Uncovering New Possibilities
Insights from our time
Highlights of my work:
• Led an international women’s peacebuilding/leadership organization with a network of 30,000 women in 125 countries. Launched several global programs, including a program to link Arab, Muslim and western women to build understanding and reduce stereotypes and a global mentoring program.
• Directed a national program in South Africa over 5 years during the apartheid era that focused on building reconciliation, conducting peacebuilding initiatives, leading advocacy and cross cultural training, and working to build a post-apartheid society.
• Led four citizen diplomacy trips to the former Soviet Union in the late 1980's during the Cold War and directed several large scale USAID-funded business training programs in 6 cities over 10 years with the Center for Citizen Initiatives. In 2017 was a delegate on fact finding trip to Russia, including Crimea, that met with high level leaders, including Mr. Gorbachev.
• Directed a wide range of international education programs over 5 years at the World Affairs Council of Northern California.
• Led peacebuilding and development projects through the United Nations and other international agencies.
• Co-founded the Institute for Peacebuilding, offering educational courses, teacher training, curriculum development, parent training, community workshops, and organizational peacebuilding support on conflict resolution in everyday life.
• Co-founded a media accountability and reform organization to educate citizens about our vital role to influence what is broadcast on the public airwaves, to encourage a broader diversity of perspectives and actors on prime time programs, and to hold broadcasters accountable to serve the public interest.
• Led training for company and non-profit executives on ways to nurture human spirit at work. Authored workbook on practical steps to embracing spirit at work in everyday life. Researched and wrote about fostering spiritual intelligence, our ultimate intelligence.
• Led cross-cultural communication training for companies doing work overseas and for foreign companies doing business in the U.S.
• Trainer, facilitator, coach and mentor for women to step into leadership positions and realize their potential. Directed projects that provide skills training for women.
• Conducted advocacy in Washington DC to reduce gender based violence, including lobbying for passage of the Violence Against Women Act, the Women, Peace and Security Act, among others. Actively involved with the Civil Society Working Group on Women, Peace and Security under the auspices of the US Institute of Peace to work with many US government agencies on the implementation of the US National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security.
• Author and broadcaster highlighting a range of positive stories and solutions through radio and TV programs, articles, chapters and books.
• Motivational speaker who has encouraged many audiences to tell their stories, since stories connect us at the heart level.
Over my career I have worked with, and continue to work with, some inspiring, ground breaking, remarkable organizations that I would like to acknowledge here:
Peace X Peace
Until recently I’ve been CEO of Peace X Peace, an international women’s peacebuilding/leadership organization with a network of 30,000 women in 125 countries. As CEO I’ve launched several global programs that have had very positive impact: 1) a Mentorship Program that links young women with seasoned professionals, and 2) a program called “Connection Point” that links Arab, Muslim, and Western women to build bridges of understanding and reduce stereotypes. I created leadership initiatives, promoted gender inclusion and cross cultural understanding, worked to reduce gender based violence, developed partnerships and connected women across cultures. We hosted an annual awards program called Women, Power and Peace Awards, led a Voices of Israeli and Palestinian Women project that facilitated grassroots dialogue between Israeli and Palestinian women and culminated in a coffee table book and videos, produced weekly blogs, and led cross cultural dialogues in the Gulf countries of United Arab Emirates and Qatar. www.peacexpeace.org
Civil Society Working Group
I’ve been an active member of the Civil Society Working Group on Women, Peace and Security (http://civilsocietywg.org), under the auspices of the US Institute of Peace, which advises US government agencies on the implementation of the US National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security. The National Action Plan, called for under UN Security Council Resolution 1325, provides a roadmap to address the disproportionate and unique impact of armed conflict on women, recognizes the importance of women's equal participation and full involvement in maintaining and promoting peace and security, and the need to enhance protection of women, girls and their rights. https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/email files/US_National_Action_Plan_on_Women_Peace_and_Security.pdf
Light My Fire
I serve on the board of Light My Fire, a small but impactful NGO that works to effect change for women and girls in the developing world. Light My Fire provides the spark for women and girls in developing countries to ignite social, economic and cultural change that transforms lives and communities.
Light My Fire incorporates three key development principles: 1) Providing small amounts of money early for specific, tangible outcomes; 2) Selecting projects that are sustainable and, 3) Ensuring projects can be replicated. www.lightmyfirefund.org.
Light My Fire supports projects for women and girls on three continents in three fields:
Women’s Health and Security. Women’s reproductive health is crucial for family planning and childbirth; trafficking and forced prostitution must be combated.
Women’s Empowerment. Empowering women, even those at the margins of poverty, means realizing vital sources of talent and energy that are often ignored. Empowering women also means family empowerment since women spend 90% of their income on their families compared to 30–40% for men.
Girls’ Empowerment. If girls achieve education beyond grammar school, the risk of poverty for the next generation declines exponentially. If girls are trained and treated for sexual abuse, violence against women decreases dramatically. Educating girls has a multiplier effect and is one of the best proven investments a country can make.
Alliance for Peacebuilding
I chair the Women in Peacebuilding Affinity Group for the Alliance for Peacebuilding (AfP). AfP helps catalyze lasting, constructive, and peaceful change in fragile and chaotic settings around the world. AfP serves as a thought leader for the peacebuilding field, linking theory and practice across multiple sectors and practice areas, including Evaluation, Mapping , Prevention and Strengthening the field’s ability to learn effectively in complex environments. http://www.allianceforpeacebuilding.org/
The Women in Peacebuilding Affinity Group hosts Conversations with Extraordinary Women every other month consisting of both in person dialogues and phone conversations to encourage participation from around the country, and to accommodate the schedules of visiting women leaders. Speakers are women on the frontlines of peacebuilding work in their respective countries. To learn more and to participate, check this link - http://www.allianceforpeacebuilding.org/our-members/affinity-groups/women-and-peacebuilding-affinity-group/
United Nations Association
I’ve been involved with several UN Association chapters since the early 1990’s supporting the wide ranging work of the United Nations. As the nation's largest grassroots foreign policy organization and the leading center of policy research on the U.N. and global issues, UNA-USA offers Americans the opportunity to connect with issues confronted by the U.N., from global health and human rights to the spread of democracy, equitable development, and international justice. We educate Americans about the work of the United Nations and its many agencies and encourage public support for strong U.S. leadership in the United Nations. Today there are more than 20,000 members in 150 local chapters in 43 states.
In the mid - 2000’s I served as President of both the San Francisco and Marin County chapters in California. The chapters host public programs about the UN, conduct programs in schools to bring global awareness to children, such as a UN essay contest and school assemblies, do media outreach through Op Ed articles and cable TV shows, and organize advocacy work.
I am chair of the Advisory Council of the UNA NCA (National Capitol Area), am active with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Task Force and co-chair the DC Cities for CEDAW Campaign to encourage the DC City Council, and cities across the country, to enact CEDAW (Convention for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women). I participate in the annual Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) at the UN in March. http://www.unanca.org
Institute for PeaceBuilding
I co-founded the Institute for PeaceBuilding (IPB) in 2004 as a project of Pathways To Peace with colleague Masankho Banda because of our desire to build cross cultural understanding and provide practical tools for building peace in daily life. IPB offered educational courses, teacher training, curriculum development, parent training, community workshops, and organizational peacebuilding support. We published several books, articles, and guidebooks, including “Essential Tools for Peaceful Living”, a guide for educators, leaders, practitioners and parents. We mentored, consulted and advised individuals and organizations in peaceful resolution of conflict, and collaborated with other organizations, including the UN, in programs, writing, and teaching to further the field of conflict resolution.
A native of Malawi, Masankho was awarded the Unsung Hero of Compassion Award by the Dalai Lama for his global peace and cross cultural work.
Pathways To Peace
Pathways To Peace (PTP) was founded by Avon Mattison, who has worked tirelessly for peace throughout her lifetime. Based in Marin County, California, PTP is an international peace building, educational and consulting organization that has been at the forefront of peacebuilding innovation and leadership since 1983. I was fortunate to be PTP’s Executive Director for several years and co-led the work of PTP with Avon and the board.
PTP’s work focuses on building Cultures of Peace through education, mentoring and enhancing the strengths of existing organizations along eight paths to peace. PTP is the international secretariat of "WE THE PEOPLE'S Initiative", a network of over 200 multicultural peace building organizations that are working to make peace a practical reality. PTP has been a leader in highlighting and celebrating “The International Day of Peace”, September 21, and providing an opportunity for individuals, organizations and nations to create practical acts of peace on a shared date. http://pathwaystopeace.org
I was a Consultant with Equal Access, based in San Francisco, as it was just beginning in 2000 and had a chance to be part of shaping its mission and direction. Equal Access is an international not-for-profit organization that provides positive social change for millions of underserved people by delivering much needed information and education through innovative radio programs and direct community engagement. Today Equal Access is working throughout Asia, Africa and the Middle East and focuses on women and girls’ empowerment, youth life skills and livelihoods, human rights, health and civic participation and governance. I’m very happy to see how they have grown and the powerful work they are providing. www.equalaccess.org
Center for Spiritual Democracy
I was fortunate to be the Executive Director of The Center for Spiritual Democracy for several years and work closely with its founder, Diana Stone. The Center's mission is to return to the spiritual principles that inspired the founding of this country and to learn from the Great Law of Peace. The Great Law of Peace is the Constitution of the Iroquois Confederacy, one of the oldest continuously operating democracies in the world, which profoundly influenced the founding fathers of America, was a model for the United Nations and influenced the suffragette movement. The Center works to integrate the wisdom of the Great Law that honors and incorporates the crucial role of women in maintaining an ongoing, true democracy for all peoples. The Center educates and encourages women to reclaim our responsibility as leaders. Diana and I had the remarkable opportunity to travel the path of the Peacemaker, who brought peace to the 6 Iroquois nations and created the Great Law of Peace, with a renowned Iroquois chief over 10 days through Iroquois territory. www.spiritualdemocracy.org.
Center for Citizen Initiatives
In early 1986 I met pioneer Sharon Tennison who shared her deep concern about the potential for a nuclear arms race and strong desire to reduce tensions between the former Soviet Union and the US, a concern I deeply shared. She invited me to attend dialogues at the Center for US-USSR Initiatives (CUUI). Sharon had begun taking a few groups of American professionals as citizen diplomats to the "land of the enemy" and meet the peope, which expanded to dozens of groups a year. Sharon invited me on a women's leadership trip in 1986 which turned out to be at the exact time of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, though we avoided going near the site. It was an extraordinary trip on many levels and I wrote articles and spoke publicly about my experiences when I returned home. I became committed to the importance of citizen diplomacy and building bridges between our countries. I went on to lead three citizen diplomacy trips there over a five year period. (CUUI changed its name to the Center for Citizen Initiatives (CCI) when the Soviet Union fell).
CCI evolved from primarily a citizen diplomacy organization to providing concrete skills in a wide number of areas. In 1988, CCI started a first-ever, non-governmental citizen exchange program, “Soviets Meet Middle America”. Over a two-year period, 400 Soviet citizens traveled to 265 American cities, where they stayed in some 800 private homes, and were interviewed by thousands of American newspapers, radio and TV programs. They returned home and shared their positive stories and experiences about America full of friendly host families.
From the early days, Russian citizens questioned CCI travelers if Americans had a solution for alcoholism, a very big issue in Russia. AA Big Books began being smuggled in suitcases by citizen diplomats. Sharon worked to get permission to begin AA meetings there, and in 1986 the first AA meeting was held in Kiev, Ukraine by 20 recovering alcoholics, and within three days the second AA meeting was held in Moscow. AA continued to expand around the country and they celebrated AA's 30th anniversary in Russia in 2016.
I directed the Economic Development Program (EDP), the first large scale business training program for young Soviet entrepreneurs, who came to the U.S. for a one month structured internship in their field. It was started in 1989 with private funds and financial contributions from the Soviet entrepreneurs. Four years later, when the U.S. began funding Russia projects, USAID provided EDP with a $7.3 million grant. CCI developed Russian offices in St. Petersburg, Volgograd, Voronezh, Rostov on Don, Ekaterinburg, the Moscow Oblast (Dubna), and Vladivostok. Simultaneously we also began a Consultants project where American business consultants were sent to Russia to do on-site consulting in Russian businesses. EDP ran for eight years and evolved into the Productivity Enhancement Program (PEP) for non-English speaking Russians. PEP was designed on the Productivity Tours of the Marshall Plan.
Besides these extraordinarily successful programs, CCI launched an Agricultural Initiative, an Environmental program, a Micro-Enterprise Incubator and a Non-Profit Management Initiative. CCI is a real success story owing to the vision and tenacity of Sharon Tennison, the organization’s flexibility to adapt as the situation changed, and programs that were very cost effective and attracted both government and private funds.
After directing this large-scale business-training program in 6 cities, I conducted cross-cultural training for the CCI Russian staff and produced video training films for Americans and Russians. I feel honored to have worked with CCI over a 10 year period, and remain part of the CCI Family.
in 2017 I was invited on a CCI fact finding trip for professionals from throughout the US to assess the current state of US-Russia relations. We met with a wide range of leaders, including a private 2 hour meeting with Mr. Gorbachev, as well as journalists, academics, students and average citizens. After 5 days of meetings in Moscow, our group of 30 traveled in small groups to different cities. I led a delegation of 5 to Crimea, where we met with Mayor's offices, City Council members, journalists, NGO leaders and others in Yalta, Simferopol, and Sevastopol, the 3 major cities. Our delegation all met in St. Petersburg to share our collective stories and learnings.
World Affairs Council
I was Director of Programs for the World Affairs Council of Northern California for 5 years. The mission of the Council is to explore issues and opportunities that transcend borders. We hosted over 240 programs a year, as well as study groups, an annual conference at the beautiful Asilomar Conference Center on the Monterey Peninsula, and study trips to explore issues and policies in other countries. I moderated many of the programs, wrote a monthly newsletter on international issues, led some of the study tours and managed the program department. http://www.worldaffairs.org/
International Association of Sprit at Work
My own spiritual journey and beliefs are the basis for my work. I’ve been active in the field of peace building in the workplace and co-directed the San Francisco Bay Area chapter of Spirit at Work (SAW). SAW is a chapter of the International Association of Spirit at Work, a non-profit association providing community, information, and education for those interested in creating healthier workplaces. We encourage workplaces to incorporate such values as equity, openness, honesty, sustainability and integrity into every decision made. Our belief is that a business can influence a community; which can influence a region; which can influence a country; which will change the world. www.sawsf.org.
I have a deep personal commitment and yearning to nurture the soul in our workplaces since it is where we spend most of our time and where we can use our gifts and talents to make a difference in the world. I’ve led discussion groups and workshops on nurturing spirit at work, and have written a practical workbook on this topic. I also co-authored an article called “Tapping Our Spiritual Intelligence” with Dr. Judi Neal, founder of the Association for Spirit at Work (see media page to read the article).
South African Institute of Race Relations/ Human Awareness Programme
I was Regional Director of the Human Awareness Programme, a project of the Institute of Race Relations in South Africa. The Institute is a research and policy organization in South Africa that supports positive cooperation between the racial communities and conducts research on these relationships. I directed a range of peacebuilding and community engagement programs for a more integrated South Africa and worked to foster reconciliation and build a post-apartheid society. I conducted and published research on the living and working conditions of African and Coloured (mixed race) workers under apartheid, participated in team projects designing low-income housing and community facilities, and led training in conflict resolution and cross cultural communication. I co-authored a book about Crossroads, called Inside Crossroads, published by McGraw Hill. The book documented this large squatter community housing some 20,000 Africans on the outskirts of Cape Town which still exists today.