Near Westside Peacemaking Project

The Near Westside Peacemaking Project has two objectives: (1) Peacemaking, community-based conflict resolution, and (2) Take Back the Streets, a grassroots campaign aimed at promoting health and safety in Syracuse’s Near Westside neighborhood through collaboration among service providers and residents. 


What is Peacemaking?

Peacemaking is a traditional Native American approach to justice that focuses on healing and restoration. Peacemaking brings together people who are in conflict, along with family members and other members of the community who have been affected by the dispute.

All participants in a peacemaking circle are treated equally and are encouraged to speak about how the event, crime, or crisis affected them personally. The purpose of peacemaking is to reach a consensus about how to resolve the dispute and to heal relationships among those involved.

The Near Westside Peacemaking Project recruits and trains local volunteers to serve as peacemakers for criminal, civil, and family matters referred from the court system, police, probation, and other justice agencies, as well as from neighborhood organizations, local schools, and members of the community. The extensive training program includes topics such as the principals of peacemaking, the art of storytelling, mock circles, and workshops with Native American expert consultants. Being a peacemaker requires commitment to completing the training program, participating in peacemaking circles, and believing in a community’s ability to resolve conflict. Over 30 community members have been trained in peacemaking.

If you are interested in learning more, please contact Lisa Vavonese at (315) 266-4349 or

2016 Peacemaking Case Outcomes

  • 26 cases accepted into peacemaking
  • 87 peacemaking circles held
  • 66 individuals in conflict participated
  • 35 community support people participated
  • 20 peacemakers participated
  • 70% of the cases accepted into peacemaking had positive outcomes

Referred by:

  • Syracuse City Court
  • Onondaga County District Attorney’s Office
  • Onondaga County Family Court
  • Onondaga County Probation Department
  • Onondaga County Persons in Need of Supervision (PINS)
  • Local defense attorneys
  • Local schools, service providers, and community members

The Center for Court Innovation implemented its first peacemaking program in Red Hook, Brooklyn, in January 2013. For more information, read about the Red Hook program or download a fact sheet about our peacemaking programs.

Take Back the Streets (TBTS)

In 2015, building on the Project’s role in organizing resident-led community benefits projects, the Project joined other service providers, faith-based organizations, and schools to launch a new campaign in the Near Westside neighborhood called Take Back the Streets. The campaign met its ambitious goal of organizing 50 family-friendly community events in 2016, which were attended by over 700 community members. These events included:

  • Kitchen Table Talks, during which residents invited neighbors into their homes to break bread and brainstorm solutions to pressing problems facing the neighborhood
  • A Women’s Wellness Series that included a healthy cooking demonstration, a spa night, and a yoga session
  • Community dialogues on Islamophobia and race & violence
  • Studio Photography Workshop and Exhibition
  • Free movie nights held in a neglected outdoor grassy area
  • Neighborhood Talent Show
  • Halloween Costume Carnival

The Project assumed the role of lead coordinating agency for TBTS in early 2017.

315 L.I.F.T. (Life Influencers Focusing Teens)

In 2016, the Project partnered with Syracuse’s Good Life Foundation to launch a new initiative to divert male African-American and Hispanic youth from high-crime zip codes in Syracuse away from juvenile detention and probation. The 315 L.I.F.T. Project combines life coaching and entrepreneurial mentorship with peacemaking to develop skills for success, increase personal accountability, and heal relationships.

The Peacemaking Center

Prior to opening the Peacemaking Center at 601 Tully Street in 2015, the Project contracted with architect Deanna Van Buren of FOURM design studio in Oakland, California, who specializes in restorative justice spaces. Ms. Van Buren led an architectural design process that included 40 community residents, justice stakeholders, architects, and students who participated in three workshops. Participants were invited to sit in circles and discuss how building design influences feelings of harmony and dispels anxiety. Participants then worked in groups to design the inside of a peacemaking center, including the types of rooms that would be important, the role of natural design elements, and the location of the building.

For more information about FOURM design studio and Deanna Van Buren, click here.

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  • New York
  • 520 8th Avenue
  • 18th Floor
  • New York, NY 10018
  • phone: 646.386.3100
  • Syracuse
  • 601 Tully Street
  • Syracuse, NY 13204
  • phone: 315.266.4330
  • London
  • Canterbury Court
    1-3 Brixton Road
  • London, SW9 6DE
  • phone: +44 2076.329.060