Updated: Sep 27
Hands of Peace turned to SVP at a pivotal point in its organizational growth as it began the shift from an established summer peacebuilding program to a robust alumni action network of engaged global citizens advocating for social change. The close relationship between SVP and the organization enabled work to continue despite the disruptions caused by the resurgence of conflict in the Middle East this May.
Each year Hands of Peace brings together American, Palestinian, and Israeli youth for their flagship Summer Program in Chicago and San Diego, or in the case of the COVID-19 Pandemic, virtually. Program participants gather to engage in dialogue led by professional facilitators from the Middle East. Participants learn about “the other” through sharing the often-painful experiences of conflict and find hope in building a more just, peaceful future together.
Prior to its Spark Team Engagement, Hands of Peace had just completed a strategic planning process with its board called “Reimagining Hands of Peace.” The process illuminated program alumni’s desire for their experience to move beyond dialogue towards skill-based programming that would allow them to activate the peace-building process in their own communities. SVP was called in to help the organization implement this new strategic vision. Lead Partner Lynda Morin and Partners Richard Bockoff and Nancy Cannon-O’Connell worked closely with Hands of Peace to develop an internal as well as an external Theory of Change for the organization. Partner Andrea Yoder Clark also joined the Spark Team as an advisory member to support Hands of Peace’s development of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), directly aligned with its Theory of Change (TOC), to help the nonprofit to measure the impact of its programs and better tell its story.
Yet, Hands of Peace’s story with SVP goes beyond developing a TOC and outlining KPIs. The true magic of this engagement lies in the people it brought together and the relationships created. In May 2021, just as the Spark Team was in the middle of its scope of work, violence erupted in the Middle East. Rockets sent from Hamas flew toward Israel and Israeli airstrikes pummeled Gaza. SVP Partners didn’t have to ask the question, “How do we work for peace in our own backyard?” They already were. Lead Partner Lynda Morin and Hands of Peace Executive Director Scott Rasmussen had developed the practice of weekly check-in’s, building a foundation of trust that allowed the SVP team to walk alongside the organization through a turbulent spring. Hands of Peace pivoted quickly to ensure its program staff and alumni were safe from the fighting and rescheduled their annual fundraiser considering the conflict.
The latest outbreak of violence between Israel and Palestine highlighted the importance of the organization’s mission and the magnitude of its work. SVP Partners remained committed to providing Hands of Peace with a high-quality product throughout the engagement. Not only did the team create two iterations of a Theory of Change and an outline for Key Performance Indicators, but they also cultivated a deep respect for the work of peacebuilding and a friendship with the leadership of the organization. The feeling was mutual. When asked about his experience, Rasmussen shared, “[SVP Partners] pushed us to think more deeply, to be more specific in our ideas, and to take an intentional approach to all our work. I felt like we had true partners who were just as committed as we are to seeing our organization thrive.”