Culture Design, Peacebuilding, and Light. Member Spotlight: Ei Ei Samai

With over twenty years of experience in social impact, Ei Ei Samai brings a wealth of knowledge and a unique world perspective to her clients, community, and fellow peacebuilders at MBBI. She holds a Master of Science in Organization Management and Transformative Leadership and is certified in advanced facilitation, community mediation, conflict transformation, restorative justice, and more. Most recently, Ei Ei earned the distinction of “Courage Catalyst” as part of the first cohort of facilitator trainings led by the renowned researcher and author, Brené Brown. “Committed to growing agility, resilience, and belonging in social impact groups through science-based culture design” — This is the powerful mission behind Ei Ei’s work as Principal Designer of Samai Group; a mindful facilitation consultancy based in San Francisco, CA.

Early Inspirations from Burmese Culture and Beyond

At the spirited age of four, Ei Ei started her journey toward becoming a leader in mediation and peacebuilding. I grew up in Burma, and the way that I saw the grownups around me handle conflict was unique and served as my first inspirations,” Ei Ei explained. She remembers that whenever a significant matter arose within her family, the adults would gather and engage in a focused exchange of ideas. There were unofficial power-holders in these conversations; voices of wisdom and calm— and the wordage was always suggestive, rather than blunt or demanding.

After immigrating to the United States with her family at eleven years old, Ei Ei was exposed to a vastly different cultural landscape where she developed an interest in social justice. Her multidisciplinary undergraduate studies, involvement in women of color organizations, and experience observing other traditional methods of conflict management led by elders in New Zealand strongly influenced Ei Ei’s professional aspirations. She knew that she wanted to learn as much as possible about how to approach world conflicts with a systems lens and restorative focus.

Completing the School for International Training’s graduate program in peacebuilding and conflict transformation, was a game changer for Ei Ei. Through this opportunity, she spent time in Rwanda doing post-conflict field studies and building a comprehensive skills-based understanding of how the peacebuilding process operates; how diverse elements, such as forgiveness, the arts, and civil society, may be organized and interwoven to allow for widespread communal healing. Until then, it did not occur to me that this could be my career.

Launchng Samai Group and Understanding its Impact

Fast forward to today— Ei Ei is the distinguished proprietor of Samai Group, which, at its core, was founded upon her life-long regard for gender equality, global citizenship, honoring the planet, and living a purpose-driven existence. Ei Ei also expressed exceptional gratitude to the people along the way who opened her eyes, filled her heart, skilled her hands, and helped her pave a career path.

Samai Group represents Ei Ei’s professional prowess and brings together the tools and trainings she has identified to help shape conversations and improve outcomes for a diversity of social impact organizations. Most notably, Ei Ei consults with local governments, social enterprises, public schools, and non-profits in the realms of educational equity, diversity and inclusion, family and community engagement, environmental justice, and collaborative partnerships.

When asked why she believes mediation and other informed strategies for conflict management are important today, she said Displays of anger and dysfunction are happening every day in our workplaces and throughout society, because people simply do not have the tools to deal with the issues they face.In other words, peacebuilding, from Ei Ei’s perspective, should not only be practiced post-conflict, but also as a habitual preventative. We want to avoid people becoming volcanoes.

The Light in a Community of Practice

What I enjoy most about this work are the people!!!” When coaching a client or facilitating a group training, I love the moments when I can see that a person no longer feels alone in their struggle, or that they are feeling more capable to try on new language and engage in productive conversations with colleagues, or that they now have the tools to transform a given conflict into something positive!

Additionally, Ei Ei considers MBBI to be an essential community of practice. She enjoys learning about the context of others’ mediation work; their challenges and how they apply their skills. She said, As a process person, there is always something to learn,” and it is good for the sustainability, success, and global interconnectedness of everyone in this field.

Lastly, Ei Ei shared a piece of advice from a former professor related to the importance of the MBBI network. In this line of work, where practitioners are constantly exposed to the dark injustices of the world and the ways in which people are hurting, every peace-builder needs to stay aware of their light and learn how to resource it through a shared community whenever it gets dim. To shine again and to bring light into this work every day is the essence of what MBBI makes possible.

Ei Ei will be hosting two webinars on MBBI’s platform this summer entitled, “The Implications of Equity in Conflict Work,” on Monday, July 22, and “Rumble and Rise Skills for Authoring New Social Contracts” on Wednesday, August 14. 

Article by Juliana Heffern, MBBI Writer