Lisa Schirch

Richard G. Starmann, Sr. Professor of the Practice of Peace Studies

Lisa  Schirch

119 Hesburgh Center for International Studies
University of Notre Dame
Notre Dame, IN 46556

(574) 631-6970

Lisa Schirch

Richard G. Starmann, Sr. Professor of the Practice of Peace Studies


Technology; media; human security; social cohesion; social justice; conflict assessment; dialogue; mediation; peace process design; religion; ritual; arts; nonviolent social movements; violent extremism

At the Keough School

Lisa Schirch is a core faculty member of the Keough School’s Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies.


Biography & Research

Lisa Schirch has 30 years of experience in peacebuilding research, policy advocacy, practice, and teaching. A political scientist by training, she earned her PhD in 1989 from George Mason University’s Carter Center for Peace and Conflict Resolution.

Schirch’s most recent book, Social Media Impacts on Conflict and Democracy: The Tech-tonic Shift (Routledge, 2021) features thirteen local case studies from Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America. The book maps how digital technologies drive “social climate change,” including polarization, extremist anti-immigrant, and anti-minority purity narratives.

Schirch’s current research focuses on the positive roles of technology in “peacetech” and “digital peacebuilding.” She is a senior research fellow with the Toda Peace Institute, where she coordinates with civil society and technology companies to experiment and innovate new technologies that can scale social cohesion.

As a researcher, Schirch has an extensive history of research and publication. A former Fulbright Fellow in East and West Africa, Schirch is the author of eleven books emphasizing local civil society agency and capacity, including Strategic Peacebuilding (2005), Ritual and Symbol in Peacebuilding (2006), Dialogue on Difficult Subjects (2007), Conflict Assessment and Peacebuilding Planning: Toward a Participatory Approach to Human Security (2014), The Ecology of Violent Extremism (2018), Synergizing Nonviolent Action & Peacebuilding (2018) and Social Media Impacts on Conflict and Democracy: The Tech-tonic Shift (2021). Her publications have been translated into German, French, Spanish, Arabic, Thai, and Japanese.

As a policy advisor, Schirch built the first peacebuilding policy initiative in Washington, DC, as the founding director of the Alliance for Peacebuilding’s Policy Program from 2006-2015. Schirch brought delegations of peacebuilding practitioners from Afghanistan, Iraq, and other countries to Congress and trained over 1,000 US Foreign Service Officers and military officers on civil society peacebuilding and the relevance of the Geneva Conventions to civil-military relations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Through support from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, she co-led a three-year global research process documenting civil society innovations in relating to security forces resulting in two publications: a Handbook on Human Security (2016) and Local Ownership in Security: Case Studies of Peacebuilding Approaches (2016).

As a practitioner, Schirch has experience in peace process design, mediation, and facilitation in over twenty countries. Beginning as a mediator for the Washington, DC, courts in 1992, Schirch has facilitated intergroup dialogue in diverse settings, including between black and white city leaders in Richmond, Virginia, and between civil society leaders and the US military in Afghanistan. As a practitioner, Schirch works primarily with local peacebuilding initiatives innovating new methods of combining dialogue and social movements to transform conflict. Schirch co-facilitated the national peace process in Fiji in 2001. Her book Designing a Comprehensive Peace Process for Afghanistan describes eight mechanisms for local civil society participation in formal peace processes and how these could work in Afghanistan, based on three years of in-country research from 2009 to 2011. She has provided training and support to the UN Mediation Support team, drawing on her book Synergizing Nonviolent Action & Peacebuilding for information on how to sequence social movement tactics and peace negotiations.

Recognition for Schirch’s research has come in various forms. Schirch served as co-chair of the US State Department working group on Religious Actors, Diplomacy, and Peacebuilding from 2015 to 2016 and on the Dutch government’s Security and Rule of Law Platform Research Review Panel from 2016 to 2020. Since 2015, she has served on the Geneva-based Global Community Engagement and Resilience Fund’s International Panel of Experts. Schirch has presented her research as a keynote speaker at two Pentagon conferences, during Congressional hearings on national security, at UN headquarters in Geneva and New York, and in London’s Whitehall, Chatham House, and Wilton Park.