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Pueblo de Reconciliación Solar Village - Colombia (updated 13 July)

Stabilizing the reincorporation of ex-combatants in Colombia through reconciliation, culminating in a sustainable agro-solar community.

Photo of James Patton
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*Please Upload User Experience Map (as attachment) and any additional insights gathered from Beneficiary Feedback in this field

The project team held meetings with stakeholders and delivered surveys to beneficiaries in Colombia. Key recommendations were:
- be sure to include local communities, not just victims and ex-combatants
- expand engagement with government to include all relevant agencies
- coordinate with and learn from existing FARC "reincorporation territories" (which will close next year)
- analyze the cycle of agricultural production and sale
- include existing "coaches" from reincorporation agency

Why does the target community define this problem as urgent and/or a priority? How is the idea leveraging and empowering community assets to help create an environment for success? (1000 characters)

During workshops with women victims of violence and former combatants, social rejection and a lack of licit economic opportunities were identified as primary causes of failed reintegration - disproportionately affecting resource-stressed, conflict-impacted areas. Women and faith influencers, some already trained by ICRD, are perfectly placed to conduct the social reconciliation needed for a secure, prosperous environment for both victims and former fighters. The resulting collaborative spirit will allow program participants to lead in the design of the community and the business opportunities that it offers, establishing relevant and stable sources of licit income - an essential alternative to joining criminal groups engaged in narco-trafficking. Private sector partners and government agencies will provide the required infrastructure for affordable housing, market-based solar energy production and local enterprises, addressing social needs while balancing socio-commercial objectives.

How does the idea fit within the larger ecosystem that surrounds it? Urgent needs are usually a symptom of a larger issue that rests within multiple interrelated symptoms - share what you know about the context surrounding the problem you are aiming to solve. (500 characters)

Colombia's cycles of violence have lasted a century with little effort to reconcile differences. Combatants’ skills are sought by criminal groups – identified by the UNHCR as a primary threat to stability. Yet, vocational support for former combatants breeds resentment in resource-stressed areas. Social rejection and few licit sources of income create a problem of recidivism. The government needs to provide stable reintegration solutions, including housing and jobs, as part of the Peace Accords.

How does the idea affect or change the fundamental nature of the larger ecosystem that surrounds it (as described above) in a new and/or far-reaching way? (500 characters)

Former combatants and victims of violence working together to facilitate reconciliation between adversaries will break down social divides sustaining violent and illicit behaviors. Participant collaboration to create locally-relevant agriculture and other small businesses will provide sustainable, mutually-beneficial income sources. The generation of renewable energy will provide additional income, coupled with long-term home-ownership opportunities, and serve as a model for other communities.

What will be different within the target community as a result of implementing the idea? What is the scope and scale of that difference? How long will it take to see that difference and how will it be sustained beyond BridgeBuilder support? (500 characters)

Over 18 months, hundreds of victims of violence, former combatants and community members will have reconciled, challenging a Colombian narrative of identity conflict. One area will have been selected to pilot a replicable agro-solar community (with public-private financing) offering life-long, self-sustaining and mutually-beneficial economic enterprises and housing to 900 families within 2 years. This will transform key drivers of former combatant recidivism and recruitment by criminal groups.

How has the idea evolved or responded to your user research during the Beneficiary Feedback Phase and any further insights provided if you participated in the Expert Feedback Phase? (1000 characters)

Following our engagement with key stakeholders and beneficiaries on the ground, we arranged a meeting with the Colombian High Commission for Peace, which has become a champion of the project, enlisted the support of the Agency for Reincorporation and Normalization, and began outreach to the Victims' Unit and other Agencies. We have also decided to extend the period from 12 months to 18 months in order to incorporate a slower reconciliation engagement, acknowledging the challenges inherent in reconciliation. We have decided to broaden the scope of those surveyed for participation in the community, beyond the immediate geographical region of the community. We have also put more emphasis on including community members that were neither direct victims of violence nor combatants, to better integrate the program into Colombian society, to expand the skills and abilities of those participating, and to avoid creating an artificial barrier between program participants and local communities.

What are the key steps for implementation in the next 1-3 years? (You can attach a timeline or GANTT chart in place of a written plan, if desired.) (1000 characters)

The project team and local partners, will conduct reconciliation engagements with women former combatants and victims of violence, training them to be reconciliers. Pairs of trainees will implement replica trainings in communities receiving large numbers of former combatants, together with socially isolated former fighters. Mobilizers will be identified who will conduct a series of surveys and focus groups to gauge the interest and capacity of families and individuals to form the new community. Government and private sector outreach will create a network of support for the various elements of the program. Market research and community modeling will be conducted to create the Power Purchase Agreement. Mobilizers, future community members, government and private sector partners will then assist with the design of the community around existing skills and needs. At the end of this 18-month cycle, the PPA will be sold to finance the construction of the community, which will take two years.

Describe the individual or team that will implement this idea (if a partnership, please explain breakdown of roles and responsibilities for each entity). (Feel free to share an organizational chart or visual description of your team). (500 characters)

James Patton, President/CEO of ICRD, has over 20 years’ experience conducting international conflict resolution and faith-based reconciliation. Amb. Richard Swett and Michael Rowan, of CPES, have designed sustainable solar community models. Former US Rep. Marjorie Margolies, Director of WCI, has worked with women peacebuilders globally. Local civil society organizations will help conduct reconciliation trainings. Hilario Nuno is an investment banker with ties to Colombia's private sector.

What aspects of the idea would potential BridgeBuilder funds primarily support? (500 characters)

1) reconciliation training for women victims of violence and former combatants (separately)
2) reconciliation processes between those groups
3) pairs of trainees conduct replica trainings in reintegration communities impacted by violence, and survey local interest in participating in the agro-solar community
4) create the Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) for the sale of solar energy
5) outreach to private sector and government for PPA support
6) agro-solar community site selection and design

In preparation for our Expert Feedback Phase: What are three unanswered questions or challenges that you could use support on in your project? These questions will be answered directly by experts matched specifically to your idea and needs.

ICRD's most recent engagement with the beneficiary community was spent exploring the perspectives of women peacebuilders, local partners and government officials working on the peace process. We have had significant success with implementing surveys, small group meetings and semi-structured interviews, but we are looking for creative ways to gather new perspectives.

What additional challenges should be taken into account when conducting bottom-up development?

What are best practices for engaging the private sector in reconciliation and community development? What existing public-private partnership mechanisms could be leveraged to support this project?

What sort of risks might we be overlooking and what are the accompanying risk mitigation strategies and contingency plans we need to put in place?

Explain your project idea (2,000 characters)

The violence that has plagued Colombia for almost a century will only end with collaborative opportunities for peace and prosperity for all Colombians. The Peace Accord means tens of thousands of former combatants and supporters returning to civil society, where social and private sector rejection are among the primary causes for them returning to violence and crime. The International Center for Religion & Diplomacy (ICRD) has been implementing reconciliation pilot programs in Colombia to support stable reintegration, and is now introducing a broader solution for sustainability.

The solution requires bridge-building between the reconciliation process for peace and the community development process for prosperity. The overarching theory is that if social reconciliation can be strengthened with sustainable economic initiatives, then reintegration will be vastly more successful. An innovative team has formed to develop an effective, measurable, and enduring solution.

ICRD, with Climate PROSPERITY Enterprise Solutions LLC (CPES), is seeking BridgeBuilder funding to bring together women former combatants and victims of violence in formal reconciliation processes and mobilize them in partnership to conduct reconciliation in communities that will receive large numbers of former combatants. They will simultaneously work to identify potential residents for a Pueblo de Reconciliación.

The Pueblo de Reconciliación will be fully-sustainable through the production of solar power, revenues from a macro-agricultural enterprise, and real property sales. A Power Purchase Agreement will provide the lion's share of economic security and upward mobility – including home ownership, agricultural production, healthcare and education. Following the BridgeBuilder Challenge, ICRD and CPES will leverage the PPA and public-private partnerships to finance, virtually model, construct and operate the fully self-sustainable and reconciled prototypical community in rural Colombia.

Who are the beneficiaries? (1,000 characters)

Approximately 3,000 Colombians, including former combatants and their families together with victims of the violent conflict and local community members, will ultimately live, work and prosper in peace in the Pueblo de Reconciliación, based on reconciliation programming and mutually-beneficial community enterprise.

During the application of BridgeBuilder support, one hundred women victims of violence and former combatants will work to reconcile, and also receive training on reconciliation practices, which they will replicate to thousands of community members. This will include embedding this knowledge within key institutions in Colombia, including the Agency for Reincorporation and Normalization (which is responsible for reintegrating tens of thousands of ex-combatants), the Victims Unit, and the High Commission for Peace.

Simultaneously, a generation of Colombians will witness the possibility that reconciliation offers for economic and social well-being and sustainable peace.

How is your idea unique? (1,000 characters)

Peacebuilding and economic prosperity are often separate efforts. However, ongoing conflict undermines economic gains just as weak economic opportunities can drive conflict. Making mutual economic improvements an integral part of resolving identity conflict is an approach that greatly increases the likelihood of sustainable success on both fronts. Our solution provides integrated bridge-building between the reconciliation process for peace and the community development process for prosperity.

The Pueblo de Reconciliación produces a wide array of benefits. The most apparent of these are: collaboration of former adversaries, renewable energy and agricultural production, home ownership, and shares in the corporation that owns the energy production. Secondary benefits, however, include: improved education and healthcare, integrated small businesses, and productive land use. These are all challenges that the government is currently confronting in the Peace Accord implementation.

Idea Proposal Stage (choose one)

  • Early Adoption: I have completed a pilot and analyzed the impact of that pilot on the intended users of the idea. I have begun to expand the pilot for early adoption.

Tell us more about your organization/company (1 sentence and website URL)

The International Center for Religion & Diplomacy (ICRD), an international NGO, 501c3, with UN-ECOSOC Consultative status that works to bridge religious considerations with the practice of international politics in support of peacebuilding, is partnering with CPES, an environmental design development firm that is building new zero carbon markets in emerging economies worldwide..

Expertise in sector

  • 5-7 years

Organization Filing Status

  • Yes, we are a registered non-profit.

In 3-4 sentences, tell us the inspiration or story that encouraged you to start this project.

During ICRD's reconciliation pilot programs with Colombian women's groups, a consistent concern in local communities was: the absence of models that offer former combatants and communities economic stability without putting them in competition for scarce employment opportunities. The CPES model integrating energy and agricultural production clearly offers a range of key benefits for both reintegrating combatants and receiving communities, relying on a peace-through-prosperity solution.

Please explain how your selected topic areas are influenced, in the local context of your project (1,000 characters).

Peace is compromised by the failed reintegration of ex-combatants into Colombian society. The illicit economy, retributive violence, and the recidivism of ex-combatants is detrimental to the long-term success of Colombia's Peace Process.

Prosperity has been impacted by the lack of sustainable economic opportunities for poor Colombians, including ex-combatants, who are stigmatized and excluded from the job market and at risk of engaging in the illicit economy. Successful reintegration will depend on sustainable, long-term economic opportunities that benefit both ex-combatants and victims of violent conflict.

Planet has been negatively impacted by reliance on traditional energy sources, despite great opportunities for the use of sustainable energy in Colombia's rural areas. Simultaneously, much of the rural agriculture is dominated by large producers, which have few requirements to care for the natural biosphere or carefully integrate their production into local communities.

Who will work alongside your organization in the project idea? (1,000 characters)

Climate PROSPERITY Enterprise Solutions LLC (CPES) - architects of the solar community model, will also shape private sector investment and small business integration.
Women's Campaign International - assist with reconciliation training, survey female and male community members for site selection and participant identification.
Colombian Agency for Reincorporation and Normalization (ARN) - interface with former combatants for reconciliation and inclusion in community.
Women’s Ecumenical Peacebuilding Collective (GemPaz) - to be trained as reconcilers and trainers and conduct survey for site selection and participants for community.
JustaPaz, ICTJ, Reconciliacion Colombia, Fundacion para Reconciliacion - among co-facilitator organizations for reconciliation training.
Colombian High Commissioner for Peace - negotiate reincorporation with FARC leadership.
Colombian Agency for Rural Development (ADR) - currently supports economic projects for former combatants in transition zones.

Please share some of the top strengths identified in the community which your project will serve (500 characters)

Women community and faith leaders play a powerful role in Colombian society, often being the sole providers and community leaders in areas of violence where men have joined armed groups or fled. As breadwinners, thought leaders, and family members they are key influencers in communities. They provide fundamental values narratives for social cohesion and reconciliation in the aftermath of violent conflict. They are also proven stewards of material resources.

Geographic Focus

The country of Colombia, in the regions of Montes de Maria, northern Cauca and Antioquia.

How many months are required for the project idea? (500 characters)

18 months

Did you submit this idea to our 2017 BridgeBuilder Challenge? (Y/N)

  • No

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Join the conversation:

Photo of Samantha Pathirathna

Hi James, My heartiest congratulations for your selection for the second stage. All the very best to get it. Best Regards Samantha

Photo of James Patton

Thank you so much, Samantha!

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