Empowering the locals

By Kim Chham

Image result for local empowerment
Photo credits from: https://www.lgiuscotland.org.uk/briefing/community-councils-a-force-for-local-empowerment-or-nimby/

Today we were very fortunate to have two sessions with Madhawa and we talked about his experiences from working in the ground in conflict resolution. Something Mads mentioned that really resonated with me was the importance of empowering and utilizing the local knowledge. This was not the first time that this thought comes up during this program. Since the very beginning, we learned about the importance of reaching the ‘local locals’, meaning the people who are in the conflicts or the community of.

Sustainability has been a very important concept for me, and I try to apply it to everything I study and do. Similarly, I’ve always wondered about ways to build sustainable peace. And my conclusion is, in order to build sustainable peace, we need to focus on giving the toolkits and supports to the local people. I believe that there is no other way to do it. If we ignore the local people and knowledge, we will end up like today – trying for a long time to build peace but never reached it.

I want to dig a little deeper into the term of  ‘local knowledge’. Often, the international communities overlook the skills and knowledge of people or stakeholders in conflict resolutions. Like Madhawa said today, these people have lived in conflicts and they have practiced negotiating and mediating all the time. I second that. If not, they wouldn’t be here today. I am not disregarding the value of different perspectives, such as ones looking in from the outside. I think it is still very helpful to look at a conflict situation from many different perspectives. People in the inside might not be able to remove themselves to see the conflict from the outside. However, the knowledge of being in the conflict is nothing to be discarded or underestimated. I don’t think we can build sustainable peace by only taking one perspective into account. I think we need to acknowledge the locals’ stake and opinions better than we have been. I think international communities have great potentials to support and help in conflict situations but strong collaboration and respect from the local and the outside is required for success in this field, to say the least.

It might seem hard to have to always coordinate and weight in everybody’s opinions. However, if we don’t do this, we are not going to reach long-term solution. I see that we tend to put on Band-Aid solutions. We take quick actions to feel good about ourselves and to look good in this society.

But we’ve spent enough time with these Band-Aid solutions. We don’t have any more resources or time to not get to the roots of some of these issues we have been having. And in order to really address those root causes, we need to let the locals take the lead. If they don’t have the resources or skills to lead, we can provide that, but leave the leadership to them. Empower locals to take ownerships of their home communities, and many times they want that ownership. Dictate less and care more.

Decolonisation Vs. Cultural Preservation

By Kim Chham

I remember this conversation being brought up since the first week of this program. As a peacebuilder from outside a community, where should we draw the line between respecting local cultures/traditions and enforcing our beliefs/values? A question even more suited for me is, where should I draw the line between respecting my local cultures/traditions and enforcing my beliefs/values – given the fact that I’ve lived outside of my home community for almost half of my life?

On Monday evening this week, Pushpa talked to us about “decolonizing peacebuilding”. We touched on the concepts of ‘center’ and ‘periphery’ groups in our society.  An important lesson I learned there was that, colonizers tend to be in the ‘center’ group and everyone else is in the ‘periphery’ group. The center circle tend to be very small, most people are not in the center right now. And that tells us that we should something about it.

Having a colonized mind, which I think we all do to some extend, we idolize a certain group of people. Those are normally the people who belong in the ‘center’ circle now.

I’ve realized that once I’ve left my hometown, I can never look at it and the world the same way again. This is a typical realization I share with many who have left their first home too. The first few years of that time being away, I started to see so many problems and I spent too much time getting caught up in the new mindsets and cultures. I also idolized those new ones more than my own.

As I get older and experienced life a bit more, I have started to value the cultures that I grew up in, more and more.

Where I’m at now: I have a mix of cultures of my own, I picked what I like from home and other places that I’ve been to. What a privilege I have had!

So now, my work is to decentralize my thoughts – decolonize my mind. I need to utilize my critical lens while looking at any belief or culture. For instance, I know that I have a conflict in my mind about gender issues at home. I know I cannot compromise my belief in gender equality with traditional cultures. However, I know and understand why things are the way they are now, at home.  On the other hand, I’ve recognized the value of forgiveness that I learned from home to be a very important part of how I want to live my life. I value the collectivistic culture that I grew up in, where everyone cares and looks out for each other. At the same time, I value the independence of the individualistic culture that I live in now. First step of decolonization is to realize that no culture is better than the other; no culture is the superior or inferior one.

Having this in mind, I hope to find my place in peacebuilding at home. I know that I will face many conflicts with others and myself along the way. However, I believe that some of those conflicts will be productive ones; I will learn and grow from them. There’s a lot more work for me to do to decolonize my mind and the field I’ll enter. The world has a lot of work to do about that too. We all have to work towards a more equitable and equal world in every way, meaning reaching the state that all appreciates everyone at their best.

What Is Strategic Invisibility In Gender Inclusive Approach to Peacebuilding?

According to Sheherazade Jafari, gender inclusive approach is peacebuilding with a gender ‘lens’ that enables one to better ‘see’ and understand the impact of gender in this field. Through this approach, we are able to analyze the conflict deeper, from different angles. Without using this lens, peacebuilding solutions tend to fail and to be unsustainable.

During our session yesterday, Sheharazade gave us a simulation where we were divided into groups and given different scenarios and choices to choose from according to the conflict we were facing. I found the exercise/simulation to be very impactful, it got us discuss deeply about different conflicts and difficult decisions that we had to make, in the shoes of women peacebuilders. During the exercise, Sheharazade also introduced a new term to us: strategic invisibility.

Our groups were discussing about the different challenges that women peacebuilders tend to have to face. Some of them were: not given equal power or authority in their work, not being taken seriously by the public, and etc. At the same time, we also discussed about some of the advantages that women could create from things that others might see as disadvantages. That is strategic invisibility.

That was a hopeful moment for me because finally I get to learn the term that I knew existed but never came across. It is a term that I associate with the saying of “turning lemons into lemonades”. I honestly think that this concept is very powerful. Once we identify our strengths and weaknesses, and find ways to turn our ‘weaknesses’ into strengths, we can accomplish a lot more than we think we can. I think we need to know that whatever circumstances the system throws us all in, we have to find a way to fight back, with everything we have.

An example that we discussed about yesterday was that as women peacebuilders, we are often seen as less threatening to the extremist groups. By having women going to negotiate with these groups, there is a bigger probability that they would listen and talk to us, with more trust than if we were men. Moreover, these members of extremist groups come from the local villages. Therefore, seeing women who can be their mothers or sisters might help them to be more willing to negotiate some kind of peacebuilding.

The most valuable part of strategic invisibility in this context for me is that it allows us to utilise both of our advantages and disadvantages, as women in this society. Utilising the perception of what is seen as inferior and turns it into being seen as less harmful. Instead of making the perception that women are emotional and too sensitive stop us from doing our work, we should recognise that as our strength in emotional intelligence to connect with different groups and be a good mediator.  I also believe that it would be useful to apply strategic invisibility into different contexts too, so we can turn around the disadvantages into advantages.

Forgive Or Not Forgive?

By Kim Chham

Photo Credits: http://dharmawisdom.org/teachings/articles/forgiving-unforgivable2

“Forgiveness practice can help you find meaning in life’s worst events and free the inner violence of your own rage.” – Dhamar Wisdom

Growing up as young child, my closest friend and most influential teacher was my great-grandmother. I called her ‘tourt’ or ‘ទួត’. ទួត practiced Buddhism. All my memories of her were around kindness, goodness and forgiveness. She was my role model and still has been. I don’t remember the details of what she taught me but I feel and remember that she taught me the most about life, how to live life of doing goods and to have a desire to fight for peace – for myself and for all.

When listening to Cheryl telling her story on Thursday, I thought: she and ទួត share a common belief. They had never met each other and grew up on the opposite sides of the world, in I believe complete different environments; but they both believe in forgiveness – in letting go the anger and rage within oneself to seek for peace and kindness. Cheryl’s perspective on dealing with such dramatic and traumatising experiences really resonated with me. I too, believe that forgiveness is a very important way of setting us free, and maybe others too.

I fully acknowledge that not everyone would agree with how I think of forgiveness, and I respect that. Forgiving is hard but so is not.

I also know that for me, like Cheryl, I need to forgive to find peace within myself. In order to forgive, I need to hear the whole story. Some of the stories might be difficult to hear but I know that I need to process the truth and then move on. I learn lessons a long the way of processing, then I take the pain and make it into growth.

While listening to Lou on Monday evening, I saw that same concept – forgiveness. If Lou hadn’t forgave himself for the crimes he committed, he wouldn’t be where he is now – a strong and compassionate man who is saving lives and allowing himself to grow to be a peacebuilder.

I believe that forgiveness holds so much power in this world. I am in no mean trying to convey that it should be done easily and without deep reflection. Just because I advocate for it, doesn’t mean that it works for everyone. I know it frees me, Cheryl and Lou, so I would encourage everyone to look into it, to see what it can do for them.

I know that as a peacebuilder that I am and will be, I see the value of introducing forgiveness to situations of conflict. Like building peace, forgiveness has to start with yourself and then you can extend it to others. I don’t believe it can be done in a reverse order. As the matter of fact, I also think that forgiveness belongs in the many tools that enable a person to achieve peace with themselves and their communities.

Feel free to explore your own way to forgiveness and take your time with it. However, I would recommend giving it a chance and not eliminate this concept from your life right away.

Should one go into someone else’s community to build peace?

By Kim Chham

Let’s say we all accept the term global citizenship and identify with it. Our community will be the community, for all – since we all belong to this world. Therefore, we are citizen of every place of this world. Granted, this is an interpretation of this term that I came up with, not the definition. Then there wouldn’t be ‘us’ vs. ‘them’ or ‘ours’ vs. ‘theirs’. That’s probably one good thing about identifying with this term, but the world is much more complicated than that (as I’ve learned) and having only one community still wouldn’t eliminate all the issues we have now. However, it would eliminate the conflicts of entering someone else’s community and crossing borders.

Because not everyone will agree with this interpretation and identify with this term, and even know or has heard of this term, the issues of individual communities would still remain. The act of crossing into someone else’s community still creates issues.

Sitting in a room with 15 other young people and various experts from the peacebuilding field, we ask ourselves: who are we to go into someone else’s community to build peace? Do we truly understand the issues or the conflicts? Are we able to really understand them without living in those communities? If the answer is yes, should we believe ourselves?

On the other hand, isn’t it morally wrong to stay out of conflicts when you have the potential to help? Isn’t it wrong to watch a country or community diminish without trying to help? Even when some countries call out to international communities to help, are we actually helping by providing aids or mediations? What does the word ‘help’ actually mean? Who holds the power of the action of helps? And is it sustainable?

My next steps of thought – more questions – if the answers to the above questions are yes, it is morally wrong to not help to build peace. Then do we really need to understand the environment as much as a local to step in, to act? Some situations are hostile. People are being killed. Do we lead our doubts of lack of local knowledge stop us from acting? For me to move forward as a peacebuilder, these questions are essential for me to find answers to, or at least come to peace with.

Here are some of my thoughts to these questions, as of this moment.

I think one should take action rather than standing by to watch just because we don’t think we know enough. Having said that, it is very important to keep in mind that we don’t know best and we need to respect the knowledge of locals. Again, coming back to the concept of global citizenship. Once we’ve accepted that this world is ours and we all play an important role in it, it becomes our moral obligation to take actions, to do whatever we can do sustain it. I also think that once we are all there, we will value working together more because this is a big world and there are a lot of issues in it that we can not solve without collaboration.

So, should one go into someone else’s community to build peace?

The answer would depend on whether we accept the term global citizenship or not.

Collaboration In The Peacebuilding Field

By Kim Chham

Photo Credits: City of Salinas

Isn’t it amazing how there are thousands and thousands of NGOs around the world trying to solve issues of poverty, education, gender equality, peace and conflicts; and we are still drowning in these issues still, everyday?

Disclaimer: I am in no mean implying that all these issues are in the responsibility of NGOs alone to solve. I think that every single individual in this world has the responsibility to contribute to shape our society, although some of us have a lot less privilege and power to do so.

I’d just say, I think we have a lot of potential to work a lot more efficiently and effectively than we have been. And I am going to say that, one of the biggest reasons why we haven’t reached those potentials is because there is a lack of collaboration in the humanitarian field, as well as peacebuilding field.

Coming from Cambodia, a country that has had so many NGOs coming from outside to work on these different issues, I have been grateful but frustrated that many of these organizations are not working as well as they can be to reach their goals. In addition, while doing that, there have been more harms caused in some places than before the NGOs’ involvement. And again, I haven’t seen nearly enough collaboration between these organizations – some of whom have been working on the exact same issues for years. One truth to admit is, many NGOs have been surviving on funding and there is a limited pool of where that comes from. Thus, there is a competition to reach the money, which can sometime drive the ways NGOs operate and sometime away from the actual goals of their projects or missions. While we are on this topic, I might as well tell you another frustration of mine. Most of these NGOs (in my encounters) are led and managed by people who are not from the local communities. I honestly am thankful for their kind hearts, but they often don’t understand the issues as well as locals. Thus, solutions don’t solve the roots of problems they are facing.

But then I encountered CASP on Wednesday. A group who have been working to address their local issues of violence in Salinas, in a style that I have been looking for. They are about collaboration and local initiatives. Their key in making their work successful is the focus on common community values over all their differences. They do embrace their differences. They utilize the different skills each person and organization has to help each other in their work. In another word, they utilize the strengths of each stakeholder to combat violence; and they do it together.

As simple as it sounds, it’s hard for groups of people to find those common values. What I learned from CASP is, once you have found those common values and focus on them, political or any other ideologies won’t be able to stop you from uniting with your community. However, we have to keep in mind that those values have to be inclusive of all members of the community. It’s easier said than done. But once we find that, there is a strong force that will drive community trough some of the most challenging things, together. We all want to belong in a community and we love those who are close to us. So I think it’s very smart and simple to use that potential of togetherness that we all have to build peace in our communities.

One of the takeaways from this program that I’ll take home with me is: Find those common values and focus on that!

Peacebuilding or Conflict Sensitivity?

On Thursday we were fortunate to learn about Peacebuilding and Conflict Sensitivity from Sarah Cechvala from CDA. Conflict  Sensitivity was a complete new concept to me before that session. Although I still believe that the extra steps to reach peacebuilding is more needed than stopping at conflict sensitivity (CS), the process of CS really resonated with me. First step in this process is to understand the context, then there needs to be interaction between intervention and the local context, and the final step is to act upon understanding. While listening to Sarah talking through these steps, I had a moment of “Ah that’s exactly the steps I am following for my summer research project at my campus town related to peace and community building!”. At the beginning of this summer, I was very uncertain if the way I go about this project was efficient and effective or not. I didn’t have much background in peacebuilding theories or practices at all, apart from my experience with youth peacebuilding in South East Asia. So hearing that a professional organization like CDA uses this model of intervention really reassured me that I am on a right track.

The session that Sarah presented to us really makes me think about how all this relates to what I have been doing and what I want to do in the future. To me it seems like, a core part of conflict sensitivity is connecting people and information about a place of (potential) conflict. Knowing this, I was thinking that maybe I don’t need to be the one working on the ground to build peace, but I can research the context, connect people together so they can work on their own interventions and then they – themselves assess the situations and make changes. By doing this, I could help more projects through out my lifetime because if I work on the ground, each case would take forever. Maybe this would be the way that I can leverage my strengths in connecting people to build peace.

At the same time however, I know that I like to interact with each person on the ground and take actions myself. So where should I go from here?

Some of us reflected after the session that working from a distance and not directly engaging with the locals like what CDA does (through another organization) – doesn’t really give us the true knowledge of what the situation is and how the people in the conflict are. I agree with that. I think that both working with the local directly or non-directly have their own strengths and weaknesses. Working non-directly can help us understand different context and draw a pattern to advise ground workers. However, that also leaves out the details of each unique case.

I am very intrigued by the work that CDA does and would love to learn more about it. I think that their work has a great potential to help build peace in different places in the world. However, being a person from Cambodia who has seen that there have been too many different NGOs and other organizations there working on the same cause, makes me skeptical of any third party involvement in actually creating good. It has been difficult for me to judge different approaches of peacebuilding as well because most of what I have learned is through a very western and single point of view. A view that is most documented and being taught around the world, but not necessarily a view that is very diverse.

Privilege of being able to create your own sense of belonging

Photo Credits: https://rensol.com/filipinos-forefront-global-citizenship/

During Monday evening session with Eugenia, we were talking about several concepts including global citizenship and belonging. Eugenia stressed that sense of belonging is a very important element in peace and peacebuilding. She also argued that despite the different backgrounds we all have, a sense of belonging is achievable for everyone. We all can work towards it and after all, we are all made out of the same matters. On the other hand, some might argue that this statement is only true for those who have the privilege to fit into different communities in this world. On another day, one of us (participants) also shared in class that they can afford to be who they are and stick to their values and beliefs, even in situations or environments of cultures that might constrain that. Some of us also voiced that global citizenship is an idealistic and unrealistic term.

While hearing all these conversations, I have been consistently reflecting back on my own identity. The question of where do I belong can not be answered in a simple sentence for me. The more I have been around the world and the older I get, considering all the experiences I have had, I either answer to that question with “I belong everywhere” or “I belong nowhere”. Perhaps I am very fortunate to feel most relatable to the term global citizen, compared a citizen to any other specific country. Or perhaps, it’s sad to not be able to pinpoint a single place that I feel belong to. Either way, I have developed and adapted coping skills (as some might say) to fit in the wider world, instead of a country in this world. Framing my identity that connects to the wider world and bigger population of human race might comfort me because I know I don’t hold just a set of beliefs that can be fitted into just a single culture. But does any of us really feel belong to just one community?

Going to school with people from every corner of the world, during the time of growing up to be a young adult, has turned my world upside down. I must say I would never take that experience back. Some might say I have been brainwashed by the idealistic-multicultural environment that I had the privilege and enormous luck to have experienced, to see the world as so connected and see the human race with so much optimism and hope. Nevertheless, this perspective of the world has given me a lot of hope and energy to enter peacebuilding work, the work of the impossibles as some might say.

As confusing as it is to live my life feeling connected to the wider world rather than to one place, I have learned to create home wherever I go. I have learned to develop a sense of belonging and home in multiple places. That is something I really value and would never want it taken away from me. It’s not perfect. I often need to give and take more than some people to create that new home but I also get to experience life from the lens of possibility, empathy and connection to differences. So do I dare call myself a global citizen? Yes. And that is the best way I can find my sense of belonging, which is important for me to reach peace within myself, to then be able to do the work needed in peacebuilding that I long to do.

Water Solutions and Its Potential Conflicts

By Kim Chham

Photo credit: https://image.slidesharecdn.com/aniahermanowska-150322105724-conversion-gate01/95/water-wars-by-group3-1-638.jpg?cb=1427039874

Water is the most important natural resource, as many people argue. Like many other natural resources, it is limited and has become scarce more recently. Like issues with sustainable energy, scientists and environmentalists have been putting in a lot of work in finding new and sustainable ways for sourcing water. As I learned yesterday in the Flowing to Peace session with Professor Jeff Langholz, there have been new technologies invented to find water, especially from the sky.

Water is the most important natural resource, as many people argue. Like many other natural resources, it is limited and has become more scarce recently. Like issues related to sustainable energy, scientists and environmentalists have been putting in a lot of work on finding new and sustainable ways for sourcing water. As I learned on Wednesday during the Flowing to Peace session with Professor Jeff Langholz, there have been new technologies invented to find water, especially from the sky. 

Professor Langholz started his talk by brining all participants outside to play a short game or quiz, which taught us of the concept of expanding the pie. What he meant by that in conflict negotiation was to find other ways to increase the size of the natural resources we currently have and are fighting for. In the context of water, he introduced some new places that we can harvest water, such as from rain, fogs and atmospheric condensation. Apparently there are these modern machines created and being created to harvest water from these sources I just mentioned. Isn’t that great that we can expand the pie? Many conflicts have been caused by water, thus these new technologies can maybe solve those conflicts or even prevent some conflicts from occurring in the first place. I believe that that’s why some of these scientists have created these new technologies. Some have started it with the best intentions, to contribute to conflict prevention and peacebuilding.

However, like many other projects intending to build peace and solve conflicts, they can bring more issues or conflicts.

To be honest, it was refreshing to hear a presentation like the one that professor Langholz gave us on Wednesday. I didn’t even know that we could harvest water from some of the sources that he had mentioned. Moreover, I knew that humans are capable of building great technologies, but I was still in awe of some of these smart technologies. In the deepest part of me, I want this to be the answer. I wanted these technologies to work and people to share them around without fighting. But then, the critical side of me appreared shortly after. Unfortunately, I see so much potential of conflicts that can come with these new ways of finding water.

I mentioned a few of doubts during the session, such as conflicts with exploitation of natural resources needed to build these machines, similar to the conflicts we have with sourcing our iPhones. Another one that I asked about was a potential conflict with more developed countries expecting less developed countries to afford these technologies too. After the session, I kept thinking and reflecting about this and a few more potentials conflicts popped in my mind. What if the industry of atmospheric water harvesting become monopolized? Wouldn’t water be even more expensive for individuals to afford? What if this will become some type of colonization, resources colonization? I understand that anyone can have access to harvesting their own water from the atmosphere around them; you don’t need to buy a part of atmosphere like you buy land. On the other hand, what if rich individuals or companies buy spaces of land and fence off huge areas in developing countries to harvest water to sell? These potentials to me sound like serious conflicts and ways of resource exploitation!

Unfortunately, the power structures in the world right now have been very unequal. Fighting over a natural resource as important and scarce as water might only give more power to those who have so much of it already and take away even more from those who have so little. I agree that finding these new ways of sourcing water is a huge accomplishment and this provides the world a great potential to solve so many problems. However, we need to be cautious about who gets their hands on these machines and how to make sure that this new discovery and invention is spread to those who might not be able to afford it themselves. We need to be cautious about how to use this new technology to build peace and not to create conflicts. I understand that it will be a hard road to navigate but we need as many hands on deck as possible to ensure equity and prevent corruption and monopoly.

Youth in Peacebuilding and Conflict Prevention

By Kim Chham

Peacebuilding to me is such a huge concept and a goal that can only be reached if everyone in this world contributes to it. However, I am hopeful that humanity can reach peace. We are the ones who create conflicts and our society, thus I think we can shape our reality the way we want it. Granted, it won’t be easy and some of us have been given more privilege than others to make decisions that affect the wider community. This is also the part where I believe so much in peacebuilding, because we need to work with everyone, the ones at the top and at the bottom of the power structure. Relationships can be built a long the way, which will foster empathy and understanding, eventually and hopefully reaches peace.

In the past several years that I have gotten to know the concept of peacebuilding and the work in this area, I have found myself to be very intrigued in the preventative stage of conflict as part of peacebuilding. I am very interested in the differences of cultures, backgrounds and learnings that all people from different places experience and how these affect the values that we all hold. I also believe that it doesn’t matter where we are from or where we are in the world, humans tend to share quite a few core values. Hence, I love working with young people/youth to explore those values that we are still developing as well as the most important components that make who we are, identity. I have learned that knowing these core parts of ourselves helps us achieve peace in who we are, which also enhances more peaceful interaction with others – to build peace in our small community, which ultimately build peace in the wider world. Therefore I strongly believe that if we all understand each other better and have closer relationships with each other, we can prevent many of the conflicts that we have today.

Prior to attending college, I have had some experiences in peacebuilding as well as several community building projects. My passion and work with peace started in my second to last year of high school. Joining with about 50 other students of my age at an international high school that I attended, United World College of South East Asia(UWCSEA), I received training from the staff and teachers as well as guest speakers about how to facilitate a conference and knowledge about peace and conflict for a full school year. At the end of the school year, about twenty students, including myself went to Mae Sot, Thailand to run an Initiative for Peace (IFP) conference with about fifty youth from different ethnicities and social backgrounds in that part of Thailand. The participants were youth from Thailand, economic migrants from Myanmar and refugees who stayed at the UN refugee campus at the border of Thailand and Myanmar. 

Seeing the success of integration and inspiration that everyone gained from participating in this conference, I went on to take a gap year after finishing high school to bring an IFP conference to youth in my home of Cambodia. This required many different skills, knowledge and collaborations with many different organisations in Cambodia to create a conference that fit into Cambodian context. I learned so much about leadership and I gained valuable community organising and local field work experience through the organising of both of these conferences. 

Since arriving at my college in North East Iowa, I have been seeking opportunities to be involved in peacebuilding and community building work. I have helped organise and run a few identity workshops on campus, in the purpose of fostering better understanding between different groups of students. I have attended the Nobel Peace Prize Forum in Minnesota twice and learned a lot from experts in the area of peace and conflict. As of most recently, I had spent 7 weeks this summer conducting a collaborative research with a faculty at Luther College (where I am attending) on community and peacebuilding in Decorah, Iowa (where Luther College situates). I had spent most of this time interviewing and learning about the context of this community, finding out what people see as assets, strengths, weaknesses of this town and what they think is needed to happen in terms of community and peacebuilding. After this summer, I am hoping to continue learning more about this community and move to the next stages of the research, which are tentatively learning about different peacebuilding methods around the world, to then identify which one or which combination might be most beneficial to implement in Decorah. I hope to run a few workshops with a few different groups of people in town, including the college students, before I graduate. After that, I am planning to evaluate the ground work, build a better toolkit that I may be able to hand off to another student or group of people who would want to continue this work.

The key element about SPP that resonates with me the most is the peacebuilding skillsets from theories and practices. I am very fascinated to learn that SPP offers a course of learning as well as doing. I consider myself a very passionate learner in the classroom but also an active learner in the field. I am keen to learn from other passionate peace builders, be them older professionals in the field or other young learners and activists. Therefore, my expectations for this program are the learn as much as I can from everyone whom I will meet, build connections and possibly collaborations in peacebuilding work and share what I know when I can. By doing this, I hope to learn new concepts and practices of peacebuilding, that I can then transfer to my current research project, as well as further work that I will be doing in this field.