Peacemaker Awards 2012

| February 1, 2012 | 0 Comments

On Thursday, February 16, the National Conflict Resolution Center (NCRC) will present its 24th

Annual Peacemaker Awards.  We Talked with Steven P. Dinkin, NCRC’s president.

LW:  This is Peacemaker’s 24th year!  What inspired Peacemaker? How has it changed over the years?

SD:  NCRC’s Peacemaker Awards promotes the concept and the possibility of resolving conflict through dialogue and collaboration. The first awards were presented at a small gathering at the CalWestern School of Law. This year, awards will be held at the Hilton La Jolla Torrey Pines with an anticipated audience of more than 500. Since 2005, the event has included national honorees, plus local honorees. Peacemaker continues to serve as a beacon of hope, and a reminder that peace can be achieved by each one of us in our everyday lives.

LW:  On February 16, you’ll host David Gergen as NCRC’s national honoree – and keynote speaker?

David Gergen is National Peacemaker Honoree.

SD: David Gergen has worked on both sides of the aisle, as a senior advisor to both Republican and Democratic Administrations. He is a professor of Public Service and the director of the Center for Public Leadership at the Harvard Kennedy School, where part of the mission is to train enlightened public leaders throughout the world. Gergen has a sense of urgency about the need for civility, tolerance and for Americans to summon the courage and goodwill to stand together.

LW: The TranscenDANCE Youth Arts Project – the local Peacemaker honoree  – provides training in the arts, surely an exemplary undertaking – but how does this activity dovetail with peacemaking?

SD: Honoring transcenDANCE challenges us to expand our thinking of what constitutes peacemaking. TranscenDANCE uses the arts as an effective vehicle for mobilizing and empowering youth to overcome conflict within themselves, differences among themselves, and to work to promote social change in their communities. The company believes that art is not only a privilege but a necessity of life. As one transcenDANCE board members said, when conflict occurs, often individuals become paralyzed. These students are learning that dance is  a vehicle for learning how to communicate effectively, in an effort to overcome lives filled with conflict.

LW:   What are the criteria for earning a Peacemaker Award?

SD: Recipients must have initiated or completed the activities for which they are being honored during the year prior to the award. They are people who go above and beyond their job descriptions, in the name of collaborative efforts consistent with mediation principles, specifically promoting peace and/or preventing violence. These activities stimulate expanded thinking about peacemaking and often impact numerous people.  And, possibly most importantly, their efforts inspire others to work towards peace in their own lives.

LW:  What impact do you think the awards have had on the awardees, and on NCRC?

SD: Receiving an unsolicited Peacemaker Award is both a humbling and empowering experience. While Peacemakers are not motivated by the possibility of receiving an award, the award does provide well-deserved recognition and seems to have an encouraging and inspirational impact. It provides an opportunity for communities to learn about their  heroes, and through acknowledging the work and the individual, allows that person to become a role model and an inspiration.

One example is Abdiweli Heibeh, a Somali San Diego police officer.  He became an police officer to help refugees by serving as a bridge to better cooperation and understanding between our East African immigrant community and law enforcement.He did this – not to be recognized – but simply to help  and to do good.  The Peacemaker Award added to the work he was already doing, and   the formal acknowledgement  created  interest  – and admiration –for him, by the both the law enforcement and his East African communities

LW: Winners don’t necessarily have to demonstrate mediation skills, yet that’s what NCRC is all about?

SD: The actions recognized with a Peacemaker Award must be in line with mediation principals. This does not require that the awardee demonstrate specific mediation skills, but rather share the idea that conflict can be a tool for growth and an opportunity to craft positive solutions that promote peace and prevent violence. Peacemaking occurs in a variety of ways, and NCRC makes a concerted effort to ensure these are all illuminated.

For example, NCRC honored the Azim Khamisa, (father of murdered student Tariq Khamisa) and Ples Felix (grandfather of the gang member who shot Tariq), for establishing the Taruq Khamisa Foundation, dedicated to the eradication of youth violence.

We have also awarded San Diego’s Hot Spot Tattoo, for removing gang tattoos free of charge, thus allowing former gang members to move forward in a positive direction, putting a life of violence behind them.

LW:  The organization began as a limited local operation; today NCRC has branched out, to say the least!

SD: NCRC operates three offices here: Downtown, San Ysidro and El Cajon, where we provide mediation and training services.

We’ve also developed a national and international presence. For example, each year NCRC offers its Summer Institute in Rimini Italy, a training program attended by students from the US, and many European countries.

In the private sector, we work with large businesses and corporations. We recently trained over 1,200 people at a large hospital system in North and South Dakota. Another example would be our work with Homeland Security.

These focus on providing key leaders with the skills necessary to quickly deal with conflict before it escalates.

In the non-profit arena, we work with government, universities, schools, refugee communities, welfare organization, the military, health care systems and many others.  We are currently engaged in a large scale Civility Campaign at a local University, training student leaders, faculty and administration.

LW:  How would you evaluate NCRC’s focus – more on participating in mediation cases, peaceful negotiations, mediator training – or?

SD: NCRC’s focus is taking the powerful tool of mediation and making it more accessible, to create a cultural shift towards a more collaborative society. Three current areas include the education, employment, and healthcare sectors.  In response to the growing incidences of bullying on campuses, we’re working in high schools and colleges to integrate conflict management through civility campaigns. We’re also working with those seeking employment through the Welfare to Work program. Finally, in the healthcare industry, our conflict management can help increase patient safety.

We hope that the impact of the training will have a ripple effect, influencing others in the trainee’s life, spreading the benefits of civility.

LW:  Can we use NCRC’s services in our own businesses and lives?

SD: We are accessible to the public and provide confidential conflict resolution services for a wide range of conflicts, from neighbor complaints to complex construction defect litigation and family law. ( (619) 238-2400 or online at

Furthermore, we offer the “Exchange” to individuals, organizations and businesses.  The Exchange provides conflict management skills and strategies by teaching an easily learned, structured process to participants, who can then effectively address the conflicts that occur in everyday experiences.

LW: The world seems anything but peaceful. How do you maintain your optimism?

SD: NCRC believes that while conflict is inevitable, it is manageable – if dealt with appropriately.  We see conflict as an opportunity for growth, for increased communication and for deeper understanding. It is so important for each of us to learn the skills, to make the effort to resolve conflict effectively. We strive to build a world of greater civility; we encourage readers to make a real effort to learn conflict resolution strategies – it will definitely improve all of our lives!

For tickets/information about the Peacemaker Awards, and/or learning more about the Exchange and mediation training, please go to and Or, contact Ashley Virtue, Director, External Relations, NCRC, at (619) 238-2400 ext. 221 or via email

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