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

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.

Photo of James Patton
41 22

Written by

*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.

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. www.icrd.org

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

Attachments (1)

41 comments

Join the conversation:

Comment
Photo of Céline Steer
Team

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
Team

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

Photo of Marnie Glazier
Team

I really appreciate your incorporation of video to demonstrate stakeholders' feedback. You've done a great job illustrating the importance and the reach of your project idea! Best to you in your ongoing work.

Photo of James Patton
Team

Marnie Glazier 

Thanks so much for your positive feedback. Highlighting local voices is a pillar of our work. Best to you as well!

Photo of Marnie Glazier
Team

Thanks & look forward to reading more about your project!

Photo of Claire May
Team

As part of the reconciliation training, we are planning to capture participant stories to help increase support for reconciliation in Colombian civil society, perhaps building out a website or other online resource to share them. What other tools and techniques would you recommend?

Thanks for your responses to my questions. I have to say our project sounds very comprehensive and I'm not sure there is much more I can add! In terms of training tools the training we support is very much created and given by our local partners. They use a variety of techniques including videos, conflict exercises (including conflict mapping and conflict tree exercises etc) and small group discussions. However, I would be hesitant to recommend any one technique as I do not know your context or participants well enough. More generally I would say use a diverse range of techniques which accommodate different learners (lecture, activities, role play, small discussions etc). Sorry I can't be more helpful.

Photo of James Patton
Team

Dear Claire May 

Not at all, you've been a great help! Thanks so much for all of the ideas (including the above ideas on training) and input. Don't hesitate to let us know if anything else occurs to you.

Warmest regards,

James

Photo of Claire May
Team

What additional challenges should be taken into account when conducting bottom-up development?
It looks like you have done well engaging your participant groups. I would suggest ensuring (if you haven't already) that you engage with local community and faith leaders as well as local CSOs and authorities to hear from them the local challenges they face that you may want to address in the work. They can also help point you to groups you may have overlooked. Do not underestimate the potential power differential that is created by you as a 'wealthy' INGO visiting new project communities and it will be important to give time for open unstructured discussions where people feel they can be honest about their opinions of your project idea. Considerations such as the gender and language of the interviewers should also be taken into account. Wherever possible I would recommend finding a local intermediary (ideally a peacebuilder) to do some more scoping for you as they are likely to be able to access hard to reach participants and know and appreciate the local context/customs/language.

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?
I'm afraid my organisation doesn't have much experience doing this and from what I can see you have done quite well already! I would recommend exploring businesses that have shops/factories/staff in the project regions as there is a more tangible CSR link. Personal project participant stories of change are always the most powerful even for businesses and lastly presenting them with a tangible benefit to their support (financial/reputation/social) would improve your chances.

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?
Firstly, do not underestimate the likelihood of recurrence of conflict (local and widespread), you will need to have good relationships with all local actors (particularly ex-combatants and local military) and it is possible certain areas may become inaccessible at certain points. The more local networks and relationships you have in place to combat this impact the better.
I think there is a good risk that some project participants with existing homes in other communities may not want to move somewhere else, this is a huge project expectation and I imagine you have explored this possibility and heard from them as to what would make it easier for them. Ensure you have built in the adequate time and money to facilitate this process.
I also think this project is very ambitious for 18 month (glad you extended from 12) and as far as I can see has no room for any delays. I would think hard about what would happen if one or more steps/activities in the project was delayed and if you perhaps need even longer to ensure you can get the work done in the most impactful way.

Photo of James Patton
Team

Dear Claire May - thanks so much for your thoughtful reply, there are a great number of helpful points of information and ideas here. I’ll give some feedback to your reflections below, including where we plan to adjust our approach, as well as ask a follow-on question (the length of my response requires that this is done in two consecutive comments).

Question 1
With respect to local community and CSO engagement, over the three years of ICRD’s work in Colombia on reconciliation, one of the key components was what we were calling “local round tables”. At these gatherings, CSO and faith leaders were brought together with local government officials to discuss the local challenges related to the violent conflict in general, and reintegration in particular. These were followed up by workshops on shared values for reconciliation and strategies to utilize local capacities to reconcile former adversaries. In particular, faith “influencers” (both formal and informal leaders) were engaged across the spectrum of faith practices to begin building networks of collaboration. Following your recommendation, we will incorporate a faith influencer round-table in the initial phase of the project to vet and give feedback into our strategy.

Our prior work culminated with local partners leading workshops, a practice that we will continue, significantly increasing local ownership and limiting the active leadership of ICRD and WCI in the process, and any associated power differential. This will bring Colombian community and CSO leaders to the fore, especially women-led organizations. This is especially useful for creating a comfortable space for open sharing for the women victims and former combatants who will being trained as reconcilers. These women participants will be the primary implementers of the community engagement that follows; based on our experience, women in the Colombian context have proven to be better received when broaching delicate subjects such as those associated with reconciliation. All of the relevant implementers are fluent or native speakers of Spanish. We have also reached out to our current partners to request a more thorough mapping of CSOs involved in this space, particularly regional and sub-regional victims’ groups, women’s peacebuilding groups and groups of women of faith.

Following your recommendation, we will include engagement with the local business landscape in areas of consideration for the community site in order to minimize perceived and actual competition with any proposed new community businesses. The network of women of faith peacebuilders, GemPaz, which is our primary counterpart, has 300 members from 8 conflict-impacted regions of the country. We will invite them and other peacebuilding partners to conduct more explicit preliminary community engagement to ensure that we’ve taken all relevant considerations into account.

Question 2
Apart from the aforementioned business landscape surveys, we will work with our business consultant and public-private partnership organizations (like Reconciliacion Colombia) to do a thorough analysis of and engagement with the corporate social responsibility (CSR) space. We know that there are influential companies (such as EcoPetrol and Coca-Cola) with an interest in CSR in Colombia. The combination of improved reputation (serving as catalysts for reconciliation) and economic return (new and targeted markets and increased stability for those markets) could be effective lures. Additionally, there is an opportunity for them to participate in trainings when we work on entrepreneurship with community residents, which may also be a place for them to recruit talent. Following your recommendation, we will leverage our existing plan to capture participant stories, getting permission from them – particularly the women of faith peacebuilders and those who have reconciled – to highlight their stories as part of our effort to expand the public-private partnership that will provide the supplemental funding needed for the program.

Photo of James Patton
Team

Question 3
Your point about the recurrence of conflict is very important. While we can do little (beyond reconciliation efforts) to ensure that the armed actors in Colombia continue on a path toward peace, we must be fully cognizant of the potential for retributive violence by spoilers. We will add this as a criteria to inform our site selection. We have a nascent but good relationship with High Commission for Peace, and will work through them and regional government actors to engage security institutions like the police in a constructive and collaborative fashion when we build out the community. We want to be certain that we do not create an overly securitized space (a criticism that beneficiaries have leveled toward the current Temporary Reincorporation Settlements), so an appropriate relationship with local policing will be critical. I have personally worked on community policing in Colombia, and am familiar with models that integrate the police within the community. The military presence in the local area is more of a challenge. I have taught about reconciliation at the Colombian Military Education Center, and have a good sense of who might be helpful in this regard. Ideally, we would not be implementing the community development near active military conflict areas. We will incorporate consultation with the appropriate government bodies about military issues into our site selection.

Fortunately, the areas under consideration are not plagued by splinter groups from the armed actors, and accessibility has improved greatly since the signing of the Peace Accords. We will keep this consideration at the forefront when considering site selection. During prior programming, ICRD has been fortunate to establish a good working relationship with CSOs, indigenous communities, faith leaders, and government actors in the areas under consideration. These networks will provide critical information regarding context analysis, community engagement, and site selection.

Not all trainees and participants in reconciliation are meant to also be residents in the community. However, they are meant to be ongoing resources for sustained reconciliation dialogues. Many residents of population centers near the proposed sites are not homeowners, meaning that the opportunity to become homeowners will likely make participation in the community much more attractive. Our surveys of potential residents will be delivered not only by participants with roots in the communities, but we will engage local government to assist with broad outreach in nearby population centers with in excess of 100,000 residents. This should give us a sufficient base of potential participants in the new community, as we have a target of 900 families.

With respect to potential delays and the length of program, it is a good idea to build in a buffer, so we will extend to an 18 to 24-month period. Also, our consortium of partners will be conducting different elements of the program in parallel. CPES, for example, will be doing significant private sector and government outreach through existing and new counterparts, while ICRD and WCI will be managing the reconciliation training process and cultivating community buy-in. We have budgeted this program to include staff on the ground who will be able to sustain a day-to-day engagement with key contacts as well as follow up on challenges and opportunities arising from reconciliation activities. We have the benefit of having conducted a few years’ worth of trainings and community engagement in areas that we are considering for the community site, including with victims’ groups and former combatants. This will allow for a quick initiation of the programming.

Finally, if I might ask a follow-on question: As part of the reconciliation training, we are planning to capture participant stories to help increase support for reconciliation in Colombian civil society, perhaps building out a website or other online resource to share them. What other tools and techniques would you recommend?

Photo of Luz Gallo
Team

Hi James,
I have been seeing the evolution of your idea through the challenge phases and I wanted to know if you have considered how this idea will 'live' with the other similar initiatives that are already being implemented with those type of communities. I think the private sector is key, because they can guarantee a different approach towards the sustainability of the sollar villages, but maybe you could explain further how does this idea adds value to initiatives like these:
http://www.eltiempo.com/politica/proceso-de-paz/exguerrilleros-de-farc-proveen-alimentos-para-las-escuelas-de-la-guajira-224636

http://www.eltiempo.com/colombia/otras-ciudades/excombatientes-de-la-guajira-trabajan-en-proyectos-productivos-pero-dicen-que-el-gobierno-incumple-152748

Photo of James Patton
Team

Hi Luz Gallo 

Thanks so much for your comment, which gave us very important considerations to reflect upon, we could certainly learn a lot from ongoing initiatives and will deepen our current mapping and outreach to them, to better understand the variety of programs underway. Some of our planning for economic projects was based on challenges that the Agency for Reincoporation and Normalization had shared with respect to productive project initiatives they had tried. (On a side note, I am particularly happy to see the World Food Programme becoming involved, as we have the Director of WFP lined up to receive ICRD’s annual Faith-in-Action Award this coming May, and will certainly follow up with him about our initiative to see if there is a chance for collaborative support.)

One critical difference between our effort and those that you highlighted is the fundamental integration of various sustainable benefits to participants, beyond the agricultural market. An agro-business will certainly be part of our final program outputs, when the community is built, and will be based on market opportunities and alliances such as the ones in the first El Tiempo article you linked to in your comment. However, the end results of our community will include a number of other solutions to pressing problems related to reintegration. Foremost among these is the idea of social reconciliation, which addresses one of the key drivers of failed reintegration – social stigmatization and rejection. The community will be grounded in the collaboration between former adversaries and other community members from areas impacted by violence, creating new social cohesion. In many of the economic programs aimed at former combatants, this kind of integration is absent. Among the other impacts, however, are included the financial gains associated with community participant ownership of shares in the production of renewable energy, as well as home ownership and local small-business development. Additionally, all of these will foster collaboration, which will reinforce sustainability. Finally, this is not a standard infrastructure development program in that it requires an input of capital that is essentially a sunk cost, it is an investment that will self-renew and create returns for the residents as well as returning the capital input to the entity that purchases the power production.

As you can see from the second El Tiempo article, the government is struggling in some cases to meet the housing and productive project needs of the former combatants. A representative of the High Commission for Peace told us that the basket of potential outputs from our program would solve “a number of key problems related to reintegration, including entrepreneurship and housing.” In fact, he asked for our materials and offered to present the idea before the National Council for Reincorporation (the CNR, which appears in the second article).

With the sale of the Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) after 24 months, the revenue will be there for the construction of climate-appropriate housing and community buildings, depending on site selection. If and when the Colombian government fully buys-in to the project, we imagine that several more government agencies will become partners in the design and implementation, recognizing how this project serves their own priorities (such as land distribution).

Again, thank you for this input. Please don't hesitate to give us more guidance on the nuances and details of the context and how our work would best fit within it.

Warmest regards,

James

Photo of hotmail login
Team

I enjoy the subject you are talking about. It very interesting! Thanks for sharing! Go to http://hotmailwiki.com/hotmail-login to create Hotmail login account.

Photo of Macheru Karuku
Team

Your idea is just great. Ex-combatants and their victims are naturally immiscible. Your success in Columbia would make a good model for adaptation in many parts of the world that are dotted with perpetrators and their victims. All the best for your idea.

Photo of James Patton
Team

Dear Macheru Karuku -

Thanks so much for your comment. We are very hopeful that this program would be exactly what you said - a model for other parts of the world. Reconciliation is a real challenge, and collaboration on mutually-supportive activities is a huge part of changing relationships to be grounded in something other than the pain and wounds of history, helping to break down the immiscibility that you refer to.

Thanks again for your thoughtful response!

Photo of Anubha Sharma
Team

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. - That is such a powerful statement!! What you have taken on isnt easy but so necessary! My compliments on a well thought out project.

Photo of James Patton
Team

Anubha Sharma thank you so much for your comment, it's much appreciated!

Photo of Samantha Pathirathna
Team

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
Team

Thank you so much, Samantha!

Photo of Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO)
Team

This is an amazing project that uniquely bridges the gap between economic and peacebuilding initiatives! How do you get past the initial hurdle of victims being opposed to interacting and working with their ex-combatants?

Photo of James Patton
Team

Dear Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO) 

Thank you for your thoughtful question. The government Victims' Unit and the women victims of violence with whom ICRD has worked over the last few years will provide the initial core group of individuals who will be trained as reconcilers. They will have already conducted significant work on the elements of reconciliation, including humanizing the other, how to respond to different histories, compassionate listening, restorative justice and the like. This core group will then work together with ex-combatants, who we will bring through similar trainings, modelling the possibilities of what can be done when victims and former combatants reconcile. They will do this by leading reconciliation engagements in communities that were severely impacted by the violence and that are slated to receive a large number of former combatants.

While the model they will demonstrate will be a helpful first step, reconciliation can be a long and delicate process - a life-long process, in truth - and must be conducted carefully. ICRD has conducted reconciliation, often by mobilizing and training faith leaders, in a number of countries around the world. Faith leaders offer a specific set of powerful social and community skills, and often have a great deal of influence over adherents. If faith leaders from all different traditions can be brought together to articulate a values-based reconciliation narrative - which ICRD has done in Colombia - this can serve as a basis for them to mobilize their individual communities in support of the victims as they pass through the process. Even this image of different faith leaders collaborating often makes the environment more favorable for conducting reconciliation.

Ultimately, reconciliation can not be imposed upon a community. But there are helpful methods by which to advance the process. One of those is working independently with adversarial groups before bringing them together. This allows a facilitator to gauge the "ripeness" of the situation and know when best to take the next step of bringing adversaries together - and with which individuals. Not all victims or former combatants will be ready for reconciliation engagements with one another, which is ok. The idea is that some are, and succeed in working together to demonstrate a new relationship.

Thanks again for your comment and interest in our project!

Photo of bikash gurung
Team

Thanks James Patton for sharing your user experience map. I was able to figure out the program model of your idea completely.
This program is really important in order to support conflict victims, ex-combatants. While going through your idea, i was curious how do you identify your beneficiary group or how do you take your program to the groups in need. I was also wondering if the idea of Agro-solar community was designed for this Challenge or you already have piloted? If yes, where. What has been the impact that it created more on planet aspect? How many of such community/reconciliation village are you planning to build ?
Also Congratulations for making it to the refinement Phase. Looking forward to learn more.

Photo of James Patton
Team

Dear bikash gurung -

Thank you so much for your thoughtful comment and questions. As for identifying beneficiaries, ICRD has done several years of work with Colombian women of faith, victims of violence on reconciliation, including initial interactions with former combatants with the help of the Colombian Agency for Reincorporation and Normalization (ARN - formerly ACR). Our approach would be to work with ARN to identify the former combatants with whom we would deepen reconciliation training, then bring them together with the victims we have formerly trained and others identified with the government's Victims Unit. After conducting reconciliation between them, they would form pairs to conduct replica trainings in various communities, primarily where they already have a presence and where ARN sees a high level of reincorporation of former combatants as likely (the women we have already trained come from eight different conflict-impacted areas of Colombia, for example). In these community reconciliation workshops, the pairs would begin to identify community members with an interest in the program, through a general survey. That general survey, plus an AI-based community analysis, would lead to a site selection for the community. Then a more intensive survey would be given to former combatants, victims, and community members from that area (and possibly other areas) to identify the 900 families who would become a part of the community, helping with its design.

The agro-solar community model was developed by Climate PROSPERITY Enterprise Solutions, LLC, and uses a proprietary software for modeling the resources and outputs of the community to determine the ideal number of residents and energy production, etc. They had originally designed a community for Sudan, but certain restrictions on implementing the program have slowed the process down, so the Colombia community might be the very first one! We would be very excited if this totally renewable energy-based community, with several sources of resident income as well as home ownership, were to be seen as a model for many more - both inside Colombia and outside! If we had success in building the first community, the Colombian High Commission for Peace has already stated that this would be an ideal solution to a number of demobilization and reincorporation challenges, so I could imagine they would be interested in expanding on the prototype.

Thanks so much for your thoughts on our proposal, and for your congratulations. I am very excited about the prospect of launching this program!

Please don't hesitate to keep offering ideas.

Warmest regards,

James

Photo of Kurt Davis
Team

Have you looked at some of the African solar projects like www.m-kopa.com as a tech resource?

Photo of James Patton
Team

Kurt Davis 

Thanks for your question. We are working with an implementing partner, Climate Prosperity Enterprise Solutions (CPES), that specializes in sustainable agro-solar communities and architectural community visualization. CPES has done some work in the Sudan and explored like-projects in the African context, including the relevant solar technologies and existing solar endeavors there. Much of what we are trying to do in Colombia is born out of a hybridization of our prior work in Colombia and CPES's prior work in Africa. Although each space is unique, we agree that the African solar projects provide a good starting point for what a transferable model might look like in the Colombian context.

Photo of Kevin McCann
Team

Hi there - this seems like a great idea that brings together a lot of very pertinent considerations. The point about ensuring employment for stigmatised ex-combatants who might otherwise be at risk of entering the illicit economy is excellent and something you see around the world, and now is clearly the time to be supporting this type of work in Colombia.

One question / comment I'd have - I'm a little unclear on if this is to take place in existing communities, or to found an entirely new village based on the description you provide? If so, how will you decide where it will be sited? Presumably there would be lots of other very tricky issues involved in this.

Thanks and good luck.

Photo of James Patton
Team

Great question Kevin McCann 

During the first year, our partner, CPES, will apply a computer modelling to different regions that we have already identified with support from Colombian partners. This will take into account a whole range of variables from local economics to demographics. At the same time, our local partner, GemPaz will give additional insight into their home regions and conduct a series of surveys that will draw on community input to refine the analysis. Finally, government agencies would also contribute key variables - such as where reintegrating former combatants will return. All of this will help us build a database of those who are interested in becoming residents in the village.

Ultimately, however, yes we will construct an entirely new village - the solar panels will be supported by new homes which would be part of the process. Over the course of 20 years with small leases, the residents would become homeowners. They would already be shareholders in the power production and sale company, and would be involved in the agricultural initiative or the small businesses in the new community. This would amount to three sources of sustainable resource generation - not to mention the additional benefits of clean energy production for the village.

Yes, indeed, there are a number of tricky issues - land acquisition for the project is one of them. This is where the public-private partnerships will be helpful, and the establishment of corporations for investment.

Thanks for your comments and question, I hope this helps clarify a little!

Warmest regards,

James

Photo of United for Hope
Team

Hi James Patton and ICRD team,
first of all major credits to all of you for the great Reconciliation Solar Village - Colombia (updated 25 May) contribution. I love the way it integrates post-conflict resolution, community development and clean energy.
At United for Hope we also work a lot with solar energy to provide our communities with sustainable and smart solutions, and I was curious to learn a little bit more around how you provide agriculture-based solutions via solar, and around the education aspect of your idea!
Check out our idea Smart Villages for Rural India: Building vibrant, sustainable rural communities to stem urbanisation if you like, and keep up the great work with ICRD!

Photo of James Patton
Team

Dear United for Hope 

Thanks so much for your comment. I am looking at your contribution right now and it's very compelling! I will make more of a comment at your idea page. Hope we can cross-polinate our strategies, since it seems we've got a lot of common vision!

Warm regards,

James

Photo of Nicole Ballou
Team

Hi James Patton 

I really enjoyed learning about ICRD - your introduction video quite compelling and I was deeply intrigued as I heard more about the work you all accomplish. Your idea clearly demonstrates the interconnectedness of Peace, Prosperity, and Planet as well as the intersectional role each plays in your work. Has ICRD began Reconciliation Villages in the other countries where you work?

Cheers,
Nicole

Photo of James Patton
Team

Dear Nicole Ballou -

Thank you very much for your comment. I am glad that our work is of interest to you, and that you found that our idea connects the three areas well. We appreciate your feedback.

As for the Reconciliation Village, no, this will be our first time implementing this idea. We have high hopes for it, though, and would love it to be a model for use in many other places where energy independence, rural economies and peacebuilding can effectively integrate.

Warmest regards and good luck with your own good work!

James

Photo of Nicole Ballou
Team

Hi James Patton -

It sounds like an incredible first project! I look forward to follow you and your success in the Reconciliation Village!

Nicole

Photo of James Patton
Team

Thanks so much Nicole Ballou !

Photo of Dima Boulad
Team

Thank you for your submission James Patton !
Luz Gallo which local organisations do you think can bring good research and insights to the project?

Photo of James Patton
Team

Hi Dima -

Thanks for your question. We work with a few conflict analysis organizations, like CERAC, and also with the Colombian government's agency tasked with reintegration (ARN). Our primary implementing partner is a group of amazing women peacemakers, called GemPaz. All of them provide great insight from the ground. As far as the research on the economic part of the project model, we are teaming with several local private sector actors. We also plan to approach the government bodies implementing the peace accord provisions, since this program would answer multiple concerns for them - from livelihoods to education. I imagine that there are untapped agencies within the government that are responsible for social data collection and analysis, which would be very valuable for us. Of course, any suggestions are welcome!

Warmest regards,

James

Photo of Luz Gallo
Team

Hey James,
Really interesting your idea. However, I think you can complement the idea by considering other actors such as the Agencia de Desarrollo Rural (ADR) (Agency for the rural development) which has destined a budget in order to support different productive projects for the communities living on the 'Zonas veredales'. Maybe, as an addition to solar power, the sustanaibility of the idea can have agricultural activities that are important to this community. Also, think on a way in order to integrate the Reconciliation villages with all the other support that Colombia is receiving from outside insititutions such as ACNUR and FAO.

Photo of James Patton
Team

Hi Luz -

Great idea. we do have an integrated agricultural component to the project, as well. Do you have any contacts at ADR? Muchisimas gracias!

James

Photo of Dima Boulad
Team

Awesome to see this happening!

Photo of Luz Gallo
Team

Hi James,
Currently I don't have any contacts there but you could try and contact the ADR yourself, I'm sure they are reachable.

Photo of James Patton
Team

Thanks for connecting us, Dima Boulad ! 

Photo of James Patton
Team

Luz Gallo  -

I will do that, thanks. I am sure I have "2nd degree" connections. Your ideas are much appreciated!

James