Welcome to my blog! Every week, I will post at least one article on something involving wicked problems either in peacebuilding or comparative politics. I define those fields very broadly, so you’ll probably be surprised by some of the topics I end up covering.
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LinkedIn asked its regular posters to think about what it calls #BigIdea2019. I don't normally make New Year's resolutions or predictions. But here's my big wish. I'll do what I can to make it happen.
As I get read to write about where the peacebuilding world has to head next in finishing my textbook, I find myself thinking about the business world. There are groups like the Norwegian based Business for Peace which are trying to draw explicit links between the corporate and peacebuilding worlds. That’s obviously important. However, I think it’s even more important that we take some management ideas from that world and apply them to ours.
I had planned to write about ideas peacebuilders could draw from the business world until I spoke at (and mostly listened) a workshop organized the Rondine Cittadella del Pace. I was blown away and decided to put off dealing with the business world until next week. The staff along with a number of current and former students came to the United States and Canada to launch their Leaders for Peace. The idea is simple. Rondine is asking the 193 UN member states to redirect part of their defense spending toward training young leaders for peace, the way it has for the last twenty years.
I started my career as a political scientist and am now a peacebuilder. The two fields obviously overlap, but the nature of that overlap has not been obvious. However, after reading Rachel Kleinfeld’s wonderful new book, A Savage Order, I’m beginning to see not only where the connections lie but also where we need to (re)direct our peacebuilding work. Thirty years ago, Theda Skocpol and others convinced a lot of political scientists that we had to “bring the state back in” to our research on comparative politics which was then focused on voting behavior and the like. They were right then. They are right for peacebuilding in other ways today.
I learned a lesson a lot about building bridges with people we disagree with last week when Bob Jones visited, helped teach a class taught by Doug Irvin-Erickson, and then took me to meet Dave Johnson of C4ADS which used to be known as the Center for Advanced Defense Studies. What made Bob and Dave different is that they are both retired Army special forces colonels. So, when they stressed the same things I did, I couldn’t help but be reminded of Robert Putnam’s notion of bridging social capital and why it is so important at times like these. In our discussions last week, three themes rose to the surface. I hear all of them all of the time from colleagues in the peacebuilding world. What made them unusual here was the source. Bob, Dave, and others I know with military backgrounds have been saying these things for years. It’s time we started paying attention to them.
I will be humbled this week. Not humiliated. Just shown how little I know about something I should know a lot about. A colleague will be in DC to interview me and others for a project a leading British funder with ties to the British government has asked him to do on best practices for restoring democratic legitimacy in countries emerging from war, including places like Iraq, Syria, Libya, and the like.I’m writing this post to prepare myself so that I don’t waste his time. The ideas in it will also find their way into the peace and conflict studies textbook I’m finishing. As a result, this post will be a bit longer than usual.