Learning. To End Violence

Monday, January 9, 2017TOPICS: Global ImpactFaculty and Staff

By Andrew Blum, PhD
Executive Director, Institute for Peace and Justice

For my first Director’s Note of 2017, I thought I would share the Letter from the Director I wrote for the January edition of the Institute for Peace and Justice’s Compass Newsletter. If you would like to receive the Compass or join our other mailing lists, please click here.

Learning. To End Violence

In my year-end article for the Kroc Peace Magazine, I said the questions I am always asking myself regarding the Institute for Peace and Justice (IPJ) are: How can we do better? How can we do more? These are the right questions, but what are the answers? In other words, what will the IPJ actually do in 2017? Where are we headed?

I have only been leading the IPJ for a matter of months, so it would be foolish to say we have clear answers yet. But we have a strong set of starting points. First, we know what is needed to end violence in communities and broader societies. We know that peaceful societies are inclusive with a strong, healthy relationship between society and government. We know that peaceful societies have dense social networks and a strong sense of social cohesion, bonding all groups together and allowing them to work toward a common purpose.

Second, as a university-based institute, we know that a core part of our mission must be generating a deeper understanding of how to foster inclusion and strengthen social cohesion. And there is a pressing need for this right now. The peacebuilding field as a whole is at a moment where we know what needs to be done, but we’re struggling to understand how to do it. This gap creates an enormous opportunity for the IPJ. Right now, peace requires applied knowledge — and generating applied knowledge is a core function of the institute.

Third, we know this applied knowledge cannot be generated just by us at the IPJ. It must be co-created with the peacemakers we work with around the world and in San Diego. Each year as we work with our Women PeaceMakers, we gain a deep, nuanced understanding of the work they do and how they do it. And they gain a deeper understanding of their own work, their challenges, and their societies by placing themselves in the context of global efforts to build peace. It is only through this kind of collaborative process that applied knowledge — knowledge that truly creates more effective peacemaking — can be created.

It is even more exciting when we are able to bring our own University of San Diego student “changemakers” into this process. What better way for our students to learn than from peacemakers working on some of the most difficult problems in the most difficult places?

Finally, we know the purpose of the knowledge we create must always be to support the efforts of the peacemakers with whom we work. It is the peacemakers that apply the applied knowledge. What do they need to know? What relationships do they need? What resources could help them create more impact? How can we support them more effectively? We know it is only local peacemakers who can truly create more inclusive, more cohesive, more peaceful societies. Everything we do must be designed to make those peacemakers more effective, more powerful.

As we begin 2017, I could not be more excited about setting off in this direction — even though the exact path may not be clear. The IPJ has a strong portfolio of current programming, a rich history to build on, a committed group of amazing supporters, and all the resources of the Kroc School and the University of San Diego supporting us. With all this to draw on, there is no doubt that in 2017, we will do better and do more. We hope that you will join us in this journey. Please feel free to contact me directly at any time (andrewblum@sandiego.edu) to hear more about what we are doing or to learn how to become more involved.

Wishing everyone a more peaceful 2017,


Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies


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