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Transpartisan Review

This is a short, brief post announcing a new publication, The Transpartisan Review which was launched on inauguration day here in the United States. It is an attempt to find common ground and forge cooperative solutions to the many problems facing the United States in these divisive times.]TTR1_Cover

I wrote one of the articles in the initial issue in which I explore a reframing of foreign policy around cooperation, competition, and conflict which a number of us in the national security and peacebuilding communities have been exploring in recent years. Instead of leaving us stuck in a spiral that leads us from peace into conflict and then into war, it allows us to see far more options and nudge the way we deal with those we disagree with in a more helpful direction.

The review itself s an effort by a number of activists who have been working on these issues for some time on their own and through the Bridge Alliance and its many member organizations.

Like many Americans, I have not been happy with the way political life is heading in my country. This is one of the few initiatives I’ve seen that help us try to find constructive solutions to the wicked problems our country and our planet faces whose causes and consequences are so inextricably intertwined that we cannot solve them separately, quickly, or easily–if we can solve them at all.

It’s not just the transpartisan community. Increasingly, we are seeing people on the left and on the right seeking ways out of the gridlock and anger that are at the heart of political life these days not just in the United States but in much of the rest of the world as well. For example, Arthur Brooks, CEO of the conservative American Enterprise Institute struck similar themes in a presentation he gave on the transition to the new administration at the United States Institute of Peace. last week



Reconciliation for the Holidays

This will be a quick post as we all get ready for the Holidays.

I just listened to the TED Radio Hour on NPR about reconciliation. It was filled with hopeful and inspiring ideas about what we can do to deal with our divided country from Bill Ury, JD Vance, Suzanne Barakat, Eli Pariser, and Elizabeth Lasser.

I’ve worked on reconciliation for a long time, yet some of these speakers were new to me.

Here’s the link. http://www.npr.org/programs/ted-radio-hour/


These views are my own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Alliance for Peacebuilding.

Wicked Problems in West Virginia

I spent two days this week at Shepherd University in West Virginia. My colleagues  Lin Wells and Mike Hieb of George Mason University had been asked by Mary Hendrix, Shepherd’s new president to help her state deal with its well known cluster of wicked problems, including poverty, the dying coal industry, the opiate epidemic, widespread frustration, environmental decay, and more. We were asked because Lin is developing a global ;project he calls BROCADE (Building Resilient Opportunities in Culturally Aware, Diverse Environments). He had assumed it would start with pilot projects in the Global South, but President Hendrix convinced us to start with West Virginia. Even though my own expertise lies in peacebuilding and international politics, I tagged along.imgres
Continue reading “Wicked Problems in West Virginia”

Point of View

On April 6, I had the pleasure of attending the dedication and grand opening of Point of View, George Mason University’s new Point of View conference and retreat center. Located on Belmont Bay–an inlet of the Potomac River less than twenty miles from Washington–Point of View sits on 120 acres on the edge of s state park and a protected national wetland. For now, Point of View is just a wonderful meeting place. Once the fund raising is completed, it will have residential units which will allow negotiators and others to spend extended periods of time there

There are other centers that can be used for private meetings in the Washington, DC area, but Point of View will be unique because it is dedicated to conflict analysis and resolution and will be an integral part of GMU’s School of the same name (scar.gmu.edu).

As its planners describe it on their web site.

Every day, we witness new acts of violence, civil war, and malevolent conflict around the world. Never has the world faced such a broad and urgent set of challenges and threats to international peace. To that end, The School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution (S-CAR) at George Mason University is developing PoV as a unique retreat complex to promote research in conflict analysis, facilitate conflict resolution and reconciliation, and offer training to a new generation of scholars and practitioners. Appropriately named Point of View, the complex provides a tranquil setting for high-level domestic and international dialogues, academic research, conferences, workshops, and skills training – all guided by S-CAR’s conflict resolution professionals.

Continue reading “Point of View”

Marrakesh Declaration

Last week, I attended a very much off the record discussion on the  January 2016 Marrakesh Declaration in which more than 250 Muslim scholars and other leaders declared their support for religious freedom in predominantly Muslim countries. The fact that it has gotten relatively little publicity convinced me to do my part to get the word about it out in peacebuilding circles.

These Muslims scholars and their supporters from the world’s other major faith traditions met in response to crises we know all too well. Tmarrakeshimagehe oppression of Christians and Yazidis by ISIS. The use of anti-blasphemy laws to suppress religious minorities in Pakistan. The actions of Al Shabbab, Boko Haram, and others in sub-Saharan Africa. The list goes on and on.

As a result, the signatories used the 1400th anniversary of the Charter of Medina to reinforce the tradition of religious tolerance that has always been part of Islam. It stated that “non-Muslim members will have the same political and cultural rights as Muslims. They will have autonomy and freedom of religion,” an idea that has all too often been ignored in recent years. Continue reading “Marrakesh Declaration”

Ideas from Robin Chase

chasezipI spent part of last week with Robin Chase, founder of Zipcar and author of Peers, Inc. Both in our one on one time together and in her keynote talk at the United States Institute of Peace’s Peace Tech Lab, she stressed two points, both of which we should all take to heart.

The first is the logic behind her book that outlines how a sharing or circular economy can be taken to scale and become a springboard for lasting social change. Her approach has three parts:

  • Identify excess or underused resources that can be brought to bear on a problem.
  • Use the private sector (the Inc.) and others to build open source platforms that can be used to address it.
  • Empower smaller groups (the Peers) to build applications that can take responses to the problem to scale.

Chase draws on dozens of examples, including Zipcar which she sold more than a decade ago and a new startup she works with, Veniam, that intends to create the “internet of moving things” and provide free Wi-Fi access in large urban areas. There are plenty of other examples that use technology as a base such as Etsy, Zappos, or Warby Parker. There are also examples of others that barely use technology at all, such as Delancey Street, which has built networks of success for ex-offenders and others who have been largely left out of the success of San Francisco and other large cities.

As Chase talked at the United States Institute of Peace, a lot of us were left asking how we could adapt her three steps to our field, peacebuilding. Without a doubt, it will be harder if for no other reason than we lack the (relatively) easy to apply metrics provided by profit and loss statements, growth rates in the short and long term, and so on.

Nonetheless, as the buzz in the room following her talk suggested, there is no shortage of possible ways we
could at least begin adapting her three insights. In fact, I will be basing the presentations I’m making around them starting with two dealing with redefining security in the next two weeks.

Second, I was just as taken by another point she made in this talk but only hinted at in the one I’ve linked to here. We live in a world that has more than its share of troubles and an increasingly large number of anger people. Chase worries about the possibility of a political, environmental, and economic revolution unless we find a way to speed human social evolution first.

I’m not as worried as she is about the chances of a revolution. Nonetheless, we do agree that the “trend lines” are driving Americans and others farther apart at a time when we need to find ways to overcome global challenges the only way we can possibly do so—through cooperative problem solving.

In short, we have decided that the “system” can be changed from within and that mainstream institutions—including the innovative  parts of the private sector—can become part of the solution and not remain part of the problem. That said, we also know that neither of us has anything like “the” answer.russellr

So, fire away. Questions. Comments. Criticisms.

I’d love to hear them.

So would Robin.

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.


Vanishing Peace???????

Peace has all but disappeared as a theme in recent State of the Union Addresses.

A few weeks ago, I started getting a feed from Quartz, a new news service. This morning it had a reference to a surprising article that may or may not hold much significance.

It turns out that people have done content analyses of every State of the Union address since George Washington’s day. As the Quartz article points out, the methodology used has some questionable features.

Nonetheless, the word “peace” has all but disappeared form recent speeches. The last president to include it in one of his three most common words was–of all people–President Reagan in 1984.

Just shows how much work we peacebuilders still have to do.

But we already knew that.

Maybe this is why I tend to fall asleep during these annual events?

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.