By Lina Stahl, Mediators Beyond Borders International
In 2019, a small group of visionaries from four Rotary districts in Zone 22, Southern Africa, approached service partner Mediators Beyond Borders International (MBBI) to build social cohesion throughout the region by training a cohort of 100 community mediators to celebrate the Rotary’s Centennial on the African continent.
A steering committee of representatives from the four districts comprised of diverse ethnic and professional backgrounds was created to co-design the program with MBBI. The project became Zone 22’s Community Mediation (ARCoM) training. The training program includes two weeks of daily four-hour online training, followed by monthly four-hour coaching calls to support participants who are working to complete a commitment of 100 hours of mediation towards a community-based service project. The final week of the program, at the end of a calendar year, is facilitated entirely by the participants, who present to each other their service projects.
Great care was taken to ensure the greatest opportunity for diversity and inclusion. To ensure viability and long-term sustainability, the program was designed to have a cohort ratio of 70% community leaders outside Rotary and 30% Rotary member participants. Drawing on a scoring system, the team ensured that we had gender balance and leaders from every country’s linguistic and cultural group in Southern Africa. Participant service projects varied from youth and community work to workshops on race and gender-based violence, natural resource governance, and indigenous knowledge.
Upon completion of the training, the ARCoM community mediators stay connected through an online platform, and Rotary club members and community members have reached out for peacebuilding interventions on various social issues.
The program’s most recent graduates described it as “nothing but exceptional” and praised the expert facilitation on a range of topics, tools, and methodologies, all of which provided an abundance of opportunities to learn and practice new peacebuilding skills. Another graduate felt the program was a catapult to another hemisphere of professionalism. Given the intensity of the topics, which at times could be exhausting and overwhelming, the participants emphasized that energy, maturity, commitment to cause and persistence were essential for success in the program.
Participant MacDonald Rammala shared, “We create multidisciplinary teams with the aim of exchanging knowledge and expertise on various issues.” Cohort peer Eugene De Witt added, “We stay connected with our teams and groups to give feedback to each other on a weekly or monthly basis.”
Two more cohorts completed the program in October 2022, with plans for a new cohort to begin in Spring 2023. MBBI is partnering with the Rotary Peace Center at Makerere University in Uganda to offer the ARCoM program and hopes to expand it throughout the region. To participate in a program cohort, or to explore partnering your club, district, or Rotary affiliate with MBBI’s ARCoM program, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.