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The State of American Democracy

Last week, I had the privilege of participating in the first of five working conferences on the State of American Democracy held at my beloved alma mater, Oberlin College. It was organized by the college’s rock star level professor, David Orr, a long-time climate change expert who has realized that the problems we face run far deeper than the environment and extend to the ways we govern ourselves at all.

So, David assembled an amazing team of analysts and activists from the left and right to begin figuring out what we could and should do to address a set of issues that long antedated last November’s election and only have been exacerbated since.

We heard from well-known experts from the left (e.g. Reverend William Barber and Jane Mayer) and the right (JD Vance and Peter Wehner) as well as activists and analysts who specialize in political science, law, environmental studies, and social media.

More importantly, the 150 or so participants took advantage of the time together to network and develop strategies that we could take forward in our home communities and on the issues we particularly worry about.

My own takeaway was simple and added to urgency I have been feeling for the last few years. We live in a world of wicked problems whose causes and consequences are so inextricably intertwined that we cannot solve them separately, easily, or quickly–if we can solve them at all.

At the very least, they require creative policy responses that are not likely to emerge from the American policy making system–whoever is in charge–given the dominant value systems in place today. We need to dig deeper and seek what Albert Einstein used to refer to as a “new way of thinking” that will spawn new social and political movements that, in time, will produce qualitatively new public policies.

We tried out a number of ideas, ranging from the kind of poor people’s movement that Reverend Barber and his colleagues are organizing to the kind of deep discussions within the Evangelical community that Peter Wehner is leading.

Some of those will take place in policy “silos” like the peacebuilding one I work in, David’s beloved environmental movement, and even the investments JD Vance’s Mithril Capital Management firm will be making in Appalachia. Some of those will take place as we create new movements and institutions that cross those silos’ borders.

Indeed, we will be continuing this effort by holding other events like the one in Oberlin. Plans are underway for workshops in Denver, Los Angeles, Atlanta, and Montgomery.

If you are interested, please let me know by sending me an email at chip@charleshauss.info.

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.


Public Support for Peacebuilding

The Alliance for Peacebuilding and Conciliation Resources recently conducted public opinion polls in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Germany.*

The results surprised us all.

Despite what the media and the pundits keep telling us, we actually are pretty much in agreement when it comes to  war and peace.  The survey demonstrated widespread support for peacebuilding efforts across all three countries.

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Announcing the Civvys Award

I’m not a huge fan of award shows on television.

Here’s one that I think is worth paying attention to even if its recipients won’t walk down some red carpet and be shown on some obscure cable network.

The first Civvys will be awarded in October. As their web site puts it, “The Bridge Alliance and Big Tent Nation, organizations committed to the fight against partisan rancor and division, have joined forces to announce the first annual American Civic Collaboration Awards, or the Civvys.”

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The Peacebuilders’ Challenge

How do we build support for a more peaceful world in a country that is as divided as the United States is today? Given the events of the last months, including the violence in Charlottesville and the remarks made by President Trump in the days that followed that might seem like an impossible task.

However, in the days after the protests, two things happened that give me hope. If we combine them, we could make some progress because both of these initiatives are encouraging.

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The Best Kept Secret in American Peacebuilding–At Least For Me

I had a long call the other day with D. G. Mawn, Executive Director of NAFCM, the National Association for Community Mediation. We had actually just met a few weeks ago when we helped organize a meeting of American peacebuilders I discussed here a few weeks ago

As we talked, D. G. referred to NAFCM at the best kept secret in American peacebuilding. Although I had known of the organization for years, I didn’t know much about it. On the assumption that he was bound to be right, I checked it out. Continue reading “The Best Kept Secret in American Peacebuilding–At Least For Me”

Building American Peacebuilding

Last weekend, I helped organize and facilitate a workshop on how the peacebuilding community could respond and innovate in the tough political times that was held at George Mason University’s Point of View Retreat Center. In all, about fifty people representing networks of peacebuilders, community mediators, veterans, religious and spiritual leaders, data scientists, management consultants, and others spent two and a half days exploring the work we already do, finding overlapping efforts already under way, and laying out a schedule for what we could do together and separately until we gather again sometime next spring.

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Technology, Innovation, and Peace

In the last few weeks, I’ve had three opportunities to see the progress we’ve made in see how information technology can be used to spark innovation in peacebuilding and just how much more progress we still have to make.

First, we at the Alliance for Peacebuilding attended the second annual CalCon conference at the University of San Diego’s Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice. I helped organize the event, and my colleague Stone Conroy made two pitches. Most of our time was spent hearing critiquing, and building momentum behind a humber of pitches on such topics as mapping peacebuilding activities, developing games in conflict zone, and using the Internet to foster reconciliation. Following up on the keynote address by Shamil Idriss of Search for Common Ground, we spent the three days exploring how IT could revolutionize our work. There was one problem, however. We did not have enough people in the room with the financial resources to turn those ideas into reality. That said, I did get to meet Eva Dimitriadis of C5Capital who invited AfP to the second event in my three weeks of intellectual exploration. Continue reading “Technology, Innovation, and Peace”