Jerry McCann is a licensed civil and structural engineer in the State of California who has spent over a dozen years of his professional life engineering and overseeing the construction of public and commercial structures. After a successful seven-year stretch of engineering, Jerry joined the US Peace Corps in 1991 and relocated to Uganda, East Africa to teach civil engineering at one of the country’s colleges. He returned to the USA in 1995 to get a Master’s in Construction Engineering and Management at Cal Berkeley and hone the technical skills he believed would be needed to effectively support development efforts abroad. In 2000, he and his wife, Elizabeth, returned to East Africa, settling down in Nairobi, Kenya. For the next 17 years, Jerry focused not on what he could do for Kenya and other countries of Africa but more importantly how the skilled local talent in these countries could benefit from his support. In 2004 Jerry was invited to lead the efforts of Interpeace, an international peacebuilding organization based in Geneva, Switzerland with links to the United Nations, in their Eastern and Central Africa initiatives. By 2010, Jerry was promoted to Deputy Director-General, overseeing Interpeace’s work around the world. Combining his engineering skills with an understanding of the socio-political dynamics needed for peacebuilding, Jerry established and worked with local peacebuilding institutions in over 20 countries on 5 continents.
Whether in Somalia, Mali, Palestine, Timor-Leste or El Salvador, some of the over 20 countries Jerry has worked for, he recognizes that the most effective and impactful solutions to some of the most complex problems in the developing world come when those solutions are recognized and implemented from within. Jerry believes strongly that peace depends heavily on paying attention to and enabling the tremendous capacities that exist within every developmental and post-conflict dynamic. He further believes both national and external engineers have a critical collaborative role to play in unlocking and supporting the design and implementation of these solutions.
Jerry is now back in San Francisco after living over 20 years in Africa and traveling to over 60 countries in the last 30 years. He now serves as Senior Advisor and Peace Engineer to Build Up. Build Up works with civic activists and peacebuilders to find and apply innovative practices that help them achieve their missions, keeping pace with the increasing complexities of global interconnectivity, technological advancements and ideological polarisation. One of Jerry’s focuses with Build Up is developing a peace engineering methodology that embraces the capacities of local engineers and the role they can play in building peace.