A Peacebuilding Movement

What follows are some tentative ideas about the possibility for a popular movement in support of peacebuilding that could lead to dramatic shifts in public policy here in the United States and beyond. Before digging into those ideas, I want to emphasize the disclaimer that appears at the bottom of all of my blog posts. There are my ideas and my ideas only. At AfP and in the other communities I hang out in, people are just beginning to think in terms of movements. So, this post is the beginning of a discussion, not an end. Ideas are always welcome by email.

I was one the architects of the Alliance for Peacebuilding’s Peacebuilding 3.0 strategy and its emphasis on systems. My friends and I are beginning to talk about something new that builds on that work and takes us in a qualitatively different, bigger, and more potentially more impactful direction. Everywhere I turn—at AfP itself, on campuses, and in the world in general—I’m hearing two things that we need new and better ways of solving social, economic, environmental, and, especially, political problems. Or, as one friend puts it,  “the world is calling out for something like a peacebuilding or conflict resolution approach”

We may not want to continue with the Peacebuilding x.0 meme, but if we do, Peacebuilding 4.0 might have the following contours:

  • building a movement in the US and beyond that helps reshape both public opinion and policy making and ultimately produces a paradigm shift in the way(s) we deal with conflict at all levels.
  • On the basis of the discussions I’ve been having and hearing about, we can identify some elements of what that movement would be like and how it would be built.
    • Whether we look at the international literature or the first tentative steps in the US, it’s clear that a movement has to be based on local initiatives which AfP and other peacebuilding/conflict resolution professionals “accompany” in John Paul Lederach’s terms
    • As Diana Chigas and Peter Woodrow put it in their new book (which you can download for free), they have to be capable of “adding up to peace
    • As a team I’m working with is putting it, we have to build connections to “places where people routinely take their conflicts today”
    • As Clayton Christensen has argued in his 40 year career studying disruptive innovations, our “job to do” in his terms is to identify untapped markets and provide them with “products” that meet the kind of unmet and probably unarticulated needs such as those in this document’s first two bullet points
    • Focus on the outliers (Gladwell) or bright spots (Chip and Dan Heath) where people are already doing cool things differently
    • At the same time, work with people who have the capacity to reshape the narrative like the public relations people we have been talking to in the existing project or reporters like Amanda Ripley or Robert Krulwich who are doing what Ripley calls “solutions journalism”

There is no obvious or necessary community in which to begin such a movement. I use students and youth here because I was asked to do so and have a set of experiences that suggest that is one good place to start. Many peacebuilding organizations already work with students and youth. When I visit Oberlin, George Mason, and other campuses, I keep running into students who are angry about trends in world affairs but are looking for constructive alternatives as well. One of my Oberlin mentees keeps coming back to term “call out culture,” which she thinks characterizes a lot of the student left these days. But, as she keeps telling me, they also want something positive to work toward. In other words, working with students could provide us with a test case for seeing how the bullet points listed above could play themselves out both for working with students and as a prototype for a larger movement

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Alliance for Peacebuilding or its members. 

Also published on Medium.


About the Author:

Chip Hauss is Senior Fellow for Innovation and Board Member Emeritus at the Alliance for Peacbuilding.