Bringing theory to practice and practice to theory: A story of a mediation program in North Central Nigeria

Event Date: Friday May 20, 2022
Time: 12:00-1:00 pm

The Herbert C. Kelman Seminar on International Conflict Analysis and Resolution presents:

Bringing theory to practice and practice to theory:
A story of a mediation program in North Central Nigeria

A virtual talk with:

Dr. Rebecca Wolfe
Senior Lecturer and Executive Director of International Policy & Development
Harris School of Public Policy, University of Chicago

Friday, May 20, 2022
12:00 pm – 1:00 pm, ET (US and Canada)

Free and open to the public.


About the talk:

Weak states have often relied upon local leaders to resolve intra- and inter-communal disputes. Consequently, numerous peacebuilding interventions target these leaders with mediation training. However, previous evidence for whether these types of training programs improve dispute resolution and whether these effects extend to the community as a whole, was sporadic and largely anecdotal. In this talk, Dr. Wolfe will discuss her experience designing and then researching such programs, highlighting an example from North Central Nigeria, a region plagued with farmer-herder and other communal violence for decades. Comparing communities with leaders trained in Interest-Based Negotiation with communities where leaders did not receive training, she and her colleagues found that trained leaders were more successful in resolving disputes. Moreover, those in communities with trained leaders experienced fewer violent events and felt more secure. Dr. Wolfe will close the session describing how these results are informing future programming, and how future research will aim to refine further peacebuilding practice.

About the speaker:

Dr. Rebecca J. Wolfe is a leading expert on political violence, conflict and violent extremism. She is a Senior Lecturer at the Harris School for Public Policy at the University of Chicago, where she is also an associate at the Pearson Institute for the Study and Resolution of Global Conflicts. Prior to joining the faculty at Chicago, she led research and program development related to conflict and fragility at Mercy Corps, an international development and humanitarian agency. Dr. Wolfe draws on her extensive practitioner and academic backgrounds effectively researching important development issues, design interventions that are theoretically grounded and evidence based, and communicates both to multiple audiences. Over her career, she has developed conflict prevention and violence reduction programs globally, including Kenya’s largest youth development program, gang violence prevention in Guatemala City, countering violent extremism programs in Nigeria and Yemen, and community-based conflict management interventions in Iraq, Syria, Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Tajikistan. Dr. Wolfe has also published research on why young people engage in violence, and how to design development interventions to reduce this. She was a Fellow at Yale University’s Political Violence Field Lab and currently is an affiliate at NYU’s Steinhardt School. Dr. Wolfe has taught at Princeton’s School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University and at the Wagner School for Public Service at New York University. She received her PhD in Social Psychology from Harvard University.

About the Herbert C. Kelman Seminar Series:

The Herbert C. Kelman Seminar on International Conflict Analysis and Resolution series is sponsored by the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School, The Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, and Boston area members of the Alliance for Peacebuilding. The seminar considers ways to strengthen the capacity to prevent, resolve, and transform ethnonational conflicts.

 For more information on the Kelman Seminar Series, contact Donna Hicks at


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