The Universities for Ushahidi (U4U) program kicks off at the US Institute of Peace (USIP) today. This week long U4U training program was inspired by the student run Ushahidi maps for the Haiti and Chile earthquakes last year. Students have always been a force for change around the world and especially in terms of peacebuilding. I therefore committed to launching U4U (see original blog post) as part of my commitment at the Global Clinton Initiative University (CGI-U) in April 2010. One year later, thanks to the Director of U4U, my colleague Rob Baker, and the support of USIP, U4U is officially here.

The curriculum for the program is available here as a PDF. If you’d like to follow the program, we’ll be tweeting with the hash tag #u4u.

On Friday, we’ll host a public panel entitled “From Crisis to Community: Mapping as a Peacebuilding Tool.” There has been a surge of enthusiasm and activity around crisis mapping recently, thanks to rapidly expanding access to mobile devices and social media, as well as to some high profile success stories. Crisis maps were used in Haiti, Afghanistan, Libya, Egypt, Kenya, and elsewhere, providing real-time information for everything from disaster relief to political violence and election monitoring.

But, as the field matures, how do we turn this information into insight that engages and empowers local communities in conflict prevention and peacebuilding? How do we move from “map making” to “problem solving” using the crowdsourced data generated by these powerful technology platforms?

Join USIP and Ushahidi, the crisis mapping pioneer, as we explore these questions with mappers from conflict zone countries and policymakers in Washington, DC. Register now, space limited! This panel will also be webcast live beginning at 10:00am EST on June 17, 2011 at Online viewers will be able to engage panelists and each other through live chat and Twitter discussions (hashtag: #u4u).