A Mission Towards Sustainable Peacekeeping
According to Jane Addams, peace is defined as the absence of war. Furthermore, peace is illustrated to be a society in which everyone works to establish peaceful relations and communal activism. This module will discuss global philanthropy, and explore what sustainable peacekeeping looks like.
Kirk Bowman, who is he?
Let’s introduce Professor Kirk Bowman. In addition to teaching at Georgia Tech since 1998, Professor Bowman has dedicated his career towards re-examining global philanthropy and focusing on sustainable development by founding the international NGO Rise Up and Care. Professor Bowman has also won the 2008 Georgia Professor of the Year by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education. Additionally, he has also produced six documentary films in Brazil, exploring international community building and the youth in marginalized communities. He has directed a plethora of study abroad programs to several countries in Latin America, in addition to writing a variety of books on Latin America and political development. He’s also focused on using soccer as a tool to analyze the impact of local change agents on marginalized communities. Let’s learn more about his work!
What makes Kirk Bowman a peacemaker?
Kirk Bowman has dedicated his career to promoting peace and stability in different ways. Conflict resolution, social reform and work, and the elimination of war, instability and violence through such work are key aspects of the advocacy that Kirk Bowman has completed and promoted. He also has focused on the specific aspects of social reform that relate to peacemaking, such as equity and accessibility of healthcare, education, job opportunities, and reduction of violence through conflict resolution and reconciliation.
Sitting Down with Kirk
“So, what does philanthropy mean to you?”
Philanthropy means it comes from the Greek and it means the love of mankind. So really, philanthropy is wanting to help people outside of your family, your neighborhood; it’s really this human singular feeling and drive to help people that we don’t even know on the other side of the planet.
Now, some people don’t do it, but I have a sharp distinction between philanthropy and charity. To me, charity would be giving a man a fish. Philanthropy would be giving a man or a woman or village fishing poles and refrigerator to store the fish in, and things like that. So philanthropy for me is some kind of a long transformation. Charity is also great! We need soup kitchens, and alms for the poor. But philanthropy is different because it’s aiming for a much more long term change.
“At some point, you have to leave the region you are aiding. Since you can’t remain in a region forever, how do you ensure that peace-keeping or building efforts are sustained once you leave?”
There’s two things that I think most vexed people who are trying to participate in some kind of global philanthropy. The first is, does it scale? How do you scale it? And scaling is incredibly difficult. Even if you think about franchised restaurants in the United States, a franchise, a restaurant has almost a near chance of failure as a complete startup restaurant. So scaling is really, really hard, especially overseas in communities where we don’t know the language and the cultures, and we don’t have the kinship networks.
So the other one that people talk about a lot is how do you make something sustainable? And that’s something that we wrestle with a lot. But there’s a really good solution, and that is that we try to find existing endeavors and projects that have already established a long track record of success.
If you’re doing some kind of a startup or you’re going to do something from the ground up, then the chances of that surviving in anything more than a zombie state after you leave are practically zero. I mean, it’s really an incredible waste of time and money. If we select people on the ground who are from those communities that have an ongoing successful project and we give them a push, then the payoff is much higher than if we go and compete with local social entrepreneurs with our own projects.
“How do you make sure that whatever methods you’re using for whatever problem you’re trying to solve are culturally applicable?”
Well, we would never even begin to think of taking our ideas or projects and trying to implant them, right? If we could adapt that to be culturally appropriate for the location, we only pick these organizations where the leader is from the community. And the idea is the innovation, all of the processes…everything is organic and from the community.
I think that we sometimes really fool ourselves when we travel abroad and we think that we can talk to people and they’ll tell us what is or what is not culturally appropriate, because in a lot of communities, it’s not culturally appropriate to tell someone no or that they’re wrong or to challenge someone coming from the United States that might be bringing money into a community. And so we go into a community and we think that we know what’s culturally appropriate from spending a week talking to people.
And we’re completely fooling ourselves. And often when we go into that kind of a situation, there are already existing fissures or there’s existing challenges between groups in a community for leadership, for money, or other resources. So by finding people to work with and help us navigate those cultural issues, we could be empowering one side of an ongoing spat within a community.
Tune into the podcast if you haven’t already to hear more about our conversation, Bowman’s new book project, and the purpose of the film “Women of Earth”!