Addressing conflict through a grassroots process that puts people at the center and involves the whole community is a way to create lasting change — and the approach that’s the basis of the partnership between Rotary and Mediators Beyond Borders International.

MBBI collaborates with Rotary clubs and districts around the world on peacebuilding efforts. The group brings its expertise in a mediation process defined by community collaboration and empowerment, and Rotary lends its credibility, trust, and deeply rooted local knowledge.

In partnership, the organizations create opportunities for difficult dialogues and train local facilitators, with a special focus on increasing women leadership in mediation and peacebuilding.

“It’s a multiplier effect,” says Scott Martin, a founding member of MBBI and Rotary Peace Fellow. “Together, we ask, ‘Who else needs to be included,’ help affected parties connect to the humanity in each other and themselves and facilitate conversations that can be lifesaving.”

MBBI also works regularly with clubs to focus inwards, a program called ‘Peace Conversation Facilitation’ (PCF) that helps members discuss challenging topics, and builds consensus around issues that affect their respective communities.

“We can each hear about a problem and each have a different understanding of it,” Martin says. MBBI can help clubs move beyond talking about an issue to creating the kinds of engagement that are healthy and productive for everyone involved.

Conflict is “an essential part of the human experience,” Martin says. The key, however, is to not ignore or sidestep it, but to address it, keep it from escalating into violence, and learn from it. This can transform the energy that drives conflict into more inclusive, constructive interactions, and ultimately safer, more connected, and more prosperous communities.

Martin says Rotary’s focus on working alongside affected people, business leaders, and coalescing with communities as a whole is very much in keeping with this ethos. “The new vision for Rotary is inspiring,” he says. “It’s bringing about change among ourselves and in the community, and measuring that impact.”