by Amy Thomson

This first week has packed my brain full of new ideas and challenged the ideas that had filled it before. From traditional lectures on concepts such as the responsibility to protect and the need to catch conflict before it turns violent, to active learning exercises on what it is to be a facilitator, every moment has been used to teach and train us. I’ve loved every minute of it.

On Friday we did a simulation throughout the day on a conflict in Bo in Sierra Leone a year after the civil war ended. The conflict involved ex-combatants turned motorbike taxis and the police. We broke into five groups and each came up with a presentation on how to solve the conflict based on a dialogue process. All of us used the concepts and techniques such as ‘conflict trees’ and ‘conflict icebergs’ discussed in the previous day to come up with a solution. What I found really interesting though was the diversity in how we used those concepts and techniques. Each group came up with significantly different solutions to the conflict. Some of them involved framing the issue as a transport problem, others moved the conflict away from the specific issue and focused on community development through soccer/football games, and still others decided it was necessary to face the issue head on.

To foster cooperation within each group, a facilitator was elected. I was the facilitator for my group along with Maria. This was a challenging, yet rewarding experience. Facilitating the group helped me to understand just how hard it is as a facilitator to remain impartial and yet move a group forward to an endpoint in a constructive manner without allowing tension exacerbated by time limits to boil over. Having Maria with me to share the burden helped a lot as we could focus our individual strengths to manage the process more effectively together. This teamwork built on the video about the ‘Imam and the Pastor’ we watched yesterday. The Imam and Pastor worked together to resolve conflict in Nigeria.

Over the weekend we had a chance to relax and absorb all the concepts introduced throughout the first week whilst strolling the streets of Venice and Verona. It’s Monday now and I’m ready and waiting to return to the learning and training. The first week blew my mind, what will the second week be like?