The second cohort of the PeaceTech Accelerator looks to expand the scope of ‘peacetech’

It's looking for startups that want to use technology to assist communities in crisis.

The inaugural cohort of PeaceTech Accelerator. (Courtesy photo)

Five months ago, when Amazon Web Services, C5 and the PeaceTech Lab debuted their inaugural cohort for the PeaceTech Accelerator, several misconceptions were stacked against the project.

Perception topped the list, according to Sheldon Himelfarb, PeaceTech Lab president and CEO.

“When people think about conflict, they’re picturing bombed-out buildings, bullets flying and chaos. But the fact is, in nearly every conflict zone we’ve worked, we see [technology],” Himelfarb said. “You don’t have to be defined by your immediate circumstances — there’s an outlet for expression, for cultivating and sharing new ideas, and for building something with purpose and value.”

A prime example of the innovative nature in the first cohort is Junub Games. This South Sudanese nonprofit develops video games and gaming communities as a means to promote peace in the area.

There’s also Wistla, a crowd gathering app for “sociable” experiences. While it may seem like a bit of a stretch for peacetech, Wistla focuses on “building peaceful integrated societies” and “offer[ing] an opportunity to build offline communities by helping people group together, mobilize and share their experiences,” explained Bee Heal, program manager of the PeaceTech Accelerator.

Wistla at Launch Event during PeaceTech Accelerator

Wistla at Launch Event during PeaceTech Accelerator (courtesy photo).

After finishing the program, Wistla soft launched their app for Andriod users at the British Style Collective last month and iOS users can expect to see the product later this month.

Now, the PeaceTech Accelerator is back for the program’s second cohort.

Housed at the United States Institute of Peace in Foggy Bottom, the accelerator is open to nonprofits and businesses alike, so long as each applicant aims to assist citizens in conflict zones and create stability in one of the following sectors:

  • Cybersecurity
  • Gender violence
  • Violent extremism
  • Resource management
  • Refugee assistance and protection
  • Governance integrity and accountability
  • Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR), and rehabilitation for veterans in post-conflict countries

The program runs eight weeks and will provide mentorship and training for the selected startups. Additionally, the cohort will participate in the Inclusive Smart Cities on Sept. 12 at the United States Institute of Peace. The application closes on Aug. 8 and the next cohort will begin in early September.

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But this won’t be the only chance to submit for the accelerator. Dimitra Hatzudis, external relations at PeaceTech Accelerator, confirmed that the program will host three cohorts a year and future applications will be accepted on a rolling basis.

While many may not understand the depth of scope that peacetech encompasses, Himelfarb, PeaceTech Lab, and their partners are ready to use their resources to expand the operations and global reaches of startups.

“We believe achieving that kind of scale and momentum is what will help us not only end current violent conflicts, but prevent future outbreaks from happening,” said Himelfarb.


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