Peacebuilding and the Arts

IMPACT Launched as an Independent, Global Non-Profit Organization

a still from a zoom meeting

A still from the zoom meeting of the IMPACT Transition Board.

By Polly O. Walker, Associate Professor Emeritus
Peace and Conflict Studies, Juniata College

The Program in Peacebuilding and the Arts (PBA) at Brandeis University, the executive committee of the IMPACT initiative, and the board of directors of ReCAST, Inc., are pleased to announce the launch of IMPACT (Imagining Together: Platform for Arts, Culture and Conflict Transformation) as an independent, global, non-profit organization committed to strengthening the field of Arts, Culture and Conflict Transformation (ACCT). 

IMPACT began in 2017 as a project of PBA, in collaboration with the Baker Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies at Juniata College and Maseno University in Kisumu, Kenya. The project was funded by an 18-month planning grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Led by Cynthia Cohen, director of PBA and executive director of ReCAST, the project conducted interviews with 160 scholars, artists, and policymakers from every continent, and hosted three global online "learning exchanges" on arts, culture and conflict transformation, engaging over 150 participants. In September 2018, a three-day design lab brought to Brandeis 25 participants from 13 countries, including Argentina, Australia, Colombia, Cyprus, Israel, Kenya, and Pakistan. Out of this consultation and mapping work, several initiatives emerged:

  • working groups on ethics and best practices, research, and advocacy, linked by and accountable to a Leadership Circle
  • eight regional ACCT hubs around the world.

This phase of the IMPACT project succeeded in creating a global network of organizations, scholars and practitioners to support the ACCT "ecosystem," as well as enabling those in the system to think, act, and advocate collectively to support artists and artistic and cultural initiatives in the work of building more just and peaceful societies.

IMPACT has now merged with ReCAST Inc. and functions as an independent, global non-profit organization to advance the work of artist peacebuilders in creatively transforming conflict. "ReCAST, Inc. and the IMPACT initiative share not only a commitment to strengthening the field of arts, culture and conflict transformation," notes Cohen, "but also to embodying commitments to diverse and distributed leadership and creative and decolonizing approaches to conflict transformation. The missions of both groups are aligned; the capacity of both entities to strengthen work at the nexus of arts, culture, justice and peace will be enhanced by their merger." 

IMPACT is governed by a transitional board that will be in place for up to a year and is composed of the following members:

  • Ana Cabria Mellace, lawyer, mediator and facilitator; Co-director of the Fundación Democrático; Argentina
  • Bonface Beti, specialist in theatre-based interventions with grassroots communities to transform conflict; Kenya
  • Dijana Milosevic, award-winning theatre director, member of IMPACT’s previous Leadership Circle; Serbia
  • Lee Perlman, author, educator, researcher focusing on theatre and social change in divided societies; previously, board chair of ReCAST, inc., and member of IMPACT’s executive committee; Associate, International Center for Ethics, Justice and Public Life, Brandeis University; Israel/USA
  • Kyoko Okumoto, Professor of Peace Studies, Conflict Transformation and English literature at Osaka Jogakuin University, and leader of the Northeast Asia Regional Peacebuilding Institute; Japan
  • Nancy Cole, founding member of ReCAST, Inc, where she served as board secretary and treasurer; senior strategist for corporate campaign of the  Energy Program at Union of Concerned Scientists, USA
  • Rosanna Lewis, senior programme manager, culture and development, British Council; Belgium. 

During IMPACT's first year as an independent organization, PBA at Brandeis will lead the implementation and coordination of IMPACT’s ongoing programs. These include IMPACT's collaboration with the Buffer Fringe Festival in Cyprus, and its capacity-building work with grassroots arts and peacebuilding organizations in Colombia. It will move forward IMPACT's advocacy efforts, including its work with UNESCO’s Art Lab for Human Rights and Dialogue, and the dissemination of the collectively composed report (mentioned earlier in this newsletter), commissioned by the Porticus Community Arts Network, "Invite | Affirm | Evoke | Unleash: How artistic and cultural processes transform complex challenges." 

The emergence of IMPACT as an independent non-profit global organization is seen as a positive step, critical for the development of a robust infrastructure for the arts, culture and conflict transformation field and ecosystem.

For questions, you can reach out to Armine Avetisyan, the IMPACT Program Manager.