Peace, Peacebuilding and Peacelearning: A Holistic Introduction

A 90-day Study Guide for Peacebuilders of all Ages

The National Peace Academy’s free online curriculum, “Peace, Peacebuilding and Peacelearning: A Holistic Introduction,” is a study guide designed for budding peace and community change leaders from children to adults. It is intended for both seasoned practitioners and those who are new to peacebuilding and who wish to create significant, meaningful and sustainable change in their personal lives, their communities, and the world at large.

The study guide provides an introductory sampling of the holistic knowledge and skills necessary to nurture the development of the full spectrum of the peacebuilder – inner and outer, personal and professional.  It is built upon the National Peace Academy’s “Conceptual Framework for Peace Education & Peacebuilding Programs” (also known as “NPA’s 5 Spheres of Peace“) that explores five interrelated and interdependent spheres of peace and right relationships – the personal, social, political, institutional and ecological – through exercises that introduce skills and concepts that help to illuminate what it means and how to live with peace and in right relationship with our selves, others, diverse communities, and the bigger living systems of which we are all a part.

This curriculum is designed to support Push4Peace, a 90-day global media campaign launched on the International Day of Peace on September 21, 2012.  Over the past few decades, there has been an exponential growth of peacebuilding efforts quietly emerging around the world. This emergence has spread over multiple sectors of society and across a continuum ranging from inner to international peace.  Under the banner of Push4Peace, a group of strategic partners is working to catalyze a worldwide celebration of these diverse efforts as part of a growing wave of peace. Their aim is to reach one billion people and inspire a billion actions for peace.  Take the “pledge for peace” today!  This curriculum is the National Peace Academy’s contribution to this effort.

Use of this curriculum is free – no registration is required.  However, we encourage you to take 3-5 minutes to complete our registration/feedback form so we may know how and where the curriculum is being used, what is most effective, and how we can continue to improve it.

Introduction: Building the Potentiality for Peace

We live in violent world, but it need not be that way.  Violence and peace are potentialities.  As we learned in our earliest physics lessons, potential energy is transformed into kinetic energy, or energy in motion and the amount of kinetic energy of an object depends upon its mass and speed.  In physics, the mass of an object relates to the amount of matter that comprises it.  The more mass, the more kinetic

What comprises the mass of our society? Can we tilt the mass from violence toward peace?

energy an object has.  For the sake of this analogy, let’s substitute physical matter with the fluid concoction of knowledge, culture, beliefs, and attitudes that exist in a human psyche.  Consider for a moment the fact that the “average American child will see 200,000 violent acts and 16,000 murders on TV by age 18.”[1]  That’s a lot of violent matter floating around in a child’s head.  Of course TV is just one stimulus.  We don’t need to look far to find other sources that contribute to our violent mass.  From militarism to sports to politics to the competitive and cutthroat nature of education: these every day events and interactions are constantly shaping our perspective of a violent world.  As we begin to peel back the layers of violence in a society the multifaceted and interrelated nature of the obstacles to peace emerges.   In the United States alone we can observe the systemic nature of violence in which a trillion dollar war, collapsing housing and financial markets, soaring energy prices, a homicide rate ten times that of other leading industrial nations, and a prison population that includes 1 in every 100 citizens could all be said to be related.  Addressing and transforming such interrelated problems requires developing a holistic understanding of peace and the development of the inner-outer, personal, professional and social skills and capacities necessary for holistically engaging in peacebuilding and change efforts.

Some think that the “violence mass” is so great in human society that it is inherent – a natural state of being – and thus there is nothing we can do to slow this violent potential energy once it becomes kinetic.  It seems destined to steamroll everything in its path.  What if the world was a bit different?  What would it be like if we were inundated with positive images of the nonviolent resolution of conflict?  How might things be different if students learned skills of cooperation and collaboration in school rather than competing against each other and rallying to beat standardized tests?  Could it be possible to build a more peaceful mass?  Many believe so, and there is great evidence in its favor.  From the Arab Spring to the Orange Revolution to the US Civil Rights struggle, there are many nonviolent movements that have challenged the violent status quo and have tilted the scales in favor of peace.   Too often we assume that the future is already written, however if we apply the rules of physics the future is still just energy in a potential state awaiting transformation.  Elise Boulding expressed that “the very ability to imagine something different and better than what currently exists is critical for the possibility of social change.”[2]  To shape a more preferred and peaceful future we need exposure to and awareness of the knowledge, skills, and capacities of peace and peacebuilding.  The National Peace Academy notes on its website that “peacebuilding vocations, just like careers in science, business or technology, are built upon foundations of knowledge and skills that are pursued through lifelong learning.”  However, opportunities to gain skills and knowledge in peacebuilding, while growing, still remain relatively few.  With this study guide the National Peace Academy seeks to address this gap by providing a free and accessible introduction to some of the many theories and practices of peace and peacebuilding that we believe are the fundamental knowledge and skills necessary for nurturing the tremendous potentiality of peace.

[1] University of Michigan Health System:
[2]  Boulding, Elise.  (2000). Cultures of Peace: The Hidden Side of History.  Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press  P. 29.


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12 Weeks of Peacelearning for Children, Youth and Adults

This study guide is divided into three units, one each for children, youth and adults.  The curriculum provides exercises and resources appropriate for the primary (elementary) and secondary (youth – adolescents) classroom.   The adult curriculum is intended as an introductory self-study guide.

The 90-day curriculum is divided into 12 weekly lessons, requiring between 45-90 minutes per lesson.   Two weeks are given to each of the 5 spheres of the National Peace Academy framework.   The first lesson provides an introduction to all 5 spheres and the final lesson holistically weaves the 5 spheres together through practical applications.

We encourage all teachers to read our Teacher’s Guide prior to instruction.  The Teacher’s Guide provides some suggested preparations and reflection questions to assure meaningful adaptations of the lessons are made for a given group of students.

Adults who are pursuing self-study are encouraged to do additional research on their own to find other peace practices relevant to their personal and professional journeys.    There are almost unlimited opportunities and paths to pursue for each of the 5 spheres of NPA’s framework.  If a particular theory or practice peaks your interest, we encourage you to find additional resources or learning experiences to further develop skills and deepen your theoretical understanding.  National Peace Academy’s Peacebuilding Peacelearning Certificate Program offers many short-term, affordable and accessible knowledge and skill building workshops covering a wide variety of topics, issues, and skills.  Please visit our upcoming course listings to find a workshop fit for you.

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Curriculum Release Dates

Curriculum will be available starting on the International Day of Peace, September 21, 2012.  Two to three lessons will be posted in advance so teachers may begin preparations for following weeks.

Each set of curriculum can be found on its own page:

To be notified when new lessons are posted, please send an email to with “study guide” in the subject line.

Approximate Schedule of Curriculum Release Dates:

  • Week 1: Introduction: 5 Spheres of Peace (Now Available)
  • Weeks 2-3: Personal Peace (Now Available)
  • Weeks 4-5: Social Peace (Now Available)
  • Weeks 6-7: Political Peace (Now Available)
  • Weeks 8-9: Institutional Peace (Starting in March 2013)
  • Weeks 10-11: Ecological Peace (Starting in March 2013)
  • Week 12: Applied Peace (Starting in March 2013)

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NPA's 5 Spheres of Peace

Download: NPA’s 5 Spheres of Peace (National Peace Academy’s Conceptual Framework for Peace Education & Peacebuilding Programs)

National Peace Academy’s Conceptual Framework for Peace Education & Peacebuilding Programs

Peace, Peacebuilding and Peacelearning

Earth Charter logoThe National Peace Academy’s understanding of peace is shaped by the definition contained in the Earth Charter: “…peace is the wholeness created by right relationships with oneself, other persons, other cultures, other life, Earth, and the larger whole of which all are a part” (The Earth Charter, 2000).

This definition invites learners to deeply inquire into the nature of “right relationships” by asking: what are the values, principles and ethics that inform and sustain right relationships, and how and by whom are they determined?  The idea of right relationships has roots in many cultural, social, faith and political traditions.  From a faith-based perspective it is expressed as the ethic of reciprocity, which is imbedded in nearly all religious, spiritual and ethical traditions.[i] From a secular, political, or human rights perspective, right relationships are manifest via the ethics of human dignity and equality: the preamble of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights begins by recognizing “the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family (as) the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world” (United Nations General Assembly, 1948).  Being in right relationships requires identifying, inquiring into, living with, and transforming existing relationships so that they are in accordance with the values, principles, attitudes and behaviors that are the foundations of these and other ethics.  The National Peace Academy facilitates this inquiry  through its program framework that is comprised of five interrelated and holistic spheres of peace and right relationships (further elaborated below).

The National Peace Academy makes use of John Paul Lederach’s conceptualization of peacebuilding, which he describes as “a comprehensive concept that encompasses, generates and sustains the full array of processes, approaches and stages needed to transform conflict toward more sustainable, peaceful relationships” (Lederach, 1997). Betty Reardon further describes the purpose and scope of peacebuilding as oriented towards nurturing citizen capacities and the political, economic and social structures necessary for assuring the conditions for positive peace.  She describes positive peace as constituting the conditions for the existence of “’justice,’ in the sense of the full enjoyment of the entire range of human rights by all people” (Reardon, 1988). Thus, peacebuilding is both concerned with conflict transformation (the processes) and justice (the conditions).  Processes of conflict transformation mend, nurture and build right relationships that are based upon principles of justice that comprise the conditions that must be present for right relationships to flourish. The issues and problems that peacebuilding addresses are therefore wide-ranging, including but not limited to issues of poverty, social and economic inequity, violence, environment and resource degradation, racism, and gender discrimination.

Peacelearning is the philosophy and process through which the National Peace Academy facilitates learning toward the full development of the peacebuilder.  Peacelearning emphasizes learning as an essential capacity of peacebuilding.  It is an approach to learning that embodies the principles and processes of peace in practice.  As such, peacelearning is much more than simple acquisition of new knowledge and skills; it is a transformational process in which new information and ideas are integrated into the knowledge and experiences we already have.  Peacelearning is directed toward both inward and outward change.  It is a learner-centered process that is non-hierarchal and elicitive, seeking to draw forth knowledge from the individual learner.  It invites learners to engage in modes of critical thinking and self-reflection that are necessary for internalizing the principles and processes of peace.  It also capacitates learners to pose critical queries and questions that may lead to new understandings and possible solutions to personal, interpersonal, social, economic, political and environmental problems for which no answers currently exist.   Peacelearning nurtures those capacities that are essential for learners to be agents of personal and social change.

Five Interrelated and Interdependent Spheres of Peace and Right Relationships

NPA's 5 spheres of peaceThe above understandings of peacebuilding and peacelearning, considered together with the Earth Charter definition of peace as rooted in right relationships, promote a very active conception of peace and the dynamic and transformative learning required to pursue and achieve it.  Additionally, these concepts illuminate at least five interrelated and interdependent spheres of peace and right relationships that need to be nurtured toward the full development of the peacebuilder: the personal, the social, the political, the institutional, and the ecological.  These five spheres relate and function together as a peace system; each representing a unique, crosscutting, and reciprocally reinforcing sphere of human organization and relationships.  Through these spheres, the programs of the National Peace Academy are designed to  introduce learners to theories and practices for nurturing and building peace, and engage learners in reflective inquiry into peace and right relationships.

The personal
refers to “the awareness of one’s authentic being, and living from and relating to others from that awareness” (Snauwaert, 2008).  In the personal sphere, peace requires that we actively strive to establish right relationship with our self.  Personal peace is pursued through inquiry into how we manage and act upon our internal conflicts, attitudes, actions, and emotions toward living with integrity.

social peaceThe social refers to the relationships of individuals with other individuals and to their collective coexistence.  In the social sphere, peace requires that we actively strive to establish right relationships with others.  Social peace is pursued through inquiry into our attitudes, intentions, and actions regarding how we manage our interpersonal conflicts and differences, and how we give to and receive from others the qualities and conditions that comprise human dignity.

political peaceThe political refers to the sphere of human relationship in which diverse individuals and groups come together to discourse, collectively make decisions, and engage in action to create a world together (Arendt, 1958). In the political sphere, peace requires that we actively strive to establish right relationships within and between groups of people, communities and organizations that are supported by just, nonviolent procedures and institutions for making and implementing policy and planning decisions at all levels of social organization.  Political peace is pursued through action derived from inquiry into our attitudes, intentions, and actions regarding how we engage in decision-making processes and public discourse.

institutional peaceThe institutional refers to the ways in which organizations and institutions are organized, and the systematic structures and processes through which power is mediated and human affairs are governed.  All institutions are essentially political.  In the institutional sphere, peace requires that we strive to institutionalize right relationships within and between all forms of organizations, government(s), businesses, systems of organization, and civil society structures to support the development and maintenance of peace systems. Institutional peace is pursued through inquiry into our attitudes, intentions, and actions regarding how we organize and institutionalize the values, principles and norms of justice into systemic structures that moderate human affairs.

ecological peaceThe ecological refers to the interdependent and dynamic interrelationships between and among all organisms and their surroundings in a living system.  In the ecological sphere, peace requires that we actively strive to establish right relationships with Earth and its ecosystems of which we are a part and on which our survival and quality of life depend.  Human systems are not separate from but integral to all living systems, and, as such, human organization affects and is affected by all other ecological systems. Ecosystems are both resilient and fragile, and human life depends upon our respect for, stewardship of, and kinship with the entire planet.  Ecological peace is pursued through inquiry into our attitudes, intentions, and actions regarding how we take responsibility to shift our relationship to the natural environment from one based on control over, to one based on interdependence and living with and within.

Works Cited

  • An-Nawawi, Y. b.-D. (n.d.). An-Nawawi’s Forty Hadiths. Retrieved December 14, 2010, from
  • Arendt, H. (1958). The Human Condition. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Lederach, J. P. (1997). Building Peace: Sustainable Reconciliation in Divided Societies. Washington DC: United States Institute of Peace.
  • Reardon, B. (1988). Comprehensive Peace Education: Educating for Global Responsibility. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.
  • Snauwaert, D. (2008). The Cosmopolitan Ethics of the Earth Charter: A Framework for a Pedagogy of Peace. In Factis Pax: Online Journal of Peace Education and Social Justice , 2 (1), 88-130.
  • The Earth Charter. (2000). The Earth Charter. Retrieved December 12, 2010, from The Earth Charter Initiative:
  • United Nations General Assembly. (1948, December 10). Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Retrieved December 13, 2010, from United Nations:

[i] In the Christian faith the ethic of reciprocity is represented by the Golden Rule: “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” In Islam, it is expressed in the Hadith: “None of you truly believes until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself” (An-Nawawi).  In Judaism it is expressed as “…thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself” (Leviticus 19:18).  For other faith and philosophical perspectives on the ethic of reciprocity see:

* This framework was developed by Tony Jenkins, Vice President for Academic Affairs of the National Peace Academy.  

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*This curriculum is being developed by Tony Jenkins and Tiffany Jenkins.  Reproduction and distribution is permissible and encouraged, however credit should be given to the authors and the National Peace Academy.


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