Building Communities, Ending Violence

Building Communities, Ending Violence

I. Project Overviewtop

We are a group of DePaul students, staff, faculty, as well as affiliated community activists and organizations who are developing everyday, collective, community-based interventions into everyday oppression and violence in our communities. Through safety labs, peacemaking circles, and other transformative practices, we offer space for reflection, dialogue and skill building in order to develop collective and community-based strategies for healing, intervention, accountability, and transformation.

II. Context & Methodologytop

The project is grounded in, indebted to, and inspired by the community accountability and transformative justice theory and praxis of the Chicago based organizations Community Justice for Youth Institute, Project NIA, Young Women’s Empowerment Project, and the Women and Girls Collective Action Network as well as Incite! Women of Color Against Violence, Communities United Against Violence, the StoryTelling and Organizing Project, Creative Interventions, Generation Five, Ubuntu, Audre Lorde Project, Queers for Economic Justice, among others.

Our Values:

  • We believe that building relationships and community with others is crucial in sustaining social movements for transformative change and liberation. We believe the best way to develop our relationships is through collective reflection, dialogue, and storytelling.
  • We believe that collective responses to acts of violence, harm and conflict are powerful and transformative ways to sustain community accountability and healing. It is our belief that people have their own best answers when it comes to resolving conflict and ending violence.
  • We are committed to developing skills and strategies that enable community members to intervene in the face of conflict and violence. In situations where we find ourselves being a bystander to street harassment or being a supporter to a survivor of violence, our goal is to cultivate collective approaches to respond to these situations and many more.

Methods and Practices:

  • Peacemaking circles are based on indigenous practices that are used for relationship building, decision- making and conflict resolution. Circles provide a space for community members to connect with one another and share their stories and experiences. The emphasis is on building relationships and community in the context of whatever might bring a circle together. There are many reasons to bring together a circle – including support circles, reflection circles, conflict circles, healing circles, writing circles, self-care circles, celebration circles, among others.
  • Strategy Sessions are workshops where community members come together to brainstorm and envision alternative and community-based responses to conflict and violence. We create space for people to utilize their own resources, ideas and experiences as sources of knowledge and power – in order to strategize new methods for collective support and healing, intervention, accountability, as well as violence prevention and transformation. The workshops offer the opportunity for participants to develop skills and practices for everyday responses to everyday oppression and violence. The goal is to cultivate a commitment to community accountability for responding to the oppression and violence that operates within and across our communities of belonging.
  • Community Accountability: Incite! Women of Color Against Violence defines community accountability as “a community-based strategy, rather than a police/prison-based strategy, to address violence within our communities.” Community-based strategies prioritize the self-determination and agency of those impacted by the harm while providing them with safety and support. For those who caused harm, community accountability creates a process for them to acknowledge their abusive actions and to work towards transforming their behavior.
  • Transformative Justice: According to the community organization, Generation FIVE, “Transformative justice responds to the lack of – and the critical need for – a liberatory approach to violence. A liberatory approach seeks safety and accountability without relying on the alienation, punishment, or State or systemic violence, including incarceration and policing… Through building the capacity of communities to increase justice internally, Transformative Justice seeks to support collective action toward addressing larger issues of injustice and oppression.”

III. Leadership Team and Community Partnerstop

DePaul University
  • Ann Russo, Associate Professor, Women’s and Gender Studies

Dr. Ann Russo is an Associate Professor in the Women’s and Gender Studies Program at DePaul University. Ann obtained her Ph.D. at the University of Illinois at Champaign Urbana. Her scholarship, writing, and activism is grounded in social movements to dismantle interlocking systems of oppression and privilege, with a focus on collective healing, intervention, accountability and transformation. She is the author of Taking Back Our Lives: A Call to Action for the Feminist Movement, co-author of Communities Engaged in Resisting Violence, co-editor of Talking Back, Acting Out: Women Negotiating the Media Across Cultures and Third World Women and the Politics of Feminism, among others.  She has published essays in International Feminist Journal of Politics, Violence Against Women, and Sojourner; as well as in anthologies, including The Intersectional Approach and Confronting Same-Sex Domestic Violence.  She is engaged with the work of a variety of local organizations committed to community accountability and transformative justice, including Project NIA, Young Women’s Empowerment Project, Community Justice for Youth Institute, Beyondmedia, Chicago Freedom School, and Gender Just.

  • Michelle Emery, Graduate Student Research Assistant
Campus Partners
  • Women’s Center
  • LGBTQA Student Services Office
  • Sexual Assault Services Office
Community Organizations

Building Communities Ending Violence continues to be influenced and inspired by the work of the following groups:

  • Young Women’s Empowerment Project (Chicago)

Offers safe, respectful, free-of-judgment spaces for girls and young women impacted by the sex trade and street economies to recognize their goals, dreams and desires. We are a youth leadership organization grounded in harm reduction and social justice organizing by and for girls and young women (ages 12-23).

  • Community Justice for Youth Initiative (Chicago)

Builds community capacity to resolve youth conflict through restorative justice training, technical assistance, and advocacy.  Offers trainings in Peacemaking Circles and Restorative Justice practices for communities, schools, and other institutions.

  • Project NIA (Chicago)

Helps communities develop support networks for youth who are at risk of or have already been impacted by the juvenile justice system.  Through participatory action research, community engagement, education, and capacity-building, Project NIA facilitates community-focused responses to youth violence and crime. Check out the Something is Wrong Curriculum Guide.

  • Young Women’s Action Team (Chicago)

A youth-led, adult-supported social change project that empowers young women under 21 years old to take action on issues that affect their lives, particularly violence against girls and young women.  The YWAT believes that through collective action, consciousness-raising, and organizing we can end violence against girls and young women.

  • Creative Interventions (Oakland, CA)

Seeks to shift education and resources back to families and communities. Places knowledge and power within the spaces where violence occurs, making support and safety accessible, stopping violence at early and multiple points of abuse, and creating possibilities for once abusive individuals and communities to evolve towards change and transformation.

  • StoryTelling and Organizing Project of Creative Interventions (Oakland, CA) 

A community project collecting and sharing stories about everyday people taking action to end interpersonal violence. They share stories of community-based actions — involving family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, community members — to stop, address or prevent interpersonal violence.  You can access a variety of stories on their website and groups can use them to think about and strategize for collection action to address everyday violence.

  • Communites United Against Violence (San Francisco, CA)

Project includes peer-based counseling, direct assistance, education and outreach, grassroots organizing, and policy advocacy.   CUAV works to build our communities’ capacity to respond to, heal from, and prevent all forms of violence.

  • SOS – Safe Outside the System of The Audre Lorde Project (Brooklyn, NY)

Challenges violence that affects LGBTSTGNC people of color. Guided by the belief that strategies that increase the criminalization of our communities do not create safety, SOS creates strategies of community accountability to challenge violence.

  • Generation FIVE (Oakland, CA)

Their mission is to end the sexual abuse of children within 5 generations. Through survivor leadership, community organizing, and public action, generation FIVE works to interrupt and mend the intergenerational impact of child sexual abuse on individuals, families, and communities. Meaningful community response is the key to effective prevention.

  • Incite! Women of Color Against Violence (Redmond, WA)

A leading national activist organization of radical feminists of color advancing a movement to end violence against women of color and our communities through direct action, critical dialogue, and grassroots organizing. On website – great resources for community accountability to end violence. Also pathbreaking books Color of Violence (2006) and The Revolution Will Not be Funded (2007)

  • Ubuntu (Durham, NC)

UBUNTU is Women of Color and Survivor-led. “We have joined together through our rage, our pain, and our hope to generate strategies and actions that prevent, disrupt, transform and heal sexual violence. We are committed to challenging oppression in all forms because we recognize that none of us is free until we all are. We are committed to envisioning a just and loving world.“

IV. Funding & Sponsorstop

The William and Irene Beck Foundation

The William and Irene Beck Foundation is a long time sponsor of the Beck Research Initiative for Women, Gender and Community and provides generous financial support for community based research and special projects, graduate assistantships, the faculty fellowship program, and other underwriting. The Foundation was a generous supporter of the Building Communities, Ending Violence project.


The William and Irene Beck Foundation is a not-for-profit corporation that provides grants, contributions, and in-kind services to other not-for-profit organizations with 501(C)3 status. It is a family foundation committed to helping programs that work against discrimination, particularly related to racism and sexism. Its primary foci are directed toward those with financial needs by providing program support and educational opportunities for low-income youth, children, as well as opportunities for job-related training for adults.

The Foundation is intended to act as a catalyst for change, and supports innovative ideas, plans, and projects; it takes a pro-active part in the prevention of further problems. Its board and family members participate in as well as contribute to programs involving education, youth, and the disadvantaged. The foundation seeks to ally itself with activities and organizations which reach out to those who most need help.

The Vincentian Endowment Fund

The Vincentian Endowment Fund was established in 1992 by a gift from the Vincentian Fathers and Brothers who sponsor the University. The VEF generously provided funding for the Teen Girls Re-Vision East Rogers Park project.


The endowment seeks to assist the university in its developing understanding of how, as an institution of higher education informed by the vision of Vincent de Paul, it is to be Catholic as it enters its second century. This assistance will be achieved through funding appropriate grant projects that directly enhance the identity of DePaul University as a Catholic, Vincentian and urban university with special attention to the Catholic and Vincentian aspects of this identity.

Office of Institutional Diversity and Equity

The Office of Institutional Diversity and Equity actualizes DePaul’s Catholic, Vincentian, and Urban character by insuring respect, inclusion, and equity, for all members of our community.

Our vision is to achieve a truly diverse environment that reflects our collective values. Our work, programs, and initiatives will reflect this commitment to promoting change, equal opportunity, social justice, celebrating and fostering diversity, the recruitment and retention of diverse constituencies, and building a community that values and respects the differences and commonalities that each and every individual brings to DePaul. We will continue to strive to prepare our community to effectively navigate the opportunities and challenges of Chicago and beyond.

Steans Center for Community-Based Service Learning

The Steans Center for Community-based Service Learning was founded in order to integrate the service concept into the university’s curricula; the Steans Center is also an ongoing partner of the Beck Research Initiative for Women, Gender and Community and co-sponsors many of its programs and projects. At the center of the Steans Center’s mission is a commitment to foster, through higher education, a deep respect for the dignity of all persons and to instill in students a dedication to service to others. Not only has the Steans Center supported the work of the BRI financially, but it has also been instrumental in assisting and supporting the integration of service-learning pedagogy into our work.


The Steans Center for Community-based Service Learning provides educational opportunities grounded in Vincentian community values to DePaul students. The Center seeks to develop mutually beneficial, reciprocal relationships with community organizations in order to develop 
a sense of social agency in students through enrollment in CbSL courses, community internships and placements, and community-based student employment.

Center for Intercultural Programs

The Center for Intercultural Programs promotes artistic expression and intellectual inquiry that challenges students to explore all aspects of their culture.


We develop programs and services that empower students to learn about the multitude of ways that their intersecting identities shape their understanding of their world and to confront systems of oppression and to promote social justice by celebrating and affirming the dignity of every member of our university. The Center also supports and cultivates the leaders of ethnic and cultural student organizations to understand their important role in building a student-centered multicultural community at DePaul.

Peace, Justice, and Conflict Studies Program

The Peace, Justice, & Conflict Studies Program offers students a B.A. major curriculum that helps them reflect on the origins and causes of conflict, violence, and social injustice as well as the wide spectrum of conflict intervention, from armed conflict, through governmental and organizational peacebuilding, to local and interpersonal conflict resolution. The Program also introduces students to strategies for resolving interpersonal, communal and international conflicts peacefully, as well as tactics that promote the common good in a way that addresses the structural origins of violence.

The Peace, Justice, and Conflict Studies Program addresses the need for a critical examination of the origins and root causes of violence and conflict. The Program includes frank debate about the efficacy of nonviolent in comparison with violent approaches to social change.

V. Publications and Researchtop

VI. Special Eventstop

For additional information about Cracking the Codes: The System of Racial Inequality, please see the following link:

Cracking the Codes