From My Blue Dot to Yours (A reflection before Build Peace 2022)

By Anooj Bhandari

I am a traveler, and being from an immigrant family, have been once since before I was born. From a young age, I started looking at maps and imagining myself as a little blue dot, tracing lines across places I had moved to and visited and dreamt about, dancing across borders in the world as if there was nothing in my way, between them. My mother has always called me “Blue” which informed this image, and was also the first person who ever told me that humility was a necessity if I wanted to move/ move in the world. This image of me as a moving blue dot has never subsided, and I often think to myself, “Wow, look at where this dot has gone.” It’s kind of remarkable, honestly… the amount of care and protection I feel in this movement. I understand that in this world it is really special to feel safety in one’s body despite the forces working against that safety, and acknowledge that this would be nothing without listening in to the asks of the world to always be digging deeper into connection, into transformation, and into possibility.

The Build Peace Conference

Build Peace 2022 is coming up in Chemnitz in just over a week. We are so incredibly excited to connect, to transform, and to see what else is possible with our Build Peace community. We believe that the conference is defining new pathways that are able to focus on enhancing participation in peace processes, and using technology and artistic expression as critical tools for change. Past conferences have spurred new partnerships, new projects, and new relationships, and we see this as crucial for strengthening an ecosystem of peace. We also know that this ecosystem would be nothing without a strong value of praxis.

If we were to name our dream for our Build Peace community, somewhere central to it would be a desire for us to strike the perfect balance between theory and practice: Having the time to collaborate and dialogue around our curiosities, theories of change, and tools for change, while also being embedded in enacting and iterating those questions, theories, and tools, in our relationships with ourselves, our communities, and our ecosystems to learn what can inspire our learning next. With this being said, the Build Peace community is a community of practice. We know it as a space that desires this balance between talking about change and enacting it, knowing that both are necessary to build a movement of peace, and one that is not stagnant, or even oppressive, in responding to a very dynamic world.

My blue dot, chitty chattin it’s way through Build Peace in Nicosia, Cyprus, over 7 years ago.

Connecting the Dots

This year, alongside our conference, we held virtual Connect the Dots Sessions; Spaces for speakers, facilitators, artists, participants, and Build Up collective members to come together and connect ahead of the conference to contribute to the strength of this community. These optional sessions each had a different thematic focus and brought in peacebuilders from around the globe to set a tone of community and collaboration prior to our time together Exploring the Unseen in Chemnitz. Our first session focused on theories of change and our respective peacebuilding work as it takes place around the globe. It offered a chance for participants to spend time in more intimate conversations with one another addressing questions like, “How do I understand change to happen in communities?” and “What questions are guiding my practice, right now?” Our next session was a time to critically engage together on our offerings to the conference, hosting small groups where people were able to share and receive feedback on their contributions being prepared for Build Peace. Finally, our most recent session had us dreaming up the types of relationships, connections, and systems of care we want to enact when we see one another in person. As Chemnitz was chosen as a Build Peace location in-part through its history of racial violence and its current movement to address it, we know that interpersonal safety is a very serious responsibility. We know our community of practice work also contributes to the building of a space that can be safe for all who come through it, equipping us with skills to both build temporary communities, and to enact safer spaces for others to feel cared for in whatever landscapes our work takes place thereafter.

Our hope and excitement

Without space to slow down and reflect together on the work we do in the world, this work can easily shift into dynamics that are void of a responsibility to one another; but what is the work if it is not developing a keener sense of responsibility to the needs and experiences of those around us? We hope that this conference continues to be both a microcosm for what larger convenings are possible. We know that action is necessary, but to have a community of people you can return to, to share experiences and reflections without judgment but certainly not void of a desire to be rigorous with our values, is what keeps that action intact with the realities of our world.

My blue dot is about to travel to Germany for Build Peace 2022, to explore the unseen. And along with my clothes and supplies for the conference, I am bringing a gentle curiosity, one that is both ready to take in the knowledge and grace of those around me, and one that is determined to find ways to act in this world that are more kinder, more connected, than anything I have ever known before. I think it is the history of being a blue dot in a world of pretty amazing other blue dots that has allowed me to understand the importance of carrying this softness when I travel. And I am quite excited to get to move around with these other dots for a few days, before heading back out to bring myself into wherever the expected or unexpected takes me next, knowing there is a community just as curious around the world doing the same.

Me cheesin’ with some Build Peace Buddies

See more about the 2022 Build Peace conference here, taking place in Chemnitz, Germany from Nov 4–6. If you can’t make it, stay tuned — Recordings of the proceedings will be made available after the conference.

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Build Up transforms conflict in the digital age. Our approach combines peacebuilding, participation and technology.