CMOs urged to use ‘peace data’ to create brand purpose while affecting positive social change

Peace data is measurable and sparks positive engagement not only with customers, but as a good corporate citizen, this Stanford lab co-director claims

Stanford Peace Innovation Lab's Mark Nelson
Stanford Peace Innovation Lab's Mark Nelson

Stanford Peace Innovation Lab co-director, Mark Nelson, is calling on CMOs to use technology, and particularly 'peace data', in order to bolster brand purpose while also making inroads and a positive impact towards achieving global peace.

“People are generally not used to hearing the word peace in the same sentence with technology and business and profit,” Nelson told CMO, in an interview coinciding with SocialBaker’s Engage event in Bali on 1 March.

By relying on 'peace data' - what the Stanford leader calls engagement data - Nelson said organisations will not only bring about brand purpose, positive engagement and brand awareness, they'll also be working towards creating tangible results on the ever-elusive path towards world peace.

A former relief-worker, investment banker and social entrepreneur, Nelson founded and co-directs the California-based lab, a global community consisting of thought leaders from the fields of behaviour design, innovation, persuasive and social technologies and finance. It aims to increase positive peace via real-world interventions as well as urban-scale innovations.

“When you’re marketing to a customer, a bunch of that marketing data is actually also peace data. You just haven't looked at it that way,” Nelson said. “But if you could frame it that way, and pull the peace information out of it as well, that would not only increase customer engagement - when you can show your customers measurably increased peace between groups – it also increases your ability to market for recruiting and retain the talent you do recruit.”

In addition, such data increases a company’s ability to market to its regulators to prove the company is a good corporate citizen, while also improves the patience of shareholders, Nelson claimed.   

“A classic example of that is all of the shareholders who are incredibly patient with Elon Musk because they are so positively engaged with what he’s trying to do, that it almost doesn’t matter how unreal it seems,” he said. “They are willing to give him the benefit of the doubt again and again and again, which is part of what allows him to do some of the amazing things he has so far done.

“All of those things are marketing. They are marketing to target audiences that many companies miss because they are so focused on the paying customer, and not realising that all of these other audiences are also paying - they are just a different currency.”

Fostering peace behaviour  

Essentially, Nelson said ‘peace data’ is distinguishable from conflict data in that it's measurable, positive and peace behaviour. It relies on machine sensor data about human behaviour, and when one person is trying to do something positive for another person. And it’s all about enabling enable businesses to partake in an episode of positive engagement. 

“Of all the big data out there, there is a smaller slice that is social data. And of all the social data, there’s a fairly big slice of peace data that says something about how a business has measurably increased positive engagement across some difference boundary by enabling that episode of engagement,” Nelson said.

Another dimension of peace data is companies using mediating technology such as sensors to track the episode and economic value of engagement, whether good or bad.

“Technology these days gives organisations actual data about every single episode of positive engagement they create and the value of those episodes of positive engagement - and they have that kind of data lying around,” Nelson continued.

“Companies… could show their regulators, their employees, their customers, how much they are measurably improving the world and making the world a better place. But they are leaving that value on the ground by not aggregating that data and not publishing it.”    

Historical context

The bigger agenda is global peace. Nelson said the world traditionally had three ways of approaching peace as a species, which have all arguably failed: Religion, empire and war.

“With religion, it pushes conflict out to the edges where those religions bump up against other religions and you get bigger conflicts. It also takes a lot of time and is expensive. The modern descendant of that approach, by the way, is philanthropy and charity and the humanitarian NGOs,” he explained.

The second approach to peace was through ‘empire’, which relied on the belief that if people followed, they’d have peace. The modern descendant of that approach is policy and diplomacy, Nelson said.

The third approach is to go to war. “When the other two approaches don’t work, we go to war. The hypothesis there is, ‘If we can just beat those people hard enough with a big enough stick, we can make them love us’,” he said.

“In today’s world we can’t really afford to resort to violence and just conquering people as a way of getting peace.”

Nelson positioned ‘peace data’ as the fourth, modern, business-led approach. It’s not only sustainable, it’s very scalable, he said.

“The problem with the religion hypothesis or the empire hypothesis is it requires people to be the same as each other. And getting people to be the same as each other is just very difficult,” he said. “In contrast, the business approach requires people to be different from each other. A business person is looking for people who have something they don’t, and need something they have. And so this approach is, first of all, fundamentally more realistic because it is driven by people’s very differences.”

Technology today has made it possible to measure episode by episode of positive engagement, which in turn reduces bad behaviour and increases good behaviour between any two people, Nelson said. On one side, this could be the entrepreneur and on the other, a customer, which could either be an employee shareholder, regulator or supplier.

“In this model, everyone is a customer and they’re entering into mutually beneficial episodes of positive engagement, saying ‘What can I do for you, how can I serve you?’ The key distinction here is that it’s a pre-emptive approach. You don’t wait around for the other guy. Entrepreneurs are saying, ‘How can I reduce the risk so much that you can’t afford to say no to me’?”  

Ultimately, peace data increases good behaviour across 'difference' boundaries, Nelson concluded.

“Most people think of the world as a violent and horrible place where people are so ugly and broken. But about 98 per cent of all human behaviour data out there is social and it is positive. People by default, given the chance, almost all of the time will be nice to each other.”  

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