapting agricultural extension services to peacebuilding, 2. Using data sharing to improve coordination in peacebuilding, 3. Sensing emerging conflicts, and 4. Harnessing systems methods for delivery of peacebuilding services. Four steering committees comprised of Roundtable members and other experts developed action plans for each activity area that included workshops intended to assemble experts from across the peacebuilding and technical communities. The workshop held on May 23, 2012, was the second in a series that will address these four topics. The workshop engaged two types of participant. From the world of conflict management, it included policymakers, planners, and people work- ing in conflict environments. On the technical side, participants included engineers, IT specialists, and analysts (such as econometricians) responsible for the design, use, and maintenance of information technology systems in development and conflict environments. Because the focus of the meeting was on data sharing to improve coordination among federal government and nongovernment stakeholders, the participants came largely from US-based government, NGO, corporate, and academic organizations. This summary should be of interest to a similar audience. The intent of this summary is to provide an overview of the topics and themes discussed during the workshop. Following further consultation with
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INTRODUCTION, OVERVIEW, AND THEMES OF THE WORKSHOP 3 potential government and nongovernment users of such technologies, USIP will publish a Special Report building on insights from the workshop and identifying the particular capabilities required in a next-generation data- sharing platform to improve coordination in peacebuilding. HARNESSING INFORMATION FOR A SHARED VISION According to Melanie Greenberg, president and CEO of the Alliance for Peacebuilding and cochair of the workshop, norms around the creation and use of information sharing1 are changing rapidly. Significantly more data are being generated and communicated, and these data can be analyzed much more quickly and the results disseminated much more broadly than in the past. For example, data generated in the course of our daily lives, such as information shared on social media sites, can be gathered and parsed to shed light on broad societal developments. Greenberg observed that these new technological capabilities to produce, analyze, and disseminate data are generating moral, ethical, and cultural challenges for producers and users alike. (Chapter 2 presents an analysis of these challenges.) Additional challenges arise because different organizations have differ- ent ways of gathering, analyzing, disseminating, and storing data, said the workshop's other cochair, Elmer Roman, who is oversight executive in the Office of the Secretary of Defense. Even if organizations want to cooperate, cultural differences may erect barriers to doing so. As an example of an organization that has been working to overcome these barriers, Greenberg cited the Alliance for Peacebuilding, which she heads. The Alliance is a platform for 80 organizations working on a very broad range of peacebuilding issues. To build a sustainable peace, these organizations need to cooperate by sharing information, whether they are involved in peacebuilding, defense, food security, health, science, develop- ment, democracy building, civil society building, or some other activity. In fragile and chaotic conflict environments, success requires an "inclusive vision" of what peacebuilding needs to accomplish. Both Roman and Greenberg emphasized that information sharing can be formal or informal, within an organization or among organizations, and within a sector or across sectors. A common element of successful data shar- ing is a collective vision among the entities involved and some established common objectives so that they can function as a network of distinct but 1 The Roundtable uses information sharing and data sharing interchangeably.
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4 DATA SHARING TO IMPROVE COORDINATION IN PEACEBUILDING interconnected agents. "We need to understand where everybody is headed and what's being done," said Greenberg. ORGANIZATION AND THEMES OF THE WORKSHOP The workshop was divided into four sessions, with speaker presentations followed by an extended discussion period. In the first session, three speak- ers identified key challenges in data sharing (Chapter 2). The second session (Chapter 3) featured two speakers who explored ways to overcome these challenges. In the third session, three speakers described specific examples of data-sharing systems (Chapter 4). The final session (Chapter 5) provided an in-depth examination of the UNITY system developed by the Department of Defense (DOD) and the US Agency for International Development (USAID) Four preliminary themes emerged from the workshop discussions. While these themes will need to be explored more fully before we can draw firm conclusions, they present a reasonable overview of the key issues sur- faced by meeting participants. 1. Data sharing requires working across a technology-culture divide. Coordination among organizations requires ongoing maintenance of relationships, and these relationships depend on sociocultural factors, not technological factors. Technology can provide a means of facilitating relationships, but cannot by itself create them. Rather, organizations that often have different missions, goals, and per- spectives may benefit by finding common ground where shared approaches and objectives are possible. 2. Information sharing requires building and maintaining trust. This trust is built on both technical and social components. "Can I trust the people with whom I am working?" "Will they protect my interests if I provide them with information?" "Can I trust the information I receive to make important decisions?" The basis for trust differs from a technical and a social perspective. In the techni- cal world, the basis for trust is method. In peacebuilding, the basis for trust is communication. Widespread adoption of technologies to support a process as risky as data sharing may require careful negotiation and discussion to create sufficient trust. 3. Information sharing requires linking civilian-military policy discussions to technology.
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INTRODUCTION, OVERVIEW, AND THEMES OF THE WORKSHOP 5 Among nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), trust is built and maintained through continuous engagement, not simply through the provision of functionality. Adoption of collaborative informa- tion-sharing technology has to occur through ongoing interaction between the providers of technology and its users, who in this case are peacebuilders. Thus, the activities of civilian-military working groups that have supported interactions between government and civil society in the past may need to be broadened to encompass technology. 4. Collaboration software needs to be aligned with user needs. Finally, software that does not address the needs of peacebuilders is unlikely to be retained over the long term. Continued dialogue between users and technology providers is essential to gauge needs and adjust functionality as needs evolve. Participants also discussed barriers to coordination: competition for resources, meeting overload, and the lack of a single leader to drive the pro- cess forward. But workshop participants agreed that coordination is integral to peacebuilding efforts, as it provides an environment for solving immediate problems rather than in high-level strategic planning. Evaluation of interme- diate measures such as the specific outcomes of coordination can keep the emphasis on problem solving. Formal guidelines are typically necessary to create an environment in which organizations with different missions can share data. In particular, humanitarian organizations often cannot risk being seen as collaborating with the military in high-risk areas or conflict zones if they are to avoid becoming targets in conflicts. A common interest in sharing data is only the first step. Ongoing civilian-military dialogue is essential for groups to build trust and provide channels to address operational problems. For example, negotiations may be needed to develop policies for when to allow open com- munication between partners or when to permit sharing of other organiza- tions' information outside the stakeholder group. Actual experiences with methods of data sharing for peacebuilding can make both the challenges and ways to overcome them more concrete. For example, an especially useful way to summarize data is through the use of maps, particularly those that overlay different kinds of data on a geographi- cal grid. In addition, analyses of data from large-scale surveys in countries affected by mass violence can bridge the gap between peacebuilding as intended by policymakers and its implementation and perceptions on the ground.
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6 DATA SHARING TO IMPROVE COORDINATION IN PEACEBUILDING Institutionalizing and formalizing relationships among organizations can provide a framework for cooperation. And the cooperation itself, includ- ing data sharing, is a means to the end of building partnerships and trust and needs to be continually refreshed and renewed.