Catalyst: Helena Puig Larrauri


New Modality Catalyst:
Helena Puig Larrauri, Digital Peacebuilder


Profile edited by Michael J. Seidlinger

Photo courtesy of Helena Puig Larrauri
Last update: February 20, 2020


Helena Puig Larrauri is the co-director of Build Up, a social enterprise dedicated to supporting alternative infrastructures for civic engagement and peacebuilding. Here's more about this NewMo Catalyst.

How would you present your bio?

I would say: "Helena Puig Larrauri is a governance and development professional with over a decade of experience advising and supporting UN agencies, multi-lateral organizations, and NGOs working in conflict contexts and polarized environments. She specializes in the integration of digital technology and innovation processes to civic initiatives. She co-founded and currently directs Build Up, a non-profit that works with civic activists and authorities to identify and apply innovative practices that can prevent conflict and tackle polarization. She is also an Ashoka Fellow.

"Helena has been invited to speak about civic technology and innovation in venues including SXSW Interactive, Geneva Peace Talks, Geneva Peace Platform, The Hague Institute of Global Justice, IPI Vienna Seminar, Northwestern University, MIT's Centre for Civic Media, and the United States Institute of Peace. She previously served on the Boards of International Alert, ImpactHub Barcelona, and the Standby Task Force (a global network of digital volunteers available for disaster relief, which she co-founded). She currently serves on the Boards of Public Sentiment and Elva Community Engagement."

What’s a specific project that you’re excited about *right now?*  

Throughout 2019, my organization Build Up had thousands of conversations with strangers, across some of the most polarized and polarizing topics on Twitter and Facebook in the USA. This is one of the most interesting pieces of work we've done at Build Up, and one that gives me hope for how we can build a stronger democratic societies in the digital era.

It was fascinating, impactful, and we want to do more of it. Here's a write-up of our results, impact, learnings and plans to depolarize digital conversations in 2020.


“Leonard Cohen says that poetry is just the evidence of life: if your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash.”


What's a current cultural edge you're excited to see people pushing?

I love poetry. Leonard Cohen says that poetry is just the evidence of life: if your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash. I'm kind of intrigued, sometimes appalled, mostly fascinated by Instapoetry (poetry written for sharing on social media platforms like Instagram). I don't know enough about it, I want to learn more, I'd love to understand whether and how it is changing how poetry is written and experienced.


New Modality Catalysts

The New Modality is about experiments in culture — and the people who do those experiments. NewMo Catalysts are people who do things we admire and want to celebrate. They also help us stay accountable to our values. To learn more about NewMo Catalysts (or nominate someone to be a Catalyst), check out the Catalyst FAQ.

This profile was edited by Michael J. SeidlingerMichael is a writer, editor, and creative entrepreneur living in New York City. More about Michael at his NewMo profile

The information in our Catalyst profiles usually comes directly from the subjects, and we usually don't fact-check them. You can learn more about The New Modality's fact-checking and epistemological ideas by reading the page about our process for truth and transparency.