November/December 2017
Practice and Experiential Education Edition
Peacebuilding and Conflict Resolution
Dear Colleague:

The importance of experience as the foundation of learning can be traced back to the work of John Dewey. His argument included the admonition that "we do not learn from experience... we learn from reflecting on experience" as a reminder that experience has limited value unless there is an active means of considering the individual impact of the event or action. Experiential educators work to incorporate reflective means - such as journaling and debriefing - that help learners consider the impact and influence of an experience. In this edition, I am focusing on experiential education and practice. (In my last two newsletters I've looked at careers and education ).

Practice is sometimes juxtaposed with research. Often in higher education, research has been emphasized at the expense of practice: the means by which we apply and engage our knowledge. For several years now, I have taught a course on reflective practice where, using experiential approaches, I introduce students to the practice of peacebuilding and conflict intervention. I share below some of the resources that I use.

Experience to advance learning can happen in many ways. Often we focus on more formal processes and structures. But informal activities including engaging in games, can go far to improve learning. Recently, I attended the Association for Experiential Education meeting in Montreal, and had the chance to participate in many approaches. Surprisingly though, there seems to be little linkage between the broader peacebuilding world and the experiential learning community: one exception is Outward Board Peacebuilding .

In wearing my other "hat" as president of the Forage Center for Peacebuilding and Humanitarian Education, Inc. , I've had a chance to see experiential learning at work in transforming the ways in which young professionals see working in complex emergencies. I started my career as a practicing lawyer and mediator, and still periodically engage in mediation. I've long appreciated the need to pause and reflect on engagement. In watching my son who is in the Peace Corps in Namibia, I have witnessed from afar his transformation in thinking of his role in working in marginalized environments and how that can be improved.

I invite you to engage in reflective practices as part of your work. Take Dewey to heart: it's more than experience, but the ability to reflect on that change that is taking place within one's self that is critical.

The photo at the top - again from my son Lorenzo - is of his learners in Namibia playing chess under a tent. He thought that his students needed to engage in "forward" thinking, which he felt was lacking. If there ever was a forward thinking game, it was chess. His learners are now big enthusiasts of the game, playing on their own. So here - in learning by doing - a skill and aptitude is developed that has life-long consequences.

I have also included in this newsletter a link to my TEDxFulbright talk: "Talking About Peace," that I gave at the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center in June 2017.

This will be my last newsletter of 2017. As such, I wish you the happiest of holiday seasons and a Happy New Year. I will send out my next newsletter in late January.

David J. Smith
November 25, 2017

PS: If you feel that you are receiving this newsletter in error, I apologize. You can "unsubscribe" using the button at the bottom of the page. 

Photo credit: Lorenzo Choudhary-Smith, PCV/Namibia, 2017
Your Personal Approach to Conflict
As a first step in becoming a better practitioner, I ask students to first take the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument. A version of test can be found at the USIP Public Education site . It is free, and a good starting place in thinking about your own approach to conflict.
Empathy: A Key to Better Practice
Much has been written about the role of empathy in practice. An empathic practitioner can connect better with someone in need, and therefore improve outcomes. This article is about the need for empathy in doctors , but certainly can be considered in other professions.
Mindfulness is important to reflection. This article by peace activist and Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh on mindfulness is worth reading.

Forage Center for Peacebuilding and Humanitarian Education
March 2018 Coastal Hope Simulation

If you are a graduate student and interested in building your capacity for working in crises where humanitarian and peacebuilding responses are needed, consider attending the  Forage Center for Peacebuilding and Humanitarian Education’s   annual Coastal Promise program in Fellsmere, FL, USA, March 15-18, 2018. The fee is $625 for enrolled graduate students which includes all meals and lodging.

Registration for upcoming exercise can be completed here.
For more more information, visit the  Forage Center website . Registration closes 2/2/18.
Reflective Thinking and Writing
This online course from Solent Online Learning has a easily digestible section on reflection, looking at the work Donald Schon and David Kolb. This is a good starter for considering reflection.
Outward Bound Peacebuilding
If you looking for a group that engages in experiential approaches to peacebuilding, I would recommend Outward Bound Peacebuilding .
Want to be a Mediator?
This piece by Jim Melamed of is a good starting point for resources.
C onsider Supporting Humanitarian Education on #Giving Tuesday

Tuesday, November 28, is giving #GivingTuesday . It's a day to support efforts that bring about important social change. Many not-for-profits are participating, including the Forage Center for Peacebuilding and Humanitarian Education, Inc. (Forage Center). I serve as president of the center. The Forage Center was established in 2015 to advance educational efforts to train individuals interested in working to alleviate suffering in humanitarian and conflict environments.

All of the board members and staff volunteer their time to put on a full-scale 4-day simulation in Florida that replicates working in a humanitarian crisis. You can learn about our past events including our most recent March 2017 simulation   here and here .

As a 501c3 corporation, any donations that you make are tax deductible.  If supporting humanitarian need is important to you, then consider making a contribution to the Forage Center . Here is the link to our page which includes a donate button when you scroll down.
Designing a Paper Airplane, the Metaphor of a Lamp, and Other Models for Reflective Practice

I am fortunate to have the opportunity to teach students working toward their certificate, master’s and PhD degrees at the  School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution at George Mason University , where I received my MS. The past few years I have taught the course “Reflective Practice in Conflict Analysis and Resolution: Interpersonal and Multiparty Conflicts, CONF 620/820.” If you go to this link , you can read about the projects my students developed in our spring 2017 class.
A Few of my Latest Articles

This is What Gets Me Up in the Morning ( Huffington Post , 11/17/17)

Fostering Peace on Campuses, In Communities ( Community College Daily , 9/21/17)
Featured Peacebuilding Groups

I have been featuring selective peacebuilding groups on my website. Click here to learn about a few of them.

Join Me for this PCDN Event on 11/30/17 on Work-Life Balance

Click here for more information!
Talking About Peace
I was honored to give a talk at the TEDxFulbright program "A Curious Picture" in June 2017 at the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center. Click here to view it.
Peace Jobs: A Student's Guide to Starting a Career Working for Peace
  Peace Jobs was recently reviewed by ACResolution

  “It isn’t often that a new book offers something fresh and of personal value to students, their families, and a professional field.  Peace Jobs: A Student’s Guide to Starting a Career Working for Peace does this and more.
Information Age Publishing has recently reduced the price of Peace Jobs to make it more affordable to students. It is now available for $33.99 . It can also be ordered in a  Kindle edition .  
Career Coaching

Are you looking to make a career change in 2018 and looking at the international education, peacebuilding or conflict resolution fields? I am career coaching younger and mid-career professionals who are looking to make change. 

Learning is the process whereby knowledge is created through the transformation of experience       
-David Kolb
David J. Smith Consulting ||