It’s 30 years since Creators of Peace, the international women’s peacebuilding network, was launched—and Jean Brown is ready for a new story.
Creators of Peace applies a community-based peacebuilding approach of ‘starting with myself’ to examine what builds inner peace. Sessions typically consider each individual’s sphere of influence, and then what personal action could build peace in that sphere. A lifelong worker with Initiatives of Change, Jean developed the operating method that Creators of Peace Circles use in their small group conversations today.
Now, after three decades of sparking deep conversations in more than 40 countries, she has worked with a global team to develop a new approach. While Creators of Peace Circles remain the primary methodology of Creators of Peace, the new guide is a standalone resource for everyone, whether or not they have previously connected with Creators of Peace.
‘Advocating for a New Story of Our Shared Humanity’ is a guide for group conversations, and the fruit of the 2020 pandemic lockdown. It’s no accident that this slim publication opens with a quote from scholar, historian and ex-Catholic nun Karen Armstrong, about the role of ‘story’ in countering despair.
Human beings fall easily into despair, and from the very beginning we invented stories that enabled us to place our lives in a larger setting, that revealed an underlying pattern, and gave us a sense that . . . life had meaning and value. . . . [Story] is not about opting out of this world, but about enabling us to live more intensely within it"
- Karen Armstrong
The 40-page booklet offers guidance for small groups to hold a series of five structured conversations, beginning with envisioning a shared future, then working back from that to actions that can be taken towards such a future. Like Creators of Peace Circles, New Story conversations work well in culturally-diverse groups, and address shared concerns such as justice for First Nations, countering racism, and caring for the Earth.
Making Change Through Five Conversations
‘I was picking up from various readings over the years, the whole thing of “narratives” that the world lives out of,’ said Jean. ‘I was reading Charles Eisenstein, for example, about how we live out of certain stories, not just as individuals but also as countries.
‘Australia, for one, has conflicting stories. So, it’s about understanding the perspective of ‘the other’ to find a shared identity.
‘The invader or settler lives out of the story of brave pioneering in an empty country. It’s a story of being heroic and strong. First Nations on the other hand have a totally different story of invasion and dispossession. Migrants to Australia have other stories, of escaping from conflict, of finding a new life.
‘Globally, we have lived out of a sense of entitlement…the old global narrative that everything is for our benefit. We are seeing now a new narrative of caring for the Earth. These are new stories of a shared humanity.’
Shared humanity—explain, please?
‘Humanity can be both a noun and an adjective,’ said Jean. ‘It’s a word to describe ourselves as a race, and it’s also a word to describe qualities of generosity and compassion. Both are the focus and purpose of New Story conversations.’
Conversations around our ‘shared humanity’ aim to focus the uneasiness that many are feeling in the face of COVID-19, climate change, species extinction, conflicts and rising inequality and other global challenges, towards steps that individuals can take. ‘The question is, how do you live out that awareness?’ said Jean.
‘People’s health, the health of our relationships, and our health as a country are linked. You have within you the power to make some major alternatives—to generate “new stories” about a future we can build together. So, there is value in doing this as a group.’
Developed and field-tested before the international launch in March 2021, the guide is now available to anyone interested.
‘With Creators of Peace Circles, sometimes people have a feeling of, what’s next?’ said Jean. Some participants have gone on to train as Peace Circle facilitators, but not everyone takes this path. The New Story guide provides a way that existing relationships formed through Peace Circles can develop through conversations about broader issues. Unlike the traditional focus on bringing together groups of women, usually in a home or neighbourhood setting, the New Story guide is for persons of any gender, and works well online.
The team that developed the guide envisage New Story conversations taking off around the world, with Creators of Peace International helping to link people up to existing groups. People can register to take part in a New Story conversation, or independently form their own conversation group.
‘New Story conversations can become a community-building exercise that deepens connections among communities, and results in joint action,’ said Jean.