Libby believes that the very individuals and communities most directly affected by war and violence should be the ones to lead their own rebuilding process after war—that the solutions to a community’s problems, even when that community has been devastated by war and poverty, exist within the community itself. Mobilizing them doesn’t require outside experts swooping in telling people what to do (or worse – doing it for them), but instead comes from creating the space for the already existing wisdom and expertise to emerge and grow. And when this localized wisdom is allowed to lead, the result can yield stories and lessons of global significance, stories which can inspire transformative thought and action even in very different kinds of settings.
That’s the impetus behind Libby’s work at Catalyst for Peace, the Portland, Maine-based private foundation she founded and has led since 2003. Catalyst’s full focus now is on Fambul Tok (which means “family talk” in Krio), the program Libby helped start in 2007 with renowned Sierra Leonean human rights activist John Caulker. Fambul Tok brings victims and perpetrators from Sierra Leone’s brutal 11-year civil war together for the first time in village-level, tradition-based ceremonies of truth-telling, apology and forgiveness. In the process, Fambul Tok reknits the war-torn community fabric, helping heal the wounds of war and build the foundations for sustainable peace and development. Now an international organization, Fambul Tok International has its corporate headquarters in Portland, where Libby serves as president, and it’s global program headquarters in Freetown, Sierra Leone.
Libby produced the award-winning documentary film, Fambul Tok, and is the lead author of the companion book of the same name (published by Umbrage Editions), both released in 2011. Her work now focuses on finding ways to help the world engage with the lessons of justice, forgiveness, and community restoration embodied by Fambul Tok.
A former Political Science professor at Principia College, Libby has been active in peacebuilding for 25 years in a variety of capacities—professor, trainer, facilitator, program director, consultant, and funder. She has a BA in Political Science from Williams College and an M.A.L.D. from The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. She lives in Falmouth with her husband Seth Johnson, daughter Anna (11), and two sons, Caleb (21) and Gabe (19), who combine to guarantee that when she is not travelling, you can most likely find her at a soccer field or a hockey rink.