Message from the Dean

Innovation for Peace and Justice

Innovation for Peace and Justice

In thinking about the years ahead, I recall a speech given three years after the founding of the Kroc School by Johan Galtung, the “father” of peace studies. In front of a packed Kroc School theater, Galtung described his work breaking the cycles of violence in various countries, such as Ecuador, Peru and Afghanistan. This work required empathy and creativity to envision new possibilities, along with knowledge stemming from many disciplines, including the social sciences, law, philosophy and the arts. Galtung asked the audience where there was a school teaching all this as a cohesive field of study. He answered, “There is the Kroc School.”

From our 2007 origin through 2017, the Kroc School’s curriculum integrated diverse disciplines to understand complex systemic phenomena, combining practice in the field, academic scholarship and ongoing dialogue with peacebuilders. The Kroc School’s talented founding faculty came from diverse disciplines, such as law, economics, conflict studies, political science and sociology. In the span of a decade, the faculty published important books and articles and edited the Journal of Peacebuilding and Development.

Kroc’s Master of Arts in Peace and Justice Studies pioneered a multidisciplinary approach to prepare students in interconnected areas of peacebuilding, conflict analysis and resolution, human rights, international systems, and economic development. The program sought to develop students’ capacities to identify and analyze the deeper roots of  violence and injustice, and trained them to shape strategies for addressing underlying causes.

Meanwhile, program officers in the Kroc School’s Institute for Peace and Justice and the Trans-Border Institute traveled the world to work alongside local peacebuilders in countries such as Nepal, Kenya, Guatemala, Iraq and Mexico. The impact of this work included the expansion of conflict resolution capacity, the strengthening of local organizations and the inclusion of women and minorities in peacebuilding processes.

Early on, the Kroc School recognized the role of business and entrepreneurship in positive social change and peacebuilding. In 2009 we partnered with the University of San Diego School of Business to create the Center for Peace and Commerce. This Center went on to launch the widely recognized Social Innovation Challenge, which has provided human-centered design workshops, mentorship and seed funding to more than 2,000 students from USD as well as other institutions of higher learning in San Diego and Mexico.

Ten years into our journey, more than 200 Kroc School graduates from the United States and 50 other countries work worldwide in diverse types of organizations — nonprofit, for-profit and government. Every day, Kroc alumni make a difference in areas ranging from violent conflict in South Sudan to environmental justice worldwide to maternal health among low-income citizens in San Ysidro, California.

In his 2010 speech, Galtung noted that, beyond a multidisciplinary approach, “something new has to happen,” urging the audience to innovate to build real solutions to violent conflict. More than ever, we agree with Galtung: We cannot continue to frame and address the pressing issues that confront us by doing more of the same.

A world of peace and justice is never a given, nor is it permanent. Entire regions, nations and communities can become enmeshed in great turmoil rapidly, altering geopolitics and changing lives forever. This is not something I only read about or study as an academic. As a Venezuelan, I know it firsthand when I see my country falling apart. Once the richest country in South America, Venezuela has spiraled into ever-greater human tragedy with ongoing violent confrontations, human rights abuses, hyperinflation, widespread hunger, lack of basic goods and an autocratic regime. Galtung’s statement could not be more apt: Something new does have to happen.

In the coming decade, the Kroc School will move forward building on the important endeavors started at our founding, incorporating institutional knowledge to be even more effective and impactful. We will continue our focus on peace studies while expanding the boundaries of the field by linking it with the emerging field of social innovation to address the urgent challenges we face as a global community.

Drawing on our creativity and collective knowledge, our plan includes designing pedagogical and practical experiences that can prepare individuals and communities to see, to think and to act differently. Examples of this are our new programs such as the Master of Arts in Social Innovation and the Trans-Border Opportunities Certificate for those who want to explore, lead or invent different pathways to create change.

In the next decade it is essential that we generate knowledge that matters to our communities. We are more committed than ever to focus our expertise, our gaze and our voices to uncover and understand the world’s most challenging phenomena and contribute to shaping solutions. We will seek answers to the many questions we are asked every day, such as: How are thousands of children and youth being recruited by ISIS or criminal gangs to be indoctrinated to become killers? What is being done to stop these global threats? What are effective approaches to prevent or address different forms of violence? We consider facts and informed opinions to be an urgent necessity in a world where disseminating untruthful information and creating alternative realities have become easier and more widespread. It is imperative that we share truth and wisdom through fast and far-reaching networks and outlets supporting the rigor inherent in academic inquiry.

Widespread connectivity is offering heretofore unknown (or simply unprecedented) possibilities for constructive social transformations at significant scale. We are energized to work at the forefront of learning that supports such opportunities. An example is our California Consensus Initiative, a marketplace of ideas that links scholars, practitioners and funders building peace and social change through technology.

Reimagining learning in peace and justice extends far beyond ways to get more knowledge across or how to deliver it to more people. For us, it involves nurturing new ideas for achieving change, preparing for implementation and leadership, and the incubation of innovations that shape a better future. We envision new classroom layouts to foster more powerful levels of creativity and engagement. We are imagining a reconfiguration of our facilities to welcome diverse learners and to expand our collaborations and co-creation with community members. “Becoming the change we want to see” is a collective endeavor.

We move into the next decade with recognition of what has been accomplished and with deep gratitude to the university of which we are a part, as well as to our donors, alumni, supporters and partners. Without them, what we have achieved would not have been the same.

Our vision for the next decade at the Kroc School is to become a model within higher education that prepares our planet for systemic change. We want our graduates and partners to alter the root causes of inequity and injustice, working within communities and organizations that generate greater well-being, inclusion and prosperity. We see everyone associated with the Kroc School as changemakers who envision possibilities where others don’t and become emboldened by experimentation, solution design and implementation. They will be the innovators that help build peace and justice in a fast-changing and turbulent world. What could be a more important and worthy goal as we start our second decade?

Begin quote Our vision for the next decade at the Kroc School is to become a model within higher education that prepares our planet for systemic change. – Dean Márquez