Peace Entrepreneurship with Community College Students

Building peace and considering a career in peacebuilding and social justice can be fostered in any number of ways. I find for college students, working together on a concern or challenge is a good means. Collectively using many sets of ears and eyes they can consider the needs of their community. Once a common concern has been determined, working together they can brainstorm and plan to affect positive change.

This past Tuesday (1/28/2020) I was the featured speaker at Northern Virginia Community College/Annandale’s Lyceum Speaker Series. I’ve been honored to work closely with the college over the years on myriad programs and events. For several years before moving the program to George Mason University, the National Community College Peacebuilding Seminar was held at the Alexandria Campus. And every November, I meet with international students in the Community College Initiative (CCI) Program who are attending classes for a year.

The program that I conduct with the CCI students I haven’t used as often with U.S. based students. So I decided to run the same program at NOVA this week.

I had a group of about 40 students. As is the student population at NOVA, they were from many backgrounds: different national, ethnic, cultural, and religious groups. But in this case, U.S. citizens or residents.

I used two activities. The first is Peace Career Bingo. This provides an opportunity for students to meet each other and find out their social justice and peacebuilding interests. I remind students that working collectively to make change is the key, but first you need to identify individuals who are your allies.

Peace Career Bingo

The main activity is Peace Entrepreneurship. I developed this activity as a means to having students (1) consider community/global needs (2) look at scalable projects that would respond to those needs, and (3) work together to develop a proposal to launch their effort.

In this case, I had four teams of students. Each was given $500,000 (oh, I wish I really could!) to develop a product, service or event that would respond to a community need.

Here is what the groups came up with.

One group decided to have a “Rock Concert” for the community to benefit students in high crimes areas.

Rock Concert

Another group decided to create “Motivational Mondays” as a opportunity for young people who are bullied to get together to form a community and seek support.

Motivational Mondays

Another group created the “Multicultural Society Integration Support Association” as a place and resource for newly arriving immigrants and refugees. One initiative of their entity would to assist with laundry! Interestingly, the students thought that many new arrivals are looking for work, so having a service to have nice garments was a good idea. And besides, many people live in places that have no laundry, so a place to get it done at a reduced rate or for free would be an important.

Multicultural Society Integration Support Association

The concert theme was continued with the last group. They planned a “Peace Fest ’20” to raise funds for domestic violence and sexual abuse.

Peace Fest ’20

Peacework is ultimately a local effort. And we sometimes forget that those living in communities, particularly young people, are best placed to assess needs and determine best strategies.


Published by David J. Smith

I am a career coach, consultant, and head of a not for profit - the Forage Center - that offers humanitarian education training. I also teach at George Mason University and Drexel University. A one time lawyer, I spent many years teaching in a community college where I was a Fulbright U.S. Scholar teaching in Estonia. I'm the author of Peace Jobs: A Student's Guide to Starting a Career Working for Peace (IAP 2016). I've been married to my best friend for over 31 years and we have two well adjusted adult children who teach me something new everyday. I live in Rockville, Maryland.

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