GVI BLOG SERIES: How to co-create a values-driven UN/global system? Blog VII – Make diversity practical

Building Peace: From the Intimate to the Global

A Guest Blog as part of GVI’s 2018 Focus: Innovations in Peace

by Susan Coleman, Creator and Host of “The Peacebuilding Podcast: Bridging the Divide”

I am essentially a peace builder.  I have been in the field of collaboration and conflict resolution for most of my professional career.  I set up the United Nations first program on intercultural negotiation and mediation, rolled that out around the world, and have worked with individuals, groups and whole systems all over the world including countries at war, and organizations and families that might well as be.

I also grew up in a traditional and very patriarchal home where I was — with nobodies’ evil intentions, just a lot of social conditioning — stripped of my power pretty much at birth because I was female.  I was taught that men owned my body and sexuality more than I did, that it was not sexy to earn money – that I needed to let men do that, that my role was to serve and build men up so they could take care of me. Basically, I was schooled in codependency.

I started a podcast a few years back called The Peacebuilding Podcast: Bridging the Divide. Its niche is to focus on the best processes and practices to build common ground in complex systems.  I interview Nobel laureates, social entrepreneurs, international mediators, facilitators, UN diplomats, family therapists, musicians, and others.  It’s been great.  In the process, what I have come to believe is that the single, most important thing that needs to happen on this planet to build peace is to empower women and girls.

The majority of countries on earth are still patriarchal, but in the countries where there is much more gender equality, there is way less support for militarism. And, in family systems, where there is equality between genders, there is way less violence.  The world is currently spending about 1.7 trillion annually on arms. That, of course, doesn’t include all of the other associated costs of militarism and its impact. If we included that, the number would be even more staggering.  My country, the United States is, by a long shot, the largest contributor to military spending on the planet, with China being a far-distant second. And, by the way, as pointed out by Dr. Scilla Elworthy on my podcast, the five permanent members of the UN Security council are also the biggest arms sellers in the world. A case of the fox guarding the henhouse.

Many people far smarter than I believe that war is outdated, an anachronism, and that we have the capacity to move beyond it in our lifetimes. (See Dr. Elworthy above, and Bill Ury video here.)  In my most recent interview on the podcast, Building Peace: From the Intimate to the Global, internationally recognized family therapist Terry Real says “we will move beyond patriarchy or we will die. It’s really that simple.”  And a world beyond patriarchy and the militarism that goes with it, means a world where we stop giving so much of our precious attention to it, and turn to creatively meeting human needs and reversing climate change. (See Drawdown)

The tag line for my business as a consultant to organizations is Collaborative Intelligence.  I provide Collaborative Negotiation Skills, Negotiation Skills for Women, I specialize in process interventions to build common ground, I host The Peacebuilding Podcast: Bridging the Divide, do public speaking and more.  One of my current offerings that I’m excited about are Gender Dialogues. As the #Metoo movement has swept the planet it has left organizations scrambling to respond, and many men afraid to open their mouths.

As a mediator, having worked a lot of different kinds of conflicts, I believe both or all sides need to take 100 percent responsibility for a conflict, and so too with this gender “conflict” we are having.  That may be hard to do, seem unfair, but I think it’s the only way out of any difficult situation because fundamentally, we can’t do anything about others’ behaviors, but we can do a lot about our own. This is not to suggest that women are not oppressed globally. We are second -class citizens around the world.But as Eleanor Roosevelt said, “no one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” And women are up to their eyeballs in codependency, as we enable dysfunctional men like Brett Kavanaugh or tearfully and pridefully send our sons off to war.

What’s typical about people in conflict is that they usually have way more in common than they are different.  So too men and women. We start out in the womb virtually identical and then our adversarial world unnecessarily accentuates our polarization. What’s cool about the gender dialogues is I create a super safe container for men, women and gender non-conforming folks to have a deep, intimate conversation about how gender impacts us personally, how it impacts us at work and what we and our places of work can do to move to a post-patriarchal culture of organizational excellence.

If any of these ideas have resonated with you, please get in touch at susan@susancoleman.global, and see more at http://www.susancoleman.global.


Susan Coleman

Susan Coleman has over 30 years of experience working from war zones to board rooms with people from all continents. She is the Creator and Host of “The Peacebuilding Podcast: Bridging the Divide” in which she interviews some of the most creative and innovative global practitioners about the best process interventions to build common ground in complex systems.  Susan established the United Nations’ first programs on negotiation, mediation and conflict resolution and rolled these out worldwide. She also was central to creating a similar program at Columbia University in New York City.  As a global change consultant, she has close to three decades of experience building collaboration in organizations and systems by combining workshops and seminars with large or small multi-stakeholder interventions to promote collaboration, support greater impact and resolve conflict.


Leave a Reply


GVI produces publications on substantive issues from a values perspective, and linked to current events on the UN agenda. GVI also solicits and hosts articles by UN system actors, so you can hear your own voice in the conversation.

The Blog

Twitter Feed


Support us in supporting you. GVI is a tax exempt 501(c)3 organization so your contributions are tax deductible. We invite you to make a safe online donation.