Transforming Conflict Through Social Innovation


El Sistema Greece, providing free music education in Greek refugee camps.

Two international non-profits, Seeds of Peace (New York) and the Social Entrepreneurship Forum (Sweden), have partnered to unite social innovators in pursuit of conflict resolution.

How do we move beyond superficial diversity to leverage our differences and build thriving, equitable communities across lines of conflict? This is the challenge posed in this year’s GATHER Fellowship, a partnership between non-profits Seeds of Peace and the Social Entrepreneurship Forum, at the intersection of social innovation and conflict transformation.

This year, the fellowship’s third, saw a record number of applicants apply: more than 250 individuals from 55 countries.

The 16 selected Fellows from the Middle East, South Asia, North America, and Europe were chosen because of the social, economic, or political impact of their ideas — including innovative and affordable energy solutions in Gaza, music-based workshops for refugees, and educational video games.

Take one of this year’s Fellows, Anis. Over the next year, he will be developing El Sistema Greece, providing free music education in Greek refugee camps. He aims to empower children through choirs and orchestras, bringing together refugees and Greek youth, and building a sense of community.

There are other inspiring Fellows such as Majd, a Palestinian woman tackling housing problems in Gaza. Her business, GreenCake, transforms the ash and rubble left behind after the 2014 conflict into sustainable building materials. Like the other Fellows, Majd’s project has been chosen for its profound conflict-transforming potential.

Over the next 12 months, their projects and those of the other Fellows will find new ways to reach across lines and build better communities.

The year-long course kicks off in Sweden with a five-day incubator between 11-16 March 2018, a programme that includes skill building, reflection and sharing, mentorship, and meetings with Swedish parliamentarians, business leaders, and international investors/funders. The first half of the five-day programme will be hosted by Sigtunastiftelsen, a 100-year-old foundation near the town of Upsala, before moving to Stockholm for the final days. Here the Fellows will explore how a city can authentically serve its diverse communities. The incubator will culminate in a pitch session to an audience of 150 philanthropists, business leaders, investors, and Seeds of Peace and the Social Entrepreneurship Forum board members.

Beyond the Swedish programme, the fellowship will continue throughout 2018. A GATHER symposium will be held in New York City on 8 May to showcase the work of current and past Fellows, and an international convening is planned for the end of 2018.

The GATHER initiative is sponsored through the support of Scott and Sabrina Birnbaum, Darcie Bundy and Ken Cohen, Leir Charitable Foundations, the Annette M and Theodore N Lerner Family Foundation, the Moses Feldman Family Foundation, Orphanides & Associates, Red Sea Ventures, and the Leila and Mickey Straus Family Charitable Trust.

To find out more about the GATHER Fellows, click here.

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