Sometimes, growing up in the face of inequalities and violence serves as the propelling force to stand up and envision a different, more peaceable reality. Having been raised in Brazil must have stimulated this sentiment in Isadora Darwich, talented mediator and peace activist from Belo Horizonte, as she committed her career to look out for peace alternatives to both global and local problems. Despite the young age, Isadora’s curriculum already counts roles of a certain caliber and a specialization in Family Psychotherapy. Remarkably, she serves as Coordinator of Innovation and Impact at Mediators Beyond Borders International, having worked hard on the team to help organize the 2019 MBBI International Congress in Bali, Indonesia.
The curiosity of looking out to abroad cultures.
Isadora’s unique curiosity towards different cultures and the global dimension was inspired by her first ‘cultural shock’ as she took secondary education at Italian International School Fundação Torino. By spending a period of time studying in Italy, she could explore the differences of such a distant society. However, she especially managed to appreciate the strong similarities connecting peoples from around the world. This fascination towards understanding what lied outside of the national borders drove her to undertake a bachelor’s degree in international Relations and Affairs at Ibmec, a renowned university in Brazil.
Isadora’s talent was clear since this early stage of her professional formation. Indeed, while still studying she covered the role of Research Assistant at the Department of International Relations, contributing to various academic publications, specifically she researched extensively on the blank voting-representation dilemma. Afterward, she spent an internship period as a Market Intelligence Analyst at the Indian Consulate located in Belo Horizonte. Nevertheless, this latter experience seemed to push her away from the diplomatic career. “I felt like everything was so locked in, it’s hard that often you can’t choose your course of action, you’re constrained to follow the guidelines given by the government and the country”. Once Isadora terminated her bachelor’s, her promising professional involvement took off.
A rich and inspiring curriculum.
As the first quality role, Isadora flew to Washington D.C. to work as a Research Assistant at Cato Institute for the Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity. Here, she had the opportunity to put her background and expertise in the Southern American area at the service of the policy research and advocacy mission of the Institute. During her time as a Market Researcher at the Charles Koch Foundation, Isadora started feeling that behind-a-desk roles were not fulfilling her aspirations and felt the need to redraw her perspectives. “I liked what I was doing but by being always behind a computer I could not see the impact of my work on people”, she says. Pushed by this inner calling, she came back to Brazil to work as an Outreach Associate at LIVRES, a non-profit civil association aiming to promote civic engagement and social policy in São Paulo.
At the same time, her bright mind nurtured Soul Kombucha, an innovative start-up that produced kombucha (healthy sparkling probiotic beverage), which was then sold as an established local enterprise. Vision, determination, and proactivity, all these virtues certainly figure as well-established qualities in Isadora’s portfolio. Currently, Isadora is a Parliamentary Advisor at the Legislative Assembly of the regional government, mainly dedicating to the selection, monitoring, and evaluation of social programs. All this, while she works tirelessly to dedicate her full-time career to one, critical area: mediation.
How can people communicate better?
Communication is key for a healthy and cooperative society. However, Isadora thinks we still have a lot of work to do to improve the way we use communication and dialogue in our everyday life. For instance, political polarization is a recurrent problem of our time, both in Brazil and elsewhere. “People tend to stop speaking when things get unpleasant or divisive, such as with politics or religion whereas we should learn how to talk about all these topics openly and in a respectful manner”. Undoubtedly, conflict resolution skills could improve human relations in every aspect of our living. “I started wondering ‘How can people communicate better?” she states.
With such a fundamental question in her mind, she needed to give it an answer. This why Isadora got interested in the topic of mediation in the first place. To give concreteness to it, she trained at the Centro Universitário Newton Paiva. “As soon as I took the first training in mediation, everything started to make so much sense to me, especially with regards to communication. Mediation is a very transformative practice, where you can see evident results and you are using your skills to help other people in a tangible way”.
Finally, Isadora had fulfilled her desire to translate what she learned in a practical setting. The curiosity of understanding why people behave or think in a certain or another manner also led her to become passionate about psychotherapy, on which she earned a specialization in systemic therapy. “Sometimes people do crazy things, apparently ‘out of the blue’, but in many cases, the root causes come from the environment where these people were raised and how they have learned to communicate”.
Thanks to this expertise, she was invited to the position of coordinator, mediator, and negotiator at a local Mediation Chamber in Belo Horizonte. Here, she got involved in several different types of mediation, ranging from family disputes to business issues. Another strand of her work related to creating a project called ‘Mediating Lives’, aimed at giving assistance to the refugees going through challenging times, such as experiencing bureaucratic problems with documentation. Notably, this close contact with displaced people, and their dire situation, marked Isadora so intensely that she would start dedicating her time and energies to try easing their condition.
A keen dedication to vulnerable groups.
After the 2019 MBBI Congress, Isadora lifetime commitment to peace led her to work with the refugees, one of the most marginalized groups within her society. “People tend to have a lot of prejudices about the refugees, but most of the time they never even met one”. Brazil, alongside other Latin American countries, is subject to the historically largest refugee crisis, receiving this huge influx of mass displaced population from shaky Venezuela. This is how she got involved with Fraternity Without Borders, an international non-profit volunteer organization engaged in charity work and humanitarian relief with vulnerable populations in Brazil and abroad. By working within a refugee camp at the border with Venezuela, she was given the opportunity to channel her knowledge on conflict transformation to bring tangible help to the refugee families and communities experiencing trauma and other consequences of conflict.
“I’ve facilitated several mediations and started a women circle with Venezuelan refugees, focused also on skills-building workshops in order for them to have more economic opportunities here in Brazil. I feel like I have learned much more from them than what they’ve learned from me, in the end, they only needed somebody willing to listen”. Unfortunately, the pandemic halted all the activities, but Isadora is eager to resume her involvement. In the meantime, she does not like to sit back. With the objective to foster the opportunities of the economic integration of the asylum seekers, she is currently preparing an online training program with a mental health professional, who she met through MBBI’s 9th Annual International Peace Congress. Such a project would aim at educating Brazilians on best practices for refugees even in times when onsite training is not viable. “Unemployment is a big issue already in Brazil, therefore we are trying to build a curriculum that would allow refugees to start their own businesses”.
Last but not least, Isadora is a Regional Innovator of an emergent social enterprise born out of a growing demand for conflict transformation skills around the world. Scaling Peace is designed to scale this critical skillset while generating sustainable resources for social impact initiatives on the ground. “The problem of most peace projects is that they work on a voluntary basis – that means that you can only do them for so long”. This enterprise is designed to overcome the persistent challenge of financial sustainability by creating a symbiotic system whereby conflict professionals can package and scale their reach and revenue, in order to fund and implement sustainable initiatives in local communities worldwide.
Mediator, activist, psychotherapist, and social entrepreneur. All these are facets of the same person. All these are the pillars for an extraordinary future. Good luck Isadora!
Written by Matteo Piovacari: MBBI Writer