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Lancaster and Colombian researchers working together for sustainable peace

Magnus George

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 Columbia’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 Columbian ‘combatants’ – those who have been involved in the frontline 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 Columbia, 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 Columbia 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.”

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.”