a modest proposal for 2012, from a friend.

This is from my friend Ashok Pannikar, visionary founder of Meta-Culture, a visionary conflict resolution organization based in Bangalore, India.  I’ve been begging Ashok to guest blog for me, so hopefully my showcasing his work will sweeten the deal.

One of the many things I admire about Ashok is that, as a former graphic designer, he sees his organization as his studio — a cauldron of frenetic, creative energy.  He also believes work should be fun, and he punctuates his speech with infectious laughter and offbeat humor.  We in the peacebuilding field can sometimes take ourselves a bit too seriously, and Ashok is doing his part to correct that.

So, thanks for the inspiration, Ashok, and here’s to a year of transforming slogans into dialogue.


5 actors to avoid emulating in mediation.

Developing one’s voice as a mediator can be tricky business. Our personality, empathy, and humor should shine through with our clients…accompanied by a soupcon of acting.  Maintaining neutrality, suppressing your political/religious/personal views, and poker-facing the bizarre can require some serious Stanislavskian chops.

Here are some iconic actors we do not want to emulate, informed by watching lots of movies over the holidays while inhaling my Aunt Barbara’s cookies.


Reflections on our first (half) year.

Folks, I’d like to reflect on the amazing, whirlwind year that’s coming to a close.  We officially became the New York Peace Institute this year, building upon three decades as a Safe Horizon program.  Thanks to our staff, board, advisory board, volunteer mediators, partners, funders, and Safe Horizon, we managed to take care of the many details needed to build an organization, whilst not losing sight of the big picture:  building peace in New York City and beyond.

Here’s a brief snapshot of our year, vis-à-vis our key areas of focus…and how you can be part of the journey in 2012:


RIP, Vaclav Havel

The world lost a true mensch today, former Czechoslovak president Vaclav Havel.

Vaclav Havel showed us a world in which one man could be a poet, playwright, protester, political prisoner, peacemaker, and president.  A man who embraced the paradox of dissent and dialogue.  A man who humbly vanquished 50 years of oppression, and then impishly rode his bike through the corridors of power.

Read more about Havel here.

Breaking news: George Takei brokers Star Peace

I was 10 years old when Star Wars came out, and when Star Trek was on TV in a continuous loop of syndicated reruns.  A common playground topic was which of the two rocked harder, and the debate continues to this day, fueled by schticky banter on youtube between Shatner and Carrie Fisher.

Perhaps in an early display of mediation sensibilities, I embraced both shows, with props to Star Wars for fabulous special effects and Campbellian heroes, and big ups to Star Trek for its 1960’s political allegories that even a child could grasp.

Click here to read more…