2023 HONOURABLE MENTION
Build Up | Kenya / United States / Global
Build Up’s Story
Imagine a peacebuilding organization in Jordan wants to understand how polarization around religion and tradition is playing out on social media in their country. Are religious and traditional norms affecting how people express themselves? What terms are being used and by whom? For answers, the organization turns to Phoenix, an open-source social media analysis tool created by the non-profit organization, Build Up.
Phoenix collects data from a hundred Facebook pages and Twitter handles. It organizes the data, anonymizes it, and classifies and labels it in a number of ways. For example, who made the post? A religious leader? A social media influencer? A governmental organization? Next, Phoenix arranges the data into graphs by engagement, sentiment and network. This helps identify patterns. Thanks to Phoenix, the Jordanian peacebuilding organization now has a deeper understanding of social media conversations about religion and tradition and, crucially, where there are opportunities to intervene.
Phoenix is one of many tools created by Build Up, a global network of peace innovators who are using technology to build peace.
Polarization is one of the most pressing issues around the world, and the digital space is a key contributor. Social media can fuel intense animosity between political groups. The algorithms promote divisive content that stirs up emotions and drives engagement. When this is combined with misinformation and micro-targeting—i.e. data-driven personalization—different online realities are created depending on who we are. This makes it much harder for different groups to find common ground.
Build Up focuses on peacebuilding interventions that address hate speech and polarization by harnessing technologies to foster inclusive dialogue and social cohesion. It partners with organizations around the world to design and implement innovative technology-based solutions to conflict. Build Up’s work is extensive, ranging from helping an electoral commission in the Somali region create a WhatsApp bot to deliver voter education to remote communities, to supporting grassroots peacebuilding organizations to amplify the voices of youth and marginalized ethnic and religious groups. Other examples include online games that challenge stereotypes amongst Syrian youth, a chatbot that fights online misinformation in Myanmar, or digital consultations with women in Yemen to understand the gender dimensions of war.
While digital technologies can be a threat to pluralism, Build Up has shown that innovative use of these same technologies can create countless opportunities for connection, collaboration and inclusion around the world.