Conflict Matters opens with a series of keynote speeches that explore the notion of conflict from challenging and sometimes unexpected perspectives. These engaging presentations will shed light on the biological origins and social implications of conflict and highlight its potential for learning and transformation, both on personal and societal levels.
The keynote speakers include a neuroscientist who studies the neural mechanisms that shape our social emotions, the co-founder of a unique method of social dialogue born out of South Africa’s transition to democracy, a world leader in conflict transformation and a young community leader. The next day, the Evens Prize for Peace Education award ceremony features another keynote speaker: an expert on the benefits of pre-school education.
Dr Olga Klimecki is a neuroscientist and psychologist at the Swiss Center for Affective Sciences, University of Geneva. In her work, she seeks to understand the neural mechanisms that shape our social emotions in adaptive ways, combining methods from psychology, neuroscience and economy.
In her doctoral research she studied the neural and behavioral substrates of adaptive and maladaptive emotions, focusing particularly on plasticity. In longitudinal studies, she examined how far training social emotions (compassion, empathy) changes affective experience, prosocial behavior and neural function.
She extended her line of research to conflict behavior with a BRIDGE/Marie Curie fellowship at the University of Geneva (2013-2015). She is now joint coordinator, with Prof. David Sander, of research into the role of emotions in conflict resolution.
She is co-author of a number of studies, including Functional neural plasticity and associated changes in positive affect after compassion training (Cerebral Cortex, 2012).
Olga studied psychology at the University of Mainz, Germany and neuroscience at UCL, UK, and holds a doctoral degree in psychology from the University of Zurich.
Nikolas Katsimpras is a Senior Fellow of the Hellenic American Leadership Council, lecturer at Columbia University’s Negotiation and Conflict Resolution program, and assistant adjunct professor at the Dispute Resolution program at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. He designed the Conflict Resolution Lab of the graduate program in Development Practice at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA), which he implements every spring.
A former officer of the Hellenic Navy, with extensive international experience, Nikolas has been awarded by the International Institute for Humanitarian Law, and in 2012, he received the Dynamical Systems Fellowship from Columbia University’s Advanced Consortium on Cooperation, Conflict, and Complexity (AC4), to conduct research on the peace negotiations in Burma. Nikolas has a Master’s in Negotiation and Conflict Resolution from Columbia University and a BS from the Hellenic Naval Academy.
Nikolas is a delegate of NATO Emerging Leaders, the premier leadership program of the Atlantic Council, and a member of the Association for Conflict Resolution. He is a frequent contributor to The Huffington Post. He is also a consultant on organizational culture and cross-functional collaboration, and a frequent speaker at technology conferences such as Velocity.
Co-founder and CEO of Deep Democracy, Myrna Lewis consults internationally and specializes in conflict resolution, interventions and transformation in complex and difficult situations. She also trains, accredits and supervises Deep Democracy Instructors worldwide.
Born out of South Africa’s transformation from apartheid to democracy, in 1995, the Lewis Method of Deep Democracy is a facilitative method that enables voices to be heard, resolves tension and conflict, and assists with decision-making, dialogue, cooperation and leadership. It has been applied successfully in more than 20 countries, in the social, educational and corporate sectors.
Myrna received an Ashoka Fellowship award for her work in education. In 2006, the United Nations recognized Deep Democracy as one of eighty leading African innovations. In 2012 Myrna became involved with the innovation and changes in Swedish political practices, supporting the involvement of citizens in decision-making. In 2014 she began teaching the Lewis Method to the International Labor Organization of the UN.
Myrna has a BA degree in Social Science, a BA Hons degree in Psychology, and an MA degree in Clinical Psychology. She completed further training in Process-Orientated Psychology and Psychosynthesis.
Ahmed Moallim is a young youth-work practitioner, and has been delivering training in emotional intelligence and conflict resolution to both young people and adults across the UK with non-profit organisation Leap Confronting Conflict since he was 15 years old.
Established in 1987, Leap prevents the escalation of everyday conflict into destructive behaviour and violence by giving young people and the professionals who work with them the skills to understand the causes and consequences of conflict. In 2009, Ahmed won Leap Volunteer of the Year and continues as a young trainer, working with his local council to support young people’s transition into adulthood and facilitating their personal, social and academic development through informal education.
Ahmed is a youth-work student at London Metropolitan University and is employed by the university to work in surrounding schools and colleges with young people to nurture their aspiration for higher education, through mentoring and coaching. He won the Mentor of the Year Award, 2015 as a result of his great work. Ahmed aspires to further his career and passion for creating positive change through motivational and inspirational speeches and hopes to take his transformational work abroad and work with young people in disadvantaged countries.
Brenda Taggart is a Visiting Senior Research Associate at the Institute of Education, University College London. In her 20-year career in educational research, she has undertaken work for the UK government and non-governmental bodies, exploring the impact of educational initiatives. She has wide experience of working with policymakers and practitioners on issues of quality and effective pedagogy.
She was research coordinator and a principal investigator for the Effective Pre-School, Primary and Secondary Education Project (EPPSE), a longitudinal study funded by the UK Department for Education (1997-2014).
Brenda is particularly well known for research into the benefits of early-years education. Her conference/presentation work internationally includes advice on early-years research and policy. She is a much sought-after speaker because of her ability to make complex research findings accessible to a range of audiences.
Brenda has a background in primary education, as an advisory teacher, and deputy and acting head; she has worked in both initial and in-service teacher training. She was a member of Council of the British Educational Researchers Association (2005-8).