By: David J. Smith, June 5, 2017
This past Friday and Saturday, June 2-3, I joined nearly 50 practitioners, activists, educators, trainers, funders, and researchers in the peacebuilding field for “Innovating in Challenging Times: Building an Infrastructure for Supporting Peace.” The idea for the gathering stemmed from a blog that I wrote last June. We met at Point of View International Retreat and Research Center in Mason Neck, VA.
The organizing team began meeting last fall to plan the gathering. I am grateful for the enthusiasm and commitment of my fellow team members – Jen Batton (Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict), Chip Hauss (Alliance for Peacebuilding), Kristin Famula (National Peace Academy), Sheherazade Jafari (Point of View, George Mason University), Dot Maver (National Peace Academy), D.G. Mawn (National Association for Community Mediation), and Julie Shedd (School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution, George Mason University) – in taking my idea and transforming it into an effort that reflected our collective visions. I am proud that in our meetings and discussions we modeled the best practices of peacebuilding and conflict transformation. I participated as president of the Forage Center for Peacebuilding and Humanitarian Education, Inc.
The overall aim of the gathering was to identify knowledge, resources, and innovation opportunities to advance solutions that address current and future challenges, taking a proactive approach to peacebuilding. The approach to the gathering leveraged ambiguity to foster creativity. I urged attendees to work with the
ambiguity and be “present” during the two-days. The design process was elicitive, inviting participants to contribute their insights and approaches throughout the gathering. Structurally, the program consisted of a series of facilitated sessions exploring issues such as the “diversity of peacebuilding,” “what inspires us,” “connecting around peacebuilding themes,” “looking for possibilities,” and “looking toward the future.” For me, the most significant discussion centered on exploring current needs in the field. Among the areas considered where discussions and efforts in examining race relations, self-reflection for those working in the field, the use of technology to network better, and how we might take a “quantum leap” to advance peacebuilding.
There was commitment by the attendees to continue to work collectively and hold a second gathering in 2018. In the interim, the group committed to better acquainting each other with their work, perspectives, and goals. A community of peacebuilders crossing various sectors was seeded at Point of View. That is probably the most significant outcome.
The program was supported financially by a grant from the United Service Foundation, Inc. (USF). The foundation is rooted in the Anabaptist Christian tradition by building and facilitating strong families and communities that practice love, learning, forgiveness, and justice. The USF is a private foundation of the Edith M. and Victor F. Weaver family, established in 1969.
In the coming weeks, I will continue to post about the work of this group. For more information about the gathering you can visit the Point of View website.