World Peace Fellowship recipients are typically mid-career professionals. Sixty are selected from around the world each year to complete a master's in peace and conflict resolution at one of seven Rotary Centers (this includes University of California at Berkeley, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Duke University in the US.Janelle is a Boulder resident and is representing District 5450. Below, Janelle writes to update us about her current studies at the University of Queensland, Australia.
University of Queensland Class VI Rotary World Peace Fellow Janelle Weissman End of First Year Report
My first Academic Year as a Rotary World Peace Fellow: A Snapshot
Here is a snapshot of the accomplishments I achieved and activities I undertook in the first academic year of my Rotary World Peace Fellowship:
- Documented Class V's Rotary World Peace Fellow Paul Harris Seminar in May 2008, as co-videographer, helping capture on film the wonderful work of Class V Fellows
- Presented to five Rotary Clubs, including: Toowong (my host club), Bribie Island Rotary Club (resulting media is attached to this report), two Noosa Rotary Clubs (Noosa Heads and Noosa Daybreak), and Jerusalem Rotary
- Attended and/or volunteered at various events, including my host District Conference, a national coexistence celebration and awards ceremony (in Haifa, Israel), Jerusalem Rotary's holiday bazaar
- Completed the ‘entertainment' section of Class VI's ‘survival guide' for the incoming class of Peace Fellows
- Correspond regularly with my Class VII buddy, Dave Kozar, to help prepare him for a smooth transition to UQ and the Peace Fellowship (expected arrival: 22 February)
- Successfully completed two full semesters, plus one winter-intensive course
- Attended an array of special lectures offered by the University of Queensland's Political Science and International Studies department, as well as UQ's Australian Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies
- Attended the biennial National Mediation Conference, held in Perth, Australia, thanks to Rotary's generous conference funding support
- Forged ties with my professional mediation coach, Tom Stodulka, and am on standby to serve as his apprentice or co-mediator (when clients consent)
- Worked part-time as a Research Assistant at Queensland University of Technology's Australian Centre for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Studies
- Completed an internship with Shatil's Conflict Transformation and Management Centre in Jerusalem, Israel [details will be provided in a future, AFE-specific report]
- Attended one day of The Dreaming Festival, the Annual Indigenous Arts Festival held in Woodford, QLD, celebrating indigenous arts from dance, music, visual arts, spoken word, to film
- Attended the State of Origin Rugby League game, QLD v. NSW, which offered a window into one favourite Australian past-time (Queensland's Cane Toads (the "Maroons") were victorious over NSW's Cockroaches (the "Blues") 30-nil!
- Enjoyed numerous bushwalks and bike rides uncovering the greater Brisbane-area's natural beauty (from National Parks such as the Glass House Mountains and Springbrook National Park, to local treasures, Brisbane Forest Park and Mount Coot-tha). This includes a moonlit canoe excursion on the beautiful Brisbane River, famous for its river sharks that lie beneath (Aussie readers can let me know if this is fact or myth...that is something I can neither confirm nor deny!)
- Attended one day of the Warwick Rodeo
As I reflect on the past year, I am flooded with many memories, recent and far from today. After my first semester, I had the opportunity to attend a winter intensive Mediation course offered at The Australian Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies (ACPACS), also part of the University of Queensland. This course was much-anticipated for me. I was very much looking forward to the opportunity to consciously shift from a primarily theoretical first semester of study to a practitioner-oriented training program. I am so glad I took this class.
World-recognized mediator and trainer, Dr. Nadja Alexander, taught the mediation course. We were a small group, meaning we had ample time for individual coaching and support, as during each of five full days we dug into both course content (teaching the skillset of mediators) and role play after role play. The final day, we had two outside coaches come to assess our performance. I was anxious. But as it all turned out, I did extremely well. Tom Stodulka, my coach, and I have stayed in touch. He promises to invite me along as an observer, assistant, or co-mediator in 2009, so that I may sharpen my skills, and gain more experience in mediation. One thing that was striking to me in participating in this course was that so many mediation skills directly apply to everyday life and relationships: active listening, looking for common ground, keen attention to power asymmetries and attempting to minimize these and many more.
Given mediation was something I specifically aimed to learn more about, practice, and experience during my time at UQ, I relished the opportunity to attend the biennial National Mediation Conference, held in Perth, Western Australia, in September. I primarily attended sessions on Aboriginal mediation and land rights issues, international mediation, as well as other cross- or inter-cultural paradigms in mediation. I met countless practitioners, and thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to get to know the field in Australia a little better. I even won the "Runner-Up" for a free 2010 National Mediation Conference Registration in Adelaide, South Australia. Who knows? Maybe I will have the opportunity to attend (if the main winner is unable to do so, that is, and I am in the neighbourhood). Having met a range of Aboriginal mediators and others integrally involved in mediation and conflict transformation work in Aboriginal communities at the National Mediation Conference, I relished the opportunity to promote the Rotary World Peace Fellowship and encourage interested applicants to contact me or their local Rotary clubs for further information.
My second semester I took Gender, International Politics and Development; Peacebuilding; and Conflict Resolution. There is no question that my Conflict Resolution class, in terms of my professor and his teaching-style, was my favourite of the semester, and actually of the year. Dr. Morgan Brigg embodies the nexus between practice and theory for his students. He was very approachable, and I had actually been in contact with him before the class started regarding potential AFE placements, networking, and his experience mediating in indigenous communities in Australia. As the semester progressed, I took on the challenge of joining the Conflict Resolution Team (we were three) who tackled a large-scale multi-party natural resource dispute (involving the whole class of 30+ students!). Over the course of four weeks, we had extra planning meetings, researched similar conflict resolution processes, what worked and did not, and tested our ideas with our professor and tutor as well. It was a great semester, rich with learning.
My second half of the year was also filled with opportunities to connect with Rotary. I attended one day of our District Conference with my host Toowong Rotary Club. I attended a couple host club meetings (including presenting to my host club). I presented to Bribie Island Rotary Club with my Fellow colleague from Cambodia, Virorth; Shaughn Forbes, a local Rotarian leader, provided transportation to and from which was no easy task through Brisbane rush hour. I also presented to Noosa Rotary (a joint meeting of the daybreak and evening club), just prior to my departure to Jerusalem, travelling to Noosa with Shaughn Forbes the night prior to spend an evening together in order to get a fresh start for our 7 am meeting at a locale two hours from home. I also participated in Class V's Paul Harris Seminar as camerawoman, helping document the day's events, featuring the stories of the Fellows' class that preceded us, where I met my secondary Host Counsellor, Bill Main, and his wife, Diane. I meet regularly with my primary Host Counsellor in Brisbane, Maida Baldwin, and am grateful for her friendship, guidance, and support, especially in treating me to dinner and lunch, and offering insights into a range of issues relative to living in Australia. I am scheduled to present at another Rotary District Conference in Maroochydoore, in 2009, as well as to participate in the Class VII orientation day in March, and our joint Class VI and VII overnight at a scout camp in Burleigh Heads slated for early April.
I am carrying forward some research interests in 2009 that were seeded in 2008. After assisting in the completion of a study investigating if and why high-net-worth Australians give to charitable organisations, and what conditions and attitudes activate their generosity, I am now working with a new Associate Professor at the Australian Centre for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Studies, Dr. Jo Barraket, a widely published and recognised scholar of social entrepreneurship in Australia. We have two projects on tap for the coming months. Firstly, we will conduct the evaluation of a capacity building grantmaking program funded by the Myer Philanthropies, based in Melbourne. In this project, I will have the opportunity to directly apply my previous work as executive director of Social Venture Partners Boulder County to the Australian context. We are working closely with Myer Foundation staff to create a thoughtful funding program, providing $100,000 AUD to more than thirty nonprofits, for allocation towards organizational-strengthening (‘capacity building') activities, and study what effective interventions look like, and identify what policy implications this large-scale funding initiative will have for Myer and for government and other private funding entities across Australia (to grow the pool of resources to support such activities). The capacity building interventions will be identified by the nonprofits themselves, and could include revamping a website and ramping up marketing and public relations efforts; it could include overhauling a financial management system or fundraising database; among many other things. Capacity building activities are diverse, and oftentimes difficult to fund. The ‘Celebrating Our Partners' project is outlined on Myer's website at http://www.myerfoundation.org.au/!upload_files/attachment/Myer_BookA.PDF -- see pages 31-32 for details, and to get to know the range of community development organizations that will be supported through this program (and that I will have the privilege of getting to know).
I am also working on Finding Australia's Social Enterprise Sector (FASES), which will map nonprofit social enterprises across the country, and create an online directory of social enterprises. Most typically, social enterprises, or social-purpose businesses, generate income for a nonprofit to further their mission, and sometimes provide employment and training opportunities to the under- or unemployed. In Australia, a good example is the magazine, The Big Issue, a current affairs magazine that is sold primarily by homeless or long-term unemployed Australians who keep half the cover price. The Big Issue offers employment opportunities, and connects everyday Australians with the homeless, providing an awareness-raising (as well as income-earning) opportunity to tackle homelessness in Australia. An example in Denver, Colorado, is the Women's Bean Project, which offers employment and training to women, to break cycles of poverty and unemployment. Their signature product, delicious bean soup mix, is offered at gourmet and common markets throughout Colorado, and the United States. Social enterprises are not well known or widely publicized in Australia. We hope to grow the network of social enterprises, foster exchange of and shared resources, and give Australians who wish to "shop their conscience" a user-friendly and up-to-date online portal to get to know social enterprises and their products and services around the country.
Goals Moving Forward
I feel extremely grateful to have had this opportunity to expand my academic understanding of Peace and Conflict Resolution through graduate studies at the University of Queensland as a Rotary World Peace Fellow, and to have connected with so many wonderful Rotarians around the world. As I look to this last academic semester, I have the following goals:
- To successfully complete my final semester at UQ. Having already written one master's thesis in 2001 for my Master's in Nonprofit Management, I have chosen not to write a thesis at UQ. After many discussions and much reflection, I feel that coursework here will provide me with a more direct link to learn and enhance skills, knowledge, and understanding of key issues impacting the successful building of peace and resolution and transformation of conflict, than a semester's research would, for me personally. The benefit of learning from multiple lecturers, as well as engaging in robust discussions with my largely international fellow students, is attractive, and an experience I am looking forward to as I inch closer to this last semester of study;
- To participate in Rotary club-level and District-level activities, including actively promoting the Rotary World Peace Fellowship to possible candidates and supporters;
- To assist in the presentation of an excellent Rotary World Peace Fellows' Seminar on 23 May 2009 (Rotarians and friends near and far, please consider yourselves invited!);
- To support incoming Fellows (my buddy and others) to foster a smooth transition to their time at the University of Queensland. Particularly for those who have been working for a number of years, transition to academic life is not entirely straightforward. I would like to be a resource and sounding board, as best I can, to alleviate any hiccups for Fellows in transition;
- To grow my professional networks and activities through the Australian Centre for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Studies at Queensland University of Technology, and Tom Stodulka, a local mediator;
- To enjoy friends, colleagues, and the natural wonders that abound in Queensland.
Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions about my work here as a Rotary World Peace Fellow. Please accept my most sincere thanks for your support of this wonderful opportunity.
University of Queensland Rotary World Peace Fellow, Class VI
8 February 2009
Dear 7:10 Rotarians ,
As a Rotary World Peace Fellow from District 5450, I wanted to let you all know
I arrived safely in Jerusalem recently, and am getting oriented to the city,
and to my internship with the Conflict Transformation and Management Center at
Shatil. Shatil provides capacity building workshops, technical assistance, and
consulting to strengthen the operations of social change organizations in the
region. The Conflict Center is part of Shatil, and is focused on specifically
providing tools for leaders, individuals, and social change NGOs doing work in
conflict management to more effectively transform conflict.
The team at the Center and Shatil has been wonderfully warm and welcoming. A key
project I've been assigned is to assist with a five-day conflict transformation
training on the Dead Sea in early December, with our UK-based partner,
Responding to Conflict http://www.respond.org/ [incidentally, RTC is based in
Birmingham, the site for the 2009 Rotary International Convention].
Jerusalem is a city steeped in history, and in paradox. No matter your politics,
the separation wall stands out on the horizon as a stark reminder of the turmoil
and violence experienced by people who feel deeply connected to this place.
Religious symbols of many faiths dot the landscape, in nearly every direction.
It is a striking place to be.
I am quite comfortable here in the city, where I have electricity, clean water,
internet, and many of the other comforts of home. Nearby, in Gaza, as you hear
in many parts of the world, there are grave difficulties getting food and other
aid to people who need it: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/7726943.stm.
I wanted to express my sincere gratitude to all of you for making this
Fellowship, and this Applied Field Experience, possible. I hope to do my part in
trying to learn from this seemingly intractable conflict, and apply those
lessons in my work. I feel very lucky to be here, and know that every day I will
encounter new challenges and chances to learn and grow as a person, and a professional,
committed to peace.
I will document my experiences in a full report. But I wanted to be sure to let
you know I'm here, I'm safe, and I'm thankful to have this opportunity.