Dear SPS Faculty,
The beginning of a new year, so Happy New Year to everyone!
There are many changes afoot and with the beginning of a new year and an opportunity for a fresh start, I reflected on new beginnings and how things get started. This led me to think about the book launch my colleague, Joan Lopez, and I are preparing for and how we started doing the research and work we are doing. This is connected to the wonderful and enriching partnerships we have developed in our work and the creation of our book. There are two words that surfaced I want to focus on here and they are curiosity and passion.
These two words influence the choices I make, which has me being more intentional and applying agency. It also influences what I notice, what attracts my attention. In the work I do in negotiation, conflict resolution, and to some extent, peacebuilding, there can be a focus on negative conditions, negative behavior, negative outcomes, and what leads me down a path of focusing on despair. Instead, my curiosity leads me to asking questions, such as “In spite of all of these negative factors, why are things not worse? What are people doing to make a positive difference? What leads them to make these differences? How do they overcome their challenges? What motivates them to continue on in the face of adversity?”
This is when my curiosity is in overdrive wanting to understand these factors because there are lessons to be learned that can be shared for greater impact. It is what I noticed as we plunger deeper into our work in Medellín, Colombia, especially because it was in such sharp contrast to other dominant stories about violence and youth. There are harsh living conditions and there is as Johann Galtung coined, direct, structural and cultural forms of violence. Direct is the most obvious and is usually overt. Structural violence is when institutions that are supposed to support quality of life conditions are denied to portions of the population or just fail to provide these protections. Cultural violence is when certain violent acts are the norm in families and society. In spite of these types of violence, there are youth leaders leading social transformation in their communities. (More on this at our book launch, January 25th)
Then it takes passion as a researcher to continue to be motivated, to persevere, even when conditions are not comfortable or conducive to easily exploring and documenting this phenomena. Research is a sustained and rigorous activity so it is important to find a phenomenon you like to explore because you will need lots of energy to continue on that path.
Curiosity and passion are two concepts I think are important as we focus on research endeavors going forward. There is an increased emphasis on faculty research and publishing at SPS and if you are considering what to research, then follow your curiosity and passion will follow. Also, there will be more opportunities for faculty to share their research with one another in seminar style gatherings, where we can collegially learn together. There will also be more structured sessions on conducting research, engaging in publishing, and locating funding for research support. Stay tuned.