The Inspire Solutions Project

A unique college-wide educational project to promote peace and nonviolence by

• Building knowledge
• Fostering dialogue
• Encouraging reflection
• Inspiring solutions

Our project is founded on the assumption that education has a significant role to play in the prevention of violence and creation of a more just and caring world. Violence has multiple causes, and education cannot directly impact them all, but it can promote the knowledge, skills and values from which creative, nonviolent solutions to our problems can flourish.

Cognitive science has revealed how so much of our thinking and our responses to particular situations occur unconsciously, rooted in the frames, narratives and metaphors that we have picked up since childhood, and this certainly applies to the problem of violence. This calls for an educational response aimed at developing a more critical perspective on violence. Most of us want peace, but we can be all too easily convinced that violence is necessary, and this must change.

We focus therefore on building knowledge that challenges our widespread acceptance of a culture that is seeped with violence, and promotes instead an awareness that empathy, compassion, and peacebuilding are deeply-rooted human capacities. Through our storytelling projects, events and growing collections of articles, some academic, others more personal, we seek to foster dialogue both within and beyond Dawson, while encouraging reflection on the suffering caused by violence in its various forms and on the potential of finding the realistic solutions needed to build a more peaceful world.


Our Current Special Project

Sexual assault happens
But so can awareness, support and change.

With It Happens Here, Inspire Solutions, in collaboration with Women’s/Gender Studies, seeks to engage the whole Dawson community on an issue that seems too often silenced in a unique, multi-faceted project designed to promote awareness, provide support, and create change. We are asking our students and staff to map their voices, tell their stories and offer their solutions to the problem of sexual assault. We launched our project on February 9 with a lecture by eminent University of Ottawa law professor, Joanne St. Lewis, who spoke about sexual violence and the law, from both a historical and contemporary perspective. This was followed in March by a series of workshops and talks, including one by student leader Anne-Marie Roy on her own personal experiences with rape culture at the University of Ottawa, during Dawson’s first-ever International Women’s Week. On September 20, we hosted our first public reading event, Survivor Stories, where both survivors and volunteers shared their powerful words in an effort to end the silencing and shaming that surrounds sexual assault.

Take a look at our archive of stories from survivors of sexual violence and our Manifesto for Change available on the project website:

Our Past Special Projects:
Stories from the students and staff of Dawson College

War Stories                       Reconciliation Stories image 2

Some Recent Special Events

Marie Wilson 3In February 2015, Inspire Solutions and Dawson’s First People’s Initiative invited Canadian Truth and Reconciliation Commissioner, Marie Wilson, to speak to our college. Her powerful call to action, “Promoting Reconciliation between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Canadians” can be found on our site by clicking here.

This peace and nonviolence project developed out of the Dawson College/Association of Canadian Community College’s 2011 Conference: Youth and Violence: The Role of Education. Many of the conference videos can be found here. We recommend in particular keynote speaker Dr. James Gilligan’s opening address, as well as some inspired talks on nonviolent pedagogy by educators Marilyn Noble, Elizabeth Meyer and Karen Ridd.

We invite you to look at some of our favorite articles from  our collection:

On Gender and Peacebuilding (Fall 2015, Spring 2016)

“This is What a Feminist Foreign Policy Looks Like,” by WILPF Secretary General Madeleine Rees

“The Refugee Crisis: Demilitarising Masculinities,” by University of Oxford Doctoral Student Jennifer Allsopp

“UN Peacekeeping: Blue Banner for Hope, or Red Flag for Abuse?” by Journalist Melanie Cura Daball

“The Thread of Anger,” by a Dawson Pure and Applied Science Student

“A Normal Day,” by Dawson student Maryam Parvez

“Plotting a Woman-Shaped Peace: Syrian and Bosnian Women Confer,” by Sociologist and Peace Activist Cynthia Cockburn
“From Northern Ireland to Korea,” by Nobel Laureate Mairead Maguire
“Healing from Within,” by Dawson Student Catherine Duret

On Truth and Reconciliation (Fall 2014, Spring 2015)
“Clearing the Plains,” by Author and Historian James Daschuck
“The Oskar Groening Trial: A Witness’ Impressions,” by Montreal Author Judith Kalman
“Interweaving Peacebuilding and Film,” by the Founder of Catalyst for Peace, Libby Hoffman

“Oppositional Identities and Offensive Peace,” by Philosopher Trudy Govier

“Reconciling Red and White Poppies,” by Inspire Solutions’ Editor Pat Romano

On Teaching War/Waging Peace (Spring 2014)
“On Teaching Trauma and Witness,” by John Abbott College’s Wendy Eberle-Sinatra
“Life Lessons from Belfast,” by Dawson’s Vanessa Gordan
“A Losing Battle,” by Dawson’s Louise Arsenault

On Us and Them (Fall 2013)
“The Language of Othering,” by Dawson’s Louisa Hadley
“How Categorical Thinking Creates a Biased View of the World,” by Dawson’s Madeleine Côté
“Many Others,” by Dawson’s Michael Duckett

On Violent Video Games (Summer 2013)
“War is Not a Video Game, Or Is It?” by Inspire Solutions’ Editor Pat Romano
“NISKA: Honouring Traditional Cree Practices…in a Video Game,” by Dawson’s Michelle Smith

On Empathy (Spring 2013)
“Can Empathy Be Taught?” by Dawson’s Greta Hofmann-Nemiroff
“Can the Study of Science Expand Our Feelings of Empathy?” by Dawson’s Daniel Goldsmith


For our complete collection, click here. We also recommend our short introductions to each theme as they offer a thoughtful and accessible discussion of the complexities of the issues.


Our website offers many more interesting, provocative and potentially transformative resources for students and teachers. In addition to our growing collection of articles on our blog – many ideal to provoke a classroom discussion — and our moving collections of personal stories, the horizontal menu leads you to short, research-based discussions of the problem of violence, ideas about pedagogy and curriculum that cross the disciplines, and links to existing educational programs that have succeeded in reducing bullying and school violence.

Join us in our project to inspire solutions through education.

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