Unlocking the Power of Grassroots Change Through Peace in Education. Member Spotlight: Julie Alli
Julie Alli is a mediator based in Los Angeles, California. Born in St Louis, Julie has lived and worked in Maryland, South Carolina, and New Hampshire. Originally a political science major, Julie established a successful real estate career before deciding to go back to school, completing a paralegal certification and Master’s degree in Negotiation, Conflict Resolution, and Peacebuilding.
Julie explains how, in pursuing her desire to continue with her education, she “ended up kind of stumbling into a programme on negotiation and conflict resolution” at California State University, Dominguez Hills (CSUDH). From there, she was “hooked.” She explains how her training prompted her to “learn so much about myself, things that I never reflected on before, and so much about other people.” Although she studied online during the pandemic, Julie forged close and mutually supportive working relationships with her cohort; together, they became the core of the Peace in Education initiative.
She describes the time as challenging and fraught with tension, not just because of the pandemic but also because of the threat of riots and demonstrations following the death of George Floyd. This coincided with Julie and her classmates seeking more practical experience in mediating cases and wanting to apply the skills and theories they were learning. When one of her Professors, Renata Valree, asked for volunteers to assist with police dialogues, Julie saw “the start of a huge change” for her. She saw the people on opposite sides come together and realize they had common needs, which allowed them to move from their positions to create solutions together.
Peace in Education
Julie explains how there was widespread fear that violence would erupt in LA County, and the dialogues were organised to allow the public and the police to voice and address the issues their community was facing. From these dialogues, she explains how she and the other organisers were able to pull data, and identify patterns and trends, so that the LA County Supervisor could take action on needs emerging from the dialogues. For Julie, it was really powerful to see this kind of change coming from the grassroots level. This experience led her, along with a few other classmates who were also graduating that year, to want to continue to expand their skills in community mediation and to help others in the program learn the valuable skills to practice community mediation. They applied for a grant from the Jams Foundation through National Association for Community Mediation, establishing a two-year initiative at CSUDH called Peace in Education.
Julie describes this “passion project” as a mission “to open spaces for dialogue and to try to depolarize some of the things that are going on in the country,” bringing different and often unheard voices into the conversation, and “having people speak and actually hear each other.” The grant project was initially aimed at addressing health inequalities in Compton, which has been ongoing for the past 18 months, but Julie and her team also work on other dialogue projects and training. She explains how each project they’ve worked on has blossomed new avenues for further projects. From their humble beginnings of just four people, Peace in Education has now grown into over 50 volunteers. Peace in Education also includes volunteers from Pepperdine and USC, experienced and emerging mediators, and even new members from other countries and youth hoping to expand their peacebuilding skills.
Fueled by positive energy
Julie describes how spaces like Peace in Education, MBBI, and the National Association for Community Mediation, where she serves as a board member, are spaces for positive growth and connection, where learning is constant and encouraged. She describes MBBI’s platform, a place for “finding common ground and connecting with people all over the world,” as something which “makes us all stronger.” It is this positive energy which really fuels and sustains the work Julie does. Her advice to anyone thinking of becoming a mediator and joining MBBI is “just to trust the process.” She tells me that “if you know you’re doing something valuable, then stick with it and see it through no matter how small. Positivity can spread as easily as negativity, but sometimes it takes persistence. Every time I have stood by a project our team really believed in, I have been able to see this project expand in scope, partners, volunteers, and peace in our community.”
For Julie, the key is really “listening to understand” and trying to make a difference, however small, wherever possible. With Peace in Education, “I’m just hoping that we can make a difference,” Julie tells me. “I know that we will probably never be big enough to change the world, but I think every little bit counts.” It’s clear that the work Julie is doing through Peace in Education serves as a beacon of hope during difficult times, and I am certain that, in time, the long-term benefits of this positive energy will become clear to see.
Article by Natalie Dewar, MBBI Writer