Conrad Grebel University College
140 Westmount Road North
Waterloo, ON, Canada N2L 3G6
It’s not every day that you find professional peacebuilders, social entrepreneurs, and impact investors gathering to engage in conversation. The Venture Peacebuilding Symposium, held this past January 22-23 at American University in Washington, D.C, created a unique space for that dialogue, and brought together global actors from all three of these sectors. The symposium aimed to spark collaboration that could disrupt systems of violence and harness the private sector to build peaceful and resilient communities.
Paul Heidebrecht, Director of the Kindred Credit Union Centre for Peace Advancement (CPA), was invited by the symposium organizers, the International Peace and Security Institute (IPSI), to help facilitate a workshop on “How to Build a Peace Venture.” Joined by representatives from StartUp Middle East and the PeaceStartup Foundation from Colombia, Heidebrecht highlighted ways our Epp Peace Incubator has made an impact by linking peacebuilding to Waterloo’s vibrant innovation ecosystem.
Many at the symposium resonated with the approach the CPA is taking, and entrepreneurs and investors alike were eager to learn more about our incubator program and the ventures that have been supported by it. After attending a showcase of participants in the PeaceTech Accelerator at the Washington-based PeaceTech Lab, Heidebrecht noted that,
“It was exciting to see the energy being mobilized around peace, technology, and entrepreneurship, and heartening to learn that our incubator program—and our region—is at the forefront of a growing movement.”
In addition to the focus on “PeaceTech” or “Tech for Good,” the symposium covered a range of topics such as peace through economic development and the marketing of peacebuilding. In one memorable session, former senior White House official Quintan Wiktorowicz urged peacebuilders to embrace the concept of collective impact, an approach to community change that the Tamarack Institute, one of the CPA’s core collaborators, has championed since 2011. Wiktorowicz’s emphasis on the necessity of civil society, business, and government working as allies to achieve peace also echoed the framework upon which the Master’s in Peace and Conflict Studies at Conrad Grebel University College was built.
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