About the Program
In 1997, Karuna Center’s founder and Senior Peacebuilding Advisor, Paula Green, initiated the CONTACT (Conflict Transformation Across Cultures) program at the School for International (SIT) Graduate Institute in Brattleboro, Vermont. The core CONTACT program, the Summer Peacebuilding Institute, continued to take place on the SIT campus in Vermont and was attended by peacebuilders from around the world. Though we are not formally collaborating on any projects at this time, the overlap with Karuna Center continues, and some Karuna Center Peacebuilding Associates also teach within this program.
Over 1,000 peacebuilders from more than 80 countries around the world have enhanced their knowledge and training in conflict transformation through CONTACT programs to date. Participants in Karuna Center’s peacebuilding programs worldwide have attended CONTACT in order to hone their peacebuilding training and dialogue facilitation skills. Some have gone on to begin their own peacebuilding organizations which continue to thrive today.
From 2002-2012, Karuna Center director Olivia Dreier served as director of CONTACT’s Graduate Certificate in Conflict Transformation. This one-year program included two semesters of web-based distance learning, a field seminar in a post-conflict country (Rwanda), independent study, and a practicum project, and allowed participants to earn half the credits toward a Master’s degree in Conflict Transformation.
Previously, Karuna Center worked with SIT to develop CONTACT South Asia (which ran from 2010-2018), to establish collaborative cross-border relationships within South Asia that contribute to conflict transformation, sustainable peace, and increased development. For two weeks each December in Kathmandu, this program explored regional challenges and forged new bonds between participants from Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka. In 2002, Karuna Center also piloted a CONTACT program in French for the countries of French West Africa; that program is no longer active.
For many days I have been wondering why anyone didn’t think of such a program much earlier with such an unequivocal impact across cultures, and we lost years and years in contemptuousness and bitterness of internal – external conflicts and mistrust. As I look back at my professional career of almost four decades as a trainer – resource person in hundreds of workshops in Pakistan and abroad, I admit that the CONTACT South Asia program was the best interactive exposure of my life.