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Pueblo de Reconciliación Solar Village - Colombia (updated 15 August)

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

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

Following Colombian stakeholder meetings and beneficiary surveys, key recommendations were: - be sure to include nearby 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 - incorporate psychosocial engagement

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 18-24 months, reconciliation of hundreds of victims of violence, former combatants and community members will challenge 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 18-24 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 limits of the immediate geographical region. 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, 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 designing the community around existing skills and needs. At the end of this 18-24 month cycle, PPA bonds 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. GemPaz and other local CSOs will help conduct surveys and 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 trainings 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?

Final Updates (*Please do not complete until we reach the Improve Phase*): 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)

As per government stakeholders who were interviewed during the Beneficiary Feedback Phase, the current Temporary Reincorporation Settlements for former combatants are meant to close in the next year, and there are few proposed solutions for how to manage those who have not successfully reintegrated – this is an opportunity to engage potential participants, while also addressing government concerns. We are responding to this input by working with the High Commission for Peace to connect with the National Council on Reincorporation (CNR), which is where the FARC and Government of Colombia convene to discuss reintegration issues. Based on Beneficiary Feedback Phase surveys, we are also working with the Agency for Reincorporation and Normalization (ARN) to incorporate their psychosocial professionals into the reconciliation process. There needs to be a strategic coordination between the spiritual and psychosocial elements of trauma healing, which will be addressed by this collaboration.

During this Improve Phase, please use the space below to add any additional information to your proposal.

The primary anticipated outcomes of the GHR program funding period are twofold: 1. to strengthen the capacity of Colombian civil society to build a symbolic community - centered on the ideals of reconciliation and reincorporation - thereby modelling the possibility for reconciled adversaries to collaboratively support a future of peace, prosperity and planet; and 2. to generate the willpower in the private sector and government to integrate the establishment of the new community into their national peacebuilding strategies - including providing the necessary monetary investment required to build the community through the sale of a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA). In the first 18-24-month period, there are two necessary integrated lines of effort. GHR Foundation funding will enable ICRD and WCI to facilitate the reconciliation process between women victims of violence and former combatants. Subsequently, "reconciliation pairs" of a former combatant and a victim will develop and implement like-processes in key areas of the country. During these replica processes, reconciliation pairs will garner community support and conduct surveys among local populations about the livelihood and housing project, which is the planned solar community: "Pueblo de Reconciliacion". Meanwhile, CPES will use the information gathered by participants in the community surveys to guide the feasibility study and master planning for the development of the physical community, all while deepening engagement with government and private sector actors to build a public-private partnership. During this period, a PPA will be created and prepared for sale. This will require a significant market analysis to understand private sector priorities and infrastructure needs. While ICRD and WCI are conducting reconciliation, CPES will be conducting the legal and institutional work necessary to design the PPA. The Power Purchase Agreement is a mechanism whereby a government or business partner invests the necessary funding to build the community in return for a certain level of ownership of the power being produced by the solar array, or the income that it generates. The PPA establishes a mutually beneficial arrangement, whereby half of the electricity produced in Pueblo Reconciliacion Solar Village is sold to a major industrial partner, such as a large-scale agricultural production company, or to the energy grid and half is sold to commercial and residential customers in the newly developed community. A PPA is the most common bond sold in the developing world. Over the course of the 18-24 month project, CPES will lead the effort, with ICRD support, to negotiate a government-approved kWh agreement for the PPA, and identify, present to and contract the client, such as an energy company or agro-business. The PPA is an investment mechanism, not a single expense of capital by the government. This ensures that we can produce not only a return on that investment, but self-financing and sustainable jobs and income, long-term housing (through lease-to-own rentals), renewable energy, relevant small businesses and broad community stability - all without public or private subsidy. ICRD, CPES and WCI are beginning the process of networking among President Duque’s ministers, Colombia’s agricultural and energy industries, and potential funders such as the World Bank to identify public-private partners in need of clean power solutions to expand their operations - which will also contribute to the creation of hundreds of jobs for Colombians in transition. At the end of the GHR funding period, investors and the community will have committed to the long-term process of constructing and living in the community. The physical construction of that community will extend another two years and will not involve GHR BridgeBuilder funding.

Note that you may also edit any of your previous answers within the proposal. Here is a great place to note any big final changes or iterations you have made to your proposal below:

In responding to Expert Feedback we have made adjustments to numerous areas of our proposal in an effort to: - Strengthen our engagement with faith influencers (formal and informal leaders in the religious and spiritual life of the community); - Build relationships with local businesses and police in prospective project areas; - Work with a broader range of government agencies; - Improve the design of our communications and outreach strategy; and - Lengthen our expected timeline. Recognizing the unique value-add of religious actors, as indicated by our focus on women of faith and victims of violence as leaders in reconciliation efforts, we have included in our project activities a faith-influencer roundtable. Similar to roundtables we have conducted in the past, the faith-influencer roundtable will convene those with formal or informal roles as local faith leaders together with CSOs and local government officials to discuss challenges related to the violent conflict. This will also allow us to continue to garner beneficiary feedback during the initial phase of the project - reiterating our commitment to human-centered design. Further, in responding to Expert Feedback, we have included in our project activities a concentrated engagement with local business owners from prospective project site areas. In order to mitigate perceived or actual competition between existing local businesses and new entrepreneurial ventures emerging from the new community, it will be important to garner feedback from local business owners. We have also highlighted the inclusion of the relevant government bodies in the site selection process in order to mitigate any security concerns around recurring conflict and active conflict spaces. The site will be selected in close collaboration with beneficiaries including residents, business owners, government agencies, police and other relevant stakeholders. Our Expert engagement also highlighted the importance of “participant stories” in establishing a communications and outreach strategy. With former combatants and victims of the violent conflict in attendance at our initial workshops, there is a great opportunity to gather compelling narratives about the conflict and commitments to the peace process for use - with their permission - in a broader strategic engagement with potential private sector partners and the general public. We have included in the workshops an emphasis on gathering compelling narratives that highlight the impact of the conflict and the need for a viable and symbolic community for the broader Colombian public that demonstrates that reconciliation is possible - like Pueblo de Reconciliación Solar Village. The final significant change is in the length of the program. While still seeking $500,000 from GHR, we now plan to extend the time-frame for implementation to a maximum of 24 months. This will allow time for both potential setbacks and a more thorough community engagement that includes a stronger incorporation of psycho-social professionals and increased time for the trust-building necessary for a successful reconciliation program. This additional six-months and buffer will be incredibly important in allowing us increased flexibility in program implementation.

Colombia has suffered cycles of violent conflict for close to a century. Polarization and resentment between former combatants and victims of violence are deeply entrenched, as the referendum on the Peace Process, public opinion surveys, and ICRD's reconciliation meetings, and reintegration conferences clearly verify. There is no simple solution. The solution requires an integrated response that draws on the best thought, will, and resources in the communities, and requires difficult conversations, measurable impacts and time to sink into the culture.

In light of this, the International Center for Religion & Diplomacy (ICRD) and Climate Prosperity Enterprise Solutions, LLC (CPES) propose a project to support the Colombian Peace Process and the reincorporation of former FARC combatants and their supporters - whose numbers are estimated around 40,000 men, women and children - into conflict-impacted society through the creation of a shared, sustainable living community centered around a program of renewable energy production and collaborative entrepreneurship.

This project will amplify ICRD's prior work in Colombia, which has already made major advances toward strategic program objectives in reconciliation between former combatants and victims of violence. Dozens of community meetings have been conducted in three conflict-impacted regions of Colombia: Medellin (and the Department of Antioquia); Montes de Maria (in the Departments of Sucre and Bolivar); and the northern area of the Department of Cauca. These have established community collaboration through context and conflict assessments for understanding reconciliation and reintegration needs and concerns, as well as created a network for values-based reconciliation work.

ICRD has engaged with former combatants in and out of the prison system, and conducted formal training on reconciliation practice with a core group of women of faith who have conducted replica trainings for over 300 women community leaders in eight conflict-impacted regions of the country.

Similarly, the CPES model for a sustainable solar community has been under development for seven years, starting with a Feasibility Study financed by Lockheed Martin in Indonesia; is currently under development by the Kenana Sugar Company, the largest agricultural enterprise in Sudan; is under study at the World Bank Group for application in Africa; and is in the Feasibility Study planning stage of several investment groups and corporations.

ICRD and CPES have been brought together by their many mutual supporters, and believe that integrating their missions in this one project is of great value. ICRD’s success at facilitating collaboration in values-based conflict resolution is holistically complemented by CPES’s success at promoting values such as rural modernity, prosperity, sustainability, community, housing, enterprises and ownership. Peacebuilding is ultimately greatly served by sustainable, community-based economic development and prosperity - particularly where the benefits are mutually shared across previously divided identity groups. A model where that economic opportunity is locally-generated and collaboratively sustained offers a uniquely strong form of relationship building for former adversaries.

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/supporters are 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) and WCI, 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 shape private sector investment and small business integration. Women's Campaign International (WCI) - 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 - 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 acting as 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)

18-24 months. [Based on Expert Feedback, a six month buffer has been added, which is not reflected in the GANTT Chart above. This is to provide flexibility in the event that the delicate process of reconciliation needs more time, or other aspects of the program meet with unanticipated delays.]

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

  • No

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Photo of Céline Steer

What an ambitious project!
It is good to see that the previous feedback has encouraged your team to reassess the project timeline. As others have already noted, getting the different opposing sides to be comfortable enough to be honest, open, and engaged may take some less formal 'pre-meetings'. We often see this to be necessary even between those from differing scocio-economic and ethnic groups here in the United States.
Getting the solar village constructed in two years is also very ambitious. Besides the design professionals, do you have sitework specialists already lined up? It can be surprising how long such portions of design & construction projects can take!

Best of luck!

Photo of James Patton

Céline Steer 

Thanks for your comment! ICRD's reconciliation methodology, and past work with GemPaz, is designed to be particularly sensitive to these concerns. An important facet of our methodology is to work independently with adversarial groups before bringing them together. Our reconciliation team and local implementers take great care to recognize if it is too early to bring these groups in contact. Not all victims or former combatants will be ready for reconciliation engagements with one another, which is OK. But, there are many who have succeeded in working together to demonstrate a new type of relationship.

Regarding the construction process, it really takes place over the course of four years. The first two years are dedicated to research, site selection, design, and collaboration with the government and private sector (including construction professionals). Sitework specialists will be selected as a part of this initial process and are chosen in close consultation with the government, community leaders, and peacebuilding professionals. Following the initial feasibility study, an additional minimum two-year period is set for construction. A wholly dedicated two-year research and design phase, that precedes any actual breaking of ground, is necessary for the exact reasons you've identified.

All the best!

James Patton

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