Transform Lawrence

For me, the question has always been: “How can I use my conflict resolution and peace studies skills to help the communities I love so much?”

The following is my answer:

I am launching a community research project called Transform Lawrence to better understand the conflicts occurring in the City of Lawrence. Transform Lawrence uses the SenseMaker® approach to narrative research that I’ve been developing during my studies at the University for Peace.

Story collection: Lawrence community members will share their day-to-day experiences in the City of Lawrence for a period of three weeks beginning on February 9th and ending on March 1st. The goal is to collect at least 200 stories– about 10 stories a day.

Analysis: After the collection, I will conduct an initial analysis to uncover patterns in the way that the citizens of Lawrence make sense of conflicts in the city. This analysis will be made public via my blog.

Community Engagement: The final step is holding community meetings to discuss the results and possible solutions. The first workshops will occur in March and April depending on interest. If you are interested in helping organize a dialogue with the results of the data collection with your community or organization, please contact me so that we can plan together!

The project will improve the conversations that our community has about important issues and hopefully lead to concrete solutions. I will post more to the blog throughout the next three weeks about what this could mean.

How to Participate:

Participating is as easy as writing Facebook post. Follow the link. Share your experience, interpret it, click save. It will take 5-10 minutes to provide a response.

If you would like to receive project updates and be invited to the Community Engagement events, please enter your email at the beginning of the survey.

And Yes! There will be Prizes:

Each experience that you enter into SenseMaker® gives you one chance to win a Downtown Lawrence gift card! The drawing will happen in early March after the collection period has ended. The winners will be chosen randomly, with each survey entry representing one chance. The 1st place ($100 gift card) and 2nd place ($50 gift card) will be determined by which randomly selected winner entered more experiences. All you have to do is enter a unique 8-digit identifier, complete the SenseMaker® survey, and click save.

If you have any questions about the project or would like to learn more, please email me at

Share your experience via this link:



Happy New Year

Dear Friends,

After a whirlwind of work at the end of 2017, an update is due. I have a feeling that 2018 is going to be a much better year.

The end of 2017 has me feeling road-weary. Since September, I have visited eight countries, met with countless friends and colleagues, finished my Master’s thesis (pending final approval from Dave), and applied to a PhD in Social Research Methods at the London School for Economics. I look forward to seeing the fruits of these adventures in the future.

Sunset on The Canary Islands

The universe taught me a lesson on my way the U.K. in December. As many of you saw because of my rantings on social media. My bag was taken from me due to the bus company. In that bag was nearly every possession I had acquired to transition myself from student life to professional life. I felt as though I needed to make a fast transition by buying a nice jacket, a new pair of shoes, various gadgets and everything to live a comfortable life on the road. Maybe losing the bag was just bad luck. It could be. But after much reflection, I think that being stripped of my possessions was a message to return to the basics- being present and letting my work speak for itself. I’ll be traveling to Thailand tomorrow with my school bag that I’ve had since my undergraduate time at George Mason, accompanied by my ever-present Moleskin notebooks, my laptop, two shirts, one pair of pants, a toothbrush, and a clear conscience.

Being on the road has also caused me to think about how disconnected and fragmented Millennials are. The hostels I’ve stayed in are filled with people sitting by themselves and on their phones. I’m starting to seriously question if technology can be actually be considered beneficial to our social condition. It’s great to be able to message family and friends across the world, but when we are sacrificing our presence in the ‘real world’ and our now-ness, we risk being alone all of the time. I’ve struggled with this in the past months. Innovating the new method for conflict transformation during my studies has often forced me to develop ideas alone. I want to leave this in 2017.

In 2018, I’m making it my goal to bring more of you into the conversation. I dream of developing a community of like-minded friends working together toward a common cause. I’ve been fortunate enough to have a job that allows me to travel freely and work with some of the best minds in the world. I want to use this privilege to break the monotony and precariousness cause by the neoliberal catastrophe that has befallen my generation and bring as many of you as I can along for the ride. This is on my mind every day, and I’m working on it. Stay tuned.

Now, some updates:

  1. In March, I will be presenting at SXSW with Dave Snowden in a session titled: “Sensemaking for Cities: Conflict and Complexity”. Thank you again for your support in the voting process that resulted in our selection.
  2. To prepare SXSW, I will launch a pilot project in Lawrence, KS that focuses on the recent instances of gun violence. If Lawrence is good enough to be the center of Google Earth, it is certainly good enough to be the first site of a new research method for conflict analysis and transformation. My goal is to collect at least 200 responses to the survey, which will be showcased during the SXSW presentation. I will need your help once again to participate and share the survey with your friends. A successful pilot will not only help the Lawrence community make sense of some of the violence that has recently occurred on our streets. It will also be a proof of concept that can be used to start many future projects. I anticipate launching the project within the next two weeks.

There are many other irons in the fire. In 2018, I also want to practice writing and publishing more. Ideally, I will go back through my notes and bring out some essential concepts for development. Time will tell.

Here is to more learning, exploration, and hopefully some vacation in 2018.



Life Update

Family, friends, and colleagues,

This life update is long overdue. Before I begin, thank you for your support during the PanelPicker voting process for SXSW 2018. My panel proposal- SenseMaking for Cities: Conflict and Complexity– has driven the recent flurry of activity that I will outline below. The initial response to the concept I outlined gives me faith in the approach to conflict transformation that I’m developing. I’m confident that this work will prove useful for many and have an impact on the field of peace studies, especially in the realm of structural conflict transformation. Stay tuned for the results!

After finishing my course work for my M.A. International Peace Studies at UPEACE, I have been busy on a variety of new projects and ventures in addition to my full-time job at the KU Center for Public Partnerships and Research (CPPR). On September 10, I will be embarking on a new adventure. I’ll be attending the Inaugural Cynefin Retreat in Wales. The retreat is a gathering of several scholars, researchers, and professionals with the “sole purpose of intellectual discourse to advance the fields of complexity science and design thinking.”

Why Wales? A year and a half ago, I helped establish a partnership between the Cynefin Centre for Applied Complexity at the Bangor Universityin Wales and KU CPPR. CPPR has implemented the SenseMaker® approach in a variety of research and evaluation projects. Developing the projects at KU led me to incorporate SenseMaker® into my thesis work at UPEACE. The Cynefin Retreat marks a transition in my professional life- I plan to take on reporting and Cynefin Centre projects as a contractor and learn from the experience of my colleagues in Wales.

Colo foto

Back on the Road

Later in September I will attend a training on Cynefin and Complexity Foundations in Amsterdam, take a brief trip to Belgium, and then return to the UK to visit universities (for my PhD) and continue work with the Cynefin Centre.

In November and December, I will relocate to the Galtung-Institut for Peace Theory and Peace Practice in southern Germany near Basel, Switzerland. I will work on completing my thesis work by rounding out the theoretical sections. I’ll workshop my approach during a weekend seminar in December. The topic will be Structural Conflict Transformation with the United States as a case study for European colleagues interested in learning about the various elements of disintegration the country is experiencing. Additionally, I’ll be assisting Prof. Johan Galtung on an online course on Advanced Conflict Transformation for the UN-Mandated University for Peace in January (pending final administrative approval).

I am currently faced with overwhelming opportunity. It’s extremely exciting, and I’m looking forward to providing regular updates on the development of my projects. My studies and work are aligning to my career as a peacebuilder, and I couldn’t be more pleased.

Help Me Speak at SXSW 2018!

A couple weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to apply for an opportunity to speak at the annual South by Southwest Conference (SXSW) next March with my thesis advisor Dave Snowden. This is a massive opportunity to share my thesis work on structural conflict transformation and SenseMaker® with a large group of people and I need your help! All it will take is a vote.

Here is the description from PanelPicker:

“City Hall must navigate competing priorities while sitting at the intersection of complex, deep-seated conflicts that evade simple solutions. The interactive session introduces an innovative approach to civic engagement to capture citizens’ voices and identify patterns that can be used to resolve structural conflicts and build more equitable cities. By developing human sensor networks, city governments can overcome partisan politics and revolutionize their role in addressing systemic problems.”

If accepted, we will be conducting a pilot study in cities in the United States (and elsewhere) to lay the foundation for the session’s interactive portion. This will be my first opportunity to field test my SenseMaker® design and apply the approach to conflict transformation. If you want to help me make this dream a reality…

Click on the image below to vote for the session: 


Also, please vote for my colleagues’ panels and help us get to SXSW together:

Jackie Counts: From Nope to Hope-Innoculating Cities from Trauma

Amy Smith: Cut Thru Disinformation, Tools to Combat Fake News

Thank you for your support!


Post-Election: How Can We Win?

November 10, 2016


Art by Danielle Hodges

“This is a war we can’t win

After 10,000 years, it’s still us against them

And my heroes have always died in the end

So who’s going to account for these sins?”

Titus Andronicus, Four Score and Seven, The Monitor

I would like to begin this essay with an acknowledgement of the rage, fear, and disgust that I have been seeing on social media, from conversations with friends and family, and of my own personal state. This does not feel good. I went through all of the stages of grief on November 9th  as I was watching the election results come in- shock, denial, anger, bargaining, and a brief depression that morning. However, after this brief cycle I have arrived back in my desired state- that of hope. Whatever stage of the process you are in, I urge you to act based on this feeling and not from a place of anger or disbelief. Now that we are free from the artificial discursive constraints placed upon us by the electoral process, we can return to politics and principle. In the following pages, I aim to analyze how we have gotten to this point and then conclude with a vision of where we can go.

Before continuing, I also want to issue an apology. The past couple of days I have been telling all of you that I was confident in a Clinton victory. In reflection, that confidence was a defense mechanism to shield myself from the horrifying possibility of that which has become our new reality: a Trump presidency.

As a student of peace, I believe that all human life is sacred. I believe in working to increase equity and harmony, reconcile trauma, and resolve conflicts. I view the world holistically and relationally, paying special attention to the dialectics of contradictions that form along faultlines. This worldview paired with a macrohistorical lens, allows for analysis that takes account of the past while providing an accurate description of the present and its potential. The goal of peace studies is the realization of peace values. These include, but are not limited to: Equity. Reciprocity. Integration. Solidarity. Inclusion. This is not a theoretical essay, but I want to make my position and intention clear. I would hope that this would not be necessary for anyone who follows my work. However, the limited scope of political discussion throughout election season has led many to call me sexist, racist, immature, too idealistic, a saboteur, “Trump-like” and any other variety of slurs for raising a calm analysis about the prospects of a Clinton candidacy. Now that it seems my method and analysis was essentially correct, I beg those who have engaged in such banal name calling to take a seat and reflect on whether or not an apology is warranted to all of us who have been fighting for the soul of the United States on the basis of sound principles.

The 2016 election was all about the negative politics of what the American people did not want. Clinton’s campaign was always about voting against Trump, not voting for a constructive political vision. In a country where millions of voters explicitly called for a new approach to overcome the illegitimacy of establishment politics, the Democratic party and the liberal elite actively sabotaged the only social force that could have stopped not just Trump, but his brand of political thinking- the grassroots efforts of students and community organizers behind Bernie Sanders. Throughout the primary process, it was clear that many of Sanders’ supporters would not support a candidate of the elites and of the US empire. Instead of listening and going with a candidate that had a sound advantage against Trump in the general election, the DNC gave it’s most important constituents the finger. For all of the lamentation about “Us vs. Them,” polarization, and hate, liberals have offered more of the same. I would like to extend my congratulations to you for maintaining your moral high ground. Trump will inevitably fail the voters that decided to give him a shot after their votes for Obama in 2008 and 2012 brought them no material gain, for all of the reasons that the left and liberals despise him. Trump won’t bring jobs. He will boost the military. He will solidify structural violence in this country and use horrible rhetoric along the way. When his supporters realize that the same powers they hate are still governing the country- the deep state officials, the shadowy corporations, etc.- they will be searching for answers. And they will also remember how they have been disrespected throughout this election. I can only imagine what it feels like to lose your job or home and then be called racist and sexist for trying to find a way out via a wildcard Trump presidency.

The “voice of liberal reason” has been the opposite of reasonable- driving a further wedge between the working class and progressive political goals. Along the way, this voice has also become a shrill nagging to the left with a perversion of political language used in radical circles. Feminism, questions of identity, of intersectionality, were turned into tools to grind the progressive social force capable of defeating Trump into the dust. Any analysis that dared to discuss the checkered past of Hillary Clinton was considered to be ‘over politicized’ and weaponized as part of a chauvinist conspiracy against the woman standing in as Lesser Evil. The messengers were then ritually slain in front of social media audiences with principle being cast as malfeasance. Pulling the lever for the right candidate, the absolute minimum tier of democratic practice, became the litmus test for ‘humanity.’ The Truth hurt her chances, so many of us were commanded to stick our fingers in our ears and chant ‘na-na-na-na’ while Trump was mobilizing social forces that threatened our core values. How was a proper conversation supposed to occur simultaneously with this bullying campaign? And how did this ‘common sense’ hold for so long? Why were so many in Clinton’s camp blindsided by Trump’s victory?

A vote is not a political platform. An analysis describing the current political landscape in the United States is not an endorsement of the worst-case-scenario. Description of the American reality was considered moralistic evaluation throughout the election cycle, and this fundamental attribution error lead to an autistic politics (in the sense that of a condition in which fantasy dominates over reality) that was both unwilling and unable to accurately read the situation. As stated in the previous paragraph, accurate description was inherently political simply because the Democrats picked a bad candidate. Clinton’s political support came from a place of fear and entrapment, not from genuine belief or conviction that she would take even a good path forward. The election of Trump has been widely considered as a mandate for white supremacy and ultra-nationalism. I think this view should be taken with a grain of salt considering the choices available to the American people. The electorate was forced to choose between two hated candidates, and it came down to a simple question of who had been doing the dirty work of empire and putting the cost on the American people. This election was not lost because of third-party voters. It was lost because the Democratic party and the liberal elite insisted on pushing the candidacy of one of the most-hated members of their party. I do feel for them. It’s ironic really. Trump and his supporters were ‘stupid fucking racist idiots,’ but they demolished the establishment’s entire political machinery. The Democratic leadership must feel pretty stupid. Unfortunately they are also shameless.

I don’t doubt the good intentions of many of you, my friends and those I respect, that doubled-down on her candidacy in order to protect the most vulnerable members of our society. However, the resulting circular firing squad phenomenon rapidly got out of hand and to disastrous effect. Remember- we were once all united under the banner of Bernie Sanders. We believed in a more inclusive United States and a return to the most positive of American values. Was our coalition so weak that you truly believed we all turned into Trump supporters? That we would turn our backs completely on the platform we were fighting for so that we could unleash our inner sexism, racism, and privilege politics upon the world? No. We will all move forward together as planned and get back to organizing. All I ask is that you take a moment to reflect on where the narrowness of the conversations leading to the election brought us.

Please excuse the cathartic language of the above paragraphs. I want to have a conversation because we are in this together. I want to have a real political conversation without name calling and strawmen. I want to reach a common understanding so that we can organize together and rid ourselves of this terrible disease. Now that this cursed election is over, we can have a reasonable discussion. The failed political line of the Democratic party now has no legitimacy or answers. Here is what I propose:

  1. Diagnosis- We need Conflict Analysis.

In a post-election speech in the Rose Garden, President Obama said to “remember that we are all of the same team here.” This is the exact type of nonsense from the elite class that is not only untrue, but also insulting. People are searching for political answers to solve the contradictions that have been exaggerated throughout this final stage of the American imperial experience. No, Mr. President, most of us are actually not on the same team and we refuse to sit around and bow down before the sacred institutions that have led us into ruin. Rather than lofty platitudes of unity, we must first acknowledge political differences and conflicting goals of political actors within American society. Once this analysis has been completed we can move to reconciliation. Until that understanding is achieved, the rhetoric of unity is simply that- rhetoric from a party that will not suffer the consequences of their immense political failure. We must examine what the goals are of the various groups in our society in order to understand what the potential is for a solution that meets the needs and interests of a divided America. Most of my diagnosis can be seen in this blog post on the Galtung-Institut’s website if you care to read more.

  1. Prognosis- What will happen if the prominent political trends continue?

It’s clear that election night was a wakeup call for the entire country. The line of attack that was utilized by the Democratic party to force through the election of Hillary Clinton is meaningless without the constraints of the election. The 15 contradictions along political, economic, military, and cultural lines have reached an inflection point with the election of Donald Trump. And finally, the American people are ready to seek answers and find solutions. We are currently seeing protests in many major cities that come from a place of anger, and these will fizzle out. However, the expertise of the students and activists that mobilized under Bernie Sanders, as well as of the many other grassroots organizations that are constantly fighting for a better future, will translate into political organization ready to tackle the challenge of President Trump. Unity will come, not from the Democratic party’s leadership, but from the bottom that needs to be heard.

  1. Therapy- How do we bridge the divide and do the work of building equity and harmony, reconciling trauma, and transforming conflict?

First, the left-end of the political spectrum must reconcile. The electoral process was not pretty- it was nasty, brutish, and long to put a twist on Hobbesian terms. Healing from the self-inflicted wounds of the election is possible, but there must be a degree of accountability and mutual respect moving forward. Second, a thorough conflict analysis can pave the path to dialogue. We will have to listen to those who were labeled stupid, sexist, and racist if we wish to move forward. Listening dispassionately to these concerns is not a pie-in-the-sky hippy proposal, but a concrete way to map our path forward and allow for some creativity. Third, take a deep goddamn breath because we have the tools to save the future of this country. American values- hard work, cooperation, equality- are ours to enact. We have the tools of nonviolence, organization, and conflict transformation as methodology. The difference is that now we are forced into action because of the imminent threat to our communities.

As the Titus Andronicus lyric at the beginning of the essay so eloquently states, a war of Us vs. Them is a war that can never be won. Continuing to frame the conflict over American identity in this war means that there is nothing to be won. A battle between ‘the enlightened’ and ‘the ignorant’ is bound to be littered with bodies. Unfortunately, this is no longer strictly metaphorical. Play your part and let’s build. Let’s learn. Let’s figure this thing out.

Finally, I would like to end with an excerpt from my blog Octaguante on December 16, 2015:

“Take a step back, understand where this is coming from, and solve the underlying conflicts. Character assassinations of the GOP candidates will not do the job. Calling people stupid is a waste of time. Continuing to talk in terms of the collective we doesn’t do justice to the actual diversity in not only the United States, but also the rest of the world where these debates have real and violent impacts. What you see is the real-time enactment of a very old and well-established deep culture. It is easy to call out the GOP candidates for being hateful. It is hard to acknowledge that deep down, an alarming number of voters are thinking in the same way. As per Ben Carson’s quote- it is more merciful to be candid about the current discourse and lay it to rest, or risk being one of the thousand pricks.”

We’re all in this together. Let’s take this country back.

The Magic is Gone, The Dream Lives On

Spring 2016 519

Yesterday, March 3, I had the opportunity to attend a speech by Bernie Sanders in my hometown Lawrence, KS. To date, I have written several pieces on the Republican side of presidential hopefuls. It is time to look toward the future we want to build.

I smiled a lot yesterday. The crowd of over 4200 people had gathered to celebrate the tremendous potential of a candidate who listens, is authentic, and who is inclusive of all of us who have suffered under establishment politics, a rigged economy, and a corrupt campaign finance system. My heart was filled with joy at the sight of people who were finally being heard. As I told my friend after the event, I have lived nearly my entire politically conscious life at war. I remember the days when my classmates in the third grade advocated the nuclear annihilation of the people of Iraq and Afghanistan. I remember the rabid crowd in Washington D.C. when Osama bin Laden was killed- millennial youth and baby boomers all basking in an orgy of bloodlust. I remember when the Occupy Wall Street camp I visited in Zuccotti Park was destroyed by police in riot gear. I remember Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Tanisha Anderson, Tamir Rice, Freddie Gray, and all of the other women and men who were murdered at the hands of police. Most of all, I remember that throughout all of this, the establishment told us there was nothing we could do. The magic of empire is gone; the violence of empire has left us feeling empty and defeated.

Yesterday, I smiled because I saw a man and a movement that are equipped to negate the pillars of empire that have caused so many people so much pain. Prof. Johan Galtung predicted that the US Empire would fall by 2020 due to 15 contradictions along political, economic, military, and cultural dimensions. Bernie Sanders brought all these contradictions to life and most importantly, spoke of the values that will leads us to blossom rather than descend into fascism. What are these values? Equity. Reciprocity. Integration. Solidarity. Inclusion.

What would policies look like to act on these values? Equitable trade with equal and mutual benefits for all. Conflict transformation and defensive defense. Negotiation between equals, not hegemonism. Dialogue between equals to promote basic human needs for wellness, survival, freedom, and identity.

These are the ideas that Prof. Galtung lays out in his book Fall of the US Empire- And Then What?. We are in a historic moment- as Americans we have a choice. Do we continue on the current path and end our journey violently, or do we join the rest of the world in a community of peace?

Bernie Sanders, with our help, can help us take steps toward the future we want to create. Let’s start dreaming again and end this nightmare.

I’m #FeelingtheBern and will see you tomorrow, March 5, at the Democratic Caucuses.

Go vote.

Octaguante in 2015

2015 came and went quickly. The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for Octaguante. Best believe that I hope to publish more often during 2016 and share Galtungian theory with the world! Consider this an official New Years Resolution.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 440 times in 2015. If it were a cable car, it would take about 7 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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