Lancaster and Colombian researchers working together for sustainable peace

8 November 2018 12:00
Magnus George from Lancaster University Management School
Magnus George from Lancaster University Management School

Lancaster University Management School (LUMS) is leading one of ten new research projects to address issues facing Colombia’s transition from conflict to peace.

The projects, launched by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) in partnership with Colombia’s Administrative Department of Science, Technology and Innovation (Colciencias) have collectively been funded with £2.8 million through the Newton Fund. UK researchers will collaborate with colleagues in Colombia on projects designed to promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development using the arts, humanities and social sciences.

Magnus George, Senior Teaching Fellow in LUMS’ Department of Entrepreneurship and Strategy, is leading a project that will aim to empower former Colombian ‘combatants’ - those who have been involved in the front-line of the internal conflict - to develop entrepreneurship skills and generate new opportunities to re-enter the job market during the transition between conflict and peace. Working alongside Dr Andres Barrios from the University of the Andes in Colombia, Magnus will work with a small team of international researchers and local NGOs to focus on how to re-purpose the skills and experience former combatants have so they can identify problems in their communities and develop and test different solutions to address them – forming entrepreneurial ventures.

Magnus said: “The time between conflict and peace is extremely challenging, as people attempt to achieve some sense of normality again but are faced with a society that looks and feels altogether different.

“In the UK, it is common for veterans to turn their hands to entrepreneurship as they have a wealth of skills, are highly motivated, have a great work ethic, strong networks and often have leadership and management skills that can be applied to a range of settings. We expect that the group in Colombia will be very similar - albeit set against a very different local context.

“LUMS has a strong track record of working with small businesses and developing entrepreneurs and this will give us the chance to take our models to an international community to see whether, together, we can design tailored versions to address local needs and maximise opportunities for the local area.”

Magnus is due to travel to Florencia in the south of Colombia in a few weeks’ time to begin his action research. He will meet fellow academics, NGOs and some of the displaced combatants to understand the economic underpinnings of the area and kick off the project which will take place over the course of the next year.

The other nine research projects will focus on:

  •  How to ensure the participation of vulnerable and marginalised groups so their interests and abilities are represented, and that they can influence the country’s development
  •  How to ensure reconciliation between previously conflicting elements of society
  •  Exploring the role of education in developing entrepreneurial capacity, skills and creativity for all age-groups in a post conflict landscape

Professor Andrew Thompson, UKRI Champion for International and Executive Chair of the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), said: “These projects will contribute to a more just and peaceful world, enabling us to assess the causes and effects of long term conflict and promote sustainable development by starting a dialogue based on understanding and respect. It is heartening to see, in the Colombian context, research projects that take fresh approaches to tackling development challenges. As well as being insightful in themselves, I hope they will also open up new corridors of research practice within the arts, humanities, and social sciences.”

Dr Eduardo Rojas Pineda, Colciencias Director of Research Development, said: “This initiative promotes the consolidation of a scientific community across different research areas and the promotion of the transference of knowledge in ways that will contribute to the economic and social development of Colombia in collaboration with UKRI. These are internationally competitive, transformative and high-quality collaborative projects which address a broad range of areas related to peace transitions in Colombia.” 

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