Bridging the gap between theory and reality

One of the fantastic characteristics of this fellowship has been the opportunity to learn from both academics and practitioners from the field of peacebuilding. However, as we enter into our final week of the fellowship, I am beginning to rethink the ways in which the two different fields can collaborate. During our sessions with Professor Kathryn Poethig, she asked us about the issues that we are prickling with throughout this fellowship. My issue has been understanding the various players and stakeholders that are engaged on the ground and understanding their interest before trying to make a decision or believing in a certain theory.

We had extremely engaging and informative sessions with Professor Poethig. Towards the end of her last session, she asked us some broader questions – one of which was revolving around the idea of systems and our agency as human beings. I heard a lot of frustrated voices today, and some of them were revolved around the idea that the best solution to the kind of patriarchal, capitalist, unipolar society is to re-start a new system. Although it seems like the right thing to do (and I would sign up if Bernie led it), I believe that the system is not where the fault lies. I believe that the system, in its principle, works. However, what does not work as often, are the different functionalities within the system. For example, the system of prison, as a way of providing rehabilitative support for individuals who have lost their path in the journey of life – works. However, the way we treat our prisoners is problematic – instead of supporting and understanding their circumstances to help them cope with it, we lock them up and provide them with minimal programming. That is exactly the problem with the larger system of governance and world structures. I am one of the people who strongly believes that systems have the ability to change, and we have many examples to vouch for that – it was a change in system that led to the civil rights movements in this country. This was a result of years of perseverance and dedication on the part of citizens and leaders, who took up these issues actively and fought for what they believed was right. If Gandhi had given up hope on fighting such a monstrous British regime in India, the independence would probably take much longer.

Although theoretically, the thought of a world revolution sounds amazing, I believe that we have to get our priorities right – I am not trying to kill the idealism that we still maintain, but when working on the ground, that level of idealistic philosophy becomes crushed the minute you enter a place where the discussion starts from ground zero. Perhaps many of us will end up as academics, and some as practitioners. For all my practicing friends out there, lets keep fighting for a perfect system, but lets maintain our thoughts on the ground and more importantly, understand what the people on the ground need. For the ones more focused on academia, I suggest we maintain a stronger relationship because it is your research and study that allows the practitioners to understand best practices across countries, cultures, and years. Both groups have valuable input in the field of peacebuilding, but the collaboration is missing. I am confident that we can fill that vacuum and really leverage our education to support the ‘industry’ of peacebuilding in one way or another.