What is the Role of Networks in Promoting International Peacebuilding? A Forum at USIP

By: David J. Smith, February 22, 2017

On February 21, 2017, I participated in a forum at the U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP) cosponsored by USIP and NAFSA looking at the role of networks in supporting the work of professionals in peacebuilding and conflict resolution.   The forum was designed to discuss an ongoing study being conducted by Dr. Jeff Pugh and Dr. Karen Ross from the Department of Conflict Resolution, Human Security, and Global Governance at the University of Massachusetts, Boston.   Pugh and Ross shared a paper they are presenting at the upcoming International Studies Association meeting in Baltimore.

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Craig Zelizer, Sahar Khamis and Jeff Pugh

The forum included professionals and academics working in the fields of peacebuilding and international education including Daryn Cambridge and Jeff Helsing from USIP,  Jayne Docherty and Bill Goldberg from Eastern Mennonite University, Jack Farrell from Search for Common Ground, Craig Zelizer from PCDN, Bill Zartman from Johns Hopkins University, Matt Sacco from American University, Cecile Mouly from FLACSO, Paul Larson from the U.S. State Department, Rachel Koepsel from the Fulbright Program, Bob Groelsema from Catholic Relief Services, Sahar Khamis from the University of Maryland, and Heather McLeoud from NAFSA.

Anecdotally most of us working in the field would argue that networking is important for young professionals launching their careers.   But this issue has not be studied much. Pugh and Ross at looking at short-term peacebuilding focused international experiences and considering whether they were important in work and relationships that follow. They have identified 178 programs in higher education that are one week or more in length.  Most of the programs are at the graduate level, but they also looked at undergraduate and professional programs.   They have found that providing knowledge and skills were a top priority of most programs, not building networks.   They are still collecting data from the programs and are looking at more individuals participating in the study.

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Looking at the distribution of programs

A number of questions were considered during the discussion including the importance of service learning as part of a program, the use of technology to either replace or supplement traditional networking, the concept of a “community of practice” replacing a traditional network, the need for managing a network, and the notion of a “temporary” network to meet short term needs (such as a course).  Pugh and Ross are looking at three types of relationships: amongst participants, between participants and outsiders/local partners/groups, and between participants and professionals.

If you are interested in participating in the study, contact Dr. Jeff Pugh at UMB at jeffrey.pugh@umb.edu.  The survey, which could be taken by individuals who have directed/managed/staffed short term peacebuilding programs is here.  Feel free to distribute.

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