People often ask, how do you make contact with and arrangements for collaboration with local NGOs where we work? Good question. It depends; every country situation is different. One thing all of our partners have in common is their invitation to Partera to work with them, local communities and groups, to find nonviolent solutions to conflict. They are usually small organisations lacking the funds to contract with us financially to come, consult, design, deliver and follow up on programming. It is a grassroots model wholly dependent on relationship and trust, without the constraints (or, admittedly, benefits, of large funding bodies). Partera raises the funds for travel, lodging and stipend as well as what we call ‘programme funds’ which make it possible for partners to meet and plan, to gather together, house and feed a group of people whom they want trained in the skills of nonviolence and conflict transformation.
Here are a couple of examples:
A 2004 invitation-only all-women’s peacemaking training in Chiang Mai, Thailand organised by the Netherlands-based Women’s Peacemaking Programme (WPP) of the International Fellowship of Reconciliation (IFOR) led to an invitation to join IFOR member, SweFOR’s (Swedish Fellowship of Reconciliation) training team in Sudan in a multi-year training-of-trainers conflict-transformation project. The local partner is SONAD, the Sudanese Organisation for Nonviolence and Development. LeeAnn spent a month a year in Sudan and then South Sudan for eight years.
The model developed there remains our best model, which we attempt to follow in other projects. The key elements of that model are:
- SONAD’s identification of people they deemed ready to undertake such a training (‘ready’ meaning literate in Arabic, already engaged in work that challenged the oppressive status quo, and prepared to give ten to 16 days to the training). They drew upon individuals and organisations from across the country, across religion and tribe.
- The careful assembling of groups of 20 people, ten women, ten men, of whom half were Muslims and half Christians,
- with our training team made up of two women, two men, of whom two were Christian, two Muslim, two foreigners, two nationals. The two Sudanese acted as co-facilitators and as translators.
- An hour-long meeting of the four-member training team to review the day, to appreciate and challenge one another, to talk about the following day’s design and roles.
- The setting aside of the final three days to turn participants into trainers through Training-of-Trainers skills-building.
- The creation (initiated by the 2006 participants and animated by SONAD leadership) of the Sudanese Nonviolence Forum (SNF) which, with each succeeding year grew by a good percentage of the most-recently trained. The purpose of the group was to maintain channels of contact and support as they went on to train others.
- The requirement that participants go through, in advance, a two-day pre-training in nonviolence and a commitment to deliver three training-of-trainers sessions within the six months following their own ‘graduation’. The result was a remarkable exponential growth in the numbers of trained trainers – reaching into the tens of thousands by 2012.
The Philippines and beyond:
We already had connections to church-based activists in the Philippines through ecumenical social justice work in the 1990s. We take religion seriously – and our faith community connections are global and diverse. One of those connections is with the activist National Council of Churches of the Philippines and one of its key member denominations, the Convention of Philippine Baptist Churches. (See: Religion and Partera) Their Development Ministries Staff invited North American counterparts to support training in conflict transformation (CT) starting in 2003. Since then, Partera has returned seven times to do trainings in CT. In 2012, the Convention hosted an Asia-Pacific-wide training, inviting their partners to attend.
LeeAnn facilitated the multinational training, from which emerged interest from participants to offer trainings in places such as Myanmar, Sri Lanka and North East India. Our first trip to the latter was in 2013. A training with 40 men from five tribal communities that have experienced violent and protracted conflict issued in a number of initiatives, the most exciting being the planning and implementation of a Bike Tour for Peace, with one of the professor-observers having returned to train his students in the skills he had learned. The (now called) PeaceRiders have continued to bring the messages and skills of peace to the most conflictual parts of the north east – a region the Washington Post named as one of the six most under-reported war zones in the world. (Read more here)