4 questions about
The Rotary Positive Peace Academy
with Laurie Smolenski
Outreach and development officer at the Institute for Economics and Peace, and Rotary Foundation alumna
1. What is the Rotary Positive Peace Academy?
The Rotary Positive Peace Academy is one of the main initiatives of the strategic partnership between Rotary and the Institute for Economics and Peace. It’s a training course to educate Rotarians on the IEP’s technical research on positive peace. The goal is to help Rotarians use these concepts to improve their peacebuilding and development work in their own communities.
The content was created by the IEP, but it has been developed with Rotarians in mind. It includes stories of Rotarians’ projects so Rotarians will be able to recognize themselves and their work as they go through the academy.
2. What’s involved?
You can sign up for the course at rotarypositivepeace.org. It’s free. You can go through the program at your own pace, and you can start and stop at your leisure. It takes a few hours to complete.
3. What is positive peace?
Negative peace is usually defined as the absence of violence: homicides, terrorism, war. Positive peace defines peace differently.
Learn what positive peace is and how to build it in your community and through your Rotary club’s projects.
It represents the attitudes, institutions, and structures that statistically correlate to peaceful societies — the things that permit peace to last once violence ceases and that can prevent violence from erupting in the first place. In the field of peace studies, most research is focused on negative peace. There hasn’t been a lot of research around positive peace. This is something that sets the IEP apart.
People might not know how to have an impact on the level of homicides in their community, for instance, but projects and initiatives that promote positive peace are completely within the capacity of community members — of Rotarians.
4. How did Rotary help connect you to the IEP?
I was one of the first people to receive a Rotary Foundation global grant scholarship. I earned my master’s degree in international relations in Spain and worked with female survivors of human trafficking. A year or two later, I gave a presentation at a Rotary event in my district [6400, parts of Ontario and Michigan]. Afterward, one of my Rotarian friends told me to think about applying for a Rotary Peace Fellowship.
I did my program at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia. I took some statistics and economics classes because I was interested in the union of peace and social issues and statistics, but I had no idea what I would do with that.
I learned about the IEP at a seminar that was hosted by the peace fellow cohort ahead of me. The person who gave the keynote was a research fellow from the IEP. When I heard this researcher speak, my jaw was on the table because the organization was this perfect union between statistics and quantitative methods and peace. A month or two after I finished my peace fellowship and returned to New York, a position at the IEP opened up and I was hired.
I often hear from Rotarians that we have this cool peace fellow program but we don’t know what happens afterward. The Rotary Peace Fellowship had a direct impact on what I’m doing now. For me it’s been life-changing, and I’m deeply grateful for it.
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