Catalyzing collaboration in the wake of COVID-19

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

CPA front deskThe fourth floor of Conrad Grebel University College may be closed, but the Kindred Credit Union Centre for Peace Advancement continues to provide opportunities for changemakers to advance peace. This past month has proved, more than ever, that the Centre is more than just a space—it is an adaptable hub of innovative thinkers who are now finding creative ways to continue their work amidst a crisis.

The Centre staff have been continuing to diligently organize programming, maintain relationships with partners, ignite collaboration amongst participants, tell stories, and support each other. Weekly virtual coffee breaks, a community slack channel, a virtual front desk, and daily staff video chats allow productivity, as well as connection, to continue.

Programs such as Map the System, the Spring 2020 PeaceTech Living Learning Community, and the Grebel Gallery are continuing virtually. In addition, Centre staff are looking ahead and preparing for upcoming programming. “Just because much of the world is slowing down does not mean peacebuilding work is going to, nor should it,” adds Paul Heidebrecht, Director of the Centre for Peace Advancement. “Our mission is more relevant than ever during a crisis eager for creative and impactful responses.”

COVID-19 has also forced Centre participants to address unprecedented challenges and leverage their strengths in new ways. Despite these trials, participants and staff have held onto the Centre’s innovative spirit.

The Tamarack Institute has shown their capacity for adapting to change through trading in-person workshops and conferences for online webinars and podcasts. Tamarack has also supported the organizations they work with by releasing their working remotely guide public and sending out a newsletter each week that highlights five COVID-19 related community building stories.

Project Ploughshares has had a very active voice since COVID-19 has emerged. Articles such as “Arms control diplomacy a worrying casualty of COVID-19,” “Containing COVID-19, together: it’s time to reinvest in collective security,” and “Using drones and UGVs to fight COVID-19—but then what?” help citizens stay informed on how to engage in disarmament and security issues during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

CPA virtual coffee break Staff and participants partake in the Centre's first ever virtual coffee break.

The Ripple Effect Education (TREE) has faced the cancellation of in-person school workshops, but is finding alternative ways to continue to support classrooms and bring closure to the relationships that were formed. Practical posts on their blog, focusing on tools for addressing conflict, help equip families to stay healthy in a potentially challenging season.  TREE is also looking forward to future programming by promoting the Peace Innovators Scholarship and Mentoring program, as well as their open Facilitator positions.

Incubator startups have also had to adapt. Lunaria Solutions has adapted how they support clients by posting working from home tips on their blog and “Remote Work Success” tweets on Twitter.

The Centre for Peace Advancement is leaning into its values in this challenging season and allowing this experience to shape it for the better. “The deepening of relationships that is happening throughout the Centre right now will make us more resilient peacebuilders,” reflects Michelle Jackett, Centre Coordinator. “When the Centre’s physical space opens again, I have hope that the community – and our collective capacity to advance peace – will be stronger than before.”

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