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Initiative for Peace

Want to inspire young people to work for peace in their communities?

An initiative to train young people to become peace-builders, with the aim of facilitating peace conferences for youth from areas of conflict or post-conflict, ultimately inspiring them to become peace-builders in their own communities.

HundrED 2020


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HundrED 2020

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September 2017
We want to inspire young people to realise they can make a difference. I think that's pretty powerful no matter what scale it's done on.

About the innovation

What is Initiative for Peace?

United World Colleges (UWC) is a movement that aims tomakeeducation a force to unite people, nations and cultures for peace and a sustainable future.

Since 2001, their Initiative for Peace campaign has empowered young people from conflict affected regions, including Kashmir, Timor Leste, Myanmar, Cambodia, Thailand and Sri Lanka, to become active agents of change through youth-led conferences.

UWCstudents are trained in peace-building theory and skills. The young trainees then plan and facilitate a week-long peace conference for youth from an area affected by conflict, tension or even domestic or gang related violence. They spend six months trainingto become peace-builders and facilitatorsand then five months planning the conferences, doing everything from sending applications out and selecting participantsto planning the conference programmeand finding guest speakers.

Staff take the position of coaches, teaching the students vital skills such as peace and conflicttheory, project management, digital literacy, planning, communication, active listening, facilitation and teamwork. Empowered with this new knowledge and understanding, the facilitators run the conferences. This means every conference is run by youth, for youth.

Conferences are residential and young people take part in activities, learn, eat and share dormitories together in order to buildreal connections withpeople from many differentbackgrounds, all in the name of peace. Delegates are asked to bring items that represent their culture and they put on a cultural show during the conference. This gives students the opportunityto showcase their cultures and experience the cultures of others, leading to some powerful learning.

There is also a service day, where delegates take what they have learntand do something active with it, such as plantingtrees. The week is finished with action planning, where the delegates discuss what it is they have learned at conference and what they plan to take away for the future.

Impact & scalability

Impact & Scalability


Students learn peace-building skills with the intent to design, build and facilitate a conference with youth in conflict zones or areas.


Initiative for Peace has taught youth what a functioning, peaceful community looks like, how it is formed, and what sort of behaviour accelerates this process. Many students who have participated in this project have gone on to pursue careers in peace-building or run their own conferences in the future.


Over the last 15 years 450 students at UWC have been involved in Initiative for Peace. This initiative, however, could be done on a large or small scale & could be delivered within your own country. For example, in the UK, young people could focus on the refugee crisis and train students to bring together refugees and local children in the area.

Implementation steps

Do no harm
This concept is the most important thing to consider when embarking on a programme like Initiative for Peace.

A peace conference is a peace-building intervention. The conference must do no harmto the community that it has been designed for. It must not lead to more conflict and must not leave the communityworse off than beforethe conference. This is an important tenet of peace-building and should not be taken lightly. An educator'srole as a supervisor will be crucial here in order to uphold this primary peace-building principle.

Identify a need
Where is there conflict and how might young peace-builders be able to work with youth in that area in order to help bring about positive peace?

Remember that conflict and violence don’t have to be physical. Theycan occur in the school community, local community, local region or internationally. For example, a peace conference could be beneficial in addressing cyberbullying in school, tension within the community between refugees and local people, or the post-conflict landscape of a nearby country that has recentlycome out of a civil war.

It is also important to note that it is not necessaryto go to a conflict zone. It is possible tofind a location that is safe, neutraland accessible to delegates. This is what UWCdo with theirMae Sot conference, whichbrings togetherdelegates from different ethnicities in Myanmar to a neutral location in Mae Sot, Thailand,on the Thai-Myanmar border, where there is also a large community of Myanmar refugees and migrants.

Identifying a need will requirebuilding links and contacts with a variety of people. Reach out to experts in the field and thechosen location.Use Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. Be bold and brave.

Decide on the scale
The scale of the conference depends upon multiple factors such as funding, staff availability and the number of students.

If there islittle funding avaliable, then perhaps looking at conflict and violence within theschool community or local community is the way to go. If there aregreater funds, then perhapslook further afield. This innovation can be scaled to different levels. Running a conference close to home can be just as impactful as running it further afield.

It is also important to consider the political and ethical climate of working with potentially vulnerable youth. Partners who have local knowledge are essential in navigating this added complexity. The important thing is identifying a clear need within any community. Conferences can be an hour, a day, a fewdays or a week. Maybe start small and build up. Initiative for Peacestarted with a two day conference in Singapore on the Kashmir conflict.

Plan the logistics
Educators should visit the intended location to ensure that the conference is feasible as part of the planning process.

It is crucial to assess whether the conference will be feasible. The location or scale of the conference may need to be adjusted in order to ensure that it is possible to run.Don't be afraid to make adjustments to the plan.

There are many things to considerincludingtravel costs,conference facilities, developing contacts on the ground,access to delegates and sustainability. This list is not exhaustive and will depend on the context.

Visiting the local area where the conference will be held is crucial. UWC would even go as far as to say that a conference should not take place unless this has been done beforehand to ensure that the conference is feasible.

Create a theory of change
It is important to think about the intended learning outcomes for both the students running the conference and the delegates attending.

Clearly define this stage asit helps maintain focus when running the programme. For both the facilitators and the delegates, think about what they will hopefully gain from the experience, how it will transform them, what they will be saying and feeling as they leave the conference and what impact the experience will have on them in the future.

Some points of particular emphasis might bethe do no harm principle,cultural sensitivity,humility,research,conflict analysis and building relationships.

Train students to become effective peace-builders
No matter the scale of the conference or intervention, in order to be effective peace-builders students will need training.

To deliver this training effectively, decide howthe theory of change and learning outcomes will potentially be achieved.

This will probably include developing a curriculum that helps train students to be peace-builders (UWCare in the process of making this more accessible to others, but are happy to share what they have in the meantime). There are a plethora of resources out there that include TED talks, video media, simulations, peace-buildingwebsites, NGO websitesand peace-building games.

Also, reachout to experts. Previously, UWChave had a project manager deliver sessions on project managementand a United Nations trainer running a workshop on facilitation. By being bold, brave and asking people for support, it might come as a surprisehow many people are willing to offer their expertise and time.

Again, the scope and scale of training sessions will depend uponcontext and the goals of the conference. The larger the scale of the conference, the more time will be needed for training.

Select facilitators and delegates
Delegate selection will depend on the numbers of applications received versus the number of places, as well as on the context.

Dependingon the number of students signed up for training versus the number of placesavailable for the conference, it must be decided in advance how students are selected to both facilitate and attend the conference.

It's important to considerthe criteria for selection, how the selection process will be run,howevery student can be given the opportunity to shine and show their skills, and how it can be ensured that there is a range of skills in the students who will run and attend the conference.

Plan the conference
The students will plan and lead the conference, while a teacher will act as a coach and facilitator.

It is important that the studentshave ownership of planning the conference. Explaintherole of teachers clearly: they are there to offer expertise, guidance and to ask questions. Educators also run workshops during this time, which might focus on conflict analysis, how to run effective meetings, how to run effective teams, among many other topics. However, importantly, the content and planning of the conference is ultimately done by the students. Teacherssimply facilitate this process. Some crucial steps in the facilitation process could be conducting a thorough conflict analysis, eciding on a conference theme or mission, delegating roles, connecting youth to experts on the location and faciliating lots of meetings and discussions!

Support students during the conference
While the conference is taking place, staff should continue their role as coaches.

At the start of the conference, students might feel the need to ask staff for assurance. It is important at this stage that teachers do not to take over. Teachers can help the studentswith their problems, but should do this through questioning, helping them to reach their own conclusions. This should help build the students'confidence so that they are less reliant on the teachers. It can be tempting as staff to step in too soon. Resist the urge as this damages the authenticity of the conference.

However, of course, if somethingbecomes dangerous, or what the students are doing doesn’t align with the intervention principle of do no harm,then a teachershould step in.

Teachersalso perform an important pastoral role. After all, these are still young people and a conference can be a draining experience for both facilitators and delegates.

Reflect on the programme
Once the students have completed the programme, it is important that they reflect on their learning.

If the goal is to develop impassioned, lifelong peace-builders, then this process is crucial. Use reflection tools to help the students ascertain how they might have been transformed by the process and what their next steps might be.

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