Smaby Peacebuilding Symposium: Healing, Empowerment, Communication, and Accountability

The Washington Avenue Bridge and West Bank of the UMN campus

June 24–25, 2021
Virtual event; all times are Central Daylight Time (CDT)

Register to attend

Start time (both days): 8:30 a.m.
Welcome message and login (both days): 8:30–9:00 a.m.

Please email [email protected] with questions or accommodation requests.
This conference is made possible by generous support from the Smaby Family Foundation.

It’s been over a year since we’ve been able to gather in person. This is an important time to gather, remember why we each engage in work that makes a difference for others, and grow our community of support and resources.
Locally focused and culturally relevant, individual and organization-led efforts to heal trauma, lift voices, engage across differences, and craft skillful interventions are growing. The Smaby Peacebuilding Symposium brings together practitioners and organizers from around the world to share their stories and give participants a sense of the wide range of peacebuilding activities and frameworks that have emerged from diverse localities.  
Over the course of the symposium, you will:

  • be introduced to different ways of thinking about peacebuilding and applying ideas to their own communities
  • come away with new tools, resources, and ways of thinking about building peace and justice in our communities

Please join us and your colleagues from Minnesota and around the world to harvest the learnings of this unprecedented time and co-create a vision for what is possible.

Thursday, June 24: Morning Sessions

9–10 a.m.
Keynote and response: Dr. Fania Davis and Dr. Talaya Tolefree

Dr. Fania Davis has been a leader in the restorative justice movement for decades. In the opening keynote presentation, Dr. Davis will speak about the “wave of new justice processes” that are emerging in the 21st century as attention turns to restorative practices, reparations, and considering intergenerational healing in our conception of justice. Dr. Talaya Tolefree will provide a response to her presentation, followed by a facilitated audience discussion.

10:30 a.m.–noon
A presentation by Dr. Steinar Bryn and Veton Zekolli of the Nansen Dialogue Network: How to build unity in divided societies?

This presentation will focus on how the Nansen Dialogue was created in Lillehammer, Norway as a consequence of the 1994 Winter Olympics in response to the war raging in the European city of Sarajevo, a former Olympic city. The Nansen Dialogue has inspired thousands of people in the Western Balkans and the methodology has inspired people in Ukraine, Russia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and South Korea. 

In 1993, Steinar Bryn (born 1954) received his PH.D. in American Studies from the University of Minnesota. Since 1996, Bryn has been building up the Nansen Dialogue Network in the Western Balkans. He is based at the Nansen Academy in Norway, where he has received more than 100 dialogue groups from the most war-torn areas in Europe. In the first eight years, these conversations lasted three months each. He currently lectures on lessons learned and supports the Nansen Dialogue's work, particularly in the field of intercultural education. Bryn also publishes articles and is currently receiving a grant to write a book based on his experiences, titled How to build bridges and cooperation in divided societies? Steinar Bryn and the Nansen Dialogue Network have been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize seven times.

Veton Zekolli (born 1985) is the Executive Director of Nansen Dialogue Centre Skopje. In 2003 he was a student at Nansen Academy taking courses on dialogue, human rights, peace, and peaceful conflict resolution. He has been working with the Nansen Dialogue Network and Nansen Academy in Lillehammer since then. Zekolli will present a case study of Nansen's work in North Macedonia. NDC Skopje is responsible for the educational component in the government-led program "One Society for All," which explores the question: How to build an educational strategy for a shared society in a divided society with a segregated school system?

Thursday, June 24: Afternoon Sessions

12:30–1:45 p.m.
A conversation between filmmakers Joe Piscatella and Humphrey alumnus Hunter Johnson, moderated by Daniel Bergin

Award-winning documentary film director Joe Piscatella’s recent feature documentary Joshua: Teenager vs. Superpower follows 14-year-old Joshua Wong’s fight against the Chinese Communist Party in Hong Kong. Piscatella began his writing career as a speechwriter at a consulting firm in Washington, D.C. before moving to Los Angeles. 

Hunter Johnson (MHR ’20), a Humphrey alumnus, is a documentary filmmaker and photographer. Johnson's first documentary Until We Find Them explores the work of two journalists seeking truth and justice for Mexico's “disappeared,” as well as the issue of disappearances in Mexico as a whole.

This session, moderated by local Twin Cities PBS’ leading history filmmaker, Daniel Bergin, once called “Minnesota's hippest history teacher” by the Star Tribune, will involve two filmmakers discussing the importance of documentary filmmaking, particularly as it relates to how the world is today—one as a seasoned representative, drawn to stories of unlikely heroes who defy the odds to make a difference in the world, and the other as a new, up-and-coming, policy-driven storyteller seeking to film the stories of those who are voiceless and often powerless.

2–3:15 p.m.
“Reflections on the Time of Reckoning”: A presentation from Dr. Joi Lewis and Dr. Brittany Lewis

In the wake of George Floyd’s murder and in the midst of the pandemic, Brittany Lewis and Joi Lewis convened the “Time of Reckoning” series to bring together the community to heal and create space for a “radical reimagining” of what is possible. Community healing, justice, and repair were centered to spark policy recommendations that will nurture change. The two will share with us their process and summarize the outcomes of the series. 

4–5 p.m.
Healing Arts & Artists’ Response: A conversation with D.A. Bullock and Patience Zalanga, moderated by Dr. Tia Simone-Gardner

D.A. Bullock is an award-winning filmmaker and social practice artist in the field of story-based community organizing. His films have been featured at national and international festivals including Toronto International Film Festival & Chicago International Film Festival.

Patience Zalanga is a photographer documenting the Movement for Black Lives. She began taking photographs of marches, protests, and direct actions after Michael Brown, Jr. was killed in Ferguson, Missouri. Patience has documented freedom fighters in the Twin Cities; Ferguson and St. Louis, Missouri; Baltimore, Maryland; and Selma, Alabama. Born in Bauchi, Nigeria, Patience emigrated to St. Paul, Minnesota in 1994. She now resides in St. Louis, Missouri.

Bullock and Zalanga will talk about their work as artists who are dedicated to community well-being in North Minneapolis. They will share how they work with community artists to foster new visions of public safety and how the arts contribute to building an anti-racist, peaceful society.

Friday, June 25: Morning Sessions

9–10:30 a.m.
A conversation with Thandiwe Matthews, interviewed by local journalist and MPA alumna Faiza Mahamud

Thandiwe Matthews was a U.S. State Department Fulbright / Hubert H. Humphrey Fellow at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs from 2015 to 2016. Based at the University of Minnesota's Law School, Matthews researched global human rights monitoring methods to reduce socioeconomic inequalities.

Matthews will discuss her perspective on leadership, focusing on women in her area of the world, and will bring in the themes of the symposium in her discussion: "healing, empowerment, communication, and accountability."

Faiza Mahamud is a journalist working with the Star Tribune. Before joining the Star Tribune, Faiza was a reporter and editor at the largest African community newspaper in Minnesota, Mshale. She has a bachelor's degree from Augsburg University and a master's degree from the Humphrey School of Public Affairs.

11 a.m.–12:30 p.m.
UR Action Workshop (limited to 60–80 participants)  

Urban Rural Action brings together Americans across geographic, political, racial, and other divides to build relationships, strengthen collaboration skills, explore different perspectives, and tackle issues that impact all communities.

This interactive workshop will examine how advancing positive peace requires analyzing causes of injustice and designing interventions to address those dynamics. In this experiential workshop implemented in small groups, you will apply a problem-tree analysis framework to map out social, political, economic, and environmental causes and effects of mass incarceration. You'll then brainstorm what types of efforts might help advance meaningful action based on your analysis and consider the causal logic behind those interventions.

11 a.m.–12:30 p.m.
Marnita's Table — TrustMaking: Catalyzing an Embodied Practice of Peace through Authentic Welcome

During this fast-paced, interactive, peer-to-peer session, you will experience a nationally recognized experience engineering model, Intentional Social Interaction, led with Black Girl Magic by Lauren and Marnita. Learn the difference between “all are welcome here” and “this space was created with you in mind.” How to heal past wounds while moving forward. We will spend time learning and practicing core skills for bridging differences in a variety of personal, professional, and institutional settings in order to more effectively strategize and collaborate for change.

At Marnita’s Table, we seek to close gaps across differences through making Intentional Social Interaction the new pattern for society where Indigenous, people of color, the disenfranchised, the poor, the unheard, the fragile, the LGBTQ+ NGC and anyone who is normally left out of community decision-making is automatically included and valued at the policymaking and resource-sharing table. Experts at social capital building, we've welcomed almost 100,000 people from around the world and around the way to find common ground while breaking bread — in person or online, we bring people together to create meaningful change and more equitable systems. Find out more at

Friday, June 25: Afternoon Sessions

1–2 p.m.
Global Peacebuilding, Reasons for Optimism: A presentation from Henrik Syse

Henrik Syse is a Senior Research Fellow with the Peace Research Institute of Oslo (PRIO). 

At PRIO he works on the ethics of war, historically and systematically, as well as on the relationship between religion and the use of armed force. He is also a lecturer at Bjørknes College, contributing to the Master's degree program jointly undertaken by PRIO, Bjørknes, and the Australian National University.

Syse is Chief Editor of the Journal of Military Ethics and part-time Associate Professor at the Norwegian Defense University College. He has previously been a Fulbright fellow at Boston College, USA (1989–91), a Norwegian Research Council fellow at the University of Oslo (1992–97), a journal editor for the Norwegian political journal Tidens Tegn (1998–2000), member of the secretariat of the Norwegian Government Commission on Human Values (1998–2001), and a post-doc fellow at the Ethics Program, the University of Oslo (2002–05).

Syse’s presentation will be about global cynicism and the increased polarization of both local and global communities. He will discuss the greatest challenges to remain optimistic in today’s conflicted world.

2:30–3:30 p.m.
Twin Cities Innovation Alliance: A panel discussion led by Marika Pfefferkorn

The mission of the Twin Cities Innovation Alliance (TCIA) is to build and develop a critical mass of diverse, highly engaged residents, policymakers, and entrepreneurs in the Twin Cities to transform it into a global “Smart City” through community, collaboration, and representation.

Marika Pfefferkorn will lead a panel of youth responding to the murder of George Floyd. Youth from the Twin Cities gathered their talents and strengths to create artistic and curricular responses to the police murder of George Floyd and related historical issues. Youth on this panel will share their work, which includes a children's book, to discuss how liberatory education, arts, and youth empowerment contribute to peaceful, healthy futures.

4–5:15 p.m.
Nonviolent Peaceforce

Nonviolent Peaceforce (NP) is a world leader in unarmed civilian protection, providing direct protection to civilians caught in violent conflict and working with local civil society groups on violence deterrence throughout the world. NP’s unarmed civilian protectors are from many nations, and live and work in conflict-affected areas including South Sudan, Myanmar, and the Mindanao region of the Philippines. They provided protection to protestors in Minneapolis during the trial of Derek Chauvin. 

Marna Anderson, the Director of NP's USA branch, and Paige McLain, a recent Humphrey School Master of Human Rights alumna, will talk about NP's work and the challenge of adapting bringing its model of nonviolent civilian protection to the U.S.