OpenIDEO is an open innovation platform. Join our global community to solve big challenges for social good. Sign Up / Login or Learn more

Global Peacebuilding Engineers Program

Help tomorrow’s engineers tackle the world’s biggest challenges by infusing the engineering field with global peacebuilding skills.

Photo of Althea Middleton-Detzner
4 4

Written by

Executive Summary:

PeaceTech Lab has partnered with Drexel University to create the first ever Masters of Science program in Peace Engineering. PeaceTech Lab’s Peacebuilding Engineers Program (PEP) is a series of tailored courses that merge the peacebuilding and engineering fields to provide students the skills necessary to tackle peacebuilding challenges in complex, rapidly changing environments. 

PEP was founded on the idea that engineers from all disciplines have valuable know-how and skills that can help rethink and scale existing peacebuilding programming. Simultaneously, the peacebuilding community has expertise in international relations, cross-cultural communications, conflict analysis, conflict resolution, and related peacebuilding skills, that can bring the engineering student of today into the increasingly interconnected and interdependent global workforce. 

We seek to bridge the peacebuilding and engineering fields by partnering with academic institutions such as Drexel University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to create:

  1. Content that builds skills, knowledge, and attitudes in the nascent and growing field of PeaceTech, Peace Engineering, and Peace Entrepreneurship
  2. Creative, engaging online education and training tools, case studies, and scenarios that provide opportunities for university students and peacebuilding practitioners to practice new skills to real-world challenges in a “risk-free” learning environment
  3. Avenues and opportunities for students and faculty to apply their Peace Engineering skills by working with local partners to co-create innovative solutions to real-world challenges in their communities 

PEP is tackling issues of the environment and climate change, which can be drivers of conflict, by educating a new generation of engineers and peacebuilders who, together, will engineer the future of sustainable peace. PEP already has two existing foundations courses: Introduction to Peacebuilding for Engineers and Conflict Management for Engineers. This curriculum currently serves our existing university students, but will also serve those in the peacebuilding community who seek to better understand and utilize engineering skills such as design thinking, as a mechanism for producing innovative community initiatives. 

To extend the peace engineering field the PeaceTech Lab wants to expand its already existing curriculum to include more courses, and the creation of peacetech case studies and educational games/scenarios that require learners to apply new peace engineering skills to scenarios involving complex, real-world challenges in conflict and post-conflict environments.These courses would cover topics such as: 

  • Essential Skills for Peacebuilding Practitioners
  • Technologies for Peacebuilding
  • Engineering and Environment: Systems Analysis for Peacebuilding 
  • Data Collection in Complex and Conflict Environments
  • Data Analysis and Visualization for Peace Engineering Programs
  • Design Thinking for Peace Engineering
  • Peace Entrepreneurship
  • Sustainable Communities, Sustainable Peace: The Role of Peace Engineering in Community Development 
  • Games for Peacebuilding

Curriculum will emphasize how to apply peacetech to address conflict drivers and  environmental sustainability. Why? Because the engineer of the future must have peacebuilding skills that enable them to apply their technical expertise to these global challenges. Peace engineering provides the necessary bridge to tackle environmental issues that drive conflict, such as drought and resource scarcity.  Our extended coursework will bolster the tool-kit of engineering students and local peacebuilders, allowing them to collaborate on developing appropriate technical solutions for each local need, within each local context. 


  • Convene academics and practitioners from the peacebuilding and engineering fields to create core Peace Engineering Program (PEP) content and courseware for university students and peacebuilders working in the field.

Through our network of engineers, academics, activists, conflict experts, social scientists and data scientists the PeaceTech Lab will facilitate meetings to hone in on course topic structures, goals, and bridging classroom expertise with that of field practitioners to develop an innovative structure to reach course goals.

  • Develop engaging and interactive online courses, challenging PeaceTech case studies (that ask learners to apply ideas from courses to real-life scenarios), and new  educational games.

Once course structures and goals are formulated the next step is to produce this content into actual coursework using both online/offline platforms. The curriculum will consist of leading-edge educational tools like interactive, problem-solving case studies and educational gaming scenarios. 

  • Incorporate courses into existing MS in Peace Engineering program at Drexel University and  possibly similar programs at other universities. Courses may also find a home in the Lab’s groundTruth Data Hub to expand their reach (to peacebuilding practitioners and members of civil society living and working in conflict and post conflict environments) and create opportunities for university students and peacebuilding practitioners in the field to both learn from one another and collaborate on innovative solutions to peacebuilding challenges in the field. 

The final step of this project will be incorporating the new coursework into the Masters of Science in Peace Engineering program at Drexel University, and then into our groundTruth Data Hub. The groundTruth Data Hub is a data platform that collects and synchronizes both local and big data to a federated data hub which then becomes a comprehensive resource for obtaining data relevant to peacebuilding applications. The Data Hub is a PeaceTech Lab project which intends to enable data sharing, not just in the form of excel sheets and word documents, but also media content in the form of videos, reports, and in this particular case, training materials. 

Since the Data Hub already exists this project objective will not need to create the platform itself, but instead, utilize our existing data tool-kits to allow the coursework created to become immediately available to our peacebuilding network worldwide.

Bridging Peace and Planet

The Global Peacebuilding Engineers Program brings together valuable components of the peacebuilding field with that of the engineering field, providing an avenue through which students and peacebuilders can work together to create innovative solutions to challenges related to the intersection of peace and the planet, through effective and sustainable peace engineering projects and programs. Education is the first step in empowering local peacebuilders to apply engineering principles, data science, technology, design thinking, and entrepreneurship to the important work they are already doing. Education is also the first step in creating a pool of engineers capable of working in the peacetech, peace engineering and broader peacebuilding field.

It is our intention to craft both relevant and reliable courses for the Peace Engineering Program (PEP), the likes of which will give young engineers and trained peacebuilders & technologists a nuanced arsenal of peace engineering skills. 

There is much work currently being done to study and research the effects of environmental degradation and climate change in direct relation to driving conflict and ensuing humanitarian crises. However there is little being done to solving some of the already existing problems and vulnerabilities due to these global problems. 

As mentioned above, the PeaceTech Lab will have a strict focus on engineering environmentally sustainable projects and programs through these courses.The goal of these courses and the Peace Engineering Program is to not only to educate and empower learners, but, more importantly, to create, implement, and sustain local community projects globally. Once given the context skills and technical training, the Peace Engineering Program will allow peace engineers to work with local peacebuilders to understand the local context and create programs and projects that function to build peace and protect the environment. 

Explain your idea

The Problem Engineers need global and peacebuilding skills in order to become more effective components of the peacebuilding community. The 2004 National Academy of Engineering conference focused on the “The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century”, where the future of engineering was laid out: “In the new century, the parties that engineering ties together will increasingly involve interdisciplinary teams, globally diverse team members, public officials, and a global customer base. [Engineers] must also be willing to acknowledge the significance and importance of public service and its place in society, stretching their traditional comfort zone and accepting the challenge of bridging public policy and technology well beyond the roles accepted in the past.” Although this language is thirteen years old, it still has not been visualized in practice. This is why the Peace Engineering Program (PEP) is working to engage and increase the roles of peacebuilders and engineers. The Solution To bridge the siloed fields of engineering and peacebuilders, and increase the scale of impact, our idea is to expand upon the already existing framework and peace engineering curriculum which we have created. The focus of our new curriculum will emphasize the applicability of peacetech solutions to social, economic, and environmental problems and community-drive, sustainable solutions. These courses will allow the student to investigate and work with connected communities to develop and leverage his/her engineering, technology, and peacebuilding skill-set to enhance community resilience and function. The skills and tools to come from these courses will shape both young peace engineering students and those in the peacebuilding field to become local impact leaders and developers.

Who Benefits?

The beneficiaries of this project engineering students, professional engineers, technologists, peacebuilding practitioners. Anyone who has demonstrated knowledge in either engineering or peacebuilding is actively sought after to take our coursework. The classes, although technical, provide valuable knowledge to the layperson. Ideas and skills in conflict and systems analysis, conflict resolution, negotiation, data analysis and visualization, are translatable to all of these various actors. Moreover, the main intended recipient of these skill-sets are the local populations whose local livelihoods, and subsequently their prosperity, will inevitably benefit due to more optimized and locally managed peace engineering projects. Our mission is to empower technologists, civil society, and the peacebuilding community to do more effective, faster, and scalable local peacebuilding work. With this in mind, the outcome of this project will be to scale peace engineering to a global audience.

How is your idea unique?

The PeaceTech Lab, in partnership with Drexel University, was the first to create an MS in Peace Engineering. We are leading the field in bridging peacebuilding and engineering in theory and in practice through our multi-disciplinary, cross-sector partnerships. PEP was also envisioned over several years in association with critical stakeholders and leaders of these two fields (including members of the National Academy of Engineers). We have also led the field in creating two unique and tailored courses from the United States Institute of Peace’s Global Campus for an engineering student audience. Thus, PEP utilizes interactive learning platforms to provide bridges between university students and peacebuilders in the field. Interactive multimedia educational videos, peacetech case studies, and educational games/scenarios provide learners a creative and collaborative learning and problem-solving environment that fosters a formative understanding of peace engineering skill-sets.

Idea Proposal Stage

  • Prototyping: I have done some small tests or experiments with prospective users to continue developing my idea.
  • Piloting: I have started to implement my solution as a whole with a first set of real users.

Tell us more about you

PeaceTech Lab works for individuals and communities affected by conflict, using technology, media, and data to accelerate local peacebuilding efforts. An independent non-profit organization, PeaceTech Lab’s mission is to save lives through earlier warnings and smarter responses to violence. The Lab advances this mission by bringing together engineers and activists, MBAs and conflict experts, social scientists and data scientists to develop new solutions to counter the drivers of violent conflict, and inspire an industry of peacetech entrepreneurs. We start by challenging the perception of conflict zones as voids, recognizing that today’s reality is more than just violence: it’s innovation hubs and hackerspaces. It’s cell phones charging and airtime selling. It’s social media revealing vast amounts of human sentiment-- the DNA of conflict-- and it’s right at our fingertips. That’s why PeaceTech Lab brings together engineers and activists, MBAs and conflict experts, citizen journalists and data scientists to design, develop, and adapt new solutions to counter age-old drivers of conflict. The success of this approach is visible from Afghanistan to South Sudan, where the Lab’s programs emphasize cross-sector collaboration, data informed decision-making, and the use of low-cost, accessible media and technology to promote stability, good governance, and well-being.

Expertise in sector

  • 7+ years

Organization Filing Status

  • Yes, we are a registered non-profit.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Alvar Bramble

Hi, Althea. I am thinking of aligning the Global SoS Network I preside with an university program. Now that I know about Drexel University, I will look into it. I agree with you regarding the skills engineers possess, in fact, I point it out in my index page . An application I think will be useful for peace engineering is in the area of digital engineering. You might be aware of how cruise missiles contain digital maps to guide them through the terrain they fly through. Well, it seems to me that the mapping technology can be useful to legislators so they can "map" constituent conflict in their constituencies. At a glance, any legislator in the world could view emerging conflict, and see to it that resources are assigned to resolve such conflict. My entry is under Teledemocratic Communication Systems, page 3 of the entries, near the bottom.

View all comments