The G7 Summit’s priorities this year include: “Building a more peaceful and secure world. As the nature of conflict changes, it’s more important than ever to reach out to our partners and build solutions that can deliver lasting peace.” Just how great are the human and economic costs of violent conflict? According to the Institute for Economics and Peace, the economic impact of violence containment on the world economy is $9.46 trillion per year, equaling almost 11 percent of World GDP. How can G7 focus their resources to effectively “reach out to our partners and build solutions that can deliver lasting peace”? Reimagine “Partner” We suggest that the partners must ultimately be local actors: those regularly affected by conflict and living with the consequences. The Liberian Pen-Pen Peace Network is an example of a local actor. Formed in 2013, the Network consists of actors from multiple sectors including everyday citizens who have collaborated to prevent violence related to strained intercommunal relations, Ebola, and tensions around elections.  With support from the Purdue Peace Project (PPP), their partners have included, among others, the Liberia Ministry of Transport and the Liberia National Police. The approach the PPP and others utilize has come to be called locally driven (led) peacebuilding: “Locally driven peacebuilding is an approach in which the people involved in, and most affected by, violent conflict work together to create and enact their own solutions to prevent, reduce, and/or transform the conflict, with the support they desire from outsiders.” Social science research and practitioners’ evidence bases demonstrate that local ownership is key to lasting peace.   Peacebuilding strategies designed with deep knowledge of specific context and cultures are more likely to yield positive, lasting impacts. Emphasizing this point, the 2015 High-Level Independent Panel on United Nations Peace Operations underlined the value of local missions engaging with local communities as core to success. An example of local leadership includes, for example, in Sudan, local peace committees operating in South Kordofan and Blue Nile States successfully mobilizing to prevent violence before it erupts. These peace committees are supported by the local organization Collaborative for Peace in Sudan (CfPS), with support from Peace Direct (UK) and funded by the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Locally led peacebuilding does not only have impact at the local level. Efforts at the local level can prevent conflicts from spilling over to other parts of the country or even across borders.  Relationships that are built across ethnic or religious groups in one community can help secure relationships at a national level.  And networks that are initiated at the local level can be expanded across the country to monitor and prevent violence. Build Solutions When solutions are generated on the ground, led and driven from a local community, and with support (financial and other) from national and international allies, we see that they can deliver lasting peace. Conflicts are increasingly local and global.  Locally led peacebuilding may not be enough on its own, which is why the partnership between donor countries, international funders and NGOs, and local, community groups on the ground is so key. However, international efforts must be in the service of local priorities, and international partners like the G7 countries must work to make sure that national governments commit to supporting local efforts too. Here are examples of solutions that are locally driven but supported by outsiders:
  • The United States Agency for International Development’s Local Works program seeks to make development more locally-owned and sustainable through a mandate that prioritizes such approaches. Launched in 2015, their most recent Guidance states that Local Works provides funding to: “Support local ownership, leadership, and self-reliance. Find creative ways to do things in support of, rather than for, our local partners.”
  • The EU Global Strategy on Foreign and Security Policy (June, 2016) also recognizes the importance of “locally owned approaches” for the effectiveness of the EU’s engagement in third countries in appreciation of the fact that a “positive change can only be home grown”.
  • The government of Canada, via the High Commission of Canada in Kenya, has allotted program funds (Canada Fund for Local Initiatives, CFLI) for projects designed by local groups in Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Somalia, and Uganda. Similar initiatives exist in Nigeria. “Ensuring security and stability” is a thematic priority of CFLI.
Although the participation of local actors is central to creating sustainable peace, too often these voices are left out of policy conversations and ignored when it comes to the design and evaluation of peacebuilding strategies. G7 country humanitarian and development assistance, already generous in its support, must strengthen its focus on partnerships with organizations and citizens at the national, sub-national, and community levels in fragile or conflict affected states that have the in-depth knowledge of local history and culture necessary to comprehend and resolve the deep sources of tensions. Reaching out to local, grassroots organizations and citizens will require long-term relationships of trust, smaller funding streams, and more flexible monitoring and evaluation mechanisms. The priority “reach out to your partners and build solutions that can deliver lasting peace” is not without its challenges, but the benefits of engaging at the local level include better understanding of what is happening on the ground in conflict contexts, relationships with civil society that can endure post-conflict, and more creative solutions to preventing and ending violence and keeping the peace. About the authors: Stacey L. Connaughton is an Associate Professor in the Brian Lamb School of Communication at Purdue University, USA. She is the Director of the Purdue Peace ProjectJessica Berns is a Consultant to Non-Governmental Organizations, University-based programs, and philanthropists dedicated to good governance, peacebuilding, and social cohesion. Photo by Candice Seplow via unsplash. Editor's Note: This article was originally published in the print edition of the 2018 G7 Summit magazine.

But it’s difficult to think about value when we have no buoy for understanding it outside our traditional lenses: for example, our time, our job, and what others tell us they are worth in cash. This, largely, is the world’s paradigm for value so far. But understanding what value really means changes everything—and will be at the center of the decentralized revolution in global coordination that will unfold over the next decade. So, where do we begin?

Let’s start with gold.

Gold is an inherent value. When backing a market, gold allows us to grow a balanced economy well into the trillions. But why does it allow for massive stable markets to form around it? It is gold's permanence that creates stability. We understand that gold will always have value, because it is inherent in all of us, not just in one part of the world, but everywhere, not just today, but tomorrow and for the long haul.

In the 1930s when the gold standard was removed, we learned that the U.S. dollar didn’t need gold to back its economy to flourish. We learned that it was just a symbol for U.S. citizens to decentralize their coordination around the United States economy.

It turns out, common agreement is a philosophy for building shared economy.

And so it seems inherent value is a marker for us to begin exploring what the future could look like—a future beyond gold and the existing realm of credit. And so what else has inherent value? Is education as valuable as gold? What about healthcare? What about a vote that can’t be tampered with? What about an ID that can’t be stolen or erased? What about access to nutrition or clean water? You will find value everywhere you look.

It turns out, we’ve already done the legwork necessary to uncover the most elemental inherent values: The Sustainable Development Goals are commitments grown out of the drive to bring to life basic tenets of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights—the closest possible social contract we have to a global, common agreement.

We’ve already agreed, as a global community, to ensure inclusive and equitable access to quality education. We’ve already agreed to empower all women and girls, to ensure pure and clean water access for all, to promote health at all stages of life, and to end hunger.

We’ve already agreed.

Our agreements are grounded in deep value centers that are globally shared, but undervalued and unfulfilled. The reason for this is our inability to quantify intangible value. All of these rich, inherent values are still nebulous and fragmented in implementation—largely existing as ideals and blueprints for deep, globally shared common agreement. That is, we all agree education, health, and equality have value, but we lack common units for understanding who and who is not contributing value—leaving us to fumble in our own, uncoordinated siloes as we chase the phantoms of impact. In essence, we lack common currencies for our common agreements.

Now we find ourselves at the nexus of the real paradigm of Blockchain, allowing us to fuse economics with inherent value by proving the participation of some great human effort, then quantifying the impact of that effort in unforgeable and decentralized ledgers. It allows us to build economic models for tomorrow, that create wholly new markets and economies for and around each of the richest of human endeavors.

In late 2017 at the height of the Bitcoin bubble, without individual coordination, planning, or the help of institutions, almost $1 trillion was infused into blockchain markets. This is remarkable, and the revolution has only just begun. When you realize that Blockchain is in a similar stage of development as the internet pre-AOL, you will see a glimpse of the global transformation to come.

Only twice in the information age have we had such a paradigm shift in global infrastructure reform—the computer and the internet. While the computer taught us how to store and process data, the Internet built off that ability and furthered the conversation by teaching us how to transfer that information. Blockchain takes another massive step forward—it builds off the internet, adding to the story of information storage and transfer—but, it teaches us a new, priceless and not yet understood skill: how to transfer value.

This third wave kicked off with a rough start—as happens with the birth of new technologies and their corresponding liberties. Blockchain has, thus far, been totally unregulated. Many, doubtless, have taken advantage. A young child, stretching their arms for the first couple times might knock over a cookie jar or two. Eventually, however, they learn to use their faculties—for evil or for good. As such, while it’s wise to be skeptical at this phase in blockchain’s evolution, it’s important not to be blind to its remarkable implications in a post-regulated world, so that we may wield its faculties like a surgeon’s scalpel—not for evil or snake-oil sales, but for the creation of more good, for the flourishing of commonwealth.

But what of the volatility in blockchain markets? People agree Bitcoin has value, but they don’t understand why they are in agreement, and so cryptomarkets fluctuate violently.  Stable blockchain economies will require new symbolic gold standards that clearly articulate why someone would agree to support each market, to anchor common agreement with stability. The more globally shared these new value standards, the better.

Is education more valuable than gold? What about healthcare or nutrition or clean water?

We set out in 2018 to prove a hypothesis—we believe that if you back a cryptocurrency economy with a globally agreed upon inherent value like education, you can solve for volatility and stabilize a mature long lasting cryptomarket that awards everyone who adds value to that market in a decentralized way without the friction of individual partnerships.

What if education was a new gold standard?

And what if this new Learning Economy had protocols to award everyone who is helping to steward the growth of global education?

Education is a mountain. Everyone takes a different path to the top. Blockchain allows us to measure all of those unique learning pathways, online and in classrooms, into immutable blockchain Learning Ledgers.

By quantifying the true value of education, a whole economy can be built around it to pay students to learn, educators to create substantive courses, and stewards to help the Learning Economy grow. It was designed to provide a decentralized way for everyone adding value to global education to coordinate around the commonwealth without the friction of individual partnerships. Imagine the same for healthcare, nutrition, and our environment?

Imagine a world where we can pay refugees to learn languages as they find themselves in foreign lands, a world where we can pay those laid off by the tide of automation to retrain themselves for the new economy, a world where we can pay the next generation to prepare themselves for the unsolved problems of tomorrow.

Imagine new commonwealth economies that alleviate the global burdens of poverty, disease, hunger, inequality, ignorance, toxic water, and joblessness. Commonwealths that orbit inherent values, upheld by immutable blockchain protocols that reward anyone in the ecosystem stewarding the economy—whether that means feeding the hungry, providing aid for the global poor, delivering mosquito nets in malaria-ridden areas, or developing transformative technologies that can provide a Harvard-class education to anyone in the world willing to learn.

These worlds are not out of reach—we are only now opening our eyes to the horizons of blockchain, decentralized coordination, and new gold standards. Even though coordination is the last of the seventeen sustainable development goals, when solved, its tide will lift for the rest—a much-needed rocket fuel for global prosperity.

“Let us raise a standard to which the wise and the honest can repair.”  —George Washington
The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.