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Trauma & Trust Conference: 2016

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Conflict Resolution Institute

Trauma & Trust Conference in Review

Feature  •

From Baltimore to Baghdad, communities are suffering the impacts of ongoing violence and systemic injustice. While the complementary fields of conflict resolution and trauma studies work to build resilience and promote peacebuilding efforts locally and globally, this work is often unintegrated, minimizing the impact of our efforts. Might a sustainable systemic and collaborative approach minimize unintended consequences of interventions and in some way facilitate success?

So spoke our invitation to our signature event this fall, a landmark international conference on "Trauma and Trust: Peacebuilding in Ruptured Social Systems." The event took place October 13-15 in the DU Fritz Knoebel Hospitality School's beautiful conference space, with more than 100 people in attendance. A joint effort by the Conflict Resolution Institute, DU's Graduate School of Professional Psychology's International Disaster Program, and the NGO Salus World, this was a follow-up to a similar pathbreaking conference held at DU in 2007 by the same partners. Generous support was also provided by the Henry Luce Foundation and an anonymous donor. Speakers joined us from across the globe, including South Africa, Palestine, Sweden, Australia, and Nigeria, to highlight important new work at the interface of several complementary fields. The conference focused on both domestic and international peacebuilding, and breakout sessions reflected a diversity of issues facing practitioners. A special pre-conference workshop by Australian Bob Williams on systems approaches prepared us to think about levels and boundaries - from the individual to society, across multiple stories and spaces, and across paradigms and practices.

Sessions included discussion of conceptualizations and approaches to trauma, unintended consequences of peacebuilding and reconciliation, historical trauma, race-based stress, systemic police-community violence, trauma and resilience in Native communities, reconciliation in the face of harm, lessons learned in trauma and community healing, narratives and stories, and building resilience. Formats included panels, workshops, a poster session, two photo exhibits, and keynote addresses. One highlight was the keynote talk by Dr. Judith Herman, of Harvard Medical School. Renowned for her work on both personal and political trauma, and considered by many to be the "mother" of trauma studies, Dr. Herman delivered a rich talk on "The Meanings of Justice to Trauma Survivors." Keynote talks were also delivered by Dr. Monnica Williams, Bob Williams, Dr. Theresa Betancourt, and Dr. David Anderson Hooker.

In addition to this conference representing an opportunity to cross-pollinate among related fields, it was also a chance to expand participation to a larger group and to include incoming, younger scholars and practitioners. In addition to professionals and scholars, graduate students from all the sponsoring programs (CRI, Disaster Psychology), as well as from International Studies, attended in significant numbers, and our conference staff included several hard-working student volunteers from these programs.

Check out the agenda, proceedings and pictures from the conference HERE!