Peace Begins Where You Are Right Now

UnRival is our name because we understand rivalry to be the primary dynamic that holds us back from a world free of oppression and violence. Unrelenting rivalry breeds animosity and shame. It restricts belonging and results in fearful communities prone to cycles of violence and systemic oppression.

But there is hope. When we unrival our hearts and create shared, nonrivalrous spaces, we draw people into ever-expanding circles of belonging—including those who were once our enemies. When new, nonviolent patterns gradually supplant the old ones, Peace with Justice is possible.

Our Team

CO-FOUNDER & Executive Director

Suzanne Ross

Suzanne is Co-Founder and Executive Director of unRival. Her background in education informs her approach to guiding the organization’s vision for peacebuilding.

Suzanne remembers reading Anna Karenina in high school and being inspired by the way Tolstoy explored human nature in a non-sentimental way that still left room for redemption and hope. Her interest in the conditions and experiences that impact human formation led her to launch programs and teach in Montessori classrooms, Sunday schools, and in corporate settings. She also co-founded the Raven Foundation, an online community for those seeking to connect to nonviolent Christian theology.

An author and playwright, Suzanne believes that the stories we share through the arts preserve heritage, educate future generations, and inspire change due to the invitational nature of narrative. Suzanne is the author of The Wicked Truth: When Good People Do Bad Things, and her articles have appeared in the scholarly journal Contagion and online at Sojourners and Patheos. She has led post-show discussions at Chicago theaters and is currently writing a play based on the life of Maria Montessori called The Miracle of San Lorenzo.

“Nonrivalry, far from requiring the sublimation of human nature, calls instead for it to rise to the challenge of co-creation with others,” says Suzanne. “It is primarily a matter of transformation, not restraint.”

Research Director

Lyle Enright

Lyle Enright serves as Research Director at unRival. His background in literature, research, data analysis, and the philosophy of nonviolence shapes how he tests for program effectiveness at unRival.

One of the most foundational experiences of Lyle’s boyhood was listening to his father read sacred texts out loud at home. The warmth of his father’s expression stood in contrast to the dogmatic, unilateral approach Lyle observed in many church worship services. This early tension laid the groundwork for Lyle’s interest in how society can restore a sense of freedom, safety, and dialogue to its current mindset toward transcendence. 

Identifying the methods and strategies that best sustain change-makers in their slow work to create a more just and nonviolent world is part of Lyle’s mission to help address societal ruptures caused by aggressive theologies. After earning his PhD in English from Loyola University Chicago in 2019, Lyle taught courses in writing and literature at the collegiate level and then pivoted into developing curricula for business coaching across a number of industries. He publishes widely on religion, ethics, literature, and popular culture, and has won several awards for his scholarship and fiction.

“Each of us is a communicator in different areas and different ways trying to speak into an environment that’s characterized by speed and cynicism,” says Lyle. “I think we can make a dent if we show up in slower and more thoughtful ways.”

A devoted husband and dad, Lyle enjoys fiction writing, book studies, and tabletop games outside of work. He is forever a student in the practice of embracing the kind of warm impartiality that allows for non-urgent, non-rivalrous dialogue and respect.

Program Director and Operations Director

Jason Ferenczi

Jason serves as Program Director and Operations Director at unRival. He has a passion for mentoring leaders and aims to support their formation through unRival’s Artisans of Peace program.

Growing up a deeply curious kid in rural Ohio, Jason broke the mold of his small-town upbringing when he set out to live and study abroad as a young college student. This experience of the broader world and its countless vantage points had a profound impact on Jason and deepened his curiosity toward the ways people form their value structures and outlook. 

Jason worked in the nonprofit sector for years, overseeing philanthropic giving and leadership programs around the globe with a special focus in Europe and sub-Saharan Africa. He went on to earn a Ph.D. in educational leadership and adult learning.

“In my grant work, I began to notice that a lot of the material being used to train leaders isn’t very attuned to the realities of conflict and trauma,” says Jason. “The methods weren’t contextually aware. ” 

Jason’s motivation is to equip leaders with the training and resources they need to engage with communities in contextually-rich, psychologically informed ways – without getting burnt out in the process.

Jason is the father of four teenage daughters and lives in Grand Rapids. He draws inspiration from nature, good literature, and his friendships.

Communications Director

Joe McLean

Joe McLean serves as the Communications Director for unRival. He brings to unRival his background in marketing, communications, and storytelling.

Genuine connection and compassionately sharing stories is at the core of Joe’s journey. His career has spanned the fashion, e-commerce, and wellness sectors. In addition to working as marketing director, he worked as a certified health coach raising awareness around mental health. Central to his professional approach is the belief that every healthy change starts with letting go of shame. This often starts with being okay with not having all of the answers.

“A lot of the work I do involves finding ways to distill the complexity of why we do what we do, and connecting the dots between our vision for peacebuilding and the current zeitgeist,” Joe explains. “People want to feel safe and accepted more than ever before, but that doesn’t mean they don’t also want to be challenged to grow.”

Joe lives in West Hollywood, California, with his husband, Jeff. When he’s not being a marketing professional, he enjoys creative pursuits, including screenwriting and songwriting. He is passionate about furthering the cause to create safer communal spaces for teens in the LGBTQ community.

Office Manager

Jillian Newell

Jillian Newell supports unRival as Office Manager. Her background in sales and corporate finance guides her approach to enhancing operations and supporting team efficiency at unRival.

Prior to joining the unRival team in 2021, Jillian built a career in business development, with a focus on accounting and finance. After almost a decade of success in that field, Jillian felt a desire to channel her curiosity and non-judgment more directly into her work, and found alignment with unRival’s mission. Jillian’s expertise in bookkeeping, project management, and administration have found full expression in the peacebuilding sector. Her efforts keep the unRival team on track, effective, and communicative.

Outside of work, Jillian takes joy in her family, and is an enthusiastic hobbyist who might be trying her hand at knitting one week and pottery the next. Jillian has a great love for gardening and believes that our relationship to the planet (and to others) does not have to be zero-sum: as long as the basic nutrients are available, and as long as there is a desire to grow something of value, we can find ways to nurture ourselves without diminishing others.

Creative Director and Program Co-Director

Billy Price

Billy supports the mission of unRival as Creative Director and Programs Co-Director, bringing with him two decades of experience in filmmaking, marketing, graphic design, artist management, and community building.

A multidisciplinary creative, Billy’s longing for a more just and peaceful world led him beyond the typical bounds of a professional creative when he began advocacy and relief work for refugees and asylum seekers. His efforts were instrumental in the formation of an innovative aid program in Juarez, MX— providing food, sustainable energy, and education to vulnerable migrant families. Other professional endeavors have involved collaborations with Grammy-winning bands, non-profits, startups, and healthcare companies, as well as his personal projects as a screenwriter, actor, and director (credited in film as William Price, III). 

Friendship has provided a fertile ground for creative endeavors throughout Billy’s career.  Many of his proudest professional accomplishments, from building an iPhone app to producing and directing film work, have been collaborative efforts with cherished friends he would just as readily spend a celebratory Sunday afternoon with.

Billy’s commitment to creativity in the context of bondedness bears itself out in his approach to the Film Lab, a collaboration with Justice Film Festival where participants celebrate the power of transformative, nonviolent storytelling together. His vision for the film lab is to cultivate a community of filmmakers dedicated to justice and peace and innervate an uprising of films from diverse and mutually empowering voices.

Billy loves opening his home to friends and connecting through memorable feasts, thoughtfully designed spaces, and the humor that exists in the grit of life. He finds grounding and inspiration in his children, his friendships, the practice of yoga, and writing.

Our Board of Directors

Joel Aguilar, Ph.D.
Leadership Development Specialist & Professor of Theology and Mission, Comunidad de Estudios Teológicos Interdisciplinarios
Guatemala City, GT
Greg DePetris
Partner; Broadhaven Capital Partners
Guilford, Connecticut
Keith Ross
Executive Chariman, PDQ Enterprises
Glenview, Illinois
John Walter
Executive Director, Innovation (retired); American Bible Society
Philadelphia, PA

Our Values

Nonrivalry

We embrace our interdependence, celebrate each other’s successes, and grieve each other’s setbacks.

Humility

To be instruments of peace, we must sometimes admit when we have been obstacles to peace.

Curiosity

We offer each other the attention and life-giving listening that can transform rivalry into friendship.

Dignity

No one is expendable. Every story deserves to be told and generously heard.

Creativity

Each of us imagines a more just and peaceful future. Each of us contributes something unique to that coming reality.

Nonviolence

We raise issues, address conflicts, take risks, and approach the future with open hands that don’t create victims.

Justice

A nonviolent way of life pursues economic, political, and social justice, practicing equity and restoring relationships.

Our Influences

unRival began in 2021 with a year dedicated to speaking directly with and listening to peacebuilders around the globe—as well as deep reading and research on the great work already happening to bring about justice and peace for all people. Our path forward has been profoundly directed by the thoughts of figures such as John Paul Lederach, Libby Hoffman, Willie James Jennings, Thich Nhat Hahn, Lynne Twist, Julia Robinson-Moore, Gena St. David, Duncan Morrow, and others. Most centrally, since our formation, we have been guided by René Girard’s Mimetic Theory.

Mimetic Theory has developed over forty years of interdisciplinary research in theology, anthropology, sociology, psychology, economics, literature, myth, and ritual. These are the key insights that have emerged which guide us:

1. We are less individual than interdividual. Healthy identity, self-worth, and desire are received and sustained in communities of belonging.

2. Conflict escalates when we experience unchecked rivalry and cling to insecure and fearful identities.

3. When rivalry escalates among those with power, the suffering of the marginalized is deepened, discounted, and even ignored by the rivals.

4. When we’re motivated by rivalry, we often find relief by fixing blame on a scapegoat.

5. Scapegoating is dangerously effective but short-lived. It allows us to deflect our own responsibility. The path to true peace with justice requires each of us to look inward for the causes of conflict and open ourselves to change.

6. Violence is contagious and cyclical—especially when driven by rivalry. Rivalry leads to intractable conflicts and repetitive scapegoating. However, justpeace is contagious as well.

7. Peace is not passive. It is a generative, creative act that finds surprising paths through conflict and expands circles of belonging for all people.