From the civil war in Yemen to crises throughout western Africa, global conflicts are on the rise over the last 30 years. And yet civilians are the ones who bear the brunt of the violence.
One of these civilian victims was Center for Civilians in Conflict’s(CIVIC) founder, Marla Ruzicka. In the midst of the Iraq War, Ruzicka spent time in Iraq and Afghanistan to learn firsthand what civilians were facing and what policies might be effective in improving their safety. She was killed in an explosion in Baghdad in 2005.
Marla Ruzicka (right), Founder of CIVIC
While CIVIC was born out of tragedy, Ruzicka’s legacy lives on. Her story galvanized a group of activists to continue and expand its mission in the nearly 15 years following her death. The Washington D.C.-based nonprofit’s sole focus is to reduce civilian casualties, from on-the-ground trainings of military actors to high-level policy recommendations with the likes of the United Nations, NATO, and other international organizations.
Gathering and sharing that local knowledge is crucial to CIVIC’s efficacy. From civilian interviews to marked-up maps to policy briefs, the team produces hoards of intel. Bringing together this globally de-centralized team and all their expertise—in locations often with limited internet connections—has required that CIVIC adopt innovative tools.
“Dropbox helps the flow of our work because our documents are never produced entirely in one place by one person,” says Federico Borello, Executive Director at the CIVIC.“It’s so important that we have a central place where we know a document has the latest information,” adds Jessica Ginther, Sr. Operations Manager.“These conflicts are changing on a daily, hourly basis, so it’s imperative that we can take action quickly even when we’re working across time zones.”
To Borello, CIVIC has no choice but to bring new perspectives into their work.“Innovation is essential to us because we are fighting such an old problem that seems to have no solution,” he says.“So we have to think outside of the box, both in our policies and recommendations, and in the ways our own team works together.”
“I think we embrace complexity and hard solutions,” says Borello.“We unfortunately don’t have the magic key to solving a conflict. It's a combination of different interventions at different levels—local, national, regional, and international. We have to embrace that and accept that the problems are hard, and so the solutions are complex.”