Breakthroughs Online
November 2012Issue No. 18



However you view the outcome of the recent election there is no doubt that our country suffers from a trust deficit. The need to mend the partisan divide was never more obvious. An early Initiatives of Change song "When I point my finger at my neighbor" suggests we need to focus more on the three that are pointing at us!

A four-step process for trustbuilding and transformation includes: starting with change in your own life; acknowledging and healing wounds of the past; engaging everyone in honest dialogue and searching for solutions; building and sustaining teams. If this process is applied in families, workplaces, and communities across the nation we will find we have an army of trustbuilders.

This issue of Breakthroughs is full of examples of how this can happen. 

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Emancipation in our times

"An American victory over poverty, illness and pain is needed for the sake of the American people and also for the sake of the rest of humanity," Rajmohan Gandhi told participants in the annual Metropolitan Richmond Day forum on November 9. "In particular, I would argue that fairness within America is needed to show an example to newly advancing nations such as China, Brazil and India."

Speaking in the context of the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, Prof. Gandhi asked, "What does emancipation mean in our time? How do we as a community become truly free?"

Gandhi told the packed room of 300 community leaders that while all the world speaks of the American Dream, there is no counterpart on any other continent. "Standing up for dignity and equality is at the core of that dream," he said recalling that his grandfather's dream was of "an India where men and women feel they are the equal of anyone else, treat everyone else as their equal, and support one another of their own free will.  No highs. No lows. A society where we support one another. That's the dream of King and Gandhi. I think it's the American Dream."

During the forum, leaders of Hope in the Cities reported on community dialogues to address issues of poverty in the Richmond region. A new video features some of the 38 volunteer facilitators who have carried this project forward. Elementary school students who had written essays on inspirational leadership attended the forum along with leaders of business and nonprofit organizations.   
Rajmohan Gandhi with students
Rajmohan Gandhi talks to students
(Photo: Grant Rissler)
Gandhi noted the growing inequalities in the United States but he could think of three reasons why it can reverse these troubling trends: "One is the fact that when the U.S. sets for itself a hard goal, like placing a man on the moon, it usually achieves it. Another reason is that America is not an individual sport...America is a team enterprise...a project of, by, and for the people.

"Thirdly, there is the arc of history, including the history of technology. Cell phones, i-phones and tablets have brought to millions possibilities that yesterday even millionaires could only dream about. The question is, can America show in its society what it has shown in its technology?"

In Gandhi's view, with their current inequalities and corruption China and India cannot model tomorrow's world despite their impressive growth. "India and China themselves need a model, which is why I find the search of many in Richmond for a more equitable society so meaningful.

"Richmond's visible willingness to acknowledge a difficult past, learn from it, and move forward in interracial partnership is not only a great American story, it is a great global and human story."

Read Rajmohan Gandhi's speech
An estranged triangle 


American Civil War Center
American Civil War Center

"This nation was founded on a set of ideals clearly defined in the Declaration of Independence but at the time all 13 colonies were implicated in slavery," said Christy Coleman, President of the American Civil War Center in Richmond, VA, as she introduced a conversation on "An Estranged Triangle," the unresolved issues of Northern and Southern whites and African Americans regarding slavery and its aftermath.

The panelists were Katrina Browne, whose groundbreaking film, "Traces of the Trade," tells the story of her slave-trading ancestors from Rhode Island, and Joseph Montville, who directs the program on Healing Historical Memory at the School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution at George Mason University.  Rev. Tee Turner from Hope in the Cities who moderated the panel, added his view that "Slavery is an American issue not a Southern issue. "

Katrina Browne described the twelve years that she had put into researching and making the film. But at no time during those years did she visit the South. Her focus had been on Northern complicity in slavery and the three generations of the DeWolf dynasty who were the largest slave trading family in the country. But as she began to present the film in the South she uncovered her own bias and prejudice toward white southerners - assumptions that they are racist or not as smart. "These mind maps we all get really early," said Browne.

Joseph Montville spoke of the need for "healing historical memory" and the power of walking through painful history to acknowledge where we have inflicted hurt and to "bring recognition, acceptance and respect."

Questions about the legacy were raised by the audience. The institution of slavery has left Americans with deep-seated fears. "You don't empathize with people you fear," said Browne. Christy Coleman noted that the lack of humanity engendered by slavery means there is still a perception that "this population needs to be controlled and managed."

Montville said that unhealed memory keeps armies and governments in business and is still reflected in our national politics. "What is needed is creative, courageous self-examination."

Christy Coleman, in closing out the evening, spoke of the American Civil War Center's mission to keep the conversation going and to address the difficult issues that still confront us. 


Read the complete story  here  
Building a sustainable future

Charlotte Freeman
Charlotte Freeman (Photo: Karen Elliott Greisdorf)

Charlotte Freeman is the new Program Development Director for Initiatives of Change, USA.

Looking back on my first two months with Initiatives of Change I recognize that I have been extremely privileged to be part of such a committed, capable, and inspirational team.

My mother is American, my father is British, and I spent most of my childhood living in the Middle East and Russia. My concept of community was grounded in the experience of living and learning in the midst of religious, ethnic, racial, and economic pluralism. This diversity enriched me in ways that I did not appreciate until I moved back to the US in high school.

I remember the shock of walking into the cafeteria on my first day at my rural American public school and seeing all the African American students on one side of the room and all the white students on the other. This was the first time I had ever witnessed such self-segregation.

Then 9/11 happened and I watched my newly acquired American friends unquestioningly demonize Muslims and the Middle East - the community and the people who had been my friends growing up. The diversity that had enriched my childhood was seen as threatening to many in my new community. The confusion and frustration I felt when confronted with these two experiences set me on my life path. From then on I knew that I wanted to dedicate my life to helping build bridges of trust between cultures.

I later returned to Eurasia for graduate school and work but, as an American, I kept being called home. I felt that I had a responsibility to my country and the rest of the world to address the conflicts in my own back yard. If I was going to change the world, I needed to start at home.  When I learned of IofC's focus on building bridges of trust across the world's divides, starting with the self, it resonated with my own personal and professional goals. I knew this was where I was meant to be.

As IofC USA's new Program Development Director, my role is to increase the sustainability of our programs. I am working with Rob Corcoran to cultivate our existing partnerships in Richmond and beyond, and to reach out to new communities and people with whom we have yet to collaborate. My job is to ensure that IofC has as bright a future as it does a past.

I feel so fortunate to work for an organization that lives its mission with such integrity. Every day I find new aspects of IofC's work, methodology, vision, and way of living that inspire me to dig deeper within myself to be the change maker I hope to be.

Read the complete story here 

Ethical leadership training in India 

One of three common actions undertaken by Initiatives of Change International is A New Model for Governance in India that includes training for corporate executives and civil servants. Patrick McNamara, board vice-chair for Initiatives of Change, USA, made a commitment to help with these trainings during a recent trip to lecture at various universities in India. He writes of his experience:
Ethical leadersip training
Morning quiet time at Asia Plateau
Last month at Asia Plateau, the Initiatives of Change center in Panchgani, India, I presented a workshop on dealing with ethical dilemmas as part of the "Heart of Effective Leadership" program for managers of Siemens and Kirloskar corporations.

Running parallel to this program was one designed for senior civil servants of the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai, which has contracted with Initiatives of Change to provide training to their managers.

These training programs address governance issues at individual, community and institutional levels. By working with decision-makers in public administration, private sector, management, village-level administration, as well as students, these trainings address issues of poverty, corruption, division and development with a focus on the nature and effectiveness of accountability.

In recent months major articles in the Economic Times of Mumbai, and the Indian Express have reported on the role Asia Plateau is playing in the battle against corruption.

The Asia Plateau conference center, in the picturesque hill station of Panchgani near Pune, inspires opportunities for reflection and peace that are not always present in our everyday life. During a quiet time at the start of each day, the participants took walks in nature and came back to share their thoughts.

With nearly 10,000 people being trained each year in ethical leadership in Asia Plateau and elsewhere, Initiatives of Change in India has made a strong request for international help to undergird and expand its work for good governance in the corporate and government sectors.

Ask yourself what you have to give to this program in India: Maybe you are a teacher or trainer who wants more international experience? Maybe you have particular skills in finances, engineering or some other area that is needed at Asia Plateau? Or maybe you are available to just walk alongside participants, accompanying them on a journey towards a change in their lives that will bring about a more ethical India and a better world? Please email the Initiatives of Change office if you are interested in taking part.

Read the complete story  here

Mystery of transformation   


Dr. Carl Stauffer
Dr. Carl Stauffer

Dr. Carl Stauffer is an Assistant Professor of Justice and Development Studies at the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding at Eastern Mennonite University. He is the Academic Director of the Caux Scholars Program.

Amidst the low rumble of voices and the clatter of plates and silverware, I sat down to what would prove to be a remarkable lunch with Dr. Glenda Eoyang, one of the founding voices in the Human Systems Dynamics Institute. Here's what we talked about:
Borrowing from work in the natural sciences (quantum physics & chaos theory) some of us in the justice and peacebuilding field have integrated the language of Human Systems Dynamics (HSD) or Complex Adaptive Systems (CAS) theory to help understand the phenomena of personal, social and structural transformation. Human Systems Dynamics tell us that in order to impact a complex emerging system that seems to be intractable, we need to think laterally, innovatively and also ask a different set of questions than usual - namely, how do we change the containers that hold the conflict system in place? How do we change the differences in, and between the various elemental components of the conflict system? And how do we change the forms and flows of exchange between the relationships and structures that are currently occurring in and supportive of the conflict system?

Then it struck me. In its own simple way this evolution of change is exactly what happens in the Caux Scholars Program every year. Here is an explanation for this "mystery of transformation" that we all talk about and is often referred to as the "spirit of Caux."

The very location of Caux, the Alps, the Lake, the Caux Palace and the curriculum presented in the classroom all provide the new "containers" for each scholar to think outside the limits of their particular conflict contexts and embrace fresh ideas for transforming themselves and their worlds.

Our emphasis on diversity and learning insures that our scholars will be challenged to face their "differences" straight on, to tear down the walls and barriers that divide them, to name the narratives of identity and ethnic based conflicts, and to deal with prejudice, stereo-types and hatred that many may bring from their own backgrounds of violence and war.

Finally, CSP encourages each scholar to deeply engage in an "exchange" with the other scholars through individual presentations of case studies giving exposure, analysis and advocacy voice to the "Conflicts where they come from" and just as importantly, the scholars are given the opportunity to build career connections, professional linkages and network with an incredible range of people - world-changers-who come to Caux every year.

Since its inception, Caux Scholars Program has become synonymous with opening up the space for serendipitous encounters of transformation to occur and CSP-2012 did not disappoint once again!

Read the complete commentary  here
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In This Issue
Emancipation in our times
An estranged triangle
Building a sustainable future
Ethical leadership training in India
Mystery of transformation
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highlights  2012  

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2011 Initiatives of Change Annual Report 

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Rob Corcoran's latest blog,

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The Imam & The Pastor 

"The African model for finding peace amid the continent's warring communities"  

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African peacemakers. 

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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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