Lessons unheeded, or how not to repeat a history of violence (Part 1)

This week, The Daily WRAG will feature a three-part series, titled Lessons unheeded, or how not to repeat a history of violence, from guest contributor Linda Bowen of The Institute for Community Peace. In this series Bowen examines lessons learned from past philanthropic investments in violence prevention and offers short vignettes about how funders can frame their thinking around addressing community violence.


By Linda Bowen, Executive Director
The Institute for Community Peace
(Formerly the National Funding Collaborative on Violence Prevention)

Start with community. Meaningful community engagement and dialogue are prerequisites to understanding the causes of violence and identifying the range of solutions most appropriate to its reduction or prevention. Grantmakers who address violence prevention must use strategies that take into account not only the physical acts of violence but also its social determinants and its systemic roots. Collaboration in which community residents are engaged in equal partnership with resource and power brokers is key to ensuring a comprehensive response to violence prevention.

Principles can be universal; practice is local. While violence has similar origins across race and geography, place is a factor in which solutions need to be evaluated for their fit within specific communities. In supporting programs built on emerging solutions, grantmakers need to insist that the solutions identified are appropriate to the locales and populations where they are to be implemented. When communities are engaged in the process of developing solutions, this misfit is less likely to occur.

Promote healthy community. Deterrence, intervention, and prevention are often cited as necessary steps on a continuum of action needed to systemically address violence. ICP found that to get traction on violence prevention, the continuum should be financed in reverse order, first focusing attention and resources on promotion and prevention. Done well, these will limit our need for intervention and deterrence. Grantmakers should start from a position outlined by communities: the best defense against violence is not an armed community, but a healthy one.

Insist on quality evidence. While holding individual perpetrators accountable for violent acts is emotionally satisfying, it is not by itself an effective community level solution, nor does blaming a specific group of people absolve the rest of us of the responsibility for finding solutions to systemic problems. Grantmakers should require a level of “proof” for assertions of group characteristics that the best social science supports, and give more attention to larger environmental factors that are at work.

Copyright 2013 Institute for Community Peace

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