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Peace-promoting organization finds niche in modern political, social climate

In October, the Ohio Peace Collaborative helped host a 5k/10k to raise money for clean water access in Kenya. Credit: Courtesy of the Ohio Peace Collaborative

Ohio State faculty and staff are hoping to bring peace and conflict resolution on students’ and community members’ radar.

The Ohio Peace Collaborative was created in June in response to the 10th annual International Conference on Conflict Resolution Education, which OSU hosted for the first time last year. The collection of founders, including Steven Blalock, the program coordinator at the Mershon Center for International Security Studies, and John Carlarne, the peace studies coordinator at the Mershon Center, used the conference as an opportunity to expand local discourse on peace and conflict resolution.

The Ohio Peace Collaborative is now gearing up to spread conversations about peace in light of the upcoming CRE conference. OSU will host the CRE conference again this year, which is set to take place from Thursday to Sunday.

Beyond the conference, the Ohio Peace Collaborative is helping spark an interest on topics such as peace and social justice from the community, Carlarne said.

“There was interest in the community — among activists and within the university — to build a link between the university and the community around issues of peace, social justice and human security,” Carlarne said.

The Ohio Peace Collaborative was born in the context of the 2016 presidential election, which was a heated political sphere, Blalock said.

“We were in the middle of a presidential election which was really nasty, regardless of your ideology,” Blalock said. “It was kind of a low point in our politics, just the way people were treating each other. Social media was blowing up. People were de-friending each other on Facebook because of political views.”

In its short life so far, the Ohio Peace Collaborative organized a festival of events to support communication about peace.

“The festival that we had last year included hosting the annual Conflict Resolution Education Conference, and a number of other things such as film festivals, a film competition, screenings of films, everything from karaoke to public discussions among doctors at the medical center about how to deal with post-traumatic stress and things of that nature,” Carlarne said. “So it allowed a number of actors to coalesce around a common theme and to get to know each other.”

Among those activities was a panel that was assembled to discuss the allocation of the Smart City grants awarded to Columbus. These grants amount to $50 million to develop advanced transportation systems for the city, and the goal of the Ohio Peace Collaboration was to connect policymakers to their constituents, Blalock said.

“We brought together people from the city of Columbus, OSU faculty and staff, people that work with the refugee community, people that work with the disabled community, people that work with environmental advocates and nonprofits and stuff like that,” Blalock said. “We got them in our building and had about 25 folks in a roundtable and we said, ‘How can we use this federal money to help underserved people that we serve?’”

Since this series of events, the Ohio Peace Collaborative has also organized a 5K/10K that took place in October to support clean water access in Kenya, Blalock said.

As the Ohio Peace Collaborative gets ready for the upcoming CRE conference, Carlame said that he’s glad the group can help bring the kind of exposure that comes with the conference to Columbus.

“It’s very significant because they obviously liked what we did the last time. Normally, it has most recently been hosted at George Mason in Washington D.C.and it’s good to bring an international conference of this nature to Ohio State,” Carlarne said. “It’s part of a wider effort to open up Columbus more, and Ohio State, to this idea of international peace and social justice.”

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