UMass Boston

Peacebuilding and Conflict Resolution

Understanding and Addressing Deep Divides


Our peacebuilding and conflict resolution services include: conflict analysis, conflict resolution systems development, organizational conflict resolution, community peacebuilding and program monitoring and evaluation.  CPDD offers advanced approaches to addressing cross-cultural, interfaith, inter-ethnic, and ideological divides.  With years of academic and practical experience across five continents, our scholar-practitioners are uniquely equipped to bring their research,conflict analysis and intervention skills to peacebuilding and conflict resolution initiatives.  We seek to strategize with and support our partners in scaling up the impact of such initiatives.  Regularly partnering with Padraig O’Malley, the John Joseph Moakley Chair Professor of Peace and Reconciliation and led by CPDD Director Darren Kew, projects and themes include:

Conflict Early Warning Analytics & Policy Project (CEWAP)

What is Early Warning?

CEWAP defines conflict early warning under the Five R’s Principle of delivering the Right information; to the Right stakeholders; at the Right time; in the Right format; for the Right action(s). CEWAP believe that most forms of atrocities can be prevented upstream, midstream and even further downstream if the right information is delivered to the right stakeholders, at the right time, in the right format, enabling the stakeholders to take the right actions. Early warning is particularly effective in reducing community-based violence, especially cyclical violence like riots. Using local knowledge is crucial for early warning and response to be successful at the community level.

In general, early warning systems have sought to achieve three main objectives, 1) identify the root causes of conflict (CIFG); 2) predict the outbreak of conflict (ICG, FAST, FEWER); and 3) mitigate or prevent conflict (ICG, FEWER). Early warning covers a range of distinct activities, from conflict analysis and monitoring to data analysis, risk assessment and advocacy. 

Previous generations of early warning systems have been accused of being western-oriented or of being designed by outsiders for outsiders. CEWAP believes that local mechanisms are the most motivated to respond to warnings and best positioned in terms of local knowledge and tactical options to react to warnings immediately. In many instances of catastrophe, the earliest sources of relief come from the endangered population itself. Our experiences in Sri Lanka, Nigeria and the U.S. demonstrate the usefulness of sustaining local or community-based early warning and early response mechanisms, and the merits of building on new or existing community associations, particularly local peace networks and faith-based associations as both a provider of early warning signals as well as a key early response intervention mechanism.

Who We Are

Madhawa "Mads" Palihapitiya is a conflict resolution practitioner, evaluator, researcher, and lecturer based at the McCormack Graduate School for Policy and Global Studies at UMass Boston. He heads the Conflict Early Warning Analytics Program (CEWAP) at the McCormack Graduate School's Center for Peace Democracy and Development (CPDD), which provides early warning analysis for the TRUST Network, which is the first early warning system in the U.S. Mads is a co-convener of the TRUST Network and the Associate Director of the statutory state office Massachusetts Office of Public Collaboration (MOPC). Mads has over twenty years of experience in the conflict resolution field, with significant work in the areas of conflict early warning, dispute resolution, collaborative governance, and program evaluation. He is also the conflict early warning consultant for the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative's Signal Program. Mads has published work in conflict early warning, technology for violence prevention, dispute resolution, and program evaluation. He can be reached at

Jack T Sherman is a senior at UMB who is scheduled to graduate after the Fall 2022 semester. He got involved with CEWAP in January 2022 as part of a Capstone course that he needed to finish his English degree with a minor in Professional/New Media Writing. He wants to pursue a career in writing after he completes his academic work. Jack Sherman is in charge of deep researching up-and-coming extremist groups and incidents related to political violence and in monitoring right-wing media. He focuses on investigating the roots and history of extremist groups such as the Proud Boys and Jane’s Revenge by looking at their history, sources of funding, and communications, among other details. Jack also follows any incidents related to groups of concern. He can be reached at:

Kathryn Butterworth supports CEWAP with geospatial analysis and other research activities on predicting political violence. Kathryn also supports the team in qualitative research and analysis, creating StoryMaps and contributing to Early Warning bulletins produced by CEWAP. Kathryn is a PhD Candidate in the Global Governance and Human Security program at the McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies, UMass Boston. Her dissertation work focuses on the role of international organizations in the international system. Contact information:

Mahdi Hasan is a PhD candidate at the Global Governance and Human Security program at the McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies, UMass Boston.. A member of the conflict early warning team, Mahdi investigates contributing factors to political violence using events data analysis. Mahdi also studies the activities and ideologies of extremist groups in the United States. He holds a Master’s Degree in Conflict Resolution from UMass Boston and his Doctoral thesis focuses on emerging global AI governance norms. Mahdi is also interested in studying the state of the ‘public sphere’; particularly the ‘digital public sphere’ as a medium of social and political changes. He can be reached via email at

Katherine Yarusso is a Master’s Student from Montclair University concentrates on the mathematical side of the team. She is working on adapting mathematical models to predict when conflict will arise based on existing data from the past. She is currently analyzing the use of different mathematical models in the context of early warning systems for conflict. She can be reached at

Alejandra Palacios Jaramillo is a Fulbright Scholar from Ecuador currently in her second year of the Conflict Resolution Master's Program at the McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies, UMass Boston focusing her research on the Ecuadorian prison system. As part of CEWAP, she serves as a support person for the event data analysis side of the team and general desktop research. Alejandra works on monitoring and preparing for grant applications. She can be reached at

Kelsey Edmond (she/her) is a PhD candidate in Public Policy at the McCormack Graduate School for Policy and Global Studies at UMass Boston. She supports the CEWAP team by mining Twitter data to conduct discourse analyses on current political trends or movements. Methodologies include term frequencies, sentiment analyses, time series analyses, and more. Kelsey also provides analysis and descriptive statistics of various national datasets. She holds a Bachelor of Science and a Master of Public Administration from the University of Delaware and a Master of Public Policy from UMass Boston. She can be reached at

Kristina Angelevska is a Fulbright Scholar at University of Massachusetts - Boston at the Department of Global Governance, Human Security and Conflict Resolution. Kristina is also an International Peace Scholar as a recipient of the P.E.O. International Peace Scholarship. Her past positions include working in a think - tank organization in North Macedonia, Peace Corps North Macedonia, Macedonian - American Alumni Association (MAAA) and OSCE/ODIHR in North Macedonia. Kristina has held fellowship and professional exchange experiences with the Geneva Center for Security Policy (GCSP),Community Solutions Program (CSP) at George Mason University. She has most recently completed a program in conflict prevention through arms control and disarmament through the OSCE- UNODA Scholarship for Peace and Security and a cyber governance program with the Geneva Center for Security Sector Governance (DCAF). Kristina's research interests are in the field of conflict assessment and conflict evaluation of the spectrum of polarities and divisive narratives that lead to intractable conflicts. She can be reached at

Karina Zeferino recently joined MOPC as a research associate where she performs program monitoring, evaluation, and research related to MOPC public dispute resolution programs and collaborative governance initiatives. Prior to joining MOPC, Karina interned at the Crime and Justice Institute for two years where she primarily maintained and managed aspects of their Coming Home Directory, a reentry resource. Karina holds a BA in Psychology from Umass Amherst and a Master's in public policy from Simmons University. She also holds a certificate in the Criminal Justice System and Criminology. She can be reached at

CEWAP Vision: To increase human security by preventing atrocities and violent threats to human security, democracy and development anywhere in the globe using community-based conflict early warning and early response, teaching, training, technology development, community organizing, fundraising, research and data analysis.


The mission of the Conflict Early Warning Analytics Program (CEWAP) is to expand the utilization of authentic community-based conflict early warning and early response through practice, research, technology development, teaching, training and community empowerment, and to develop the next generation of conflict early warning practitioners and researchers. 

CEWAP Background

The Conflict Early Warning Analytics Program (CEWAP) at the Center for Peace, Democracy and Development (CPDD) at the McCormack Graduate School for Policy and Global Studies (MGS), UMass Boston is the conflict early warning analytical hub of the TRUST Network. Though CEWAP was formalized more recently, conflict early warning by CEWAP experts goes back twenty years, and spans at least three continents.

CEWAP’s founder, Madhawa “Mads” Palihapitiya is a senior fellow at the Center for Peace, Democracy and Development and is also the Associate Director of the Massachusetts Office of Public Collaboration, which is the statutory state office for dispute resolution in Massachusetts. Mads helped pioneer 3rd generation community-based early warning over 20 years ago.

New Generation of EWER

Third generation conflict early warning combines early warning and early response and empowered community actors to respond to violence at various stages of a conflict cycle using local knowledge with support from expers. The approach was pioneered in 2001 in Sri Lanka at the Foundation for Co-Existence (FCE), under the guidance of the late Kumar Rupesinghe. The FCE conflict early warning system used events data, spatial data analytics, a, early warning database and a complex network of violence interrupters that worked round the clock to reduce communal violence. During this time, FCE managed to prevent around one hundred documented incidents of violence, including deadly riots. An independent evaluation of this work identified a 26% reduction in the lethality of violence as a result of this system.

Conflict Early Warning in Nigeria

From 2013-2018, CPDD Executive Director Darren Kew and Mads Palihapitiya helped develop a conflict early warning system designed and implemented as part of the Training of Leaders on Religious and National Coexistence (TOLERANCE) project in Nigeria, which was a five-year service and research project funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). As part of this project, they were able to help design and implement a community-based early warning system comprising of Community Peace Observers (CPOs) who engaged in violence interruptions and provided early warnings to a centralized Community Peace Action Network (CPAN) for early response action. With help from technology experts like Chandika Mahawatte and IntelliIT Systems, Mads was also able to design and implement a cloud-based conflict early warning platform called Waayama for tracking violence using geospatial and events data.   

CEWAP, the TRUST Network and U.S. Election Violence Monitoring

In September 2020, a group of conflict resolution experts from CPDD and others began a process of monitoring through social media what they understood to be signs of impending violence in the run-up to the 2020 Presidential Elections. By October 2020, we joined in partnership with Mediators Beyond Borders in establishing a broad coalition of 25 plus organizations for predicting and interrupting community-based political/election violence called the Trust Network. By November 2020, the CPDD team, now named the Conflict Early Warning Analytics Program (CEWAP), comprising two PhD students and several master's degree students from MGS had deepened the level of their analysis of the impending crisis through events data analysis. As a result, CPDD issued a nation-wide early warning and a series of bulletins on the potential for election violence to all relevant stakeholders. While the Trust Network was able to predict and prevent a number of smaller-scale incidents of violence. 

Since November 2021, CEWAP founder Madhawa “Mads” Palihapitiya is a co-convener of the TRUST Network alongside Prabha Sankaranarayan, President and CEO of Mediators Beyond Borders International (MBBI) and D.G. Mawn, President of the National Association for Community Mediation (NAFCM). CEWAP comprises of analysts Kathryn Butterworth, Kelsey Edmond, Muhammed Mahdi Hasan, Jack T Sherman, Alejandra Palacios Jaramillo and Katherine Yarusso. Professors Darren Kew and Jeff Pugh from the Department of Conflict Resolution, Human Security and Global Governance (CRHSGG) provide advice to this project. CEWAP is funded in part by the University of Massachusetts Boston, the McCormack Graduate School, the Massachusetts Office of Public Collaboration and The David and Lucile Packard Foundation.

What We Do

We help predict and interrupt political violence in major cities and towns across the U.S. through:

  • Training TRUST Network members in conflict early warning and early response.
  • Helping to maintain an operations room to continuously monitor political violence.
  • Conducting social media analytics and sentiment analysis. 
  • Gathering events data using spatial tools and events database (Waayama) 
  • Ongoing development of event chronologies in hotspot cities. 
  • Researching mathematical modeling and statistical methods to predict political violence.
  • Gathering data from members of the Trust Network
  • Compiling analytical reports, papers, articles, Op-Eds
  • Presenting research findings.
  • Developing an automated data analytics hub for scraping social media data.

Nigeria Interfaith Mediation, Training Programs, and Exchanges

CPDD has a long-standing partnership with the Interfaith Mediation Centre (IMC) in Nigeria to help build understanding among political, social, and religious groups. IMC is a globally-recognized organization that specializes in Muslim-Christian dialogue across Northern Nigeria from its base in Kaduna, and seeks to promote inter-religious dialogue by a variety of intervention approaches that encourage participants to find deeper understandings of their own faiths and new perspectives across the religious divide. CPDD helps to support IMC's peacemaking activities, and we provide strategic and organizational change assistance as well as help to expand IMC's networks and early warning systems capacity.

Get an impression of our work in Nigeria and watch CPDD Executive Director Darren Kew and his colleagues from the Interfaith Mediation Center facilitate a Muslim-Christian dialogue in Nigeria's violence-ridden Kafanchan.



Additional Nigeria-focused initiatives:

CPDD offers regular training and exchange program opportunities every year for Nigeria mediation and conflict resolution professionals. These feature one to two-week visits to Boston for advanced instruction and site visits to local mediation, conflict resolution, and restorative justice programs, and other training opportunities. Please contact for this year's offerings.

The center is also cooperating with the John Joseph Moakley Chair of Peace and Reconciliation in its Forum for Cities in Transition, which brings together city administrations from culturally divided cities around the world to assist each other in a self-help and learning network. CPDD assisted the Moakley Chair in engaging the city of Kaduna, Nigeria in the network and in sending a delegation from Kaduna to the 2012 FCT conference in Kirkuk, Iraq. CPDD also assisted in the 2013 FCT conference held in Kaduna in November 2013.

Conflict Transformation Across Borders in Quito, Ecuador

Project Team: Jeff Pugh, Dr. Cecile Mouly (Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales Ecuador), Dr. Yves-Renee Jennings (International Consultant)

Description: Now in its fifth year, this summer institute in Ecuador brings together professionals and graduate students from countries around the world to study conflict and peace in border zones. Topics include migration/refugee challenges, transnational environmental conflict, border disputes, and more.

The program includes classroom discussions, skills workshops, simulations, guest speakers, and field site visits to the Ecuador-Colombia border and the Amazon cloud forest. It also features briefings at the United Nations, the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), and with the Ecuadorian Army's military brigade at the border.

Key Outcomes: All summer institute participants design a project proposal for either a research or practical peacebuilding project. The program thus serves as an incubator and platform for further research and action. The following outcomes exemplify the program's impact beyond participants' immediate experience:

I. Multiple masters and doctoral thesis projects have originated from participants' summer institute research proposals.

II. A workshop on strategic nonviolent action, piloted during the 2016 summer institute in collaboration with the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict (ICNC), has become a full-fledged Regional Institute for the Study and Practice of Nonviolent Action in the Americas (, now in its second year.

III. Program graduates have gone on to jobs with the United Nations, working on the Venezuelan border; refugee agencies in Boston; and government positions in Ecuador.

All program outcomes are available on the program blog.

Achievements: The Conflict Transformation Across Borders summer institute was specifically mentioned as a supporting reason for UMass Boston's selection as the recipient of the NAFSA Paul Simon Award for Campus Internationalization in 2016, and for the McCormack Graduate School's 2015 ranking among the 30 most innovative public service schools in the U.S. by

Topol Peace Data Initiative (U.S., Northern Ireland, Israel-Palestine)

Project Team: Karen Ross, Paula Rayman (Research Professor, UMass Boston), Marcia Mundt (PhD candidate, Public Policy and Public Affairs), Hannah Brown (PhD candidate, Global Governance and Human Security), David Sulewski (PhD candidate, Global Governance and Human Security), Charla Burnett (PhD candidate, Global Governance and Human Security), Yuliya Rashchupkina (PhD, UMass Boston)

Description: The aim of this initiative is to better understand how grassroots peace building efforts and social justice movements can scale up and broaden the impact of their work.

Our project began with a comprehensive analysis of existing literature (academic and not) to develop a conceptual model of scaling up. Using this model as the basis for empirical work, we have engaged in a series of case studies exploring different facets of scaling up, including: the role of social media in scaling up; the role of civil society in scaling up the Northern Ireland peace process; the significance of joint Jewish-Palestinian partnership in sustaining and scaling peace building work in Israel; and the role of women and gender justice issues in scaling up in both Northern Ireland and Israel-Palestine.

Publications: Mundt, M., Ross, K., & Burnett, C. M. (2018). Scaling Social Movements Through Social Media: The Case of Black Lives Matter. Social Media + Society. doi: 10.1177/2056305118807911

BRIDGES Project (Greater Boston, MA)

Project Team: Eben Weitzman, Darren Kew

Description: CPDD is working to improve the quality of communication among the Greater Boston Muslim, Arab, and Sikh communities, regional law enforcement, and customs officials.

As part of this effort, we facilitated two town hall meetings in 2012 and 2013, and assisted BRIDGES leaders to evaluate the process and develop alternatives for improvement.

BOSTON Busing/Desegregation Project

CPDD’s work with the Jamaica Plain-based Boston Busing/Desegregation Project (BBDP) focused on helping BBDP run several dialogues among the Black, White, Latino, and Asian communities in Boston. In these dialogues, participants discussed how the city could best heal the scars remaining from the busing/desegregation era, and thus improve race and cultural relations overall. The dialogues spurred the development of new cross-cultural networks in the city, and also helped to raise important questions on equity in education in Boston. When Mayor Walsh took office in 2014, recommendations from the BBDP dialogues informed his administration's new diversity policies and approach