Boston Area Returned Peace Corps Volunteers

Liz McClintock

Liz McClintock is a founder and Managing Partner at CMPartners, a leading international negotiation advising, training, and facilitation firm based in Cambridge.  Liz served in Morocco in the Peace Corps from 1988-1992, teaching English and serving as a volunteer leader (assisting the APCD for Education). Peace Corps led to graduate school at the Fletcher School (Tufts University) and a Master’s degree in Law and Diplomacy.  After 20+ years experience in conflict resolution and peacebuilding, Liz shares some of her Peace Corps memories and life lessons with the Boston Area Returned Peace Corps Volunteers.


Liz’s time in Morocco continues to inform many aspects of her life even today.  She cherishes the friendships that she established as a volunteer and remembers fondly the sometimes awkward lessons that come from being dropped into a foreign culture.


One story Liz recounted well illustrates this clash of cultures.   When she arrived at her post and tried to rent an apartment, the prospective landlord was quite resistant.  After a Moroccan colleague stepped in to help translate, the landlord’s fear became clear: he assumed that Liz wanted to run a brothel!  Why else would a single woman want to rent an apartment alone?!   As the landlord’s family integrated Liz into their lives (Liz having successfully persuaded them to let go of that initial stereotype!), they became Liz’s touchstone, helping her to literally and figuratively translate her Peace Corps experience.   Poignantly, just last year one of the landlord’s son’s told Liz that before he died his father had shared that he had learned so much from Liz during her years in Khemisset. Liz was amazed and touched; she had always believed it was the other way around, that she was the one who had done all the learning.  The family continues to be a part of Liz’s life today.


Liz’s Peace Corps experience began a journey that ultimately led her to find her passion in life.  Although she did not want to teach English, Liz knew that she had gained valuable skills in Morocco and sought to combine her teaching experience with a career in international development.  This led her to graduate school and then, finally, to her current vocation as a consultant and trainer in the field of international negotiation and conflict resolution.


Following graduate school, Liz had the chance to work with and learn from Roger Fisher, a pioneer in the negotiation field and founder of the Harvard Negotiation Project.  Professor Fisher advocated an interest-based approach to negotiation; meaning that in order to come to a sustainable solution to a problem, the parties in conflict must first develop a working relationship, seek to understand their own and each other’s interests, and then together brainstorm to develop a range of possible solutions, before deciding on the resolution to the problem.  As Liz’s has career evolved, she has merged this theory with other peacebuilding approaches, which she uses today in her work around the world.


Among her most meaningful projects is supporting the peacebuilding process in Burundi.  As part of the Burundi Leadership Training Program, Liz has designed and implemented conflict management training for a range of local institutions involved in reconstructing Burundi after its 13-year civil war, such as the army, the police, the Ministry of Education, political parties and ex-combatants.  The work has touched over 8000 Burundian lives, through hundreds of workshops, training-of-trainers programs, and the development of a conflict resolution curriculum for the national high school system.  Liz acknowledges that this work is challenging, especially because each country has its own conflict management culture.  She also believes that it is possible to support these local approaches through an exchange of ideas, methods and experiences. 


Today, in addition to completing her PhD, Liz continues to work and share ideas about negotiation, conflict management, and peacebuilding in her role at CMPartners, which she co-founded in 2003. She has co-written two books, most recently, “Negotiating Public Health in a Globalized World: Global Health Diplomacy in Action” (Springer 2012).  This book outlines how negotiation techniques can be used in the field of health diplomacy.  Liz is currently working with the World Health Organization (WHO) to turn the book into a set of training materials, tools, and workshops designed to serve WHO, its partners, and member states.  She hopes that this project will help people in countries around the globe to more effectively advocate for resources for the health sector and to bring higher visibility to and inspire more coordinated action on the key health issues facing policy-makers in their respective countries.


When we asked Liz for advice for Returning Peace Corps Volunteers, she had a couple of ideas, in particular,

- Continue to explore and think broadly about your experience with Peace Corps, as there are many different ways your skills can be used in the world;

- Consider graduate school, as that can push you to think more creatively and analytically;

- Take advantage of opportunities to volunteer or serve as an intern, as this will help you to build new skills and contribute to your understanding of what you want most to do;

- Be flexible! Take the time to analyze your own interests and to understand what excites you; and be willing to revisit this process frequently, as your interests can (and will) change over time!   


By Anna - Posted on 07 November 2014

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Continue to explore and think broadly about your experience with Peace Corps.