The TRUST Network 

Marcella Calabi is an MBBI member and mediator, currently working as a coordinator in the TRUST Network, and is a prime example of the fascinating diversity of experience and work that MBBI members and contributors bring to the practice of peacebuilding. 

The TRUST Network was created after a call by MBBI President and CEO Prabha Sankaranarayan to establish an early warning, early response (EWER) mechanism across the United States. The TRUST network is led by convenors and key process facilitators of MBBI, Election Incident Reporting (EIRUSA), and the National Association for Community Mediation (NAFCM). It is a mechanism that works to prevent violence and the outbreak of violent conflict using the already established networks of mediators and peace institutions that MBBI is connected to and partnered with. The TRUST Network has three lead organizations, 24 other partners, and is ‘growing every day’– and it only came into existence at the end of September.

Marcella is currently working intently as one of the two co-coordinators of the TRUST Network. The enormous amount of effort to launch, run, and sustain the network that she and Sunita Kumar put in is laudable and worthy of commendation. Marcella maintains that the process is ‘totally engaging and absolutely thrilling’, and that it allowed her to direct all her skills towards something that she believed in wholeheartedly as a concept and as a mechanism for peace.  

A Trust in the Self

The practice of Marcella’s professional and personal interests converges on a belief and a trust in the self. This means a following of intellectual and emotional instincts as well as a trust in the body; ‘the body is always doing what it believes it is supposed to do. It may not be right – it may be operating on old or inaccurate information – but deep attention can bring forward a motivation worth knowing about. This also includes trust in one’s instincts, inclinations, and skills: Marcella maintains that We learn the skills we want to have.’ It is no surprise that her own interest lies ‘in acquiring the skills that have to do with the interaction between people.’

One gets the sense, when speaking to her, that Marcella finds all of her work thrilling and engaging. Despite the wide variety of professional positions that Marcella has held, from being a voice coach to consultation in negotiation to being a mediator, there are key patterns to discern in her love of tackling problems with vigor and a clear perspective. In her work, she sees a need, a space to be filled, and she fills it with a plan, with diplomacy, with writing – whatever it may need.

In other words, she allows herself to pursue projects that she finds fresh and interesting: ‘I love figuring out how things work, for the purpose of making things work. I have applied that skill and that interest to many things that needed to be done…Projects have come into view that seemed to be needed, either by people that I care about or by a place that I cared about or for a cause that I cared about – and then I would plunge in and make something happen: Problem-solving, diplomacy, vision-building, articulation, writing…’

Marcella was raised in an environment of linguists and mathematicians, and with a focus on the precision of language but also on the beauty of its subtext. It is not surprising, given the clear joy that Marcella takes in communicating wholeheartedly with others, and the ways in which she searches for ways to solve problems and close gaps, that she has worked in mediation and peacebuilding capacities. Her passion lies in empowering others, including in helping them discover the words and skills they need to truly be themselves in the world. 

The Three Strands of Voice and Empowering Others

Her true passion is ‘a desire for people to have their voice in the world’. She means this both metaphorically and literally; as a former voice coach (for those learning to sing but also for public speaking and communication), she understands the power that discovering one’s voice that can have on improving confidence and power within this world. 

This philosophy of the voice can be broken down into three separate yet interrelated strands: [1] one’s literal physical voice and the psychology behind it, [2] one’s voice in the world (decision-making, communication with others, negotiation, etc.), and [3] the practice of focusing on, dealing with, and understanding one’s inner voice(s). Developing these skills come home, come together, in the individual, to being more freely in the world. Marcella takes pride in being a voice coach in both an emotional sense and in a technical sense, which means she really can get people unstuck from what is holding them back from discovering this freedom.

Even when she is not a voice coach, it is evident that she believes in not only in individual voice but the support of local organizations and the voices of those often suppressed by systems of power – this is of course demonstrated in the work she is doing now for the Trust Network, which exists to support local action.

Focusing and Peace

In response to a query on the practices she finds settling, soothing, or nurturing, Marcella says she finds peace in good conversations with good people. As a certified teacher in Inner-Relationship Focusing (IRF)  (a somatic practice of deep attention to the inner world) she uses this form of self-nurturing to help individuals achieve balance. 

Marcella inspires in a way that does not need to be spelled out; it is perhaps a rarity in most places to encounter people who truly choose to do what they love. Yet she makes it seem so simple, so clear, that the joy in life is derived from caring about the people around you and communicating with them with an open mind and heart – and perhaps that is the most authentic form of building peace.

Article by Lizzy Nestor, MBBI Writer