Lisa Schirch – Keough School


Technology; media; Human Security; social cohesion; social justice; conflict assessment; dialogue; mediation; design of the peace process; religion; ritual; art; non-violent social movements; violent extremism

At Keough School

Lisa Schirch is a faculty member at Keough School’s Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies.


Biography & Research

Lisa Schirch has 30 years of experience in peacebuilding research, policy advocacy, practice and teaching. A political scientist by training, she received her doctorate in 1989 from the Carter Center for Peace and Conflict Resolution at George Mason University.

Schirch’s most recent book, Impacts of social media on conflict and democracy: the techno-tonic shift (Routledge, 2021) presents thirteen local case studies from Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America. The book describes how digital technologies drive “social climate change,” including polarization, anti-immigrant and anti-minority extremist narratives.

Schirch’s current research focuses on the positive roles of technology in ‘peacetech’ and ‘digital peacebuilding’. She is a senior researcher at the Toda Peace Institute, where she coordinates with civil society and technology companies to experiment and innovate new technologies that can strengthen social cohesion.

As a researcher, Schirch has a long history of research and publication. A former Fulbright scholar in East and West Africa, Schirch is the author of eleven books focusing on the agency and capacity of local civil society, including Strategic Peacebuilding (2005), Ritual and Symbol in Peacebuilding (2006), Dialogue on difficult subjects (2007), Conflict Assessment and Peacebuilding Planning: Towards a Participatory Approach to Human Security (2014), The ecology of violent extremism (2018), Synergize nonviolent action and peacebuilding (2018) and Impacts of social media on conflict and democracy: the techno-tonic shift (2021). His publications have been translated into German, French, Spanish, Arabic, Thai and Japanese.

As a political adviser, Schirch built the first peacebuilding policy initiative in Washington, D.C., as founding director of the Alliance for Peacebuilding Policy Program from 2006 to 2015. Schirch brought delegations of peacebuilding practitioners from Afghanistan, Iraq and other countries to Congress and trained more than 1,000 U.S. Foreign Service and military officers on civil society peacebuilding and the relevance of the Geneva Conventions to civil-military relations in Iraq and Afghanistan. With support from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, she co-led a three-year global research process on civil society innovations in relations with security forces, which resulted in two publications: a handbook on human security ( 2016) and Local Ownership in Security: Case Studies of Peacebuilding Approaches (2016).

As a practitioner, Schirch has experience designing, mediating and facilitating peace processes in over twenty countries. Beginning as a mediator for the courts of Washington, D.C., in 1992, Schirch facilitated intergroup dialogue in a variety of settings, including between black and white leaders in the cities of Richmond, Virginia, and between civil society leaders and the US Army in Afghanistan. As a practitioner, Schirch primarily works with local peacebuilding initiatives by innovating new methods that combine dialogue and social movements to transform conflict. Schirch co-facilitated the national peace process in Fiji in 2001. His book Designing a comprehensive peace process for Afghanistan describes eight mechanisms for local civil society participation in formal peace processes and how these might work in Afghanistan, based on three years of research in the country from 2009 to 2011. She provided training and support to the United Nations Mediation Support Team, building on the book Synergize nonviolent action and peacebuilding for more information on how to sequence social movement tactics and peace negotiations.

Recognition of Schirch’s research has taken various forms. Schirch served as co-chair of the U.S. State Department’s Task Force on Religious Actors, Diplomacy, and Peacebuilding from 2015-2016 and the Security and Peace Platform Research Review Group. rule of law of the Dutch government from 2016 to 2020. Since 2015, she has served on the Global Fund’s International Expert Panel for Community Engagement and Resilience based in Geneva. Schirch has presented her research as a keynote speaker at two Pentagon conferences, at Congressional hearings on national security, at United Nations Headquarters in Geneva and New York, and in Whitehall, Chatham House, and Wilton Park in London.

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