Reflections from Robert, Talk Together’s conflict resolution expert

Talk Together was an intense experience for me, in many ways. On the one hand it felt like two-weeks of juggling with possibilities and changes. Through the first week the changes regarding the arrivals of participants from either Morocco, Layounne or Tindouf were announced approximately twice a day: “They are coming, they are not coming, they are perhaps coming, they are coming one day late, they are coming two days late, some of them are coming, maybe, perhaps, later, sometime…” 😉

During this period I was juggling with two completely different processes:

1)      Had I had just a group of participants from outside the conflict zone, I would have given them a two week conflict resolution and mediation training, ending with some action plans and initiatives.

2)      Had I had all four groups that we had expected here, people from Morocco, Layounne, Tindouf and those from outside the conflict zone, I would have given them just a bit of training. I would have spent most of the time on group bonding and mediation processes, attempting to form a genuine community with a lot of mutual understanding and empathic connections. I would have ended with strong projects that would cater to the needs of all interest groups in the conflict area.

The actual situation was all the time somewhere in between, with the next day never being quite clear. And when at the beginning of the second week the group from Tindouf finally did join us, I was faced with yet another dimension in the group dynamics.

But, what would normally have been a nightmare for the facilitator (after a week of changes integrating the ‘new’ group, with a very different background, and the ‘old’ group that had been working already together for a week, and somewhat changing the goal of the course), was in these circumstances a challenge that I was more than happy to face!

I accepted the invitation to lead the Talk Together conflict resolution facilitation part with a big fat YES because I really wanted to make a contribution. Throughout the two weeks I felt this was what I was actually doing: trying to help, trying to give. And yes, the situation was not perfect, but so what? If one really wants, one can help in any situation, not only in perfect ones!

I knew there was no way everybody would be happy, but nevertheless for me every day was joyful, filled with numerous meaningful contacts with beautiful people around me, contacts that I will never forget and will always fill my heart. And there was sadness too, sadness about participants being prevented from coming as well as sadness about the fact that there are hundreds of thousands of people suffering in this area and millions of people suffering in this very sad world of ours.

Nevertheless, I am truly happy to have observed that a certain amount of transformational learning did take place. Many participants walked out of the course with rather deep understanding of the principles of conflict resolution and with considerate integration of the principles of non-violent communication as the means of achieving human relations in which everyone’s needs can be met.

I was also very pleased to see the enthusiasm of the participants to help people in the conflict area; perhaps not with colossal political breakthroughs, but rather with small steps of connecting people, raising awareness and finding strategies of communication and mutual understanding, strategies that might work for every party.

And now, a few days after coming back home, I celebrate a lot. I celebrate all the beautiful hours we have spent together and all the beautiful things we have shared, I celebrate the facts that we managed to enrich each others’ lives and that we are likely to stay connected in one way or the other. I hope that the action plans presented on the last day will be carried out, making a step towards this conflict being resolved .

I am also feeling honoured to have met you all, to have been trusted and accepted by you, dear participants – well, I should rather say dear friends (the card with your messages is already attached above my desk, filling my heart with joy every day).

And I am feeling grateful for the support the rest of staff – a dream team like I have never experienced before: Mark and Edmund, Alice and Jennifer, Andy and Claire, Andrew and Melissa, and of course our magnificent film crew: Johnny, J.K:, Lucy, Adrian, Debi.

Hope to see you again sometime, some place…



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