World in Conversation to study impact of dialogues with NATO cadets, civilians

World in Conversation (WinC) directors Sam Richards and Laurie Mulvey recently signed a memo of agreement between Penn State and AIBA - the Afghanistan Independent Bar Association - at the first face-to-face team meeting for the organizations.

This agreement officially marks the beginning of research supported by a grant received through NATO's Science for Peace and Security Programme to study the impact of connecting NATO cadets with civilians in Afghanistan through virtual dialogues. Mulvey says through this research, the center is a step closer to building a conflict prevention tool that could save lives in conflict zones and elsewhere.

Over the past few months, World in Conversation student facilitators have piloted virtual dialogues between Afghan civilians and NATO cadets from Belgium, the Netherlands, Poland, U.S., and Italy. These conversations have been a landmark accomplishment in international collaboration. The dialogues are held at five institutions in Afghanistan: the University of Herat, the University of Kabul, the University of Albirony, the University of Nagarhar, and the University of Balkh.  

Hassib Rassa, one of the Afghan coordinators, said of the pilot initiative: “I feel connected and I feel I belong to the world.”

Leading the Afghan team is Rafi Nadiri, project co-director and program manager at the Afghan Independent Bar Association (AIBA). Along with the World in Conversation staff, the Penn State team includes Terry Vescio, associate professor of psychology at Penn State, who is designing and implementing the study. She will test the effectiveness of the dialogues in fostering understanding between people that will contribute to the creation of a conflict prevention tool. 

“WinC anticipates a very fruitful collaboration, and believes that the partnership with the Afghanistan Independent Bar Association will be a model for others like it that are sure to follow,” Mulvey said.


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Last Updated February 04, 2015