On July 17 and 18, 2014 a small group of Innsbruck Peace Studies alumni met at the Grillhof for the first of many planning meetings of what has been coined— an Academic Festival of Many Peaces. Seeking to stretch beyond a standard academic conference framework and incorporate the methods of the Innsbruck school of Peace Studies; we came together, to connect, share and create a collective vision for this new project. After an initial call out, interested alumni had been in touch over the summer months by Skype and email to plan for this reunion and festival-organizing weekend. After much anticipation, we found ourselves back in one of our many homes.
We came from all over—Spain, Egypt, Germany, Israel and Canada to name a few. 18 alumni from several different cohorts and research areas joined together with unique ideas and experiences and varying areas of work and motivations for participating. We shared the uniting quality of being Innsbruck Peace Studies Alumni and Modular Period 6 students of course, for those of us who have not yet graduated!
You might wonder if so many voices and perspectives in one forum would be chaotic, especially with a new event idea. This project is not only new, but it is large-scale, requires in-depth planning, a great deal of commitment and holds several layers of uncertainty as an alumni initiative. However, we quickly found ourselves effectively and passionately self-organizing, revisiting and restructuring our itinerary and planning details with both confidence in what we were producing and a genuine commitment to helping to add to the alumni experience. We found ourselves very much in resonance and inspired by the collective energy in the room.
During our two days of planning, we structured our time to include several small working group sessions where we would break into teams to brainstorm in order to ensure that everyone’s voices were heard and that we were relying on different methods to generate our creativity. We often found that once reunited in our larger sharing session that the various groups were very much in tune and that we were truly building a collective vision with the grounding ideas of our vision being similar. The weekend flowed, almost effortlessly, and though we were tired from the long hours; the dynamic was vibrant and the outputs of the weekend we’re truly inspiring. This safe, collective and energetic space brought forth so many constructive ideas that by the end of the seminar we had created our working mandate, had divided up responsibilities, created working groups and left with a sound vision of where we are going with this project.
For me personally it has meant so much to have been able to attend this planning event and to have joined the organizing team and work with some previous classmates and new friends on this initiative. I jumped right away at the opportunity to be involved with this alumni project with the desire to both personally and academically stay connected to Innsbruck’s methods, teaching philosophy and community. Many of my colleagues, also feel this strongly and I believe this is at the heart of this project. Although we are spread out, we’ve been working together across geographic boundaries and time zones— connecting via Skype and email; hosting online meetings, working on collaborative documents and having integrative seminars. What is developing here is something I believe to be truly transformative and I am anxious to see how this first festival will unfold and how this initiative will change and grow in future years.
As a group we’ve agreed that this festival encapsulate our vision of an academic space; meaning the incorporation of both theoretical and practitioner influences and various opportunities and mediums for alumni to reconnect and engage. We see the truly unbounded potential of creating an open space for alumni to create together.