Ideating on Conflict Early Warning and Response Systems

The Challenge

UNDP and the South Sudan Peace and Reconciliation Commission recently initiated a report on Social Cohesion and Reconciliation Index (SCORE) for South Sudan. The study found that while 6 in every 10 South Sudanese live cohesively with their neighbors and other communities, nearly 15% of the population sampled in 5 targeted states said they were willing to engage in violence to resolve a problem.

The SSPRC is supported by UNDP’s Peace and Community Cohesion project, and work together to identify drivers of conflict between South Sudan’s communities and understand points where targeted peace and development actions could make a difference. This includes training community members in conflict cluster locations to form peace committees to foster community cohesion and prevent local conflict.

The Conflict Early Warning and Response Unit of the SSPRC is soon activating a national situation room, envisioned as a center to receive early warning alerts, direct alerts to early responders, compile early warning and response data and monitor trends of conflict in the country.

The situation room will be equipped with computers and a dashboard screen which will help in receiving and tracking alerts, as well as communicating with peace committee members who can report incidents, as well as provide an early response role.  Despite the new capabilities of the situation room, real-time data transmission from remote locations where peace committee members operate, and Juba, remains a challenge.

To address this gap, UNDP launched an Innovation Challenge for local innovators to design a technological solution to boost the connection and information-sharing between the peace committee members in remote locations and the centralized SSPRC situation room. Six teams were selected from amongst the ideas for an Ideation Workshop to further clarify the goals of the project. The workshop was moderated in collaboration with SSPRC and UNDP South Sudan’s Accelerator Lab team.

Defining the Problem

“The app should ideally provide a real-time connection between peace actors at the boma, Payam, county state, and the national steering committee for swift decision making and action," said Hon. Chuol Rambang, Chair of the SSPRC.

The key objective of the workshop was for the innovators to deeply understand the problem from the perspective of the users.

To understand the context, Taban Charles from SSPRC explained how the organization works and why they are seeking to launch an app.

The Accelerator Lab colleagues presented a human-centric design thinking innovation methodology that sought to enable innovators to understand how to further refine and develop their applications, according to the needs of end users.

“The app should offer a simplified system of reporting, devoid of language as a barrier," suggested Arike Edward Lemi, Coordinator Central Equatoria Peace Commission and member of the CEWERU Situation Room, highlighting one of the biggest requirements of the Innovation Challenge: going beyond words.

“Hearing from the Commission is helpful to understand the scope of the challenge. Our understanding was incomplete, but today we realized that the Peace Commission has its stages of giving information from the boma level, then payam, then county, then state, up to national level. We got that information here today,” said Abwouch Tom Eta, a team member of the AlertMe App.

From Ideas to Prototypes with Design Thinking

The presentation from SSPRC set the stage for a deeper dive into the design thinking process. The Accelerator Lab team started out with an overview and the definition of the process: what it is, how it is different, and how it is applied to the complex world of application development.

Additionally, the innovators were equipped with tools to allow them to strengthen their ideas into well-crafted concepts. The innovators used an Empathy Map Canvas to generate a deep understanding of the motivations, challenges, and pain points for their users; a Storyboard/User Journey to building a complete narrative about the steps their app will facilitate in peace committee members’ lives; and a walkthrough of the User Experience Diagrams to guide the formulation of their technical prototype.

Engaging in the design thinking process will help the participants go deeper with questioning and engaging a broad group of stakeholders and testing their assumptions integrated into their emerging solutions along the way. One of the participants asserted that:

“[Design Thinking] informed our mindset to examine that process and emphasized the need for more consultations so that the app involves everyone,” said Everest Nicholas Lopio, an innovator from Eastern Equatoria.

The emphasis on design thinking is developing empathy. Ideally, by co-creating the final solutions, the teams will present viable prototypes that get it right.

The six teams will now complete a three-week design sprint to surface their prototypes. A selection of expert judges will evaluate their proposed solutions and select three semi-finalists to engage with over a three-month incubation period. These teams will then work closely with the SSPRC and technical experts to build out and test their apps.

Stay Tuned!