Breakthroughs Online
September 2012Issue No. 17



Think globally, act locally....begin personally. Initiatives of Change (IofC) focuses on the link between personal and global change.


In this issue of Breakthrough we bring you several reports of the conference hosted by IofC at the conference center in Caux Switzerland. Many of our US team gave leadership during the summer.

Cricket White
Cricket White
The story about the Initiatives of Change Global Assembly describes how this international network functions and seeks to become more focused and effective in its outreach. Our colleague Cricket White, director of training and facilitation in the US, was among six people elected to the IofC International Council. She will have a lot to offer this important governance group.

These global links give perspective to all that we do locally.

Remember to 'like' Initiatives of Change USA on Facebook!
 "A leader was born within me" 

Alisha with Umarou from Camerron and Elijana Todorovic from Bosnia
Alisha Harris with Umarou from Cameroon and Elijana Todorovic from Bosnia

Being up close and personal with 19 fellow Caux Scholars from 15 countries, guided by Carl Stauffer, a veteran facilitator and professor of Transitional Justice, can be a heady experience. Ask Alisha Harris, a social worker from Richmond, VA, studying counseling, who said: "I learned to be vulnerable and comfortable. A leader was born within me."    

For the 20th summer the Caux Scholars Program (CSP) provided an academic course to a range of students and young professionals, many from conflict areas. Reflecting and wrestling with ideals is augmented by encounters with real life examples of putting these values into practice. One scholar noted: "The moving and profound speech of the former Australian Prime Minister on the importance of acknowledging our past and taking responsibility for what others have done allowed me to understand that maybe one day I will be able to do something similar for the people in my country."    

CSP scholar Sai Thiha, who studies in Kentucky, was especially excited to meet fellow delegates from Burma/Myanmar. Sai's academic background is finance, but his heart holds a deeper longing to help Burmese remember without revenge as they move forward towards a peaceful democracy. A Sudanese scholar, Ismail Modawiy, who has been working with the UN in some very contentious areas in his country, stated that the program has transformed his approach to any further training he would facilitate. He wants to bring Caux's peaceful atmosphere, so that his trainings might be as "open-minded and interactive" as CSP.

Carl Stauffer created a strong curriculum, including a focus on facilitation training, inviting Dr. Alma Abdul-Hadi Jadallah a Palestinian professor at George Mason University to share her skills. Carl continues to hone his teaching year-round at the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding at Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, Virginia.

Amber Ramsay, now doing her Master's in International Relations in Washington, DC, captured an important insight: "One thing I have observed from Carl is that silence can be a very powerful tool in conflict resolution. I hope to begin working to develop the skill of silence and to know when my words will only cause more trouble."

Read the complete story  here  
Global Assembly agrees on global actions  

Chris Breitenberg from USA, currently serving on the International Council of Initiatives of Change, gives his 'wrap-up' summary of the recently concluded Global Assembly.   


Global Assembly 2012
In August, 102 representatives from 43 countries in the Initiatives of Change (IofC) global network came together for the annual Global Assembly, spending a week together spanning a narrative arc - learning from the past, embracing the present and exploring the future.

Representatives spent the first day "feeling the pulse" of world events and IofC initiatives. Beginning at the country and continent level, a picture emerged of widespread, relevant grassroots efforts to create a just, peaceful and sustainable world. 

This provided the backdrop for the overwhelming adoption of a new Framework for Common Action that attempts to bring greater focus and cohesion to the international work of IofC. It establishes three focal themes for collective action:

  • Peace and social cohesion by building trust and reconciliation across divides;
  • Good governance at every level by developing a leadership culture based on moral integrity, compassion and selfless service;
  • Economic justice and environmental sustainability by inspiring transformation of motives and behavior.

Adoption of the Framework signals a move by the global network of IofC to seek increased impact in fewer areas. Following a participatory process, the delegates decided to pursue three Common Actions.

  1. In response to requests from South Sudan, a conference and campaign for national reconciliation and just governance is being prepared. It will be supported by a trained mobile team being formed in early 2013 at a "Workshop for Africa".
  2. IofC is developing a global initiative, in partnership with the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), to address the conflicts and breakdown in trust which impede land restoration. IofC's efforts will be directed at grassroots trustbuilding initiatives and high-level dialogues where policy makers can meet in a non-partisan atmosphere.
  3. A third initiative will undergird and expand IofC's burgeoning response to the need for ethical leadership and good governance in India.

A time spent "learning from the past and present" began with hearing from three veterans of the movement who shared personal reflections from their life's work. A collective "walk through history", facilitated by Rob Corcoran, National Director of IofC USA, celebrated many of the high-points in the movement's nearly 90 years of history, but also reflected on some of the difficult moments, times when people had been unintentionally hurt. 


A statement of acknowledgement of this shared past was made by Dr. Omnia Marzouk, President of IofC International, on behalf of the International Council.  


In conclusion one participant said, "Our objective - to mobilize our movement into action that is more focused - is starting to happen."


Read the complete story here  

Talking with Tee Turner

Rev. Sylvester "Tee" Turner is director of reconciliation programs for Hope in the Cities. He talks with Rob Corcoran about his approach to racial healing.

Tee Turner
Rev. Tee Turner
(photo: Rob Corcoran)

You grew up in segregated Richmond. In 1977 the city elected its first black majority to the city council. How are things different from 20 years ago?


We have African Americans in key leadership positions that I never thought we would have. There is a willingness to talk about race and difficult issues based in history and we are coming out of our ignorance about each other. Hope in the Cities played a major role in creating a vehicle for conversation.


Is this true at the community level as well as leadership?

Well, at the grassroots level there is still distrust because we are dealing with the legacy of the history. Even though we talk more about it, the reality of the day to day is still there. In the past people suffered in silence; now at least we have a voice.


Do you find that your credibility is challenged because you chose the path of reconciliation?

Having worked in the community for a long time I bring experiences that make it a little easier. I do have credibility with those who know me. With those who don't know me I have to be willing to go where they are - the pain, the suffering, the struggle - not as an expert, but being mindful to leave my ego at the door.


Was there a particular moment that was a turning point for you?

My "encounter" with the Confederate monument during Richmond's first walk through history in 1993. I had seen that monument all my life. But that experience forced me to look at things from a new perspective that I had not wanted to look at.


What do you mean?

I had to decide whether to tuck and run or come face to face with my own struggle. When you are raised in the South there are many survival mechanisms. To pretend that something doesn't exist is one of those mechanisms. I had always denied the impact the statue was having on me. Being able to identify with sense of pain and betrayal in the Confederates allowed me to see inside myself. Seeing how the Confederates were held in bondage helped me to understand and to deal with the bondage in my own life. The light clicked on. It became a doorway to healing.


You talk a lot about honoring "sacred stories" of each group. How do you do that without moral compromise?

John W. Franklin talks about the need to tell the whole story. That has been the approach of Hope in the Cities. To the best of my ability I try to validate the experience of the other group. Not to justify it but to validate the fact that it is their truth. Until a level of respect is created you can't have dialogue. If we say we are Americans than we have to own all our stories, the good, the bad and the ugly. And as we grow, we can let some stories go. This is the foundation for working towards reconciliation. It's not about being right but about being healed.


Read the complete story here 

Intern from Romania joins the team

Diana Damsa
Diana Damsa

This fall we welcome Diana Damsa from Romania as part of our team in Richmond for three months. Diana is currently a dialogue moderator and member of the coordination group for Action in Ukraine - Healing the Past. This is a project of Foundations for Freedom, a program of Initiatives of Change, which for the past two decades has fostered the development of truly free, democratic and just societies, where people live a commitment to honesty and personal responsibility.

Diana says, "I am interested to learn more about Hope in the Cities and all the work done by Initiatives of Change in the U.S. regarding diversity, reconciliation, healing the past and building bridges of trust and cooperation. Your experience in this field is very relevant to the work we have started to do in Eastern Europe, through the program Action in Ukraine - Healing the Past, which is addressing the need for healing the wounds created by historical divisions. With the experience gained I will be better equipped to help in the development of the Healing the Past program. My experience as a dialogue moderator will be enriched with new methods of organizing and leading such dialogues. I am convinced that by learning more about your work of healing history in the U.S. I will gain a new vision and a deeper understanding of our issues, with our specific history."

Diana has had extensive experience with Initiatives of Change in Europe and Asia. While home in Baia Mare, Romania, she started a Club for Young Leaders that is working towards developing a better understanding and promoting of values-based leadership. Earlier this year sixteen of them had the opportunity to take part in an Ethical Leadership Workshop which gave them the chance to discuss and deepen their understanding of topics such as ethical leadership, motivation, moral values, integrity, communication, trust, competition and cooperation.

Neither scoundrel nor fool   


Randy Ruffin Randy Ruffin is Chair of the Caux Scholars Program. After 27 years actively engaged with the work of Initiatives of Change in Washington, DC, she has moved with her husband to a more rural part of Virginia.

My husband and I were delighted by the relief from American politics that a few weeks in Australia in July and August brought us, but now election season is upon us in earnest. We are all inundated with political ads, half truths, accusations and counter-accusations. How is one - how am I - to navigate the next few weeks leading up to November 6 with balance, sanity and a peaceful heart?

To be engaged in politics is a civic duty. It is important for each of us to read up on the issues of concern to us and our nation - among them the war in Afghanistan, the conflict in Syria, and Iran with its nuclear ambitions; our need for energy  balanced against the need to preserve environment and mitigate climate change; the economy, financial sector and jobs; education and infrastructure; guns, human sexuality, etc. etc.; and, looming over all of this - the rights of the individual balanced against the needs of the wider community, and the role of the private sector vs. that of government. 

We each of us have our own leanings, or perhaps even strong opinions - but do we expose ourselves to views different from those we tend to hold? Do we read publications that offer both progressive and conservative views? Do we watch TV shows, or listen to radio programs that offer balancing views, or views that are different from ours? 

I have to confess to having my own definite leanings - I am a registered Democrat and I intend to do some campaigning for our President and for the Democratic candidate for the Senate in Virginia - but I don't buy everything that my party puts forward, and I do try to listen to and read thoughtful conservative views.  
A good friend has just sent me the obituary of columnist William Raspberry, who died recently. Two quotes from him are good messages for us to carry with us in the coming weeks.  He said, "In virtually every public controversy, most thoughtful people secretly believe both sides."  Perhaps if more of us were prepared to acknowledge the validity of certain views held by "the other side" it would go a long way towards healing the deep political divides.

Raspberry also counsels with a second lesson, "which has kept my confidence from turning into arrogance, that it is entirely possible for you to disagree with me without being, on that account, either a scoundrel, or a fool." Living as we do, in a conservative part of Virginia, where we have neighbors, fellow churchgoers and friends who are of conservative persuasion, I know that many of them would disagree with my views, but I also know that they are neither scoundrels nor fools!! I hope that they might feel that same way about me! 

Read the complete commentary here
Hope you enjoyed this issue of Breakthroughs Online. Please share this newsletter with your friends and forward it to those you know have a passion for trustbuilding. Visit our website for more information.

Thank you!
In This Issue
"A leader was born within me"
Global Assembly agrees on global action
Talking with TeeTurner
Intern from Romania joins the team
Neither scoundrel nor fool
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 November 9, 12:00-2:00 pm  

 Rajmohan Gandhi   

Rajmohan Gandhi, biographer and grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, will keynote the forum.


"Central to the American Dream is the creation of a new history by defeating poverty,  

illness and pain"


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2011 Initiatives of Change Annual Report

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The Imam & The Pastor 

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Initiatives of Change focuses on the link between personal and global change and seeks to inspire, equip, and engage individuals as trustbuilders. 

It starts with listening and responding to the still small voice within, applying values of integrity to everyday living, and taking risks to bridge divides.

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