In this podcast, JAMS Foundation Managing Director David Brandon and Alliance for Peacebuilding Executive Director Liz Hume discuss the meaning and background behind the JAMS Foundation’s Warren Knight Distinguished Service Award and why AFP was chosen as this year’s special recipient. Liz provides insight into AFP’s current goals, where she expects the Alliance will concentrate its efforts going forward and how the funding from the JAMS Foundation will support that mission. Ms. Hume advocates for the global need for peacebuilding and how that need has been amplified by the ongoing global pandemic, war in Ukraine and climate crisis.
[00:00:00] Moderator: Welcome to this podcast from JAMS. This year the JAMS foundation, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary, presented its annual Warren Knight Distinguished Service Award to the Alliance for Peacebuilding along with a $25,000 grant. The award recognized the organization's work to address the root causes of violence and conflict by bringing together public policy and cross-sectoral partnerships to accelerate collective action to forge real world and innovative solutions to build sustainable peace.
To talk about that award as well as the Alliance for Peacebuilding's work and its mission, we have two guests, David Brandon, managing director of the JAMS Foundation and Liz Hume, executive director for Alliance for Peacebuilding. I want to thank both of you for being with us. David, I'll start with you. The JAMS Foundation, as I said, is celebrating its 20th anniversary.
Can you tell us what that milestone means to you and the Foundation and a little bit about what you've learned?
[00:00:58] David Brandon: Well, one of the things we've learned is that time passes a lot faster than you'd expect. The JAMS Foundation is 20 years old. I have been with JAMS for 21 years and 18 of them spent in relation to the Foundation.
So, I do feel that we sort of grew up together here. For me personally, working on behalf of an organization that supports conflict prevention and dispute resolution in so many ways and so many different settings is just one of the proudest things in my life. For the Foundation as an institution and for society more generally, I am just amazed to think of all the programs that have been initiated during that time and all the organizations that have been funded well over a hundred separate nonprofit organizations working in this world, communities that have been served by the work we funded and the lives that have been impacted over a course of a generation of doing this work. Before there was a JAMS Foundation, there was the Hewlett Foundation, which to its credit had invested a huge amount of money, about $150 million or so, and basically created the dispute resolution field.
But about 20 years in, they had felt that they had done what they could to support the field and they shifted to other priorities and ultimately wound down their investment entirely. The JAMS Foundation came into being just as Hewlett was winding down and although we operate on a notably more modest scale, we are still a leading source of dedicated funding for conflict resolution related work across the country and around the world. At our 20 year mark, we are not winding down but instead, not only just to maintain our efforts but to expand our work to date, to create new partnerships and to continue making a positive impact on our field and in the world for years to come, hopefully. To answer your question, one of the things that we've learned is that the world never runs out of conflict and the reasons for it and that the need for this work is still tremendous and in some ways growing and that it feels really good to do what you can to help make the world a better place.
[00:02:54] Moderator: The Warren Knight Distinguished Service Award is an important part of that JAMS Foundation history. Can you tell us a little bit about it?
[00:03:01] David Brandon: Sure. The Warren Knight Award is named for JAMS founder and beloved first mediator Warren Knight who stepped down from the judicial bench in Southern California and basically opened up an office with his dog, Jessie, under his desk and became a mediator that then grew into what JAMS is today. He was also the first chairman of the JAMS Foundation Board until he passed away about 10 years ago. I was very lucky to work with him during those years and as proud as he was of the commercial success of JAMS as an enterprise, I think he would be the first to say that the JAMS Foundation was the proudest outcome and manifestation of JAMS’ success because it allowed that commercial success to turn into a benefit for our field and for the world at large. So, the Warren Knight Award is our attempt both to honor Warren for the dear and visionary person that he was, but more importantly, to help incredible organizations and colleagues that are so deeply committed to their work and helping to prevent conflict and resolve conflict and who continue to provide such an extraordinarily vital service to the communities that they work with.
[00:04:10] Moderator: What about the Alliance for Peacebuilding stood out among the so many potentially worthy recipients this year?
[00:04:16] David Brandon: You asked earlier what we have learned over the last 20 years, and I think one of the key lessons that we've learned over that time is that if you're really looking to make a difference and you want that change to last, you need to try to connect as many dots as possible, not just to support needed work but to build on and to leverage the collective experience and insight and the resources of all the people involved to produce better results to create a more inclusive process and ultimately to just create more sustainable impact over time. From the very beginning, even in its earliest incarnations, the Alliance for Peacebuilding created a model that emphasized, not just the need to collaborate among stakeholders to a conflict, any conflict, but a broader and more fundamental need for collaboration among the collaborators themselves, the facilitators of these processes and the peacemakers.
So, they've created this vibrant ecosystem across geographies, across different cultures and fields of practice to recognize and to share what we have already learned and accomplished and to build on our collective successes and the lessons that we've learned along the way to gain some new perspective and to develop new approaches to a world of very complicated and ever evolving challenges. We're proud to support them in that work.
[00:05:34] Moderator: Liz, can you give us some background on the Alliance, the organization and its mission?
[00:05:39] Liz Hume: Sure. The Alliance for Peacebuilding is a network made up of over 160 peacebuilding organizations working in 181 countries globally. It was started by just a group of people that got together in the early 2000s that said we need to do better.
The humanitarians have a voice. They have a collective advocacy that the peacebuilding field didn't. It was a young field and it was really brought together to build the field, to make the case for peacebuilding and to educate on peacebuilding. As David said, we have increasing violent conflict globally, fragility, but we don't have to accept it.
We have the tools and the skills to prevent conflict, to reduce it and to build sustainable peace. Really at the heart of what the Alliance does, it's about educating and advocating for game changing policies and laws, putting together robust funding requests, developing an evidence base to prove that what we say we can do, building standards and, again, building this field, which also includes building the capacity of our members.
[00:06:55] Moderator: Well, you said that peacebuilding is relatively a new field. What have you learned about peacebuilding since you've been on the job? What works and how do you communicate it's success?
[00:07:05] Liz Hume: So, that's an incredible challenge, and I don't think we've a hundred percent gotten there. That's one of the things that we're working on is narratives research to explain what it is because when you say peace or peacebuilding, what do people think of? They think of a peace sign or they think of a state of being, so really trying to make it clear what peacebuilding is – it’s not just a state, it’s really hard work. I think that that's really one of the most important pieces of it, but what have we learned?
We say it's a young field. When you say it's a young field, you're talking about two decades worth of work, but I mean, that's in development terms, that's a pretty young field. But the focus is really on understanding that this is hard work and it has to be integrated in so much that we do. I'm just going to take an example of COVID.
We know it is not just a health crisis. We know that countries that have strong social cohesion did really well under COVID in the beginning before the vaccine and even after the vaccine. We know in countries like the United States that have some of the worsening social cohesion, indicators did poorly.
So, we're talking about peacebuilding here, we're talking about building social trust. Vaccines are important, wearing masks, but why didn't people want to do it? The breakdown of trust in government and that is peacebuilding work. That is building trust.
[00:08:38] Moderator: Well, I feel like we can't have a conversation about peacebuilding without talking about the conflict in Ukraine and obviously there's nothing good that can come from war, but what has that conflict in Ukraine taught us about peacebuilding?
[00:08:50] Liz Hume: So, that's a great question, and I will say that I think one of the number one things that it has done here at home in the United States is reminded people how important democracy is and that you have to fight for it.
I think that by far has been one of the key things that has come out of it here in the United States. I thought the pandemic would bring people together, but I think the war on Ukraine in that regard has had both politicians and the population. One of the big things we have learned is really the importance, and we knew it before, but not to the importance that we do now, and also have learning around the dis and misinformation that the Russians have been doing not only in Ukraine, but globally.
Again, we also saw that here in the United States as well and how critical it is to focus early on working on dis and misinformation. Also, one thing we learned is the truth. For the longest time, we've had the hardest time pushing back on dis and misinformation and how interesting it is to be able to... if you push the truth out prior to the event happening, that it has a really important value.
[00:10:14] Moderator: Well, climate change is another issue that I know you've been working on. The Alliance has made a major effort linking climate change and conflict. Can you talk a little bit about how that has evolved?
[00:10:24] Liz Hume: Sure. Under this new administration, climate change has become a significant part of the strategy. We really stepped on that in the high gear. We put that in high gear with regard to our work when the new administration came on and to make it clear that climate change and conflict compound each other. They're not additive. They are compounding each other and we have to make sure that that work is integrated.
If it is not, we will continue to see fragile states have to not do well with climate change. So we have worked really, really hard to make sure that the facts are there, that we amplify our message and that we have great advocacy and education tools.
When we see strategies that come out of governments -- one came out from USAID in November on their climate action strategy and did not address peacebuilding and did not address conflict prevention -- we worked really hard to make sure that language got on there, got into the strategy. Now, just because it gets in there, doesn't mean it's going to get done.
That's the next step – really making sure that those words that got into that strategy means something.
[00:11:40] Moderator: Well I know the Alliance, as you mentioned, plays a major role in policy. You worked with Congress and the White House to ensure a successful implementation of the Global Fragility Act. Can you tell us a little bit about that law?
[00:11:55] Liz Hume: Sure. So, it's a bit wonky, and this is one of the issues I think that we struggle with as peacebuilders, is trying to explain something so that it makes sense and isn't so wonky. So, I'll explain it this way. It doesn't matter what country you go to where the U S government is implementing a development strategy in the world and in a fragile state. You will see very siloed, already earmarked programming, meaning it's already decided. This country gets this amount of money and 95% of it is already earmarked to an issue. Let's say HIV/AIDS. Procurement is slow. It's not adaptive programming. We'll do one thing with a DOD or the State Department might do one thing with a government and the development assistance is doing something totally different.
The whole point of this of this law is to take the practices that we know that work, actually fund the issues that are driving conflict and building on the resiliencies that are there. Education might be really important, but if those education indicators are going up, but also conflict is going on, you're just going to wipe out any development assistance.
It's making sure that those programs are integrated, so conflict and peace building are integrated into these programs. They're pulling for one strategy and more importantly, when something isn't working, not continuing to do it, being fast, being agile, thinking about locally led in this process. It's wonky, but it's how you do business differently.
As we have this 30 year high in global violent conflict, even before Ukraine, it's not just continuing to do the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. One of the most important parts of this law is that it puts peacebuilding and conflict prevention at the center of the U.S. government strategy in five priority pilot countries and region.
And why is that important? Because it's never existed before. The U.S. government does not have before the Global Fragility Act a strategy that puts peacebuilding and conflict prevention at the heart.
[00:14:08] Moderator: Well based on the scope of this conversation, the Alliance has its hands full. What does the future hold for the Alliance? And how do you want to see it evolve? And how will you use this grant from JAMS?
[00:14:20] Liz Hume: So what does the future hold? And this is a really great question right now because we're seeing tectonic shifts in peace and security and the global world order, whether it's climate change, the global pandemic, the war in Ukraine, and it is really about how do we do things differently?
How do we keep up with cyber security issues? How do we keep up with the disinformation on the internet? It's also looking at the conflict drivers here in the United States. A lot of it is going to be continuing doing what we're doing, but always innovating because conflict isn't static, it's not linear.
We know that things are changing so fast. So, that's really the important piece of AFP's work is identifying these conflict drivers that are new, how to innovate and work with them, but really educate and advocate. Everybody needs to be a peacebuilder. Everybody needs to be involved in this.
You know, not everybody has diabetes, but people know about diabetes. They know that you have to take insulin. They know about the diabetes association or the cancer association. That's really where AFP has to be. People have to know, they might not live in a conflict environment, but they know what peacebuilding is.
They know that it impacts them, even if it's not outside their immediate door. That's really where we're going with this and focusing in on our narratives project. That's where the JAMS funding is so critical into this narratives research that we've been doing, how to make people think about peacebuilding, what motivates them how to understand it, how to amplify this message so that we are like the American Cancer Association.
I want to thank JAMS Foundation. When we got the call, it is such a thrill. It's such a morale booster and the funding is so critical because right now we need everybody to be a peacebuilder. We need everybody to understand that they can be part of this. They can educate themselves about peacebuilding and conflict prevention and they can advocate for it.
This is what is going to make the difference in terms of building a peaceful society globally.
[00:16:44] Moderator: All right. Well, good message to end on. I want to thank both of my guests, Liz Hume and David Brandon. Thank you so much.
[00:16:50] David Brandon: Thank you.
[00:16:50] Liz Hume: Thank you so much.
[00:16:52] Moderator: You've been listening to a podcast from JAMS, the world's largest private alternative dispute resolution provider.
Our guests have been David Brandon of the JAMS Foundation and Liz Hume of the Alliance for Peacebuilding. For more information about the JAMS Foundation, please visit www. jamsadr.com/jamsfoundation.
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