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Self-organized learning in post conflict rural Colombia

Contributing to peace building by empowering communities with collaborative learning as a tool to solve their real-life challenges.

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Explain your project idea (2,000 characters)

Colombia is in a transition towards peace that we don't fully understand. In 2016 we voted a plebiscite to ratify the final peace agreement with the FARC guerrilla, with 50.2% voting against it. This event further raised polarization in our country keeping us in conflict. We recognize polarization as an urgent global challenge. We need more ways to learn how to be different, more spaces of dialogue that can allow us to be constructive, and more experiences that empower us to build our solutions to problems. We want to bridge peace and prosperity using SOLE as a tool for: 1. Developing skills to live in a diverse community; 2. Defining the needs and interests of communities -framed in post conflict-; and 3. Creating a network of rural leaders from the 170 municipalities prioritized by the peace accords. SOLE (Self-Organized Learning Environments) is a disruptive education methodology that empowers communities to learn how to learn -by themselves- using the internet. The structure is very simple; you need a space with people, some computers connected to the internet and big questions. In a SOLE people self-organize to find the answer to big questions without the need for teachers. We have been scaling this methodology to rural Colombians for the past 4 years. We have trained more than 700 local leaders, to be 21st-century facilitators by using SOLE, to bring their communities together and learn how to solve big questions. It has been amazing! SOLE has proven to be a powerful tool to develop autonomy, curiosity, collaboration, critical thinking, tech fluency and communication skills. We have witnessed how these skills empower and enable communities to solve their real-life challenges. Building peace is not only a political, economic and environmental matter but mainly social and cultural. We want to scale this initiative to the 170 municipalities in Colombia where the ex-combatants and rural Colombians most affected by the conflict are coexisting.

Who are the beneficiaries? (1,000 characters)

Our beneficiaries are the rural communities most affected by the armed conflict, students from rural schools and demobilized ex-combatants who live in the 170 municipalities prioritized by the peace accords. They benefit in a two-tiered community model: 1 • Local leaders (farmers, students, and ex-combatants) as SOLE Ambassadors. 2 • The rest of the community (farmers, students, and ex-combatants) as participants. Ambassadors get trained with SOLE methodology and are in charge of organizing the local SOLE's. They get connected with the SOLE Community that bridges the experiences of all SOLE's ambassadors around the country. Participants are all community members that attend a SOLE session. They ask big questions and collaboratively solve them using the Internet. Together they develop autonomy, curiosity, collaboration, critical thinking, tech fluency, communication skills and have fun!

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

There are two main advantages of our initiative: 1. We train and motivate local leaders with a methodology that triggers self-organization in their communities that goes far beyond learning. It belongs to them, and they transform it into whatever their community needs. e.g., We have seen a leader use SOLE as a tool to preserve indigenous culture while another turned it into an entrepreneurial hub. 2. We create a network of SOLEs that allows any SOLE community to connect, support and learn from the experiences of other SOLEs. This connection enables us to map what the big questions these diverse communities have while allowing them to share and learn from each other. Furthermore, we are aiming to develop the ability to create consensus in a polarized community that can bring together both former victims and perpetrators.

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)

We generate key partnerships -with government, academia, NGOs and corporate organizations that allow us to leverage on existing infrastructure and access to community networks. By adapting current institutional spaces to become self-organized learning environments, we can address specific community needs. We have designed tools and activities to motivate and prepare local leaders to run SOLE´s and create spaces where they can connect with each other.

Expertise in sector

  • 3-5 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.

After 52 years of armed civil conflict, in 2016 the Colombian government and FARC guerrilla signed a peace agreement. War & the promise of peace left a country polarized in uncertainty. We knew signing an accord didn't mean instant peace, it just meant that we could build it. We thought of the SOLE network and how much impact collaborative learning has enabled in their communities. They inspired us! We want to find more like them at the heart of rural Colombia, at the heart of change.

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

The recent peace agreements influence peace; the opportunity of reintegrating demobilized combatants to civilian life; the restitution promised to people affected by the conflict and the socio-political will for all this to happen. Prosperity has been impacted by more than 52 years of war that displaced farmers from their lands; powerful rebel groups that focused economy on war and drugs; and the problematic access to education in rural regions that government fails to provide.

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

Rural communities from the remotest regions of the country. We engage them directly and through our partnerships: PASO Colombia: NGO that develops opportunities for demobilized population in the process of reintegration. We are prototyping SOLE with ex-combatants and with victims of landmines. Agency for Territorial Renovation: In charge of inter-institutional approach to the implementation of the peace accord and the development of 170 prioritized municipalities. We held our 1st pilot with FARC ex-combatants. Reincorporation Agency: Supports reincorporation of ex-combatants. ICT & Culture Ministry: Access to tech infrastructure in more than 8000 spots all over the country. UN Colombia: The Resident Coordinator supports our engagement. Build Up: NGO that supports tech & peacebuilding strategies. SOLE Central: Lead by Professor Sugata Mitra. Research hub which gives us technical support and global connection with SOLEs. Granny Cloud: Network of volunteers who accompany SOLE.

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

Together farmers and ex-combatants make up a community that has shown their willingness to transition from the conflict to living in peace, even though the path is unclear. They understand change requires time and action. Rural Colombians are hard working people that value pace, community, and security. War has left them both vulnerable & strong. They recognize the humanity in each other, and now after being in conflict, both sides are sitting together ready to build.

Geographic Focus

Rural Colombia: 170 municipalities most affected by the conflict - prioritized by the peace accords

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

3 - 5 months: design and development. 6 - 8 months: in field - implementation 12 - 18 months: Follow up & impact measurement

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

  • No


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