Over the past decade, scholars and practitioners have been working to employ new insights and methods from complexity science, dynamical systems and network theory to study and address violence, conflict and sustainable peace. During 2012, a core group of scholars and practitioners convened to further this work through sharing – from both science and practice – the latest findings and challenges from work in this area. To expand this work, the Advanced Consortium on Cooperation Conflict and Complexity (AC4), at the Earth Institute, Columbia University, the the Morton Deutsch – International Center for Cooperation and Conflict Resolution (MD-ICCCR) of Teachers College, at Columbia University, and The Institute of World Affairs (IWA) at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee supported the development of the Innovation Lab on Dynamical Systems Theory, Peace and Conflict.

The goals of the Innovation Lab are to create opportunities, structures and support mechanisms to bring together experienced scholars, practitioners and scholar-practitioners working with complexity science, conflict and peace to share leading-edge ideas, methods and practices and to inspire and support collaborative work in this area for moving the work forward. The Lab supports the development of a network of professionals that crosses traditional disciplinary boundaries and the scholar-practitioner divide. Through the efforts of the lab, differences in language, perspectives and experiences are bridged to leverage the shared belief in the value of addressing conflict, peace and social change from a complex dynamical systems perspective.  Click here for a complete list of scholars and practitioners participating in the Innovation Lab.

Dr. Peter Coleman, Teachers College, Columbia University
Some history on the idea of an Innovation Lab.

During 2013 and again in 2014, Lab activities focused on convening an interdisciplinary group from around the world for week-long sessions of intense sharing and learning that combined formal and informal exchanges combined with applying principles and concepts in practice with partners from local non-profit organizations. The first convening of the Innovation Lab was held in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, July 8 – 12, 2013.  Thirty-two scholar-practitioners from around the world met to further their work through exchanging insights and synthesizing concepts across fields and specialties.  Relationships built strengthened the network of professionals approaching their work with conflict and peace from a complex dynamical systems perspective.

The second convening of the Lab brought a slightly expanded group of over 40 members together in Honolulu, Hawaii from July 20-25, 2014. A more structured agenda focused on four thematic areas – 1) complexity mapping and visualization; 2) resonance identification and utilization; 3) institutionalization of dynamical systems attitudes, behaviors and structures; and 4) learning and non-linear impact assessment.  In addition the thematic work, the group partnered with four local Hawaii groups to ground complex dynamical system concepts, theory and thinking in real-life, complex challenges. These challenges included ensuring the availability of fresh water, addressing early childhood learning, health challenges of local populations, and developing local leadership able to address current and future complex challenges. Please refer to Lab 2013 and Lab 2014 tabs for further details on these sessions including agendas, working papers, participants and other resources.

Dr. Larry Liebovitch, Queens College of the City University of New York
Expectations for and experience of Lab 2014.

The Lab continues to evolve and grow. During 2015 efforts focus on opportunities to share complex dynamical systems ideas and practice with Lab colleagues and broader peace and conflict communities. Continuing to develop and strengthen the network of scholars and practitioners will also remain a focus as organizations such as the Alliance for Peacebuilding take on a more active role in bringing scholars and practitioners together to incorporate complex systems concepts in their work. Others will focus on linking theory to practice. For more details on our latest initiatives, please click on tab titled Lab 2015.

Melanie Greenberg, Alliance for Peacebuilding
Reflections on Lab 2014 and opportunities for the future.

Participants reflected on their expectations and experiences in this experimental environment.  The following videos offer more about the evolution and experience of the Lab from Mike Mohr of the The Omidyar Group, our Lab 2014 funder and supporter.

Mike Mohr, The Omidyar Group
Expectations of the Lab.

Mike Mohr, The Omidyar Group
Reflections on the Lab.

We are grateful to our funders and supporters. This first Lab was funded through the Partnership for Sustainable Peacebuilding at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, through a grant from the J.M. Kohler Foundation.  Lab 2014, was funded through The Omidyar Group The Advanced Consortium on Cooperation, Conflict and Complexity (AC4) at the Earth Institute, Columbia University, the Morton Deutsch – International Center for Cooperation and Conflict Resolution at Teachers College, Columbia University, and the The Institute of World Affairs (IWA) at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, have provided funding and support.


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