4 ways to be a disruptor for peace

Four peace fellows sit on steps outside the center
Rotary Peace Fellows at the Rotary Peace Center at Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda.

By Rebecca Crall, Areas of Focus Manager, Peacebuilding and Conflict Prevention

In a conversation recently with a group of professional peacebuilders, one of my colleagues (and a new Rotary member) surprised me when he referred to Rotary as a “disruptor for peace.” A disruptor for peace? That was something new and unexpected.

Disruption signals great change – change that’s happening fast. It often feels like it’s taking place at a dizzying pace, and it’s associated with chaos and displacement. It’s not something we often imagine wanting more of. But my colleague’s comment got me thinking of disrupting for good: using our platform as Rotary members to disrupt violence and create peace. Can we apply this idea to build a future where peace is our norm?

When we think about the future now, we don’t seem to feel the same optimism as past generations did. People feel fear, dread and a deep sense of skepticism that change is even possible. This is logical given what we see in the news: the climate crisis, toxic political polarization. No wonder we feel unsure about the future.

But as we begin 2023, I’m challenging myself to disrupt this way of thinking: to look at our challenges as opportunities for growth and change.

In his famous book “The Moral Imagination,” John Paul Lederach challenges us to use our creativity in peacebuilding. He describes this creativity as understanding current situations – such as destructive behaviors and violence – but then pushing past them to imagine a world that transcends existing reality.

This may seem trite. But if you truly think about how much we take for granted in our day-to-day lives, you can see how much room there is for improvement.

As you think about the future, try to find creative ways to build more inclusive and resilient societies. Use Lederach’s four disciplines as a guide.

  1. Recognize the importance of relationships. Peace is fundamentally about relationships. As we acknowledge our interdependence and connection to one another, we can understand the context in which violence happens – but also imagine a context in which we can transcend violence and build peace.
  2. Practice paradoxical curiosity. While this sounds complicated, paradoxical curiosity is a matter of respecting contrasting truths. Acknowledge different sides in every situation and look for what lies beneath the face of things. By looking beyond appearances, you can discover new opportunities for healing and peace.  
  3. Provide space for creativity. Respect creative acts and believe that humans can create something new. This attitude is typically grounded in everyday interactions. Use your creativity to imagine and eventually love things that are new and unexpected.
  4. Take a risk. When we risk, we step into something unknown. While it may seem counterintuitive, many communities subconsciously stay in conflict because that’s what they know. Building peace is about taking the risk to journey into something unknown. It’s also about letting go of what you know.

Moral imagination is ultimately the capacity to conceive and generate something different without denying our current realities. This may seem impossible at times. But by applying these four principles, you can ask the right questions and hopefully find the right answers.

Rotary Peace Fellowships equip peace and development leaders from communities around the world to become effective catalysts for peace. Applications for the 2024 fellowships are being accepted until 15 May

7 thoughts on “4 ways to be a disruptor for peace

  1. Beautiful insights, Rotarians are disruptor for Peace, and I am a PROUD DISRUPTOR!

    Thanks for these lovely insights Rtn. Rebecca Crall, your wealth of knowledge is impeccable.


    • Well said! I wonder how many other Rotarians are “Proud Disruptors”? Will you be at the RI Convention in Melbourne? anyone else?


      • Thanks Frances, except any changes but for now, I don’t think I would be at the RI Convention in Melbourne.


  2. We often are fixed on one notion of disruption, one associated with violence and aggression.

    Consider instead that disruption also means to cause a radical change by means of innovation. Rotarians make a difference every day in every corner of this planet
    by disrupting
    by daring to make radical changes
    by innovating.

    The world is experiencing all sorts of violent actions against living beings and our Earth. Two existential crises face each of us — climate change and the threat of the use of nuclear weapons.

    Rotary is uniquely positioned to resovle these urgent issues and to build sustainable peace. It is imperative that each of us as individual Rotarians and that organizations such as the United Nations, International Committee of the Red Cross and Rotary disrupt and reform our approaches to creating peace and resolving conflict.

    A first step is to simply talk with each other, and to set aside all preconceived notions of what is political and what is not political, what works and what does not work, and to rethink our commitments.

    Rotary is well-positioned to do this, using its worldwide network, the Four Way Test, the Object of Rotary and the Mission of The Rotary Foundation.

    Action is required now. We must not shirk from this responsibility and opportunity. Together we can write this disruptive, indeed innovative, chapter of Rotary’s history. Peace.


  3. Yes to Relationships, Curiosity, Creativity and Risk Taking to build peace.

    Being a Rotarian Peace Disruptor
    For the Peacebuilding and Conflict Prevention area of focus, let’s consider the relevance and impact of the John Paul Lederach four disciplines in our efforts.
    For example, how could it change our thinking in … Taking Actions to pursue projects, programs and policies that address the underlying causes of conflicts including: poverty, inequality, ethnic tensions, lack of access to education, and unequal distribution of resources?

    Our Four Peacebuilder Roles
    Furthermore, consider how the Lederach four disciplines could have impact on any of our four roles as Rotarian peacebuilders.
    The four roles are: a) practitioner, b) educator, c) mediator, and d) advocacy.

    These are exciting times to be a Rotarian peacebuilder.
    And yes, let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me and you, disruptors for peace.

    Thank to all for your service as peacebuilders.
    Dennis Wong
    Rotary Action Group for Peace, co-founder


  4. Rotary Global History Fellowship: please note this historic statement from Rebecca Crall. She has been affirming creative and “disruptive” efforts for many years. I also cite Rotarian Bob Smith who rolled out a sign-on to a world free of nuclear weapons at the Atlanta RI Con, and that has made all the difference. RGHF: we are writing the story of Rotary’s leadership to educate Rotarians on the positive peace of having a world to live in.


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