The Peacebuilding Podcast : From Conflict To Common Ground
Ep 49: Peter Coleman - Hurdles and Hope: Reflections on the Role of Gender

Ep 49: Peter Coleman - Hurdles and Hope: Reflections on the Role of Gender

October 5, 2021

Such a delight to re-connect to my colleague from many moons ago – Peter Coleman – who, just for the record, is not my relative.

Our paths crossed beginning sometime around 1995, at the International Center for Cooperation and Conflict Resolution, the “ICCCR” at Teacher’s College, Columbia University, where we worked together on many cool initiatives until I left around 2003.

My partner Ellen Raider, with whom I had been delivering intercultural negotiation programs around the world, brought me into the Center after connecting with Mort Deutsch – who is often referred to as a grandfather of conflict resolution, and perhaps the grandfather of conflict resolution in the west.

At the Center, Ellen and I created the first certificate program in conflict resolution at Teacher’s College – which included collaborative negotiation, mediation and then a growing list of related and interesting skill sets like using large group processes to resolve conflict and create systemic culture change.

At the time of my arrival, Peter was a graduate student, Mort Deutsche’s protégé – and I watched him rise to where he is today as head of the center and now a well respected social psychologist and researcher in the field of conflict resolution and sustainable peace -- probably best known for his work on intractable conflict.

Prompted by the publication of his new book, The Way Out: How to Overcome Toxic Polarization, I asked Peter to join me on the podcast for a conversation -- and draw from his book, his work, his life (anything that he felt was most relevant) to address the role of gender, gender equality, gender transformation, and its connection to building a more peaceful, democratic and sustainable world. 

He agreed and we had a great conversation which we bring to you now.

As those of you who have followed me on this podcast know I -- along with many --believe that getting gender “right”, the role of gender, moving beyond outdated patriarchal structures, is THE foundational challenge to building a much more peaceful, sustainable and pleasurable planet for humanity and other living creatures

By way of example, allow me to repeat the poignant and on target words of Shabana Basij-Rasikh, who is the co-founder and president of a School of Leadership for women in Afghanistan who said recently in the Washington Post:

"Educated girls grow to become educated women, and educated women will not allow their children to become terrorists. The secret to a peaceful and prosperous Afghanistan is no secret at all: It is educated girls."

That statement makes me want to cry. What a tragic but accurate comment after the countless lives lost, the total pain for so many Afghans now, and the trillions my country just wasted in our two decades of war in Afghanistan the costs of which were so intelligently tracked by The Costs of War project who we had on this podcast a while back.

Using military or policing force is not generally the best solution to conflict – genuinely meeting people’s needs is.

It’s not that complicated.

But moving beyond the money that drives the choice of using force is complicated, and we need to figure this out like, yesterday.

So, here are some of what I call my “favorite frames” from Peter’s and my conversation:

  • Reminiscing about our early years at the ICCCR – and a moment when we had a room filled with teachers, guidance counselors, principals from all the approximately 188 New York City schools – the largest school system in the country and perhaps the world, convened to learn critical negotiation and conflict resolution skills. It was awesome;

  • The seeds that were planted in Peter to do a life’s work in the field of peace and conflict – his reflections on himself as a 7-year-old, the influence of being raised by women, turbulent times in Chicago, the presence of Martin Luther King, the “macro-worry” that began to build in his young awareness of social justice issues and the related conflict about them;

  • A conference he convened to change the conversation from ‘negative’ peace – like addressing violence prevention and atrocity mitigation to ‘positive peace’ – like creating communities that will foster harmonious relations in which destructive conflict is far less likely to erupt. Similar to why I moved from doing more traditional mediation to more “upstream” organizational mediation, using organization development methodologies, or getting conflicting parties to focus on the positive thing they are trying to create v. the negative thing they are trying to avoid or, like in the health field, focusing on what creates health and allows humans to flourish rather than having a disease orientation. An energy follows where we place our attention kind of idea — which is super important.

    Anyway, Peter’s conclusion was that the conference was a huge failure because no one wanted to talk about positive peace with the exception of Doug P. Fry, who we also recently interviewed on this podcast.

  • And, another frame, how at that same conference he had invited Abby Disney – the creator of the amazing film series Women War and Peace, who kept raising her hand and saying, I don’t want to be the gadfly but – how can we talk about the mitigation of violence without talking about gender and men and their role in this?

  • Peter and I shared our appreciation of Sebastian Junger’s 2016 book, Tribe, where he reported a profound observation of how early American settlers that had been captured by native tribes, when given the opportunity to return to the European colonies did not want to go back, without exception, because they preferred their lives among native communities;

  • And the frame that most stands out to me, and unfortunately is a discouraging one. Peter tells the tale of working with the amazing Leymah Gbowee, who I have mentioned many times on this podcast, to create a Women Peace and Security program at Columbia, that would provide technical and financial resources to some amazing younger women I think mostly from Africa who have been doing peacebuilding work. Like the badass Riya Yuyada who I interviewed a while back on this podcast. In spite of the huge need for the program and the thousands of applications to it, the program sadly is closing this year. And that’s in spite of the fact that Leymah is Leymah, an amazing woman, a Nobel Laureate, and if you don’t know who I’m talking about, watch Pray the Devil Back to Hell a documentary created by Abbie Disney about how Leymah and other women, a way that only women could pull off, brought an end to the Liberian civil war.

    The program was not able to raise the $25,000,000 needed to keep the program open in perpetuity, a paltry sum given the amount of money that is flying around on this planet. And this was in spite of the fact that you couldn’t have a more compelling person spearheading the program – the poster child of the Melinda Gates foundation of Oprah.

    And that’s not because of any shortcomings on Leymah’s part but much more about where our level of consciousness about what’s going to create a world that we all want to live in for the next number of centuries. It’s a fact that reinforces my belief that we women really need to get our ovaries together when it comes to money and how it’s spent. As I mentioned in my episode about women money and power with Barbara Stanny Huson, women, at least in the US and maybe even globally are coming into huge financial resources, some say will have the majority of the financial resources in the 21st century. This is undoubtedly mostly white women in the US, sitting on so much dough that if we chose to actually use it in powerful ways we could really make a big diff to the world our kids are inheriting. As Barbara said, and I say now, Women’s issues with using and taking charge of the resources we have little to do with our capacity and a lot to do with our ambivalence about power. So many of us still want men to take care of money for us and we have to stop doing this.

Anyway, there are many more great frames from this conversation with Peter including insights about women and negotiation, social constructs about “the masculine”, “the feminine” and war, whether or not getting rid of binary gender pronouns is a peace movement, and --what it’s been like for him -- as a white, tall, good looking dude working in a cauldron of conversation around conflict, peace, social justice and identity.

So thank you Peter, and hope you all enjoy this rich episode.

Ep 48: Rabia Roberts - Herstory, Part B

Ep 48: Rabia Roberts - Herstory, Part B

January 28, 2021

Dear Podcast Friends,

Happy 2021!

We came so close in the United States of America.

We came right up to the edge, looking into a very deep and bleak abyss. 

But we didn’t fall in, we pulled ourselves back, and democracy – at least to the extent we have realized it --  has prevailed. I, along with so many of my fellow citizens, am thrilled.

I have not generally been a person to wave the flag of the U.S. and tout our exceptionalism, though I love my country like I love my family.

I was one of those kids that resisted saying the Pledge of Allegiance as early as 14 because I was already very aware of what my country was doing in Southeast Asia. Fast forward to this podcast, I am all too aware that the U.S. spends more on our military than the next 10 countries combined, and uses our military might to dominate the world in very much the same way the wealthy have used our police to dominate poor black neighborhoods to keep assets pouring into the hands of a small, mostly white, male few of Wall Streeter types  – some of them my family members.

But today I feel more patriotic and proud of my country than ever before.

It feels like we have just gone through a hazing, a reckoning and perhaps Donald Trump has done us a favor to wake us up. Like the saying goes – it takes a lot of pounding to create a good bar of steel.

I read a book a long while back called the People of the Lie by M. Scott Peck, the same guy who wrote The Road Less Traveled if you remember it. The premise of the book is that lies are the core of human evil. 

Seeing ourselves clearly -- as a person, as a country, as a world -- is the beginning of healing and real positive change. As we say in the gestalt world -- awareness works: It’s a paradox that change happens most quickly when we can by see the fullness of 'what is' in the present moment.

A few weeks back, when the run-off elections in the State of Georgia tipped the balance in the U.S. Senate to a Democratic majority I tweeted:

I am so deeply moved by what has just happened in Georgia. Thank you Stacy Abrams. Change Georgia, change the country, change the world. 

And “bing” -- I immediately got a like from a young woman in Asia who is an activist for democracy in her own country. 

I love how connected we are, and how movements for justice and democracy inspire each other around the world. 

After living with the Trump administration for the last four year that used bullying and the fantasy of a lost, white, Christian and patriarchal America, it was so super moving to  see, in the words of one of my friends

“A glorious display of inclusivity including all the raw feminine power. . .  -- How bright & radiant”

and knowing that that was brought about, in part, by the activism of so many of us, of which I am proud to be a part.  One turning point was on January 21, 2017, when women, with our pussy hats on, marched on Washington in the largest single-day protest in American history that dwarfed Trump’s inauguration numbers of the previous day.  

So, I am feeling optimistic, but there is so much to do and the climate clock is ticking 

The contribution I have chosen to make toward a deeper democracy is focusing on empowering women by building our negotiation capacity, and showcasing through the podcast some cool content about interventions to build common ground in complex systems. 

One CAN bring very polarized groups, even warring factions, together to build common ground.

I have done it.

I have seen it.

But so many of our world governments, including my own, are still so steeped in win-lose, adversarial, “power-struggle” methodologies, egged on by a media that leads with what bleeds. Making better use of the collaborative – and yes, more feminine – processes we know work would help us become less polarized, and more creative and relational. Humans are very capable of dealing with complexity and problem solving if given the right process “containers”. 

Power over v power with. . .

Win-lose, win-win. . .

Both of these have big gender implications.

On the podcast front, I’ve been frustrated with how slow I am to get episodes out. There are so many I would like to do, so many cool people to interview – but like so many solo “socialpreneurs” like myself, there is the issue of bandwidth and making a living.

This fall, I put together a six-week, virtual course called Women, Negotiation & Power which was thrilling. I will launch an even better version of that course in March so stay tuned, please enroll, or send people my way. Check out this testimonial video here

I am also super excited by my growing audience of women whose stories and struggles I am hearing either through my online courses, or individual or group coaching. So thank you.  I am here to serve you and make the best content I can for women around negotiation, and for this podcast. 

Getting gender right is delicate -- just like democracy. 

Patriarchy tends to cut humans in half and say that men can be this way, and women can be that. What is happening is people are becoming more fully human, and being allowed to develop themselves fully, not just according to gender roles, or reconnect, for example, to what it means be a woman and not have the divinity in that taken out in any way. This is exciting, and this will create a more peaceful world.

As Carol Gilligan so aptly said feminism is the movement to free democracy from patriarchy

We have a lot of work to do because honestly the model of so many things is still fundamentally the man, supported by the woman. 

It’s gonna be weird, but it’s gonna happen in the U.S. soon enough, that a woman becomes our next president with or without an intimate partner standing beside her.

It's gonna feel uncomfortable and probably unnatural to many because it is uncharted territory in the U.S. though so many other countries around the world are leading the way.

So how did we get to this moment in time, to all those colorful flags and empowered women and people on the Capital steps of the U.S., a young black woman, a descendant of slaves, delivering the inaugural poem and declaring her unabashed desire to be President of the U.S. someday?

I think it has come from untangling narratives that are untrue.

For me, that has defined so much of the work I have done to grow as a human. 

Seeing ourselves clearly v. the stories we have made up, 

Discovering truth v. lies or fictions like

  • the election was stolen from Donald Trump
  • women came from the rib of Adam, that
  • my brother was more valuable than I was from the moment of birth.

These are all untruths, but powerful narratives that have big consequences.

So in part B of Herstory, Rabia continues to unpack our human history, herstory, from the perspective of women.

Read the full blog here.

Ep 47: Rabia Roberts - Herstory, Part A

Ep 47: Rabia Roberts - Herstory, Part A

September 23, 2020

Dear Podcast Friends, 

I took a hiatus this summer from high-speed internet and went to the “boonies” which was great for making progress on my book, Women, Negotiation & Power (stay tuned), but made podcasting virtually impossible. Indeed, I discovered quickly how much high-speed internet is running our lives – those of us with access to it – in both good and bad ways. It was good to take a break, to slow down, disconnect. I found myself very happy, but also glad to come back and be a part of our digital revolution once again.

Being off the grid allowed me some good reflection time. Perhaps because as I age there is less time ahead of me than behind, I find myself looking backwards at the big things that have shaped me and my culture. For instance, it was determined at the moment of my birth that I would be more dependent and less powerful than the men in my family simply because I was a girl. Shaking off that type of conditioning takes some doing – for all of us. And, however inspired the words of our Founding Fathers (U.S.)  “all men are created equal”, it’s clear from historians that the founders were really just referring to propertied, white men like themselves, a crack in the foundation that is revealing itself and reverberating in movements like #metoo and #blacklivesmatter. The irony for those founders, products of their time, was that many of them were slave owners who also could not entertain the suggestions from both their wives and the Native Americans who inspired the fledgling U.S. democracy to include women in the process of forming it.

So, in keeping with looking backwards and the big things that still reverberate, I'm super excited to bring you my current podcast episode, HerStory. HerStory Part A (and Parts B and C coming soon) will go back to the very beginning of humanity and tell the story of human evolution through the eyes of a woman. Perhaps that past seems ancient or irrelevant to you but, as my guest Rabia Roberts puts it “once you start studying things like neuroscience and how long it takes the brain to develop, you being to understand that pathways get laid down long ago that still have a great influence on us.”

These recordings are actually classes that Rabia gave to a group of women in Boulder, Colorado in 2017. They're just super excellent and not to be missed which is why I am including them here. I will release them one each month for the next three months, HerStory, Parts A, B and C. I think you'll find so much useful information, and Rabia is an amazingly intelligent, sophisticated, and light spirit.

Rabia was on our show in 2017. As you will see, her description of herself as an activist, who loves to be a scholar is pretty darn accurate. For the past 50 years, she's been deeply engaged in what she describes as the three great movements of our time: social justice, peace, and environmental action. Rabia has lived and worked in places as diverse as Iraq, Syria, Burma, Thailand, Jordan, Iran, Israel, Palestine, Brazil and Afghanistan. Her unique experience yields a rich harvest of insights relevant to the challenges facing us. 

HerStory was intended to be a series of seven classes or so, but unfortunately after number three, Rabia has had constant medical challenges which has slowed her down. I’m hoping this podcast release might inspire her to continue, even if just in this type of audio format v. a real class. 

Rabia got into this project because of  “the need for global feminine leadership, and the fact that patriarchy won't die”. This was to be her legacy for women and girls. In her words

“HerStory is a great empowering story of who we women are, how it has been misunderstood and how women have the unique qualities and skills to bring our country together and our democracy forward. In fact, I believe only a woman will be able to heal and lead us into the future. Only women have the needed capacities and skills to bring men and women, people together. And history gives the evolutionary reasons why this is so.”

This first episode, Part A, covers the human story from 13.6 billion years ago, basically the beginning, to about 40,000 years ago. In it, Rabia gifts us with so many incredible insights.

The following is just a few of my “favorite frames”.

The first is what she calls the enormous femininity of making something out of nothing, what cosmologist and scientist Brian Swimme calls “the great effulgence” commonly known as the Big Bang.  One of our first principles of our beginnings was differentiation, “that everything differentiated, nothing was the same. It wasn't a pile of gas that evolved, it was differentiated beings, differentiated things.” Rabia points out that differentiation is one of the main principles in us and “when we try to establish monocultures or mono races, we are working against the fundamental principles of Earth, and ourselves. Monocultures ruined our food and trying to have one race is ruining our civilization.”

The second is that mammals began for a long time with cloning -- XX  -- females of species from insects to the apes reproducing themselves. For those of us who grew up with Adam and Eve, of course, this shows a tale turned upside down: Adam and Eve was completely backwards. The male evolved from female, not vice versa. It’s crazy how so many of our traditions attribute our beginnings to a God the Father, a male with no reproductive capacity at all.

Another frame is especially relevant to the search for peace and the need for women to not abdicate our power. The evolution of the Xy chromosome, the male, brought much needed biological diversity, but also more violence from the testosterone needed to get DNA into the female. Rabia goes on to say that while women can be violent and competitive, the male half of our species creates most of the violence in both intimate and larger systems. She shares insights from other large mammals that she has studied – whales and elephants -- who also deal with the same challenges of male violence, and how the female of those species handle it -- Women take note!

I like her tales of the bonobos, our equally-distant cousins to the chimpanzees. The bonobos are led by females, and if a male gets aggressive, they go have sex. They are, according to the particular biologist that Rabia was studying, the sexiest creatures known – males having sex with females, males with males, females with females, young and old, a lot of sex going on, and no aggression. As the saying of an earlier generation had it – make love, not war.

Another frame is just how resilient we have been as a species, how our ancestors have survived two major ice ages and so much more. One of the key reasons for our resilience was the hunter gatherer females who were, Rabia says from her research, “probably the most skilled human beings that ever existed on the planet, with the ability to kill animals to hear a snake in the brush to see a saber toothed lion to smell climate change days in advance, all while keeping her eye on her children. I mean, the working mom goes a long way back, like from always.”

Finally “the oldest grave that is known about with decorations and shells all over the parks and around it was a little girl. It wasn't a big Chief. It doesn't seem like male chiefs were any more decorated than the females that were found.” 

In this episode, Rabia is pointing her audience to a timeline. I've put that timeline on this page, as well as the original YouTube video if you would like to refer to that. I’ve also included here Rabia’s introduction to her Waking Up Together series which I like very much.

So my dear subscribers, I hope in the midst of all this craziness, you get a chance to listen to this episode. It has changed the way I see the world and I’m sure it will do the same for you.

Ep 46: Susan Coleman and Dean Foster - Culture, Gender and Negotiation

Ep 46: Susan Coleman and Dean Foster - Culture, Gender and Negotiation

July 7, 2020

As you know, I believe that empowering women, getting gender right on the planet, is the most impactful peacebuilding initiative we humans can undertake. Thus, one of my main initiatives these days focuses on building women's skill in negotiation. I'm super excited to say that I just completed my first online offering of what I call the mini-workshop series on women, negotiation and power. I had 14 participants, a great group from around the world that gathered weekly on zoom (thank God for zoom) for about a month. As always, I appreciated the diversity in the group. From national origin or current residence, folks were from the UK, South Sudan, Russia, Australia, Colombia, Morocco, Yangon, the United States (East and West Coast) and, notably to me, there was a lot of generational diversity.

For women, especially as we step into our leadership across the world, it feels to me critical that we are talking to each other across nation, tribe AND across age. We have a lot to learn from each other.

Most excitedly for me, I think participants got the connection between how we negotiate in our individual lives, in our families, in our workplaces, — and what is happening on the world stage. I can feel the power of a cohort of women who understand collaboration in the face of conflict, and how to use it for our own benefit and in our leadership in the world around us. If you or anyone you know is interested in staying tuned to this initiative, you can put your name on my Women, Negotiation and Power blog list here.

In this current episode, on negotiation, gender and culture, I talked with my colleague and return guest, Dean Foster of

Dean has extremely stellar credentials in the field of cross-cultural communication, has worked with most major Fortune 500 companies, pretty much every cultural group on Earth, national governments, the UN etc. He is an author, speaker, and I like this — a “cultural concierge”.

Dean and I go way back and cut our teeth together with Ellen Raider and Ellen Raider International who was one of the first to teach intercultural negotiation around the world. Dean went on to quote-unquote “major” in cross-cultural communication with a quote-unquote “minor” in negotiation, and I went on to “major” in negotiation and collaborative processes, with a “minor” in intercultural communication.

Negotiation is a very culture-bound concept: Indeed, you can't really think about negotiation without considering culture. And certainly for women in many cultures, cultural norms clamp our mouths shut — we just can't negotiate period. For example, I had a client — a young woman from China that I was with in Seoul — and she was saying, “I love this material.” (We were doing a collaborative negotiation skills course.) “But I can't negotiate at home: I just do what I'm told. And actually, all the money I earn from my job, it goes to my brother.”

What do I mean by culture? It's often commonly thought of as artifacts, music, etc. I'll call that “high culture”. What we're talking about here is what goes on below the iceberg, if you will, what's happening in the deep root system of the tree, what I'll call “worldview”. Geert Hofstede, who was a Dutch researcher in the area, and whose thinking I've used over the years, defined culture as the “collective programming of the mind that distinguishes the members of one human group from another.” It’s like a group personality, if you will. Culture is to a group what personality is to an individual.

And culture is just the way that different humans on the planet have come up with the challenges and opportunities of living on our particular section of the globe.

In this episode, I wanted to explore with Dean a question that I started thinking about as I was writing my book on women and negotiation, which hopefully will be coming soon. He and I have shared with audiences for years the variables that research highlights as differentiating national cultural groups — like individualism, uncertainty, attitudes towards time, attitudes towards authority (often known as power distance), task versus quality of life orientation, things like that.

But how do these variables differ by gender within one cultural group?

If in one country, where the dominant cultural norm shows up as highly individualistic, does that mean that if the men and women were looked at as subgroups, they would be equally, highly individualistic?

So that's what we're going to talk about here. How does gender impact the cultural variables that research has identified? And we're going to do this just based on our own empirical evidence, our experience over the years of working in this area.

One other thing, this episode was recorded right at the beginning of the outbreak of the coronavirus in the US, but before the killing of George Floyd and the ensuing protests about racial justice and police brutality which then rippled around the world. From working all over the globe, one of the things that I've learned about us humans is that we are much more alike than we are different. That's true of nations, tribes, genders, all of it. We have the same categories of needs — physical, security, belonging, etc., the same categories of feelings — mad, sad, glad, etc.

But how these manifest is impacted by culture.

It may seem simple to say, but simple stuff is often most worth saying, and ever more important to emphasize in our shrinking and contentious world, that when you create a climate that is collaborative across difference, that allows people to meet their basic needs, you don't need coercive and violent police, and you don't need a hyper-militarized planet either. When you build a collaborative climate in a family, a team, a group or a world, you do not get or you greatly minimize “groupo- centrism”, my elegant word for identity-group polarization. You do not need to dominate one cultural group with another. You do not need to put trillions into weapons especially when that money is so sorely needed to heal our declining planet.

But understanding cultural differences is super important and super rich, and makes life much more interesting. So, if you are someone who has followed the cross cultural literature, or even if you have not, I know you will enjoy this conversation, about culture and gender.

We believe we have raised more questions than we have answered but perhaps someone listening will get inspired and do some welcome research in the area.

If you have any thoughts on our conversation, we'd love to you to share them in the comment section of our podcast blog below.

Ep 45: Kristina Lunz: A Feminist Foreign Policy

Ep 45: Kristina Lunz: A Feminist Foreign Policy

April 28, 2020

If my country, the United States, were to adopt a feminist foreign policy, I believe there would be a major, positive shift on this planet. I tweeted that sentiment after interviewing my current guest, Kristina Lunz.  I was a little nervous about doing it. I’m not sure exactly why.  Speaking your truth is always a little scary, especially for us women. But I got a lot of likes on Twitter from men and women alike. That was interesting to see.

What is a feminist foreign policy? I will let Kristina mostly answer this question because she will do it much better than I. But I will say at the outset that, like this podcast, it supports processes and leadership that build common ground rather than dividing and polarizing people. It emphasizes more of the win-win, less win-lose to resolve differences.

Frankly, the egocentric “I want it now and it's your fault that I can't get it”, the “blame game”, is wearing super thin on me. This includes the drumming up of conflict and zero-sum thinking, and attacking people to get your interests met as a style. It’s not just developmentally juvenile, it’s plain dangerous, especially if the person using it has a lot of power. And its end-game is a homogeneous world where one dominant cultural group, often white straight men, are on top, with the rest of us supporting them and dependent on them for handouts and our survival.  I know I’m not interested in that, and I know so many others -- men, women, people  -- who are not either.

This podcast advocates empowering women, not just because it's an end in itself, which it is, but because it's the most powerful way to get to a more peaceful and sustainable planet for all of us.  To begin with, you can only have real democracy when you have real democracy starting at home — and better sex too, by the way.

I hope you've noticed that what the countries with the best coronavirus responses have in common is that they are run by women. This is not because there aren't many great men leaders out there, but because these women are probably more effortlessly bringing the quality of collaboration to the table which is so sorely needed on the planet right now.  My greatest wish for the silver lining of this pandemic is that it deeply underscores our interdependence and need to further develop our collaborative skills.  As Kurt Lewin, a grandfather of social psychology said long ago, everyone understands authority, but democracy is a learned behavior.

The Centre for Feminist Foreign Policy (CFFP) was co- founded by my current guest, Kristina Lunz. It's an international research and advocacy organization, was established in 2016, and is dedicated to promoting feminist foreign policy across the globe. The problem CFFP addresses is outdated, patriarchal structures, and their vision is to create an intersectional approach to foreign policy globally.

Kristina tells me that research shows that…

"The most significant factor toward whether a country is peaceful within its own borders or towards other countries is the level of gender equality. So, if that's true, it's pretty easy. It just means that there won't be any peace without feminism."

Kristina is an award-winning human rights activist, co-founder and Germany Director of the Center for Feminist Foreign Policy and advisor to the German Federal Foreign Office. She was also recently named on the Forbes 30 Under 30 list. She graduated with distinction from University College London School of Public Policy, and did a second Masters at the Oxford Department of International Development in diplomacy. Her activism started at Oxford and has continued ever since.

I've learned so much from doing this episode and talking to Kristina. Here are a few of the many things that stand out:

  • I spent years traveling to The Hague to provide intercultural negotiation skills programs for ICTY, the UN’s International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia), but wasn't aware until now that 100 years ago, during the First World War, about 1500 women came to the Hague from many parts for the International Congress for Women. They called for an end to the First World War and to establish a set of resolutions to avoid another World War. These included, for example, the dismantling of the military-industrial complex, the prioritization of mediation for conflict resolution, and the democratization of foreign policy, reverberations of themes which have motivated me throughout my life.  History is always so interesting.

  • I found it deeply moving that Sweden describes its government as “feminist” and created the first feminist foreign policy (for modern times) in 2014. This was followed by Canada, followed by Mexico. Check out the CFFP website to see the history of feminist foreign policy. It shows what's possible.

  • I found it interesting to hear about the actor, Emma Watson's conversation with the academic Valerie Hudson, and the latter's new book called The First Political Order: How Sex Shapes Governance and National Security Worldwide. I can’t wait to read it and hope to get Hudson on the podcast soon. In reading the transcript of that conversation, I learned from Emma Thompson that I can refer to myself as “self-partnering” rather than “single”. I’ve enjoyed my journey of the last 10 years living without a partner, though I've dated some wonderful guys. Self-partnering somehow struck me as empowering because living without the protection of a guy can still feel frightening to so many women around the world, myself included.

So I'll stop there and let you listen to Kristina Lunz, a woman who is really on fire, and is going to do a lot to contribute to our common great future.

Ep 44: Deborah Heifetz and Martha Eddy: Reclaiming the Female Body for Power in Negotiation

Ep 44: Deborah Heifetz and Martha Eddy: Reclaiming the Female Body for Power in Negotiation

April 9, 2020

Wow, what strange, nerve-racking and global times we are living in. This pandemic certainly underscores for me how interdependent we all are and how important it is – MORE THAN EVER – that we pull together to create a more livable, humane, pleasurable and sustainable world.  There is great power in where we place our attention – and we can focus on the positive world we are trying to create – the diamonds that form under great pressure, the lotus flower than blooms out of the muck.  To quote a signature message of this podcast (Pete Drucker) “The best way to predict the future is to create it.” 

Our podcast today focuses on negotiation skills for women, and the body. This topic evokes a lot in me.  In fact, the night before I recorded it, I woke up at three in the morning and wrote down these thoughts. 

• First, that (as my last guest Thomas Hubl suggested), “the feminine” is the body;

• That my body didn't belong to me for a lot of my life;

• That my sexuality also didn't belong to me until I did a lot of work to reclaim it;

• Regarding the phrases “I want” and “I need”, which are so important in negotiation and conflict resolution -- I wasn't supposed to have wants, and I'm not sure about needs either. As a girl in my family, I was supposed to serve, and I was supposed to accommodate;

• It was hard for me to have a clear connection to my “yes” and particularly to my “no”. And, if not connected to your “no”, it can be difficult to walk away from a negotiation -- which is fundamental to power;

• I didn't feel safe claiming value, a popular negotiation concept, because I was taught so deeply that I was supposed to let a man do that; 

• Though, throughout the course of my life I have cleared out a lot of unhelpful acculturation, I'm aware of the depth with which these ideas still live in my body.

My two guests in this episode, Dr. Deborah Heifetz and Dr. Martha Eddy, are both dancers and embodiment conflict resolution experts. Among other cool things about Deborah, she served as a special advisor to the crisis management team of the Israeli police and acted in Track II Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. She currently lives in northern Italy where, with her husband and other Italian changemakers, they are working to have their geo- region become a prototype for human scale, community-based sustainable development.

Martha is an author, researcher and worldwide lecturer on somatics (i.e. the body as experienced from within), peace and violence prevention and the role of the body in negotiation. She lives with her family in New York City.

As I recounted my 3a.m. thoughts to the two of them, Martha shook her head in agreement. As someone who is so deeply experienced with the body, she affirmed that my reality is pretty universal to women. She’s not aware of many, if not any cultures that uplift the strength and value of the female, such that the female body, or our experience as females in the body, comes forth as power automatically. It's like “swimming upstream to find our power and reclaim it” she says.

For Deborah, the first trauma she experienced was being born female.  She had three older brothers, a very patriarchal father and mother, and felt inherently less valuable. She says, “ I was the whipped cream on the cake, but I didn't want to be the whipped cream, I wanted to be the cake. I wanted to be where the action was, where the real politic was.”

In talking about the inspiration for her work, Martha talks about the influence of her gender-fluid parents, her father who had sexual relations with men and liked gardening, her mother who liked to shoot out windows with her BB gun, and her very sensitive brother, who was not allowed to be the way he was in the very macho and rough climate of Spanish Harlem in New York City.

Deborah says “the body is the central location for social change -- that it all begins with the body.” Martha concretely observes that young women who literally can pull their own body weight up, have a different kind of agency, a different kind of ability to self protect. We women  “need to self-assert, without hiding, to step, forward to stand up. These words mean something” she says.

Please enjoy these two unique voices and share with us in the comments below “What is your experience of the body in negotiation?”

Ep 43: Thomas Hübl: Healing Collective Trauma

Ep 43: Thomas Hübl: Healing Collective Trauma

January 13, 2020
One of the things I love most about doing this podcast is I get to spend time with, and really "tune in" to some amazing people.

Thomas Hubl is one of them.

Thomas is a contemporary spiritual teacher – sometimes referred to as a modern mystic.

His teaching combines somatic awareness, advanced meditation and transformational practices that address both individual and collective trauma.

I was introduced to him through my friend and colleague Amy Fox and affiliation with Mobius Executive Leadership.  He was working with a group of us organizational consulting types bringing the wisdom traditions to the world of work.  I also participated in the online course he created with celebrated negotiation expert William Ury – Mediate and Mediate

Thomas’ presence is incredibly light, smart, and deep and always seems to elicit in me an inner smile. He’s never afraid to tackle the difficult stuff and does it by listening, as he says, with “eyes all over his body”.  It’s a whole body listening practice I have adopted from him.

In the short time I have known him, I have seen his visibility grow rapidly around the globe.

He is a master with:

  • Building community
  • Managing projection and his own authority in groups
  • Somatics
  • Epigenetics 
  • and the specifc topic of this podcast, Healing Collective Trauma
As my listeners know, I started this podcast because there is a “process crisis” in the world – we use too much win-lose, debate-based processes to deal with our differences, and the media just loves it. Win-lose processes are certainly better than use-of-force but, because they are win-lose, they can lead to use-of-force quickly -- as we can see from looking around the globe. They are not relational, they are patriarchal in origin and they dumb down us humans in terms of how incredibly capable we are of managing complexity and building common ground with each other given the right container and good facilitation.

I wanted to interview Thomas because of the large group processes he has designed -- for up to 1000 people at a time -- to heal collective trauma.

This kind of work truly excites me.

As Thomas says “we have all been born into a collectively traumatized field and collective trauma needs collective healing.”

While I have never personally experienced one of Thomas large group processes, I can tell how amazing they are because of how many large group process I have led and participated in.  He started this work about 15 years ago under the banner of what he calls the Pocket Project and has brought together thousands of Germans and Israelis to acknowledge, face and heal the cultural shadow left by the Holocaust. 

He has then gone on to do processes in other parts of the world addressing the various “scars” of humanity that exist everywhere.

The other day, I was talking to a very close friend who is now about 50, grew up in Germany and lives in the United States. I know her struggles well, her desire to break out and manifest what I call a culture-shifting entrepreneurial enterprise. Without knowing I was working on the post production of this episode with Thomas, she started sharing with me her heightened awareness that the only way she was going to move forward was to unfreeze the past – that there is an “absent”, “nowhere” feel to her and her entire generation of Germans, and how much she suspects now that WWII was a direct result of all the undigested trauma of WW1.  

I felt the same kind of absence in Beirut when I was there a few decades back, and a similar awareness in myself about how I have had to unfreeze and feel the sexual trauma from my past in order to heal it and stop it from recycling to the next generation.

To quote Thomas in this episode... 

"The past doesn’t just disappear. The past needs to be digested".
"Many of the conflicts we see in the world are actually wounds that break open again, that show up again in different forms” because they have not been processed or digested.

So Thomas' processes are about exactly that – digesting and processing those scars around the globe we humans have created so they do not need to recycle themselves. It’s like a chimney cleaning he says. The more you do it the cleaner it gets, the less reactivity people experience, the more they are able to come fully into the present no longer triggered by unseen ghosts in their beings.

This resonates with my gestalt training and specifically the "paradoxical theory of change" – that the only way to “change” is to integrate fully the “what is” -- to embrace the shadow and the alienated parts of the self or system.

And, Thomas recommends, to do this kind of work in community, with solid facilitation, and presence. 

Throughout the interview, we touched on patriarchy as a collective trauma, the thousands of years patriarchal structures have been in place, their connection to war, the woman’s holocaust in Europe where millions were burned at the stake for practicing witchcraft, the challenges for women to release our codependent conditioning and step fully into our leadership and power. “Yes”, Thomas agrees, “#metoo was a trauma eruption”. I am left with a desire to create a large group process with him to address it as I believe it is the core trauma of all the other "traumas of domination.

So please give a listen, share widely if you can, write a comment on our blog here and learn more about Thomas here

P.S. For great content on Women, Negotiation and Power,  join our list here or follow us on Facebook at for our latest updates.

P.P.S. Listen as Susan talks about the motivation behind starting this podcast.

Important References / Links
William Ury -
Amy Fox -
Mobius Executive Leadership -
Meditate and Mediate -

Ep 42: Riya Yuyada: Crown the Woman

Ep 42: Riya Yuyada: Crown the Woman

November 18, 2019

Some of the more interesting assignments I have had in recent years have been with the United Nations peacekeeping missions -- four times in S Sudan and once a few months ago in the Central African Republic. It’s hard not to notice that peacekeeping missions are often set up in countries that are plagued with what some call “the resource curse” – oil that brings with it conflict and often, in spite of its value, huge income disparities and violence.

But those of us who have worked with lots of conflict situations, also notice the phenomenon of "the lotus flower blooming out of the muck", or "diamonds being formed under great pressure".

In this episode, I am honored to bring you one of those diamonds, Riya Yuyada, a 28 year old bright and sassy woman who has known nothing but war and conflict in her native S. Sudan. Riya Yuyada fled S. Sudan as a baby and grew up in an IDP (internally displaced person) camp in nearby Uganda. In spite of the challenges of growing up in a refugee camp and then later living in the midst of a very “cold peace” in S Sudan with regular outbreaks of civil war, she has grown herself into an impressive young woman and built an organization called Crown the Woman.

Crown The Woman (CREW) is a “women founded and led nonprofit, non-governmental, non-political, humanitarian and national grassroots organization that aims at empowering girls and women to ensure they harness their potential and contribute to nation building economically, socially and politically. Established and registered in 2016 by concerned young South Sudanese women who realized the need to promote meaningful gender equality and equity as well as the need to recognize, appreciate, strengthen and empower women. CREW strives for realization and respect of women’s rights, enhancement of women’s security and the prioritization and provision of women’s basic needs. CREW has a special focus on investing in young women and children as the means of securing the future of South Sudan’s women in nation building and development.

Two themes that stand out to me from this episode.

The first is what I have concluded from doing this podcast for the last few years -- that the most impactful peacebuilding initiative we can undertake on this planet is to empower women – in our family, organizational and planetary systems. In the case of S Sudan and many countries like it that have been plagued by civil war, it means women equipping themselves to be part of the peace process – go Riya!! -- and men welcoming them in to sit alongside them at the negotiating table. For more on this, please go back to Ep 31 and my interview with Dr. Scilla Elworthy, A Business Plan for Peace. Peace agreements last longer by a lot when women are involved in the process.

The second theme is interdependence. From the affluent and island continent of the United States from where I write, it’s easy to think of S Sudan as a far off land. But, of course, as the famous environmentalist John Muir said, “when you pick up anything in the universe, you will find that it is connected to everything else". While I’m grateful for the oil that has heated my house and runs my car,  I’m also aware of its cost in the form of global conflict and its impact on the lives of people like Riya.  It’s felt good to move off of fossil fuels to solar and wind as much as I can. An important step not just create a cleaner world but a more peaceful one.

P.S. We are hard at work creating great on-line and live content on Women, Negotiation and Power,  join our list here or follow us on Facebook at for our latest updates.

P.P.S. Listen as Susan talks about the motivation behind starting this podcast.

Ep 41: Riane Eisler & Douglas P. Fry: Nurturing Our Humanity

Ep 41: Riane Eisler & Douglas P. Fry: Nurturing Our Humanity

October 16, 2019

Probably a deep reason I went into the field of conflict resolution long ago is that growing up as a girl in the heart of an affluent, male-dominated, Wall Street kind of culture meant that I had to reconcile deep love for the members of my family -- especially my powerful Dad -- and my resistance toward many of their views and behaviors.  In my fierce college days, I framed things as, my Dad was a “capitalist” whose clients supported the coup in Chile (they did), and  I --  deeply influenced by the raging American war in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, my new awareness of the hundreds of times the U.S. had intervened militarily into Latin America, and women’s studies -- declared myself a “radical socialist feminist”.

Now after many years of growing, ripening and getting tossed around by the currents of our human existence -- seeing the contradictions in lots of things and people -- I am less interested in polarities and much more interested in finding common ground, deeper dialogue, genuine contact between people, in spite of difference.

So, I would say now that perhaps I am part “capitalist” – a lover of innovation, entrepreneurship and creativity, part “socialist”, a firm believer in taking care of people’s basic needs and our planet, and the rest of me, well just rogue goddess -- wanting to move beyond what my next guest calls models of domination to those of true partnership.

Riane Eisler is well into her later years and is still generating unsurpassed insight and contribution into how we can live well together on this planet. I interviewed her first in Episode 28 (please give a listen), and said then and repeat now that she is one of the brightest lights and most innovative social thinkers out there.

What I have always liked the most is that she transcends the polarities of right v. left, capitalist v. socialist, religious v. secular, north v. south, -- “it’s useless”, she says, “because there have been repressive violent regimes in every one of these categories.”

Instead, her frame is models of partnership v. domination and a special emphasis on how gender shows up in both.

In my 20’s, when I first read her book, The Chalice and the Blade, it was such eureka moment that was then reinforced by Harvard social anthropologist William Ury in his book, Getting to Peace to learn that humans have not always been in a state of war and violence -- that, in fact, the vast majority of human existence on earth is characterized much more by what Riane calls models of partnership v. domination, or what Ury articulated as  2,500,000 years of possible coexistence to 10,000 years of coercion.

So many smart people that I talk to believe humans have always been violent, and that there has always been war. But, there’s a lot of evidence that this is just not true. And there is also plenty of evidence that during those times, men and women lived together as equals and that, in many societies, the Divine was often a revered goddess, and maybe even a super sexy one.

What Riane so clearly adds to this discussion is that all domination systems, whether they are left or right, are always characterized by rigid gender stereotypes.

“It's not coincidental”, she says, “that whether it was Hitler in Germany, or ISIS in the Middle East today, secular Western, religious Eastern, or the rightist fundamentalist alliance in the US, that a top priority is always getting back to this quote, ‘traditional family’. It's a code isn't it?” she says, “for authoritarian, rigidly male dominated, and highly punitive family.”  

Impetus for this current episode is Riane’s new book, Nurturing our Humanity: How Domination and Partnership Shape our Brains, Lives and Future which she has written with Douglas Fry. It’s a delight to get to know Doug through this episode. I knew of his work as an anthropologist, documenting earlier partnership societies and the gender balance within them.

Doug has a very special voice and perspective and I found his calm demeanor made me feel better and more hopeful about the world.

A couple of ideas they share that I especially like. . .

  • That gender is a key component to domination systems and is connected to the ranking of any human being over other groups whether it’s about  race, religion, sexual orientation. . . In other words, you get rid of gender ranking and you get rid of a lot of “isms”,

  • That as the status of women rises, men no longer find it such a threat to their status, masculinity or role to also embrace caring values like universal health care, generous paid parental leave and have the freedom to be more fully themselves . .

  • That in the partnership societies that Riane and Doug explore in the book:

    • there are the narrowest gender gaps

    • there is an investment in people starting from early childhood

    • there’s no homelessness

    • no violence (although certainly people lose is from time to time)

    • military budgets are just a few percentages of government spending (compared to $.57 on the dollar in the US)

    • they are always in the highest ranks of the global competitiveness indices

    • AND, perhaps the most important of all, people are the happiest!!

Go figure.

Hope you get a chance to listen to Riane and Doug. Tell us what you think below and please follow us on Podbean.

Ep 40: Saba Ismail: From Northwestern Pakistan to Global Leadership

Ep 40: Saba Ismail: From Northwestern Pakistan to Global Leadership

September 17, 2019

I like to think of myself as fairly courageous. In fact, one of my mottos (adopted from Barbara Stanny (Huson — an earlier guest on the show) is to “do something scary every day”. So, I readily take work assignments in war zones in Afghanistan, South Sudan and most recently the Central African Republic; I go backcountry skiing on glaciers in remote parts of Alaska; I try to be courageous with my own inner evolution — to keep growing as a human; to be honest with myself and others, speak truth to power and to keep doing what I can to create a more peaceful and sustainable planet.

But whatever courage I may have doesn't hold a candle to my current podcast guest, Saba Ismail, who grew up in Northwestern Pakistan, the most dangerous place on earth to be a woman. Saba and her sister, Gululai, and the well-known Malala, who comes from the same region (and was shot in the head simply for advocating for girls’ education), are speaking up in the face of many forces that would like to silence them and which would terrify me if I was confronted with the same. I'm glad I can give a platform on this podcast to young women like Saba, who now is 32.

Here are a few excerpts from her bio:
"Saba Ismail is a feminist, peace activist and is working for the empowerment of young women. At the age of 15, with other young women fellows, she co-founded “Aware Girls”, a young women-led organization working for empowering young women by strengthening their leadership. . .
The young women of Aware Girls engage in Countering Violent Extremism (or CVE) programs in which young people are persuaded to not join militant groups and instead create open spaces for dialogue, and promote nonviolence and pluralism in the community.

She was one of the first to convince the diplomatic community of the importance of including youth in building a more peaceful world.

Foreign Policy Magazine acknowledged her bravery and activism by recognizing her as one of 100 Leading Global Thinkers of 2013 and she has been acknowledged in the “30 under 30 Campaign by the “National Endowment for Democracy” for her long struggle for democracy, peace and women’s rights."

Here are some of my favorite "frames” of the episode:

  • She couldn't even talk -- First of all, a few months back when I first reached out to Saba, she didn't even feel she could talk to me because her sister was in hiding from the Pakistani military and things were just too dangerous to bring any more attention to the situation.
  • The Critical Role of Fathers -- Saba grew up in jihad, the influences were everywhere and as a young person she believed them. But when her father, a human rights activist, realized what she was bringing home from school, he intervened to make sure that all of his kids, especially his girls, were given information and education to counter the indoctrination. The critical role fathers play in the empowerment of their daughters is well-documented and I have experienced it personally:
    • when I was working with two factions of Kurds in northern Iraq and i suggested it might be good to have some women among the representatives, it was a father who insisted that his daughter join us even though her mother and grandmother were dead set against it;
    • when I had the privilege of working with the senior women leaders in the Afghan government, many of them shared with me that they would never be where they are without their father's support;
    • in Saba’s story, a father who really paved the way for her sister Gululai and her to make a real difference to their community and world;
      and finally, in my own life, my father who loved me a lot but was ambivalent about my professional success -- how much effort it has taken me to transcend his messages.
  • Advocating nonviolence in Madrassas -- Saba and Aware Girls going into the madrassas to convince young people that the Koran doesn’t support violence and jihad;
  • Pakistani Military -- the Pakistani military seem so hell bent on oppressing young women like Saba and her sister rather than recognizing them as the global peacebuilders that they are. I mean really!! What the heck!!
  • What Saba calls the #Metoo Movement of Pakistan -- the delegations of women, many illiterate, that traveled to the northwest of Pakistan in spite of great difficulty, to show solidarity with other women that were being harassed and defiled;
  • U.S. Supporting Military Solutions, not Aware Girls -- that my country so often supports authoritarian regimes like what currently exists in Pakistan rather than the development of young women and men like Saba. How our ‘war on terror”, rather than making the world safer, has led to way too many kids like Saba growing up in cultures of extremism, jihad and violence. Shame on us.

I hope you enjoy the episode.

Please share this episode to anyone you think it might interest, write a review wherever you get your podcasts -- they really help!!, and please stay tuned to our monthly releases of The Peacebuilding Podcast.

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