Storytelling for Peacebuilding

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.