Eva Grosman


Diploma in Strategy and Innovation


United Kingdom





By Eva Grosman

Innovating Peace

As another amazing week of fascinating lectures and insights, making friends and making memories comes to an end, I have been reflecting on the power of our network(s) and the endless possibilities it brings. Not only for us as individuals, for our companies and projects, but also for the ever-changing complex world.

We are the new #oxDSI18 tribe of innovators and change makers. Our mission is simple: to reduce what’s negative and increase what’s positive as we innovate our products, services and processes.

So, what about innovating societies and innovating peace? It may feel that the world is becoming increasingly unsettled space. Are we paying enough attention to the attitudes and systems that underpin peaceful societies as we continuously explore and exploit?

The Institute for Economics and Peace developed a conceptual framework for understanding and describing the factors that are associated with peaceful societies. The Pillars of Peace is an eight-part taxonomy which consists of: well-functioning government; sound business environment; an equitable distribution of resources; an acceptance of the rights of others; good relations with neighbours; free flow of information; high level of human capital and low levels of corruption.

These eight Pillars are both inter-dependent and mutually reinforcing: any one Pillar has the potential to positively or negatively influence the others.

Could we find the dominant design of a peaceful society on the intersection (or thereabout) of eight S-curves, of which some would be “flipped” as we increase the positive and reduce the negative factors in our organisations, societies and the wider eco-systems?

The peace process in Northern Ireland and the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement is an excellent example of social innovation, which radically changed the architecture of the whole eco-system, addressed some of the weak north/south and east/west linkages, focused on a relationship of trust and respect between the British and Irish governments and created several “complementary assets” (i.e. new institutions) to support the transformation.

The Agreement created an environment for consensus and cross-community support. It was socially proved. It was ready, but not quite right. The 1998 “prototype” provided a core set of principles, but subsequently had to be re-designed and was followed by the St Andrews Agreement (2006), the Hillsborough Agreement (2010), the Stormont House Agreement (2014) and the Fresh Start Agreement (2015). The latest talks to restore the power-sharing government in Northern Ireland collapsed earlier this year. The latest “design thinking” session didn’t work out that well. It’s like being jammed somewhere between dominant design and the incremental change.

While the various agreements stopped the large scale political violence (“flipped” S-curve), the sectarian division continues to paralyse the system. The current political climate, uncertainly of Brexit, layers of institutional bureaucracy, culture of mistrust, risk-aversion and leadership crisis make it even more difficult to address some of the outstanding issues of the peace process and to move forward.

And, while addressing “big” political issues, we are not paying enough attention to some fundamental issues around deepening sectarian division: both social and cultural.

Northern Ireland Housing Executive revealed that over 90% of social housing estates in Northern Ireland (94% in Belfast) are segregated on grounds of religious background – the poorer you are the more likely your estate is to be segregated. There are now 109 “peace walls” in Northern Ireland: for some a tourist attraction, for others a sad reality of community division and dysfunctionality.

According to the Department of Education, most children in Northern Ireland – 93% – are educated at schools mainly attended by either Protestant or Catholic pupils. Only 7% of children are educated at the integrated schools.

However, opinion polls indicate that 68% of people in Northern Ireland believe the issue of segregated education should be a priority and 63% say that our education system perpetuates division in society – a notable example how ‘needs’ and ‘wants’ do not translate into demand.

The majority of electorate in Northern Ireland is split among the two dominant parties of unionism and nationalism (the DUP and Sinn Féin), yet 47% of respondents of the annual Life and Times Survey say that they are neither unionist or nationalist.

Political system Northern Ireland is full of contradictions, messy and very complex. So, how do you innovate the peace in the political environment where systems, people, organisation and culture are fragmented, and general public not quite ready for the open system of innovation?

I’m truly looking forward to the next module: to learning more, thinking more and innovating more.

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