Community Peacebuilder Immersion Training

to grow safe 
and resilient

Dear Friend,

Imagine...YOU...further developing essential  skills,  know ledge, confidence, perceptions, sensitivities and new understanding for your own personal development as well as contributing to a cultural shift in your community.  Come join us for this innovative approach to community peacebuilding with a small group of like minded and committed individuals. Share in meaningful dialogue, new challenges, discoveries and fun.

As we enter our fifth year of introducing best and next practices of peacebuilding in the Gainesville Community, we marvel at the contribution we and our collaborative partners have made in embedding, within the culture, effective and cutting edge approaches. 


  • Personal empowerment
  • Leadership skills and relationship building
  • Experiential learning with leading peacebuilders
  • Learn the application of cutting edge peacebuilding techniques and processes
  • Engage with key stakeholders in this unique, successful and collaborative model
  • Immerse yourself in an active center for peacebuilding
  • Return to your community better equipped with confidence to inspire effective change
  • Ongoing coaching and support from our established center and on-going relationship with developing centers/programs

"Everyone that has the slightest bit of exposure to what RPCP is doing is completely  invested in the idea. The Gainesville Police Department, Alachua County Sheriff's Office,  Department of Juvenile Justice, and Alachua County School Services have been looking  for answers to help these children and this has been almost an answer to prayer. I see this model spreading far beyond Gainesville."
                                               Eileen Roy, Chair, Alachua County School Board


Week 1 - May 6 - 14     Week 2 - October 14 - 22     Gainesville, Florida

This two week immersion training takes place at a 30 acre lake front rustic retreat center near Gainesville Florida.
Peace Builder's Immersion Objectives:
  • To provide the knowledge, skills, and support for developing participant confidence and competence in creating successful peacebuilding practices in their community. 
  • To empower and catalyze tangible, impactful, local peacebuilding efforts in communities, in schools, the justice system and neighborhoods.
  • To inspire and encourage the development of centers for peacebuilding.
  • To develop a community of practice for peacebuilders, sharing successes, troubleshooting, and inspiring others to join the field of peacebuilding.
This two-week residential experience will provide the knowledge, skills, and support for inspiring and operationalizing peacebuilding practices in your life and work, pot entially creating a center for peacebuilding, within your community. 

The time between training weeks is intended to allow participants to expand their peacebuilding capacity and begin developing community relationships and implementing programs that support their community peacebuilding.  In addition to the two weeks of training, participants and their centers will receive coaching and mentoring from RPCP. 

Participants will receive a certificate of completion from the 
River Phoenix Center for Peacebuilding.


Week 1 - May 6 - 14
  • Core Principles of Peacebuilding
  • Social-Emotional Competence in Peacebuilding
  • Communication & Self Esteem Program 
  • Facilitation 101
  • Restorative Justice Training
  • Creating and Maintaining Community Partnerships
  • Establishing a Center for Peacebuilding

Week 2 - October 14 - 22

  • Successes and Challenges in Bringing Peacebuilding Practices to Your Community
  • Facilitation 102
  • Addressing Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Institutions
  • Police-Youth Dialogue Program
  • Establishing a Trauma Responsive Community         
  • Your Center's Continued Development      


Week 1 - May 6-14, 2016

Core Principles of Peacebuilding
Peacebuilding is an emerging field that not only helps to interrupt the cycle of violence, but actually establishes the very systems and infrastructures for living in harmonious relationship with self, others, and all life. The term peacebuilding relates to systems, policies, practices and resources that promote the wellbeing, vitality, and opportunity of citizens to live a life of and safety. Peace-building includes a set of values, skills, analyses, and processes that intersect with human rights, education, trauma healing, the military, our legal and judicial systems, economics, environmental issues and much more. Creating the conditions for peace needs to include and address the personal, relational, cultural, and structural dynamics with the support and systems that promote prevention, intervention, and healing from violence. 
Social-Emotional Competence in Peacebuilding
Social-emotional competence is an essential set of life skills fundamental to peacebuilding. Also known as emotional intelligence, these competencies include identifying and managing your emotions, embracing conflict as a constructive, rather than destructive experience, feeling and sharing empathy with others, and communicating with yourself and others in healthy ways.  Becoming a 
peace-builder and facilitating peacebuilding programs require social-emotional competence, particularly because the programs are designed to teach these skills to others.

Communication & Self Esteem Program
The Communication and Self-Esteem Program is one o f our flagship programs.  It is evidence-informed, improves youth's emotional intelligence, and builds resilience.  The curriculum targets social-emotional learning in an engaging and experiential way, culminating with the youth teaching a piece of the curriculum to their parents, probation officers and peers at the last class.  This program was our first, piloted with youth on probation.  It has since served as the cornerstone to inform all our other programs because if we can't communicate well with others, it can lead to conflict and violence.  We currently offer this program in schools, at after-school program sites, in detention centers, and in partnership with community agencies. Youth in the C&SE program receive community service hours for their participation.

Facilitation 101
Facilitators help forward an action, process, dialogue, or meeting.  A group facilitator's job is to make it easier for the group to do its work.  By providing non-directive leadership, the facilitator helps empower the group to arrive at ideas, understandings, and decisions.  The world needs more effective facilitators who have the ability to translate, reframe, reflect, de-escalate conflict, inspire, and impart knowledge and wisdom.  By drawing forth comments, information and experiences of participants, the group can function more productively.  These core aspects of facilitation will be the focus of this training while enhancing your strengths and skills as a leader.  Facilitation 101 is designed to give you a framework for helping shift people's perceptions and positions thus opening to a wider range of options, opinions, ideas, and perspectives.  Participants will have opportunities to practice a variety of facilitation techniques and receive feedback to better hone their craft.

Restorative Justice Training
Restorative Justice (RJ) is a process that has been used  b y aboriginal tribes for thousands of years. It  moves us from a punishment model t o a restorative model which includes accountability, respect, and community engagement. It is an evidenced-based practice and philosophy that seeks to restore and repair harm by bringing together those directly or indirectly impacted by a specific conflict, offense, crime, incident, etc.  

RJ is not just for crime, it can be used to address issues in schools, the workplace, neighborhoods, and within families and other relationships.  It is not necessarily about forgiveness, although it oftentimes occurs, but rather addresses the impact of the incident and helps to prevent future incidents and make things better.  

The process of RJ involves a meeting, called a circle, of all of those directly or indirectly involved who are interested in making things better.  During the circle, everyone who has been impacted by the incident identifies key items that address the harm and actions to make things better.  These items are put in a written agreement, signed by all.  Follow-up on completion of these items is usually done by the institution, organization, or community involved in facilitating the circle.   
Creating and Maintaining Community Partnerships
Peacebuilding is a collaborative, community effort.  Creating and investing in partnerships is key to the success of any peacebuilding initiative, especially a center for peacebuilding.  While every community will have a unique set of partners, certain partnerships are essential for particular programs.  RPCP will share their experience of establishing and maintaining partnerships to support their programs and assist you in identifying the key partnerships you will need to support peacebuilding practices in your community.

Establishing a Center for Peacebuilding
We believe that every community will benefit from an entity whose primary purpose is to facilitate, champion and focalize the necessary programs and services to prevent, interrupt, reduce, and heal from violence.  A Center for Peacebuilding serves as the hub for best and next practices in your community.  RPCP has already done much of the work of identifying these best and next practices and has designed the immersion experience around sharing these findings with you.  RPCP does not intend for you to replicate their model, but rather be informed by it and use what we've learned to design a center for your community.  

Because many of the programs that are the building blocks of peacebuilding are cutting edge and not well known, we have found our greatest success is with offering pilot programs.  In this way, our partners or stakeholders are able to see the benefit of the work being offered without risking limited funding and staff time.  This also allows you to learn what works best given the unique nature of your community.  Typically, programs and services are designed to be flexible in order to meet the need.  RPCP staff will share their experiences with piloting programs to help inform your peacebuilding work.

Centers for Peacebuilding are not established over night, it is an evolving processThis is why the training takes place over two weeks separated by four months in between sessions.  The intention is to share key elements in the first week, provide coaching on how this may look in your community, support your ideas around translating the work, and work with you over time to see it manifest.  By the end of the first week you will create a plan of action for your community, then implement it during your four month break, and return in October to discuss successes and challenges and develop your next steps.

Week 2 - October 14-22, 2016

Successes and Challenges in Bringing Peacebuilding Practices to Your Community
Developing a Center for Peacebuilding is an exciting, yet challenging process. You'll be invited to share your successes and challenges over the past four or so months and learn from the work being done in your fellow participants' communities.  This process will further the development of the peacebuilding learning community and fuel the next steps for your center for peacebuilding.

Facilitation 102
In week two of the Immersion Training, participants will be coached in dealing with more complex and challenging interactions, issues and conflicts.  While it's one thing to facilitate people who agree with one another, it's quite another to support individuals and groups who have the opposite perspective and to find a place where they meet and connect to a common value, principle, or strategy.  This is where facilitation gets very interesting and of course challenging and having the skills and capacity to hold the space when things are not going well is a significant service to the field of peacebuilding.  These advanced skills build upon 101 yet go further to help us recognize our own bias, prejudice, and judgments that may get in the way, thereby losing credibility and trust of an individual or group. You will come away with a framework to help shift people's perceptions and positions, opening the group to a wider range of options, opinions, ideas, and perspectives.

"We have no morally persuasive power with those who can feel our underlying contempt."
Dr. Martin Luther King

Addressing Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Institutions
Racial and Ethnic Disparities (RED) is a term that reflects the social and economic inequalities between various racial groups in the United States.  These disparities are seen in the criminal and juvenile justice systems, in the child welfare system, in school discipline, and unemployment statistics.  In the context of Peacebuilding, addressing the disproportionate treatment and outcomes for Blacks, Hispanics and Native Americans is a relevant issue.

According to the National Survey of America's Families there are seven indicators of well-being by race and ethnicity that include poverty, family structure, child support, food hardship, housing hardship, health status and health insurance.  By addressing these issues with diverse and robust resources, communities can see benefits that include higher graduation rates, increased employment, higher revenues, business development, lower expenses on police and incarceration, fewer disputes, and improved well-being.

To date, RPCP's focus on RED has been within the juvenile justice system and our Police Youth Dialogues.  Our partnership with the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) includes our Restorative Justice diversion program and our Communication & Self-Esteem Program for youth on probation.  We also provide Anger Management to incarcerated youth.  These programs provide youth with skills that reintegrate them into the community and equip them to succeed in adolescence and beyond.

Police-Youth Dialogue Program
In the news we've seen an increase in negative police youth interactions, some of which have ended with catastrophic consequences.  This great divide has only increased as law enforcement has moved away from the community policing model of walking the beat and interacting with the local community.  Over the past two years, RPCP and Gainesville Police Department have developed and implemented a five-hour Police Youth Dialogue which brings together 12 youth of color and 12 officers to begin breaking down stereotypes, uncover biases, tell stories, and learn from one another where we are similar and why both groups do what they do.

The training includes understanding adolescent brain development and the behaviors that result from trauma.  The time youth and officers spend together is experiential, with two key activities: 1) a role play of youth playing the officers and the officers playing the youth and 2) cops and kids paired up for a meal together and then coming back into the full group to share what they learned.  Throughout the training, both cops and kids get to share why they may have difficulty with the "other" and look at specific ways of building a bridge of relationship for when they meet on the street or in schools.  

RPCP has delivered this training to over 200 officers and 200 youth with a pre and post assessment with the outcomes being tracked to validate and show the change in attitudes, knowledge, and behaviors.  This training has grown beyond the local police to include the county Sheriff's office, the University of Florida's police and UF students and will soon expand to other agencies, schools, and areas.

Establishing a Trauma Responsive Community Initiative
Adverse Childhood Experiences, or ACEs, are unfortunately common.  According to the landmark Felitti and Anda 1998 study, the most impactful ACEs include abuse, neglect, and family dysfunction, such as divorce, incarceration, and substance abuse.  These experiences affect children immediately and can have a lasting impact into adulthood.  Those with fewer resources and support to develop resilience may exhibit behaviors that lead to school disruptions or even contact with the criminal justice system.

A Trauma Responsive Community is one that recognizes the presence and impact of ACEs and other traumas on the lives of its citizens and is committed to ensuring services respond to their needs in a respectful and caring way.  From education to the criminal justice system, the paradigm shifts from asking "What is wrong with you?" to "What happened to you?"  The conversation becomes more about helping the person overcome adversity rather than blaming them for the impact of their experiences.  Being trauma responsive must include resilience building and empowerment for those who have experienced trauma, increasing their awareness of their needs and helping them work toward addressing the issues that continue to impact their lives.

Your Center's Continued Development
Your experience in the two-week immersion is only the beginning of your journey to developing peacebuilding practices in your community.  RPCP will continue to work with you to celebrate your successes and navigate your challenges.  In addition to ongoing tele-meetings, you will be inducted into our learning community as a Community Peacebuilder Alumni and continue to receive support and collaboration with peers. 

Thank you so much for your interest in our inaugural residential immersion training and in the field of peacebuilding.  We look forward to partnering with you in an effort to create the conditions for safe, thriving, caring and just communities throughout the world.

Everyone learns to resolve conflict through healthy communication in relationship thus breaking the cycle of violence and creating a more healthy, vibrant and safe community.
We look forward to hearing from you.  Questions or comments? Contact me!

Katie Fields
River Phoenix Center for Peacebuilding