Developing Workshops for creating discussion on conflict
Or – How to have those difficult conversations (that don’t need to be that difficult)
The greatest obstacle to talking about conflict is fear. We overcome that by becoming more familiar with conflict as something that is natural and occurs everywhere. Violence is not conflict, but a specific response to conflict.
However, we know as a membership organisation that fear is a natural response. Practitioners who want to bring the conversation to their colleagues, board or the community need to prepare to have those conversations.
The following are possible topics that can be used to begin those discussions on conflict. The list is far from exhaustive, and when a project becomes more comfortable in discussing conflict, it can determine what and how it discusses. Before the topics, there are a number of things that need to be considered, including looking at facilitation skills, location (is it appropriate for some families) timing of meeting (ie school runs impacting on parents etc). A facilitator may need a co-facilitator if confidence is low, but this needs to be negotiated in advance. Remember to revisit what safe space is and how it is created.
The key part for any discussion is: who is going to discuss it. A discussion with staff may be much easier than with a board of management as it shifts from one with colleagues to people who manage your work. Some people will find it more difficult than others. For example, Travellers in a project may find it more difficult to talk about conflict. Or non-Travellers may fear saying the “wrong thing” about violence an causing harm. Some people may have had indirect links with historical conflict in an area. A practitioner needs to think these things through prior to a discussion, and prepare to manage them as best they can. A skilled facilitator will trust their experience to negotiate this with a group and not to let fear of everything hold them back: good preparation is essential, but we cannot prepare for every eventuality!
What does conflict mean to you?
Aim: Move conflict discussion away from violence to talking about disputes, smaller arguments, disagreements (including within organisations, between organisations and State agencies)
What stops us talking about conflict?
Aim: Getting people to open up about the fear of talking about conflict and what we can do to reduce some of that fear
What can we do to reduce conflict?
Aim: getting people to see what the role of the individual, project & community can be
For the facilitator:
What will the challenges be in bringing these discussions to:
Depending on who the group is will bring different challenges- however, some of the reflective practices (link) you should engage involve asking the following questions:
- Name those challenges: what do you need to overcome those?
- What practical measures do you need to undertake?
- What way will you prepare? Are there resources you need to use? People to talk to?
- Have you reflected enough to be clear on root causes of conflict? Roles? Escalation?
- What roles will you be expected to play in this session? Facilitator/teacher/ conflict coach? (link to roles)
- Are you clear on what a safe space is (link) and are you confident you can create one?
- What ground rules will you need to help the group develop?
- Are you going to be talking generally, or will specific issues to the locality come up- how will you manage those? Do you have agreement to bring those up in discussion?
Some tips on organising a workshop on conflict
Use your reflective space to plan out what you think might happen. Brainstorm with colleagues in advance to ensure all aspects of the workshop are covered.
- Be mindful of who the group is
- Are you solely responsible for organising?
- Have you chosen a venue? Is it appropriate (is it accessible? If there is a mix of families, is it on a space that no one family could claim ownership over?)
- Who is responsible to get people there? Is someone doing a call around? Outreach? Can we be certain that everyone knows?
- How well do you know people at the workshop?
- Does the workshop have an age/gender/family mix?
- In developing this piece, have you considered your own triggers?
- In developing this workshop, have you identified what might be potential triggers for the participants? What will your response be?
- Have you taken time to do some inner work to visualise how this exercise will impact on you? And how you will manage tensions etc
Evaluation & Reflection
- What is your method of evaluating this session for the group?
- Keep in mind literacy skills and confidentiality etc
- Look for ways to see how helpful this session was in understanding conflict
- How did it expand our analysis of conflict?
- Are we clearer on things the organisation needs to do to work on conflict?
Pose questions that can lead to further development of the workshop (whether this is done individually or collectively will depend on the situation)
- What worked?
- What would you change?
- Would this work on site?
- What would we need to be mindful if we used this approach with women’s group/men’s group or with young Travellers?
- How did you feel about this piece?
- How confident were you about discussing this topic?
- What have you learned from this work?