Last May 16, iEmergence had the opportunity to give an introduction to Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD) at this year's Annual Peacebuilding Training organized by the Mindanao Peacebuilding Institute. In the workshop, entitled Hearing the Unheard: Appreciating the Richness of Diverse Narratives, participants learned the art of asking appreciative questions, weaving stories into a “positive core”, and creating a shared vision – the basics of Appreciative Inquiry (AI). More importantly, the activity offered peace practitioners a new way of seeing and understanding the value of differences, and how the plurality of narratives can be embraced as resources for sustainable development.
As with the process of AI, the workshop began with questions. How do we embrace the multiplicity of unique narratives as a building block for sustainable development? How do we move from a point of division or discrimination to a place of recognition and unity between peoples and cultures? Such are the questions of those who work for development in multi-cultural settings and often, we feel overwhelmed by the plurality of the narratives that we are left paralyzed.
Gathered in a small room, thirty people from diverse backgrounds, all working for peace and sustainable development in areas such as the Philippines, West Papua, South Africa, Afghanistan and North America, began to see the potential of stories and storytelling as a way to bring reconciliation between conflicting peoples. Matt LeBlanc and Kharla Acosta of iEmergence led the group in understanding the basic principles and approach of Appreciative Inquiry. Emphasizing the need for creating safe spaces for differing narratives to be heard and recognized, Matt shared how AI can be an effective tool to build that space. Kharla, drawing from her personal experience of using AI in cross-cultural community engagement, shared a story of how AI taught her the value of humility. In her story, she revealed that in any conflict situation in the community, it is important to recognize that there are already resources found within the community that will address such situations.
One participant from Afghanistan said that, “I am happy that I was able to join this workshop. AI is something that I can bring with me back to my home country and apply directly in my work.”
At the end of the workshop, participants appreciated the AI process, highlighting that it is a methodology that affirms the diversity of peoples, stories and cultures, and works not to determine a single story, but rather, to create a shared narrative that reconciles one with the other.
The morning of September 17, 2015 was filled with positive dreams and hopes for 15 people who attended the Appreciative Cross Cultural Engagement and Bangsamoro Cultural Advocacy Project Orientation. The activity was organized to bring together iEmergence’s partner organizations and individual volunteers in a safe space to discuss plan and strategies of the upcoming implementation of the BCAP Phase 2 dubbed as, Round Table Discussion and Public Forum on Culture, Peace, and Reconciliation in the Bangsamoro.
The ACCET and BCAP Orientation took place in Transformative Justice Institute located at Dona Luisa Subdivision, Ecoland, Davao City where the participants engaged in a story-telling process aimed to discover the “best practices” in a community development project that they were involved in. The participants were divided into small groups to facilitate the sharing of personal success stories. Each group were also asked to share common elements of the stories that comprises the positive core of a successful community development project. At the end of the workshop, participants agreed that a successful development project can only happen if there was good communication, sense of responsibility, the willingness to build positive relationships, the openness to learn, listen, and empathize among people who were involved in the project.
This discovery session through story-telling contextualized the orientation and planning session for BCAP in the afternoon. It allowed the participants to plan and strategize the implementation of the Round Table Discussion and Public Forum on Culture, Peace, and Reconciliation in the Bangsamoro using the appreciative lens. In the end, it was agreed to schedule follow up discussions and meetings to finalize the plan and strategies for the upcoming BCAP activity.
“My humanity is wrapped up in your humanity…”
Early June, Gabs Sagaral, our Media Officer, attended the course Community-Based Restorative Justice (CBRJ) at the Mindanao Peacebuilding Institute (MPI) Annual Training in Davao City, Philippines. The Annual Training is an intensive three-week training on peacebuilding and conflict transformation for peace and justice practitioners, conducted every year. Through a scholarship grant from MPI, Gabs was able to participate in the course with nine other practitioners coming from different backgrounds and countries such as Indonesia, Vietnam, India, Solomon Islands, Philippines and USA. Jeremy Simons, who is also a staff of iE, co-facilitated the course with Myla Leguro, a peacebuilding expert from the Catholic Relief Services in Mindanao.
CBRJ provided how Indigenous peacemaking emphasizes cultural approaches rooted in local practices and spiritual traditions, drawing examples from the Philippines, South Africa and Sierra Leone. The course also conducted skills training through role-playing of Indigenous peace circles, mediation and community accountability processes. At the end of the course, Gabs, together with two other community development workers based in Mindanao, created a contextualized framework of restorative justice oriented towards community-based healing and holistic accountability that focused particularly on the underlying cultural values and assumptions of the Mindanaon context.
Gabs shares her thoughts on the training:
“Restorative Justice is relevant to our work in iE because it recognizes traditional justice systems and the processes that value relationships, honor, harmony, interdependence and spirituality embedded within Indigenous communities. One of our resource speakers aptly said: my humanity is wrapped up in your humanity. In this, I was reminded that each one of us is distinct but deeply interconnected.”
As part of the scholarship grant, Gabs is currently exploring how to actualize the skills and knowledge she gained from CBRJ through a creative media project. She hopes to focus on documenting restorative processes, rituals and symbols within Indigenous communities through a digital story that will serve as a resource material the community can use to educate others.