Why I Hope

Jessica Berns has twenty years international experience, primarily working on issues of social inclusion, peacebuilding, governance, and anti-corruption. The majority of her work has taken place within the NGO sector. Her areas of expertise include strategic planning, program design and implementation, partnership development, and strategic communications. In 2011 she founded Jessica Berns Consulting, where she provides non-profit organizations, academic institutions, and philanthropists with customized guidance, directional support, and project management. Jessica works with clients to develop strategies, ignite programs, create communications platforms, and convene networks. She tweets from @jessicabberns.

Building Peace magazine and the Latest Insights blog are vehicles for collecting, documenting, sharing, and archiving experiences with, and knowledge about, peace and war. They are a space for storytelling. In our six issues to date we’ve highlighted the perspectives from women and men affected by war and conflict, individuals developing ways to prevent conflict, those who create policies that impact humanitarian aid, donors whose funds are dedicated to causes of peace and justice, and many more. Our articles put forward experiences and evidence which demonstrate that “peace is possible”, and not just because we wish it were so, but because it really, truly is.

Building Peace was created to make the case for peace. Or, as our recent Issue 6 authors wrote, “to sell peace”. We want people in all corners of the world, especially those who live with relative security and stability, thinking about peace! Planning for peace! Voting for peace! Donating to peace! The magazine set out to build a shared vision of peace and security through its articles and to substantiate the argument that peace and security efforts (peacebuilding) are crucial to society. Inattention, shortsightedness, and a rigid understanding of security as exclusively military do humanity a disservice.

Even though we’ve chosen magazine themes such as technology, conflicts of the future, and gender, we’ve really been telling stories of hope, meaning, and impact. The world is not as dismal and frightening as many headlines lead us to believe. Despite crumbling state legitimacy, illicit economic activity, and increased need for natural resources – the three themes Issue 4 identified as drivers of tomorrow’s conflicts – there is evidence for a better future and genuine reasons for hope.

Hope, because people are creative, courageous, and committed in the face of violence and conflict (Michael Olufemi Sodipo, Paula Gaviria Betancur). These are the stories BP wants to tell.

Hope, because knowledge about what leads to war, and what makes and keeps peace, exists. Global leaders and local communities alike can respond and adapt to that knowledge (Valerie Hudson, Robert Muggah, Madhawa Palihapitiya).

Hope, because technology can help connect people across physical and cultural divides now more than ever (Jen Welch, Zarrin Caldwell, Sharon Cuddy and Michele Bornstein, Sheldon Himelfarb).

Hope, because art and artists provide opportunities to reflect, feel, and take action. Art, like peace, is a powerful and collaborative process. (Abigail Disney, Cara Mertes, Travis Parrott, Kristen Gresh)

Hope, because governments, intergovernmental organizations, for profit entities, and individual funders (Neil Levine, Stephen D’Esposito and Tim Martin, Libby Hoffman) are creative and committed. To be sure, the needs outweigh the current contributions to humanitarian assistance, and specifically peace, but there are promising models for effective and impactful ways to fund.

Since the launch of our first issue in 2013, we’ve watched storytelling firmly implant itself in social change and journalism circles. Examples include StoryCorps being awarded the 2015 Ted Prize, which allowed for the creation of a free app to disseminate the StoryCorps interview experience; the launch of Orb Media, which has in-depth, multi-faceted approach to engaged journalism; solutions journalism, an approach to reporting that highlights responses to social problems, has gained serious momentum; and Global Giving’s continued commitment to story-centered learning.

When I interviewed Kiran Singh Sirah for the December entry of Latest Insights, he pointed out that, “We don’t talk in facts; we talk in stories. That’s what connects us on a human level.” Building Peace set out to help make those connections, consolidate knowledge, and catalyze new practices and new actions by sharing stories of peace and hope.

(Feature Photo Credit: “Esperanza Amor Unidad” by Seth Anderson (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0))

2 Comments
  1. There is hope in anything people committed to bridge building touch. In my world, helping people tell their story surrounding the conflict over an animal, in divorce, tenancy, neighbor issues and for the most part animal rights & welfare people simply need to tell their story…and listen to their advisories story. Together, after hearing understanding and appreciating each other’s story they may be able, with the help of a peace-builder, find the best outcome for the animals. The time and money spent on litigation would be better spent on education and rehabilitation. I am committed to HOPE that people so committed to animals will recognize the value in their story and the story of their advisory. Thanks for this article.
    Debra Hamilton

  2. Barbara Berns says:

    Thoughtful and to-the-point! Great perspective.