Transcending the Border with Anchors Not Parachutes

Ev Meade, PhD, director of the Trans-Border Institute at the University of San Diego, explores how universities can help to build peace in places beset by violence and shrouded in fear, but only if we learn to see ourselves as anchors, rather than parachutes.

Often times the best of intentions don’t deliver the intended results in the nonprofit world. This can happen when organizations approach a difficult situation with a short term solution, and impose their ideas upon those in need without understanding the root of the problem.

In Ev Meade’s view, those “parachute” tactics fall short of the mark. In order to effect real, long-lasting change, organizations need to think of themselves as “anchors” who become embedded into the community, seeking feedback from those who live in the area and thus know what’s really going on. At that point solutions can be crafted for the long term.

In his talk Ev speaks about the challenges of working in Sinaloa, Mexico, home of the Sinaloa Drug Cartel, as well as the cartel’s former leader, Joaquín Guzmán, known as “El Chapo”.

Ev takes us into the community and describes what life is like for the residents, in one case highlighting the fact that “more than 90 percent of homicides do not produce an arrest.”

Despite the somber nature of the topic, Ev brings his passion and energy to the stage, with great use of vocal variation and pausing to support an evolving narrative that looks at failed policies, misconceptions and stereotypes, then presents a new way of dealing with troubled communities that involves an understanding of the facts and partnering with the community before becoming an anchor that can be relied upon.

Peace Innovators is a program from the Kroc School of Peace Studies, University of San Diego in which select faculty members prepare presentations that are focused on the human issues they address within their professional studies as well as class curriculum. I had the pleasure of working with each of these speakers as they prepared their talks.