A Rebuilding Trust to Make Peace

A Rebuilding Trust to Make Peace

Palestinian Territory
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
Budget: 
$100,000 - $250,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Here is a way to restart peace talks by focusing on Palestinian labor and property rights: engage impact-investment financing for Palestinian home construction to give high-paying jobs to the 20,000 Palestinian workers currently employed by settlements. Settlement construction would stop as Palestinian families rebuild their homes on the land they own, and peace talks would begin in earnest.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Contradicting efforts to launch peace negotiations, the government of Israel is escallating a policy of demolishing Palestinian homes, schools, and neighborhoods in a de-facto confiscation of Palestinian land and resources to make room for expanding Israeli settlements. Instead of assuring Palestinian villages the right to issue building permits on the land they own, the Israeli Army has issued demolition orders to nearly all 50,000 Palestinian homes in Area C, the 60% of the West Bank under Israeli administrative control. Home demolitions continue in East Jerusalem, Israel’s Negev, and the West Bank Area C. In Gaza, the Israeli army demolished Palestinian neighborhoods on a massive scale – and rebuilding is still prevented by Israel’s blockade of cement and steel. Yet, stopping Israeli settlement construction remains a reasonable prerequisite for peace negotiations because — to paraphrase Palestinian lawyer Michael Tarasi — you cannot negotiate how to divide the pizza when Israel is already eating it.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

The international development community rightly believes that property rights and the fair rule of law are important criteria for peace, stability, and economic development, however they usually wait until after a peace agreement is signed before rebuilding. I believe that rebuilding demolished communities in war-torn areas cannot wait for a peace agreement. The finish line is too uncertain and far away. In my experience, village-directed rebuilding should begin as soon as the immediate conflict subsides, just as one would start rebuilding after a natural disaster. Rebuilding is a tangible way to reach across distance in condolence and lend a hand. Rebuilding is a good way to commemorate those who were lost, to help survivors hold on to their dreams and press forward for a better world. I believe that rebuilding projects strengthen peacemakers and give them their voices back. Rebuilding gives officials at the local, national and international level tangible and immediate opportunities to help. Rebuilding recognizes fair claims to land and moves restorative justice forward.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

In the West Bank village of Al Aqaba, the Rebuilding Alliance built a kindergarten that keeps the village standing despite demolition orders. Our kindergarten has rallied 17 embassies, UN agencies, and NGOs to help and we're now working to equip the first birthing center in Area C of the West Bank. We want to move from raising funds for one project at a time to providing mortgage financing to help whole neighborhoods rebuild low-cost, eco-sustainable homes. 30 families in Al Aqaba village are willing to repay a 20 year fixed rate mortgages. Despite demolition orders against nearly the whole village, we seek impact-investors who will finance our proof-of-concept project. The social return on investment can be determined by calculating the benefits that accrue with the rebuilding of Palestinian homes. While we propose the rebuilding of 20,000 homes, here is the social benefit of rebuilding a 20 home pilot project: (1) Rebuilding 20 now, despite the risk of demolition, provides an immediate economic stimulus through employment, reducing the long-term costs of food aid, malnutrition, and emergency housing. Discount Rate: 10%, Net Present Value: $353,063 (2) Once Israel’s policy of house demolitions ends, the Palestinian economy realizes significant benefits as families also save on losses of building materials and furniture. Discount Rate: 15 %, Net Present Value: $1,477,456 (3) In addition, there is a very real peace dividend when a peace agreement is realized. It would be like calculating the SROI of the success of the Solidarity Trade Movement
About You
Organization:
Rebuilding Alliance
Visit website
Section 1: About You
First Name

Donna

Last Name

Baranski-Walker

Country

, CA, San Mateo County

Section 2: About Your Organization
Is your initiative connected to an established organization?

Organization Name

Rebuilding Alliance

Organization Phone

650 325 4663

Organization Address

178 South Boulevard

Organization Country

, CA, San Mateo County

How long has this organization been operating?

More than 5 years

Your idea
Country your work focuses on
Innovation
Do you have a patent for this idea?

Impact
Actions

How many homes are needed? Given the research of the Israeli human rights group, BIMKOM: Planners for Planning Rights, about 20,000 Palestinian families applied for building permits in the past decade without receiving them. Let’s conservatively estimate at least 20,000 homes are needed now.
The math: 20,000 homes x ($15,000 labor cost per home + $25,000 materials costs per home maximum) = $800 million. Let’s start by building 20 homes with a $400K pilot project.

30 villagers in Al Aqaba want to complete loan applications to qualify for 20 year mortgage financing to build their homes. These families have only a modest income so homes must be low-cost and eco-sustainable. Next step: work with Palestinian architects to design the homes, present designs to the villagers, work with them to complete loan applications, set-up a partnership with a Palestinian bank to administer the loans. Then finalize the business plan and present it to impact investors in Silicon Valley.

Risk factor: our org is very small. I'm not sure we'll have enough capacity to develop and present our bus plan because we spend so much time working to raise donation funds.

Results

Create a “Rebuilding Trust” to begin rebuilding 20,000 Palestinian homes. By focusing on construction instead of destruction, the Rebuilding Trust will wrest the peace process away from shady financiers who back illegal settlement construction and get the negotiations back on track. Palestinian villages will welcome Israeli peacemakers who want to lend a hand — and their gesture of goodwill will resonate worldwide to reduce the threat of violence everywhere. As people around the world invest in the Rebuilding Trust, they will press for the creative diplomacy needed to sign a just and lasting peace agreement in Israel and Palestine.

Peace talks needn’t collapse just because Israeli settlers refuse to stop constructing illegal settlements. We all can rebuild hope by standing with Palestinian labor and investing in a Rebuilding Trust. Let’s begin.

How many people will your project serve annually?

1001‐10,000

What is the average monthly household income in your target community, in US Dollars?

$100 ‐ 1000

Does your project seek to have an impact on public policy?

Yes

If so, how?

We use each of our rebuilding projects to bring Israeli and Palestinian peacemakers together and engage the world to make them safe. Rebuilding Alliance has a remarkable ability to connect people and orgs and get them involved on an impressive level. Our speaking tours bring Israeli and Palestinian peacemakers to the U.S. and are welcomed by peace groups, mosques, churches, synagogues, universities, high schools, the United Nations, the U.S. Congress, and the State Department.

On November 5th, our recommendations are being cited at the UN Human Rights Council in an effort to assure the safety of Palestinian children in the playground we built.

A State Department desk officer said, "We give the Rebuilding Allince our highest recommendation in the hope they can do things that we can’t do yet.”

Sustainability
What stage is your project in?

Operating for more than 5 years

Does your organization have a board of directors or an advisory board?

Yes

Does your organization have any non monetary partnerships with NGOs?

Yes

Does your organization have any non monetary partnerships with businesses?

Yes

Does your organization have any non monetary partnerships with government?

Please tell us more about how partnerships could be critical to the success of your innovation.

Every project we've launched develops a deep commitment through partnerships. Rebuilding Alliance partners with Israeli and Palestinian Non-Governmental Organizations to develop building projects and press for their safety:

Our NGO Partners

in Palestine:
Combatants for Peace

Gaza Community Mental Health Programme

Al Aqaba Rural Women’s Association

in Israel:
Combatants for Peace

Yesh Din

BIMKOM: Planners for Planning Rights

We would like to learn more about how your initiative is financially supported. Please explain your business plan/revenue model

Our organization is grassroots funded, meeting donors by holding speaking tours that sometimes generate $2 for every dollar spent, and pursuing good donor development to realize donations. We've just opened a lovely Fair Trade store called, Dove & Olive Works in San Mateo that also includes enough space for 14 interns. We hope our sales will pay the rent.

Our goal is to move from raising funds for one project at a time to providing mortgage financing to help whole neighborhoods rebuild. We are raising donations now to visit Al Aqaba in December to finalize all the details for our pilot project -- including the home designs and bank management of loan agreements -- so that I can pitch the project to investors in January/February.

At our board's suggestion, we are launching our Bedrock 300 Donors Campaign.
The dictionary defines bedrock as unbroken solid rock, a firm foundation or basis. We seek 300 donors who will commit to giving at least $100 per month to reach our goal of an operating budget of $300,000 per year. We believe that operations at this level will allow us to raise another $700K of project funds by pitching our work to impact investors, winning social venture competitions, holding speaking tours, and creatively fundraising through our beautiful Palestinian olive oil store.

In addition, reaching our Bedrock 300 goal will put us in good standing to qualify for the Skoll Foundation’s Social Enterprise Awards next August. The Skoll Foundation offers mezzanine-level organizations a million-dollar grant over 3 years time to leverage the success of organizations even further. The Rebuilding Alliance must go from small to medium-sized to qualify.

The Story
What was the defining moment that led you to this innovation?

This past August, at the Gdansk Shipyard in Poland, Nobel Laureate Lech Walesa presented me with a Medal of Gratitude on the 30th anniversary of the founding of the Solidarity Movement in Poland.  The Medal was given for the organizing work I did as a young engineer in Chicago, helping Poland hold on to her dream of freedom when the Polish army arrested thousands in the Solidarity Trade Union Movement. 


Eventually, against all odds, Solidarity prevailed. -- Historians tell us that it was the definitive movement that brought the fall of Soviet Communism.  In 1990, less than a year later, Iraq invaded Kuwait and the U.S. mobilized for what would be the first Gulf War. I drew upon what I learned from the Polish Solidarity Movement to propose a way to end the then-stand-off with Iraq. My NYTimes op-ed, “Small Lights in the Darkness,” proposed a direct way to connect with families in Iraq to convey our desire for a just peace. Thousands of people participated and my essay was translated into Arabic by the First Lady of Greece and presented to the 20,000 members of the Iraqi Women’s Federation just a week before the war. This was my defining moment.

It would take me another 10 years before I would leave my engineering job to pursue peace-making as my life's work.  I formed the Rebuilding Alliance in 2002. an American nonprofit organization dedicated to rebuilding war-torn communities and making them safe.  For the past seven years, we have brought Israeli and Palestinian peacemakers together to help Palestinian families rebuild their demolished neighborhoods.

I believe that if our world is to meet the big challenges that face us at this time in history, we must make peace in Israel and Palestine.  We must find a way to free-up the energy and expense spent on this conflict, celebrate success, and redirect resources to the pressing global crises ahead. I am not Israeli, I am not Palestinian, I am an American, and as such, I am responsible for the actions my country takes in the world.  


I work for a just and enduring peace in Israel and Palestine founded upon equal value, security, and opportunity for all.  Our rebuilding is village-directed and it includes rebuilding not just structures but also relationships, trust and mutual respect. Each project is built on a foundation of shared interest that honors human dignity, and aids people recovering from trauma. 


Rebuilding offers officials at all levels of government - in the judiciary and the military - tangible and immediate opportunities to make good policy. We’ve see that this is true of officials both locally and internationally.

I believe a child’s life can be changed for good by rebuilding her or his home and neighborhood.
 
I believe construction is the best response to destruction -- and it is important to start rebuilding as soon as possible.

Tell us about the social innovator—the person—behind this idea.

Donna Baranski-Walker graduated with a B.S. in electrical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and an M.S. in Agricultural Engineering from the University of Hawaii.  While at M.I.T., she spent her junior year abroad on an exchange to Siberia, then studied in Poland. It was the year before the Solidarity Movement arose. Later, in 1983-4 she did her graduate research in mainland China. She developed a wide variety of engineering experience and eventually became the telecommunications licensing associate at then Stanford University, then SRI International, responsible for evaluating new communications inventions, forming start-up companies, and negotiating license agreements. In 1999, Donna left her engineering career to work on peacemaking full time, seeking to use new technologies to link good neighbors together across countries and geography to build peace.

Not herself Israeli or Palestinian, Jewish or Muslim, Donna’s interest in the Middle East began in 1990 when she initiated a symbolic message to the people of Iraq as a way to end the then stand-off without going to war. Some 10,000 people participated when her New York Times op-ed was translated into Arabic and presented to the Iraqi Women’s Federation a week before the First Gulf War began. Encouraged by Jerome Wiesner, president emeritus of M.I.T. and former science adviser to President Kennedy, she then sought ways to use new technology tools creatively enough to link teachers across the world for educational development, justice, and peace. Those ideas took shape with the encouragement of the World Bank, when in 1996, she visited teachers and principals in the West Bank, Gaza, Israel, and Jordan to invite their participation in Project Dialogue, a way to improve teacher training and education using computers.

In 2002, Donna proposed and launched the Global Campaign to Rebuild Palestinian Homes, working with significant Israeli and Palestinian partners. Donna developed a house party fundraising campaign that has included 7 countries and raised $425,000 in 1.5 years; completed construction of 6 homes and one kindergarten, and held 3 speaking tours. The Campaign was awarded the 2003 Lewis Mumford Award for Development by the Architects, Designers, and Planners for Social Responsibility. Donna’s plan to finance and rebuild neighborhoods was also a semifinalist in the National Social Venture Competition, a paper presented by invitation to a United Nations seminar in Geneva, Switzerland. She formed the Rebuilding Alliance in 2003 and was awarded “Employer of the Year” by the San Francisco Mayor’s Office for the Employment of Persons with Disabilities.

How did you first hear about Changemakers?

Email from Changemakers

If through another source, please provide the information.

Approximately 50 words left (400 characters).

Additional
Which (if any) of the following strategies apply to your organization or company (check as many as apply)

Formalizing and documenting property rights (i.e. titling, leasing or certification), Legal education and awareness, Developing/applying technology for surveying, mapping and documenting property rights, Other.

Please explain how your work furthers one or many of the above strategies (if you selected “other”, please explain your strategy)

We've helped Al Aqaba village develop its master plan and I presented a 3-week workshop at M.I.T. to create a Peacemakers Toolkit for Policy Change.

To hold on to hope, we introduced Al Aqaba village to PinwheelsForPeace.com -- and they were the first school in the Middle East to participate! We helped with high court cases and I moved my office to a tent in front of the Palo Alto City Hall.

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