The National Institute for Peer Support was founded as “Deep Democracy” as a non-profit, non-partisan 501(c)(3) organization in 2004 by Dr. Jim Driscoll to develop and apply a model of social change based on the principles and practices of peer support. As an angry Vietnam veteran, Jim had quit his job as a college professor in 1982 to work full-time in a variety of social change movements for the next 22 years. He repeatedly found himself concluding that what he experienced in his peer support work was more effective than the various social change projects he was working on to make this a better and a safer world. Jim had turned to peer support after his return from combat as a Marine Corps infantry platoon commander in Vietnam, 1968-69, where he won a Bronze Star with a combat “v” and lost too many close friends and men in his command in battle. On his return from combat he switched from binge-drinking to binge-eating as a way to deal with his emotions and eventually turned to Overeaters Anonymous, a 12 Step program. He had already learned the skills of co-counseling (Reevaluation Counseling or ‘RC) when he gave up being a college professor to work on social change. For the Deep Democracy model, he took the best ideas in common from both these disciplines, leaving behind the parts that did not work for him.
While Deep Democracy was set up to spread these basic common tools of peer support to a variety of groups and issue movements, one early project (www.Vets4Vets,US) focused on returning Iraq and Afghanistan veterans and attracted substantial financial support from one generous donor David Gelbaum through his Iraq-Afghanistan Deployment Impact Fund. As a consequence, Deep Democracy focused exclusively on this group from 2005 to the end of 2009 when a separate nonprofit was set up with the name Vets4Vets to execute this project. With over 2500 returning veterans trained in the Deep Democracy model of peer support in over 80 free residential, weekend workshops, Vets4Vets has become one of the premier organizations supporting returning veterans. It was honored by Admiral Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in a Pentagon ceremony and repeatedly featured in the national and local media.
In mid-2011, Jim launched the second major initiative of Deep Democracy, now renamed the “National Institute of Peer Support” or “NIPS”, to bring the tools of peer support to activists working to reverse global warming. The first workshop in this initiative was held in Tucson, August 12-14, 2011. In the following year, NIPS set up two ongoing Support Groups for climate activists, brought a dozen or so of the leader/activists together monthly to update each other as peers in a Topic Group Discussion which came to be know as “TUCAN,” the Tucson Climate Action Network, launched a major campaign which helped stop the burning of coal in our local utility and greatly increased the impact of the movement. Since Jim has moved to Washington, DC in 2012 (so that his wife can help raise her two granddaughters), he has continued his climate work with an emphasis on Climate Justice and Eliminating Racism. He has started three face-to-face support groups for climate activists in the MD/DC area, two of them for People of the Global Majority. He leads at national Men’s Support Group for Climate Activists mainly from Citizens’ Climatae Lobby. He works closely with One DC and Empower DC connecting white climate activists to local community organizing with African-heritage neighborhoods. He helped train the members of the Great March for Climate Action and connected them with local Environmental Justice groups as they marched across the country.
Jim is continuing his peer support work with veterans as the Veterans Information Coordinator for the Reevaluation Counseling Community. He led workshops for veterans and potential allies to veterans in January, 2012 and 2014. An application is available on this website under the Veterans drop down menu. He currently directs a new program “Veterans Challenge Islamophobia” for Veterans For Peace.
The goal of NIPS is to launch and support a number of applications in different social change constituencies.
Jim got his BA and MBA from Harvard and his Ph.D. from Cornell. He worked for seven years as a Professor at MIT’s Sloan School of Management where he taught in the Sloan Fellows and Senior Executives Programs. He consulted and conducted research for a number of Fortune 500 companies and large nonprofits. He arbitrated over two dozen labor-management disputes.