Hernando Roldán

Ashoka Fellow
Medellín, Colombia
Fellow Since 1996


This profile was prepared when Hernando Roldán was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1996.
The New Idea
Hernando Roldán began with an insight into the dynamics feeding the violence now consuming Colombian society. He saw that much of the violence in society was in fact an attempt to resolve conflict through violent means. He hypothesized that if alternative nonviolent means were available, then this might reduce the recourse to violence. "Conflict is normal, even healthy," notes Hernando. "It is the absence of non-violent means to resolve conflict that is pathological and that leads to violence." Based upon his volunteer efforts as a mediator between the state and the youth vigilante groups operating in Medellín in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Hernando also came to believe that the vigilante youth were "capable of becoming leaders in the fight against violence." Working with a dozen ex-vigilante youth, in 1995 he set up his first community conflict resolution center in one of Medellín's poorest, most violence-ridden neighborhoods. Staffed by rotating teams of volunteer youth and one older member of the community, little by little over a year-long period, the center proved its value to both local citizens and the police and became a major resource for conflict resolution for several neighboring communities in addition to its immediate environs.
Unlike other mechanisms to address conflict, this one was purely voluntary: parties to a dispute appeared of their own volition. But at the same time, the center staff were not shy to exhort recalcitrant parties to respect the beliefs, traditions and customs of the community.
With the demonstrable success of the first center, Hernando began to turn his attention to meticulously documenting the work of the center and to training people to replicate the centers throughout Medellín (five more centers were set up during the second year) and the rest of Colombia. By late 1996 the first six Medellín centers were each receiving an average of twelve complaints a day. Of these, they were consistently resolving more than 80 percent.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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