By Sam Hardy, 2010 Rotary Peace Fellow and director of the conflict management and resolution program at James Cook University in Australia
In 2010, I was a Rotary Peace Fellow in the professional development program at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, Thailand. The three-month program gave me an opportunity to learn about peace-building from an international perspective, both from the teachers in the program, and from my fellow Peace Fellows from around the world.
I have been working as a mediator and an academic teaching in peace and conflict management programs for the past 13 years. Over the past few years, my colleague Professor Nadja Alexander, who is president-elect of the Rotary Club of Kowloon North, Hong Kong, and I developed the REAL Conflict Coaching system, which we have been using as the basis of our coaching and training.
Recently, we developed a program on “Peace Coaching” based on this system, and we conducted peace coach training for Rotary and Rotaract members, school teachers, and school principals in Hong Kong. The course was sponsored by Rotary District 3450 under the leadership of District Governor Kenneth Wong in conjunction with Rotary’s Adopt a School program, and hosted at the International Institute of Conflict Engagement and Resolution at Hong Kong’s Shue Yan University.
The aim of the course was to develop teachers’ skills at coaching students to effectively manage conflict and thus build peace in Hong Kong schools and in students’ lives. At the end of the course, the Rotarians, Rotaractors, and teachers set up a working group to develop peace coaching across Hong Kong schools. Rotarians and Rotaracts will act as mentors to support the schools, while teachers and students set up peace coaching programs.
We like to think that Peace Coaching is like preventative medicine for conflict! Students learn that conflict can be an opportunity, not just a problem, and their peace coaches support them to develop the competence and confidence to effectively manage their own conflict. We believe that peace is about more than resolving conflict – it’s also about building young peoples’ capacity to communicate constructively about difficult issues, and to develop their resilience in a rapidly changing world.