Forage Center Presentation to Conservation International and the Institute for Multi-Track Diplomacy

By David J. Smith, July 27, 2016

I was invited to give a presentation at Conservation International (CI) on July 26 about the work of the Forage Center for Peacebuilding and Humanitarian Education, Inc.  The meeting was hosted by CI, but the audience consisted mostly of interns from the Institute for Multi-Track Diplomacy (IMTD).

CI is an Arlington-based NGO focusing  on preserving the environment.  In existence for over 30 years, CI works through science, policy, and partnerships with countries, communities and companies, and employs  1,000 people to advance its conservation work.   Before my presentation, CI shared with group its Conservation and Peace program. Increasingly,  groups are recognizing the intersection between conflict and the environment, and how sustaining the planet promotes peace.

IMTD is a well-regarded NGO working to bring communities together and promote


IMTD interns

peacebuilding outcomes using multi-track strategies. It was founded  in 1992 to advance a systems-based approach to peacebuilding and to facilitate the transformation of deep-rooted social conflict through education, conflict resolution training, and communication. Those in attendance were participating in IMTD’s internship program.

In my presentation and the discussion that followed I shared about the history and work of the Forage Center.  I stressed the importance of experiential education as critical to professional preparation in the field today.   I mentioned Michael VanRooyan’s book The World’s Emergency Room: The Growing Threat to Doctors, Nurses, and Humanitarian Workers published in 2016,  which makes the case


Talking about the Forage Center

for increasing professional training in the field. In addition, I cited USIP Special Report 246, which I co-authored in 2010, which criticizes higher education, and in particular graduate programs in the peace and conflict field, for not doing enough to prepare students for careers.

Registration for the Forage Center’s FTX Atlantic Promise program will open in September and will be held next March 16-19, 2017 in Fellsmere, FL.  If you are interested in more information, contact the Forage Center.

Exploring Career Paths with High School Student Leaders

By: David J. Smith, June 29, 2016

This week the World Affairs Council – Washington, DC is holding its 5th Annual Leadership Academy on International Affairs. Designed for high school students, the program brings


World Affairs Council – Washington, DC  Leadership Academy

together area youth interested in globalization, trade, economics, human rights, peacebuilding,  multilateralism, and  sovereignty, among other issues.  During the week a host of DC-based experts and educators work with the students to explore contemporary global issues.

Today I had a chance to work with the group.  My presentation was titled “A Career as a Global Peacebuilder: Where to Start!”   My goal was to get students thinking about their future career paths.

I started off by having students think in terms of their interests, rather than  particular job titles.  Too often we focus on a job we have in mind based on the job’s title: lawyer, doctor, teacher, and such.   This is a typical way of exploring careers, but I think it has its limits.   I shared with students this quote:

“60 percent of jobs ten years from now haven’t been created yet.”

This is by Thomas Frey, an editor at The Futurist, a magazine published by the World Future Society.  My point with students was to have them focus less on the name of the job, which as Frey contends, will be difficult to predict, and more on the objectives of the job.  To accomplish this I had students engage in an exercise called “What Am I Seeking in a Career? Bingo.”  Using a sheet with 24 boxes (there are actually 25 boxes, but as in bingo, one is “free”) where each included a statement such as “work to promote human rights,” “try to end violence against women,” and “work overseas to promote peace.” I then had students interview each other to complete the bingo sheet.  Five in a row was bingo. Though I had a winner right away, the other students did not want to stop and continued to ask each other questions until most everyone had bingo. The point of the activity was to refocus students from a job name to the objectives of professional work.

I followed with an exercise  where I used four autobiographical profiles from my book Peace Jobs: A Student’s Guide to Starting  Career Working for Peace.   Working in groups of five, students where given a young professional profile. I shared the profiles of Matthew Johnson, Rachel Zink, Jerry Doran, and Melisa Ashbaugh Johnston. (Obtain a copy of my book to read the profiles).  After reading the profile as a group, I had students answer three questions:

  • What did you find most interesting about the person?
  • What would you like to learn more about after reading the profile?
  • What is one question you would like to ask the person in the profile?

I found that the students dug deeply into the profiles.   For instance, they were interested in the Critical Language Scholarship Program that Jerry Doran participated in, and how he


Reading the profiles of young professionals

wove his IT skills and peacebuilding work together. For Rachel Zink, students wanted to find out if she was now in law school and if she was still focusing on human rights. In Matthew Johnson’s profile, they wanted to find out more about the Conflict Resolution Center of Montgomery County (several of the students lived in Montgomery County, MD). They were also interested in learning about the University for Peace in Costa Rica that Johnson had considered. Finally, in Melisa Johnston’s case, they wanted to find out more about 2020 A Year Without War, and how they might be able to help.

I am convinced that career exploration is best done by sharing with young people the journeys of others who are doing important peacebuilding and conflict resolution work.  In this way students can reflect on their own interests and can use other professionals’ experiences as pathways.


The Need for a Conclave of Associations and Groups in Our Field

By David J. Smith, June 21, 2016

I just returned from the 10th International Conference on Conflict Resolution Education in Columbus, Ohio. It brought together U.S. and global educators to share ideas and improve education outcomes. Though it’s an important gathering and I look forward to attending every year, I recognized that there are a number of other peace and conflict related groups that look at education, as well as practice and policy issues.   A few weeks before, I was at


Mourning in Orlando (Courtesy: Time Magazine, Carolyn Cole, LA Times/Getty Images)

the Alliance for Peacebuilding (AfP) meeting in Washington, DC.   Those in attendance mostly operate “inside the beltway” representing organizations and agencies focusing on peacebuilding practice and policy. But there was also a smaller group meeting that represented educational professionals, mostly at the graduate level. We met at George Mason University at the end of the AfP event. In September, I will be attending the Peace and Justice Studies Association meeting, a mostly U.S. based group, that advances education and social change, often from an activism perspective. And in late September/early October the Association for Conflict Resolution, which is made up predominately of practitioners, is meeting in Baltimore. It also supports an education section. I will be there too.

When I attend conferences, and as you can see, I do my fair share, I am often puzzled that professionals doing very similar work but participating in different groups are not connected.   Certainly there is value in an organic approach to our work: all of us operating in lock step would be bad for peacebuilding and conflict resolution practice and policy.   All ideas need to be considered and explored, and different forums provide that opportunity.

However, the lack of linkages or even communication between various organizations and their members present complications and roadblocks to advancing important social and policy change. Consider extremism and gun violence, once again brought into our conversations because of the tragedy in Orlando.

In an era of limited funding coupled with the difficultly of finding time to participate in professional associations, would not the entire field benefit from knowing more about each other’s work, and thereby, find commonality that could advance practice, research, education, and policy outcomes?   We are living in an era of hyper polarization, be it in the current U.S. political context, or in terms of perceptions of immigrants and the rise of extremism. As such our work is more important than ever. Working together when there is a strategic advantage just makes good sense.

A “conclave” might be considered a meeting or process by which leaders from various groups come to together to share ideas and advance mutual goals.   It also provides a chance to create channels of communication between leadership that can advance projects among members.   The group might meet on a yearly basis.

I can imagine the benefits of a meeting of the top leadership of the major organizations that represent the conflict resolution and peacebuilding fields. The meeting might be hosted by an academic institution that has provided leadership in the field. Schools like George Mason University (where I teach), Eastern Mennonite University, or the University of Notre Dame, come to mind. Leaders from the Alliance for Peacebuilding, Peace and Justice Studies Association, Association for Conflict Resolution,  Peace Science Society, and other national and international groups focusing on understanding the roots of conflict and promoting ways of advancing peace coming together could continue to communicate and promote common purposes.

The groups meeting would not lose their individual identities or purposes.   Rather by better considering the work of other groups, more focus can be brought to their own efforts and missions, voids can be identified, and new strategies advanced in a world that is increasingly divided by differences. The outcomes would be better policy, practice, research, and education in a world rife with conflict and needing peace.

Dawson College’s Inspire Solutions Seeks Submissions on the Theme of Resistance

By David J. Smith, June 20, 2016


Inspire Solutions is currently seeking submissions to its peace education resource inspire_solutions_logo2collection for 2016-2017. Inspire Solutions is a multi-faceted peace and nonviolence project created at Montreal’s Dawson College, which includes a rich online collection of over 50 short articles ideal for the college classroom. Some are very personal in nature, such as author Judith Kalman’s reflections on giving testimony on behalf of her half-sister at Oskar Groening’s war crimes trial, or Catalyst for Peace’s Libby Hoffman’s recounting of what happened when a film on forgiveness and reconciliation was shown to 60 ex-combatants in Sierra Leone. Others are more academic, addressing a variety of issues, including empathy, othering, truth and reconciliation, violent video games, and gender and peacebuilding. Our theme for 2016-2017 is Resistance, and we are seeking contributions from both students, teachers and activists. Our deadlines are in late October and early April; we are flexible on format, but all should be aimed for a general audience.

Our 2016-2017 Theme: RESISTANCE

Of course, we mean nonviolent resistance as, in a world that believes so much in violence, what is more threatening to the status quo than the proposal that nonviolence is not only more ethical, but also more effective? While nonviolent action is typically dismissed as naive and linked to passivity and weakness — indeed, the very lack of a word for nonviolence except as something that is not suggests its marginal role, its supporters argue that nonviolent struggle is rooted in a real understanding of the sources of power in society and argue that the use of violence is actually evidence of weakness.  In our next collection, we will examine whether nonviolent resistance has the potential to bring real change and challenge the power of those who rely on the instruments of violence. Our focus goes beyond the traditional idea of mass civil disobedience to include the often small-scale actions of individuals, who resist by becoming conscientious objectors, unarmed bodyguards or by taking actions to draw attention to the more subtle means by which we are encouraged to accept violence in all its multiple forms.

We are thus interested in receiving submissions that address the following:

  • a reflection on the ideas of some of the most influential nonviolent thinkers and activists, including Henry David Thoreau, Leo Tolstoy, Mohandas Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, and Gene Sharp
  • an analysis of a particular nonviolent campaign or group (including nonviolent resistance to war and militarism, racism, sexism, poverty, etc.) or a nonviolent action, such as conscientious objecting or nonviolent forms of intervention in conflict zones
  • a discussion of the limits to the use of force and the potential of nonviolent resistance in our contemporary world
  • a look at how artists and members of the gaming community are working to subvert the cultural promotion of violence.

These are just a few ideas, and we welcome yours. If you are interested in contributing to our next collection of articles or simply have a query, then send an email (and submission) to Inspire Solutions editor, Pat Romano, at We post both original and previously-written texts, as long as all copyright requirements are met. We are committed to creating an accessible, diverse, and provocative collection of short articles that are ideal for serving as a basis for classroom discussion.

This piece was submitted by Pat Romano of Dawson College. Contact Inspire Solutions for more information. Dawson College is a community college in Montréal, Québec.  

10th International Conference on Conflict Resolution Education Meets at Ohio State

By: David J. Smith, June 11, 2016

The 10th International Conference on Conflict Resolution Education met June 10-11, 2016 at The Ohio State University (OSU) in Columbus, OH.   The conference was preceded by two days (June 8-10) of pre-conference training and will be followed by a two-day seminar


Scarlett Lewis from the Jesse Lewis Choose Love Movement

(June 12-13) for colleges and universities looking to establish peace and conflict programs. Over 200 educators, practitioners, and activists attended the main conference. Primary co-sponsors included the Mershon Center for International Security Studies and  the Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict.  For a full list of co-sponsors and partners as well as the entire program  go here.

The first day of the main conference began with a keynote address by  former Canadian and UN diplomat Louis Guay who talked about the need for peacebuilding, as well as his


Day two of the conference

experiences as a hostage. He was followed by a panel that included Mel Duncan from Nonviolent Peaceforce, and Hans Sinn and Silke Reichrath from Brooke Valley Research for Education in Nonviolence.  The theme for this session was “Civil Society Responsibilities in Conflict Management.”

A second session followed on “Connecting Schools, Communities, and Families through Peace Education.”  It featured Linda Lantieri of CASEL:  the Collaborate for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning. She talked about the important role that social and emotional learning can play in reducing violent


Grande Lum of OSU

behavior.  She was followed by Scarlett Lewis, founder of The Jesse Lewis Choose Love Movement, established in memory of her son Jesse who was skilled at  Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012. Scarlett shared about her emphasis on “nurturing, healing, love” – words that her son wrote before he died. Jill Jackson, a consultant, examined the work of the Ohio Department of Education’s Center for P-20 Safety and Security.

During the morning, the global conflict resolution educator awarded was given to Dr. Gohar Markosyan, founder of the Armenian NGO, Women for Development.

The afternoon featured two workshop periods.   Presentations looked at the ethics of survivor testimonials, developing a peace network in Ohio, narratives of youth with disabilities, civil responsibilities in conflict management, peace education, trauma healing, and targeted violence prevention.  A full list of sessions can be found here. During one session, I shared about my book, Peace Jobs: A Student’s Guide to Starting a Career Working for Peace.

The second day of the main conference began with talks by Nick Oakley, of PartnersGlobal, who talked about human security and security governance efforts in Nigeria, and Ambassador Jerry Lanier (ret.), who talked about his experiences as the U.S. Ambassador to Sudan. The focus of this session was “Security Sector Reform: How Open Are Peacebuilders to Cooperative Advocacy?”

Afternoon plenary sessions included presentations by Grande Lum (Divided Community Project), Robert Solomon (Office of Diversity & Inclusion, OSU), and Joseph Stulberg (OSU’s Moritz School of Law) looking at “Peace and Justice in our Communities: Best


From a session on online peer mediation

Practices and Beyond,” and Alex Leslie (Cleveland Rape Crisis Center), Ann Brandon (Ohio Alliance to End Sexual Violence), Shannon Greybar Milliken (Cleveland State University), and Laura Stoll (University of Cincinnati) examining “Riding the Wave: Harnessing Campus Energy to Help Decrease Rates of Sexual and Intimate Partner Violence.”

Workshops that day included examining sustained dialogue, student engagement, cultural identity and suicide, and gender analysis tools.  A full list of workshops for June 11 can be found here.

If you are interested in the conference, or being a part of next year’s event, contact conference coordinator Jennifer Batton at

International Conference on Conflict Resolution Education Honors Dr. Gohar Markosyan

By: David J. Smith, June 11, 2016

The 10th International Conference on Conflict Resolution Education was held June 10-11, 2016 at The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio.  Hosted by the Mershon Center for International Security Studies, the conference attracted 0ver 200 educators, policymakers, and practitioners.

20160610_115554.jpgThe conference awarded it’s second conflict resolution educator award to Dr. Gohar Markosyan. She has over 19 years’ experience in the NGO sector focusing on peace education in Armenia.   She is president of Women for Development, which she founded in 1997.  Markosyan is the co-author of the “Peace and Conflict Resolution Education” handbook, and the guidebooks “Peaceful Conflict Resolution Education” and “Conflict Management Education in Schools.”

She holds an MS in mathematics from Gyumri State Pedagogical Institute and PhD from the Academia for Science in Armenia.

The winner of the 2015 award was Jennifer Batton.