Cure Violence Founder presents at MIT on 21st century approaches to conflict

On February 9 through 11, Dr. Gary Slutkin joined an esteemed assembly of social neuroscientists, psychologists, and conflict management experts at Neuroscience and Social Conflict conference at MIT. The aim of the conference was to develop 21stCentury approaches to conflict—effective, first hand evidence of initiatives that seem to bear the best results.

For more than 50 years methods of conflict resolution have been developed with mixed results. In the past, very little effort has been put forward to evaluate such interventions, but the team assembled at the conference was looking to change that. Dr. Slutkin spoke on a panel alongside Princeton’s Professor Paluck; Emile Bruneau, Researcher at MIT’s SaxeLab; and USAID Evaluation Specialist Joseph Hewitt from the Office of Conflict Management and Mitigation, on Measuring Conflict Resolution.

Cure Violence has the remarkable distinction among violence prevention programs for having two comprehensive evaluations demonstrate the effectiveness of the public health model in two cities. In 2008, a National Institute of Justicefunded evaluation of the Cure Violence violence prevention model in Chicago examined seven communities where the program was implemented. All seven communities experienced a statistically significant reduction in gun violence.

Last month, the first rigorous external evaluation of a Cure Violence replication was announced by Johns Hopkins University, demonstrating successful results for reducing violence in all four neighborhoods where it was implemented (read more here). Dr. Daniel Webster, lead author of the study, presented the three year evaluation of four historically violent neighborhoods–McElderry Park, Elwood Park, Madison-Eastend, Cherry Hill– showing a statistically significant decline in homicides or nonfatal shootings or both in each of the communities.

In one neighborhood, killings were reduced by 56% and shootings by 34%; in another neighborhood killings were reduced by 53%, and in the two other neighborhoods, shootings were reduced by 34% and 43%.

Two other findings were extremely interesting and important to our work. First, the positive effects (less shootings and/or killings or both) diffused into the neighboring communities as well as people not even involved in the program directly. In other words, high-risk people in the neighborhoods where the Cure Violence model is being implemented were changing their thinking and attitudes toward violence even if we weren’t directly working with them.

MIT’s Social Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory, Saxelab, sponsored the event along with The Project on Justice in Times of Transition to advance the emerging, cutting edge scientific field of neuroscience of conflict. Rather than an academic exercise the event was a conversation between forward looking experts and practitioners. Cure Violence shared the vision that violence not only behaves as a disease transmitted person to person, but also that it can be prevented and stopped like a disease.