Brief History


The Institute was founded in 2008. At the time, great hope was placed in a democratic and peaceful future.

Somehow though, rather than improved civil discourse, less war, well-considered deliberation, environmental protections at home, and jointly-held approval on allocation of resources to the issues of our times, a greater division ensued.

As a consequence, recognition exists that adjustment, refinement and reform in the practice of democracy might be helpful. To make it very clear, recognition exists in the rank and file of the two dominant political parties of the U.S. where the Institute is based.

So, times change and in only a short period of time, recognition exists that public decisions are not fully reflective of the will of the people – and this across the political divide. This failure to reflect the will of the people is not simply a matter of who won an election. There is something deeper at play. It is understood the political process – as it stands- is inadequate to the task of remedying the “management” problem.

Action Inquiry in the Hands of Pioneering Scholar Practitioners

A few enlightened, good-hearted Peace Corps volunteers developed the practice of participatory action research in the 1960s. Concurrently in the 1930s, the important work of Paolo Freire brought forward new ways of educating to legitimize local knowledge. Furthermore, Claude Levi-Strauss advanced the scope of anthropology to not only be the study of “the other” during colonization, but rather the best approach for understanding ourselves.

Through the work of the Institute, three practice streams are brought to bear on conservation and the restoration of sustainable cultural practices. Culture is not solely artifact or “the arts.” Culture is our every day way of going about what we are doing. Much has changed in only a century. The results are consequential. A better ways to make public decisions on shared resources is needed.

In the 1990s, no university provided training in CBPAR. Few universities offered degrees in resource policy or conservation to include the social sciences. The founder had the good fortune to receive a fellowship to the only one, University of Michigan School of Natural Resources and Environment.

At the time, CBPAR was the work of international development organizations and the Institute for Development Studies (founded by one of those Peace Corps volunteers mentioned above). His name is no longer on the website and the organization “looks” vastly different than even a few years ago. So, I am not linking it now. The other volunteer joined our board of directors.

Going Forward

This bring us to today – the spring of 2024. Place-based communities are ready learn to new ways of informing public decisions. Communities aer also ready to bridge the rhetorical divide. Conducting participatory research is an excellent means by which to include everyone and better inform public decisions.

Over the last three years, leading conservation and community development specialists have come to recognize the missing puzzle piece in their valiant efforts. That is community research. Economics for Peace Institute is the only independent research institute of its kind. We hope new Institutes such as ours emerge.

We are a research institute for place-based communities. We all live in a place-based community. Our goal is to work at scale to support community-based research. We are a support to establishing community research. We are not an advocacy organization, conservation organization or community group.

As a community research institute, we have asserted – in a range of ways and venues – the plain fact that restoring the biosphere relies on protecting communities. Over the past 15 years, the founder has demonstrated how to establish a research institute from the ground up to advance participatory research with integrity and built on good practice.

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