This article is part of a series showcasing the work of graduates of the IEP Ambassador Programme, an online course providing the knowledge and tools to foster peace.
Name: Alden Jacobs
City: Nicosia, Cyprus
Profession: Director at Visual Voices
Vison of Humanity: Why did you undertake the IEP Ambassadors Programme?
Alden Jacobs: I decided to take part in the programme because I really appreciate the concept of Positive Peace. I also think it is important to have data that looks at the current global situation and to track changes over time. I am excited to be part of this community and look forward to connecting with the other ambassadors.
VOH: Do you have previous experience in the peace and conflict field?
AJ: As a Rotary Peace Fellow at the Department of Peace and Conflict Research in Uppsala, Sweden, I developed a strong interest in arts-based peacebuilding. This focus was undoubtedly a result of my years of work in community development in Honduras, Mozambique and Cyprus. I am currently the co-founder and director of programme development at Visual Voices.
I hold a Master’s of Social Science in Peace and Conflict Research from Uppsala University and a Bachelor of International Studies from the University of Oregon. My professional experience has focused on project management for international community development initiatives. My goal is to help communities promote peace advocacy at a local and international level.
VOH: Describe your final project for the IEP Ambassadors Programme.
AJ: For my final IEP Ambassadors Programme project I developed a new section in the Visual Voices peace education curriculum for young visual artists. This section of the curriculum focuses on positive and negative peace, incorporating the Positive Peace Report and the Global Peace Index.
To give some context, Visual Voices is a non-profit organisation based in Cyprus, but working internationally. Our focus is arts-based peacebuilding through contemporary visual art and our main beneficiaries are young visual artists from communities affected by violent conflict. Through our programmes, these artists engage with peace education, mentoring, leadership and artistic production. Their final artworks comment on critical challenges faced within their communities as a result of violent conflict. From our own research, we recognise that this form of community engagement with socially engaged artworks promotes dialogue and greater civic participation.
My project sought to build a longer term engagement with the available IEP resources through their incorporation into longer running programs. The Visual Voices peace education curriculum will continue to be used in all of our future programs with young artists.
The curriculum was first introduced to 11 young artists as part of our 2020 residency program in Cyprus. The residency’s thematic focus was ‘Media and Nationalist Narratives’ and resulted in the creation of socially-engaged artworks that have been exhibited both traditionally and digitally.
VOH: How did you activate Positive Peace in your project?
AJ: I activated Positive Peace by promoting reflection, dialogue and learning within my community around challenges that directly relate to Positive Peace. In reference to the Pillars of Positive Peace, I think my project is most relevant to (1) Free Flow of Information and (2) Acceptance of the Rights of Others. By sharing the artworks we are actually sharing new ideas and perspectives that have originated from the community, based on interaction with peacebuilding principles and concepts. We see this art as communication that is capable of impacting people on an emotional and intellectual level. We also see this as promoting acceptance for the rights of others because it brings together communities in conflict. Sharing the artworks of others creates new understanding on a personal rather than communal/ conflict level.
VOH: What do you want to achieve with your project and why?
AJ: With my project, I aim to promote greater understanding of Positive Peace and to motivate community leaders to seek Positive Peace through their everyday actions. On a larger scale, with Visual Voices, we seek to challenge conflict narratives through artistic expression and build a global network of arts-based peacebuilders.
Alden Jacobs graduated from the IEP Ambassador Programme in 2020.
IEP’s Ambassador program is now taking expressions of interest. Find out more and apply here.