The Peace Studies Fund is created by students of the Master’s Program in Peace, Development, Security and International Conflict Transformation at the University of Innsbruck. This program is carried by the diversity of its students from all over the world with their different backgrounds, stories and experiences. In spring, 2016, after we learnt that some of our peers could not join us for the next semester due to insecurities regarding finances, we felt the need for action. The following article gives an insight into our motivation, process and work.
Simone on “Giving Something Back”
After my last practical semester in Innsbruck in March 2016 I had the wish to give something back to everyone involved in the program and to coming generations of students; mainly to enrich the exchange and the learning experience. During my studies I was often fascinated, surprised, shocked, happy and sad about the different realities of my fellow students and friends.
Studying Peace Studies means to study in an international environment with people from all over the world – people who often need financial support to be able to take part in this special program. In April last year my fellow student and friend Theresa Hirn visited me and told me about her idea to set up a Peace Studies Fund that supports the variety of an international student community, encourages voices from different cultural backgrounds and life realities and, all in all, adds value to the learning experiences of everybody involved in the program. There was no convincing necessary.
The beauty of the world lies in the diversity of its people.
Theresa spread the word and we soon formed a team of five German women. We began to discuss our ideas and possibilities. Why only Germans? After Theresa posted her idea in the Peace Studies Facebook group we got together and decided for reasons of simplification to first establish a legal structure in Germany, get everything to work and then think about ways of further involving everyone interested in supporting the fund.
Juliana on “the Group Spirit”
…four of us already started to get our peers involved in the summer term of 2016 by presenting our ideas during the presence phase. We were overwhelmed by all the beautiful and inspiring contributions from our peers. To name two examples: I facilitated a simulated meeting where our peers took on the role of possible future donors in the course of a seminar on skills for peace workers. At the end of an intensive brainstorming session we were left with a lot of food for thought which proved to be incredibly helpful for our next steps.
The same applies to an integrative seminar where we presented the current status of our work and asked for ideas. Here as well, our peers contributed many ideas for the structure, the workflow and fundraising, and also offered their support.
Moreover, one student suggested creating a short film about the Peace Studies Fund, so we drafted a preliminary storyline for the video, asked for support and, merely a day later, a film crew was established and began to collect interviews and atmospheric shots. Currently we are busy with editing the collected material.
I am incredibly thankful for all the support and touched by the unique spirit of this group. In the Innsbruck Peace Family I found a community of human beings who provide a space for growth with all the necessary challenges, obstacles, connections and experiences. I met people who touched my heart, who became my friends, companions and teachers. My learning experiences in this program are substantially influenced by them.
Therefore when I heard at the end of my first term that some of my peers might not come back for the next term due to financial difficulties, I knew that I want to do something about it. A couple of weeks later the idea of a Peace Studies Fund was born…
Annalena on “Practical Steps”
…I stumbled into the work of the Peace Studies Fund, originally planning to support only by creating graphics and the website. Next to the academic work of my Master thesis, I enjoyed creating something that is immediately visible for a purpose that I find meaningful. To me, visualizing our peace family created a feeling of connectedness. Suddenly the energizing vibes within the team drew me from one Skype call to the next. The craftwork of project-planning made me feel active and alive. I feel deeply motivated by the idea of mutual solidarity within the group of current students and alumni.
On our winding journey towards a legal framework we then decided to base our work within a friend’s association seated in Germany. I could build on some experiences with such a setup due to a former project, and soon I found myself writing the articles of our association. The main questions that had to be answered concerned the international character of our fund: would it be possible to closely cooperate with a University in Austria and with mainly international members? Those concerns could be sorted out, accompanied by a continuous process of working through, adopting, and finally translating the bureaucratic language within this legal field. Luckily, we were supported by a tax consultant who is working voluntarily, like us. For his support, I am extremely grateful. And I think I can speak for the group when I say, we learned a lot…
Theresa and Christina on “Networking in the Community”
…in September 2016 we had one important moment of engaging with the community of peace students: the so-called ‘Vision Quest and 100 years of Peace Studies’ celebration. We both joined the festivities and took part in the open brainstorming on the perspectives and further development of the Peace Studies Program and the Alumni Projects. It was an enriching experience to get in touch with other alumni, to talk about our initiatives, about our work, structure and visions. The conversation with friends from the Many Peaces e.V. and the Many Peaces Magazine provided us with inspiration, courage and support. The event was a great opportunity for us to receive input and the resonance left us with a positive feeling about our plans to create the Fund.
All in all it was a huge gift to feel the vivid spirit from our fellow students and colleagues. We perceived the Peace Studies Fund not as a singular project, but as one element of our international alumni network which encourages Many Peaces all over the world. One result of this networking event is to further work on the establishment of a shared Facebook page with other alumni projects to stay in contact and support each other with ideas and share experiences…
Our Idea and Vision
…as written before the Fund is an affair of the heart for every single one of us. It also is a great learning opportunity since part of our studies is devoted to the transformation of conflicts within groups. As members of a team we therefore have the opportunity to put what we learnt about dealing with conflicts into practice.
Our key idea is to support students from all over the world who are interested and qualified to come to this special master’s course. It became clear to us how intensely differences on international levels, especially concerning currencies, average income, access to scholarships and credits, lead to unequal starting points among our fellow students. The high quality of the program with its workshops, seminars, field trainings and collaborations with scholars from around the world makes a tuition fee of € 4.900,00 per term necessary to ensure the best learning experience for every student. Furthermore, costs for travel and Visa, especially for students outside the European Union, occur. This leads to the fact, however, that some students of the program are unable to finish their master’s degree or need years to finance all semesters.
Based on principles such as trust, solidarity, diversity, responsibility, sustainability and the community spirit, we want to achieve our goals of providing equal opportunities for the students despite different economic backgrounds, enable full focus on studying for future peace workers, and furthermore elicit and encourage an understanding of Many Peaces. Thus with the Peace Studies Fund we are putting peace into action….
The Peace Studies Fund Association is Born
…about half a year and several meetings, Skype calls and emails later, the Peace Studies Fund took shape. On Saturday morning, the 22nd of October, the five of us, as well as three new members, met at a cafe in Cologne for the formation of the Peace Studies Fund association. First we spoke about the agenda including a welcome address, an introduction to the Fund, the discussion and adoption of the articles, the election of the board members and the accounts auditor. After the formal part, the morning continued with an exchange of ideas over coffee.
As soon as the association is registered we will focus on fundraising. Possible fundraising activities could be lectures and workshops held at schools and private organizations, as well as events such as movie screenings, readings, concerts and parties. Another main pillar is applications for funding from public and private organizations.
We are planning to be up and running by January 2017, and are glad to give you an update on our Fund during the opening ceremony for the new semester at the Grillhof Seminar Centre in Igls at the beginning of January.
While we have formed a team of five, we are very open to students and alumni of the program wanting to support us with their ideas and knowledge, as we believe in the strength of the community in sharing and developing concepts.