Posts Tagged ‘peacebuilding models’

Democracy Reconsidered

February 11, 2012 @ 5:53 PM
posted by Zarrin Caldwell

Residents of Tuinuane Village in Kenya gather for commemoration of new nursery school.

As those of us in the United States approach the 2012 presidential elections in November, I find myself quite nauseated by the partisan, divisive political news and advertising. It makes me wonder how many people really care about this kind of reporting, or our seemingly dysfunctional democracy. Don’t get me wrong. I’m a big fan of democracy, but not of the party system that we have in the U.S. On the subject of democracy, I was intrigued by the seemingly effective local consultative and decision-making process featured in this month’s case study on Tuinuane Village in Kenya. Sure, politics at the national level in Kenya is a mess and has led to violence, but I see hope in the way local places like Tuinuane are taking development into their own hands. I am particularly proud of this case study because it is based on interviews with six people living in that community, which is the kind of grassroots input I always envisioned for this site. These interviews were conducted by Gwen Meyer with FKSW. Sometimes, I get discouraged by the lack of response I get to the many, many emails I send out in my hunt for the models to post on this site, but I’ve also met some amazing people like Gwen through this process.  There’s definitely been at least one such individual behind every case study I’ve posted to this site and I appreciate all of them!


Building Neighborhood Bonds

August 30, 2011 @ 11:53 PM
posted by Zarrin Caldwell

Housing Studios, FORUM, Netherlands

I’ve just added a new case study to the site on a “housing studios” project in the Netherlands. Materials from this project point out that it is a policy of many Westerns European countries to create social mix in housing policy. Living in such mixed communities is seen a way to strengthen bridging capital across diverse groups, to lessen discrimination, to increase understanding, and to create opportunities for higher social mobility for those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds. The municipalities featured in the Netherlands case study aren’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but it was interesting to see the priority that project organizers put on building social bonds among diverse residents.

Of course, people need to interact across social groups and this doesn’t always happen. Bureaucracy too has an uncanny way of creating hurdles to progress. Still, creating social glue seems to be a cornerstone of revitalizing broken communities … and governments seem to be recognizing this more and more. In fact, I developed this case study from a lead on the site of the Shared Societies Project—“a global initiative that provides leaders with greater understanding of the benefits of social cohesion, and the incentives and means to act to advance it.”



New Concepts for the World Bank?!

June 8, 2011 @ 11:37 PM
posted by Zarrin Caldwell

World Bank Development Report 2011

Being that there are way too many economists at the World Bank, their recent World Development Report 2011 on “Conflict, Security, and Development” focused a lot on the role of jobs, economic development, and institutional reform in rebuilding so-called “failed states.” But, I was still pleasantly surprised at the amount of text that did cover the critical role of trust and collaborative processes in rebuilding societies. Recommendations included having more South-North exchanges to share solutions to problems that both regions faced—like how to foster “tolerance and social bonds among communities that are ethnically and religiously divided.”  Sound familiar?  A small section of the report also focused on giving power (and funding) to representative community councils to make their own decisions on programs. The National Solidarity Program in Afghanistan—where block grants go directly to elected councils—is one example. My only question is why has it taken so long to get to this development paradigm?


Rethinking Political Protests

April 22, 2011 @ 3:57 PM
posted by Zarrin Caldwell

In Spring 2011, the wave of political resistance across the Middle East has gotten the world’s attention. Clearly, there are leaders that have been in office way too long and it’s time for them to go, but I’m concerned that the media has been so enthralled by all the “hype” (including using cell phones to organize protests) that they aren’t asking very critical questions about what it all means. Namely, is real social change and conflict transformation going to happen via protest? In my view,  that’s a last step, not the first.  Susan Glisson at the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation perhaps says it best: “The need for such locally focused, community-based conversations is tied to a basic principle of social change: effective social change occurs by focusing on local issues, using grassroots, nonviolent strategies.These first steps are followed by careful analysis of the problems and negotiation with stakeholders who can make a difference. Massive protests are actually a final step when all previous work has failed, not a first-strike response. In the absence of such work on the ground, massive protests fail.” A house won’t stand without a foundation.

Don’t get me wrong, social protests can be a tool for political change in the short term, but I think one has to look down the road for the success rate. The Orange Revolution in the Ukraine in 2004 brought democratic elections, but did it stem corruption, bridge ethnic-linguistic divisions, or lead to significant social and economic development? I’m not an expert on Ukraine, but I don’t think so. Protests may be one tool in the toolbox, but just one. We need to think so much bigger. It’s the longer-term building of relationships and trust that are going to create the social cohesion necessary to move societies beyond “us vs. them” dynamics which, one way or the other, ultimately fail. Creating community-based conversations about what matters is much harder work, which is why I suppose it doesn’t get that much attention. It’s not “sexy,” but it’s critical.



Stories  of  Transformation

January 5, 2011 @ 4:26 PM
posted by Zarrin Caldwell

Gergo Nagy; from Gnome Art

Quite a few of my friends want to see “stories of transformation” on this site and I would love to feature more of those. I think this will happen in time, but it is sometimes difficult to unearth these stories from the grassroots. Most of my information at the beginning of this venture is still coming from international non-governmental organizations. Sadly, I am not in a position to make trips all over the world myself to collect these stories—wouldn’t that be nice?! I rely on the Internet and Skype calls to do most of my research, but am aware that so many people are still without such access. As part of the models featured on the site, I’d love input on getting more of those critical “heartfelt” stories! Do you have experience with the models featured to date in Northern Ireland, Israel/Palestine, the Philippines, or the DRC? Add them to this blog!

Building Trust on Irish Borders

December 21, 2010 @ 8:10 PM
posted by Zarrin Caldwell

The Newtowncunningham Community Development Initiative has held successful Summer Play Schemes each year, attended by most children and young people in the village.

I had interviewed Maurice Healy for the just-posted story on “Building Trust on Irish Borders.” Maurice spoke about a lot of the historical grievances and pain that still affect people in many communities there. “People talk about things that happened 200 years and they are still aggrieved,” said Maurice. These feelings move across generations and the young people too will bring up sectarian divides—even though, on the surface, they just seem to care about their I-pods. Religious differences, he added, are part of everyone’s DNA. Having heard this input, I wondered if the project featured in Newtowncunningham could really be called a “Model of Unity.” But, this site is not about “perfection.” Small steps matter and people have crossed divides to better the village as a whole.

Eight years ago in Newtowncunningham, for example, no one would even use the halls of other groups, but now that is more common. The Gaelic Athletic Association, once known for its nationalist loyalties, has opened its doors to larger membership—including British security forces.  And, contingents of youth have had enough positive experiences with cross-community activities and peers that they are getting adults to cross the Northern Ireland/Republic of Ireland borders for the first time. Erenrefvenan The case study shows that this bridge-building work is not easy, but it has to start somewhere. “Unless someone starts things moving” noted a Community Foundation for Northern Ireland report, “these communities will remain excluded and become further alienated at considerable social and economic costs to themselves and to Northern Ireland.”

Do you have experience in Northern Ireland? If you do (or even if you don’t), share your thoughts!


Creating Multiethnic Relationships in Second Life

November 21, 2010 @ 4:36 PM
posted by Zarrin Caldwell

I came across a fun story recently in the Christian Science Monitor about a community in Second Life called Al-Andalus. This virtual community has historical links to the real nation of Al-Andalus—where coexistence between Christians, Muslims, and Jews created a vibrant scientific and intellectual community in the Iberian Peninsula from roughly the 8th to 12th centuries.

Like its historical counterpart, the virtual community in Second Life is “forging new relationships across the chasms of nationality, religion, and language.” See: The article prompted me to go to the library and do some of my own research. While Al-Andalus was a model of collaboration in many ways, others point out that Jews and Christians still had to pay a special tax and there were a variety of other conflicts in Spain at that time (including within Muslim and Christian communities themselves). It wasn’t perfect, but I don’t think that takes away from what we can learn from that time and the efforts being made in our own time to bridge divides in virtual space!


Positive Focus or Lessons Learned?

October 30, 2010 @ 12:08 PM
posted by Zarrin Caldwell

Friends of the Earth, Middle East – Adult group in West Bank (Hebron) discussing water issues with their neighboring Israeli community.

Here’s my first blog! My goal is to post every 2-3 weeks. Hope you’ll join in the dialogue …

I heard recently from a woman (Cynthia) who raised some questions about the goals of the Models of Unity site. Overall, the site is about what is working to bring people together across divides so it is primarily positive. Cynthia admitted that, for the purposes of “motivation and hope,” it was a great goal to “talk about what works” and she encouraged this effort. She added, however, that, if the “purpose was to understand how to improve what we do, using only what works is not as useful as using what works and what doesn’t together.” While the main objective of the site is to offer hopeful stories in a disillusioned world, I also want it to be a learning portal so it’s important to know about the challenges that various projects have faced. Thus, in the models featured, you will find “lessons learned.” Granted, I’m well aware that what works in one country may not in another, but it’s helpful to see what has been successful and what has been difficult. You’ll see these reflections, and a new “challenges” section, offered in the case study just posted on Good Water Neighbors.

If you have thoughts about the balance between reporting the positives and negatives, please share them! This discussion reminds me of the debate over “appreciate inquiry,” an organizational development model that primarily gets groups to focus on what works in an organization, but critics say this is wearing “rose colored glasses.” Then again, when it comes to conflict resolution, I think too much attention has gone to the problems vs. what actually works to bring communities together so this website is an attempt to build in some of that balance. As my friends all know, I am no “Pollyanna,” but, with negativity just seeping across the Internet, seems like there is a need for refocus.

What do you think? Click the “Comment” button at right to share your thoughts!

Get Email Updates


Contact Info

Click here to contact us.

Feature of the Month