They’re start-ups, but with peace as their goal

Con­rad Grebel, Kin­dred Credit Union’s Peace In­cu­ba­tor Show­case high­lights work of six new ven­tures

The Woolwich Observer - - VENTURE - FAISAL ALI

CON­FLICT MAY BE UN­AVOID­ABLE in life but it is not en­tirely in­sur­mount­able. Not, at least, if peo­ple have the equip­ment to deal with it. That be­lief may just be what guides Katie Gin­gerich and her start-up com­pany, The Rip­ple Ef­fect Ed­u­ca­tion (TREE).

The St. Agatha na­tive and mind be­hind TREE is one of the en­trepreneurs rec­og­nized this week at the Peace In­cu­ba­tor Show­case in Water­loo. The event was put on by the Cen­tre for Peace Ad­vance­ment, as­so­ci­ated with Con­rad Grebel Univer­sity Col­lege at the Univer­sity of Water­loo.

“Teach­ers are re­ally ex­cited about it. Ex­cited about the con­tent, and ex­cited about the op­por­tu­nity for their stu­dents to work on these so­cial and emo­tional skills,” ex­plained Gin­gerich.

Cre­ated in 2015, TREE of­fers work­shops for class­rooms in the Water­loo Re­gion that teach stu­dents var­i­ous con­flict res­o­lu­tion skills. The work­shops are spread out as one class a week for five weeks, with a TREE fa­cil­i­ta­tor go­ing out to visit the par­tic­i­pat­ing class.

The top­ics of study fo­cus on var­i­ous points of con­flict, in­clud­ing un­der­stand­ing con­flict, de­vel­op­ing em­pa­thy, es­ca­lat­ing and de-es­ca­lat­ing ten­sions, and then bridg­ing that gap be­tween stu­dent’s parochial con­cerns and those larger, global con­flicts.

“We want stu­dents to know that con­flict is nor­mal. Ev­ery­body has it, ev­ery­body ex­pe­ri­ences it. And it can be re­ally dam­ag­ing, it can be re­ally harm­ful. But when we have skills and strate­gies to re­spond to con­flict

that hap­pens in our lives, in im­por­tant re­la­tion­ships that we have, we can ac­tu­ally grow in our re­la­tion­ships,” ex­plained Gin­gerich.

“We can deepen those con­nec­tions that we have with peo­ple. We can learn to work with peo­ple that we don’t nec­es­sar­ily like to work with, and we can be suc­cess­ful in those ways when we have these con­flict res­o­lu­tions skills.”

In their day-to-day lives, such skills can be ap­plied to the stu­dent’s own af­fairs, be it deal­ing with bul­lies or sib­lings or what have you. But Gin­gerich says there’s also a wider ap­pli­ca­tion.

“These skills that we’re teach­ing them in an in­ter­per­sonal con­text can be re­lated to ad­vo­cacy or to an­a­lyz­ing how dif­fer­ent con­flicts are un­fold­ing and hav­ing to un­der­stand why these things might hap­pen in broader con­texts.”

The idea is not just to es­chew vi­o­lence or con­flict, says Gin­gerich, or what she calls a “neg­a­tive peace,” but to de­velop that more eq­ui­table state. And of course, that’s re­ally only pos­si­ble if peo­ple know how to prop­erly han­dle the con­flicts in their lives.

“We see our­selves as re­ally en­act­ing that pos­i­tive peace and re­ally striv­ing for that el­e­ment so that we’re cre­at­ing that sense of whole­ness. That voices are heard and val­ued, that stu­dents feel like they have agency to ac­tu­ally foster change, within their re­la­tion­ships or within the broader com­mu­nity,” she said.

The pro­gram of­fers its work­shops for Grades 1 through 6, though Gin­gerich notes that TREE can work with teach­ers to cre­ate cus­tom work­shops for older stu­dents.

“We’re still very much in the start-up phase,” added Gin­gerich. “We’re con­sid­ered an ini­tia­tive of Con­rad Grebel, of the Cen­tre for Peace Ad­vance­ment, be­cause we are re­ally test­ing as we go.”

Gin­gerich stud­ied peace and con­flict at Grebel, where she says she was in­spired to de­velop her start-up.

“I was re­ally shocked when I sat in my first con­flict res­o­lu­tion class to learn that there were all these strate­gies out there for how to re­solve con­flict,” she ex­plained.

“And I thought, ‘wow, how am I only learn­ing about these things as a 19-year-old univer­sity stu­dent for the first time? There has to be a way we can be learn­ing these things ear­lier and hope­fully pre­vent some of the things that might have hap­pened or might have caused harm be­fore this.’”

Be­sides that, she cred­its her work as a co­or­di­na­tor at Peace Camp in 2015, a day camp for kids to learn about these top­ics, in a con­cen­trated for­mat. The theme of the camp then, as it hap­pens, was the rip­ple ef­fect.

The com­pany is only of­fer­ing its work­shops in Water­loo at the mo­ment, but that might soon change.

“Well, right now we’re just work­ing in the Water­loo Re­gion and Water­loo Catholic district school boards, but we’ve had in­ter­est in schools from Strat­ford, from schools in Mil­ton. So we are re­ally in­ter­ested in grow­ing, but we are mind­ful of scal­a­bil­ity. So we’re re­ally want­ing to dig deep here and learn here, and then scale out­wards.”

TREE was not the only project fea­tured at the Peace In­cu­ba­tor Show­case Novem­ber 7. Oth­ers at the show­case in­cluded Dem­ine Robotics, a com­pany work­ing on us­ing robotics to defuse land­mines; Mar­lena Books, a com­pany that cre­ates books for those with cog­ni­tive dis­or­ders to read; and Epoch, an on­line mo­bile plat­form meant to con­nect re­cent refugees in Water­loo with com­mu­nity mem­bers and busi­nesses in a vir­tual mar­ket place.

[SUB­MIT­TED]

The Rip­ple Ef­fect Ed­u­ca­tion (TREE) class­room fa­cil­i­ta­tor Sarah Klu­jber teach­ing the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s cur­ricu­lum to a Grade 1 class

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