4th International Conflict Resolution Education Conference

I just attended the 4th International Conflict Resolution Education Conference, which was held from June 8 – 11 in Cleveland, OH (download full conference program).  Educators from the United States and all over the world – Korea, Ghana, Kenya, Trinidad & Tobago – gathered at Cuyahoga Community College to participate and present a number of key workshops.  I was joined by my colleagues, Hardy Merriman and Maciej Bartkowski from ICNC.  I facilitated a session titled, “Liberation Tech? The Influence of the Internet and Digital Activism in Nonviolent Struggle.”  Continue reading to learn more…

Session description: The emerging role of digital tools and new media are impacting the way people around the world struggle nonviolently for human rights, justice, and democratic self-rule. In addition, these communication technologies are also being used as tools of repression by the very governments and structures these movements oppose. Looking at the evolution of communication and information sharing as tools and methods of resistance, Daryn will expand on contemporary struggles for rights waged with the help of online, social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and technologies such as cell phones, and digital cameras that advance the utility of these platforms.

The goal of the workshop was to foster a greater awareness and understanding of the uses and limitations of the internet and digital tools in waging nonviolent conflict.

The objectives of the workshop were for participants to be able to:

  • Share examples from their own lives of how, if at all, they use the internet and digital tools for organizing, activism, or education.
  • Identify various uses and limitations of online social networks, new media platforms, and digital tech in waging nonviolent struggle.
  • Apply strategic thinking and analysis to how the internet and digital tools can be and have been used in nonviolent struggle.
  • Learn about contemporary cases of nonviolent struggles that have used the internet and digital tools.

The process of the workshops was as follows:

(1) As participants enter the workshop space they are asked to place their initials along a spectrum ranging from strongly agree to strongly disagree, responding to the statement: “the Internet is more effectively used as a medium for liberation and social justice than it is as a tool for repression and censorship.”

(2) Facilitator introduces him/herself, the goals and objectives of the workshop, and how the spectrum will be revisited at the end of the workshop to see if any of their opinions have shifted or changed. (5 minutes)

(3) Participants introduce themselves providing their name, where they live/teach/work, and what is the one of their favorite pieces of technology, software, or gadgets (computer, telephone, gaming system, etc.) that they have used in their lives. (10 minutes)

(4) Facilitator provides a context for the importance and relevance of this workshop considering recent events around the world that have sparked a conversation about the use of social media and digital tech by both movements and their adversaries, whether they be governments, institutions, or corporations.  Facilitator then lays out the structure of the group work exercise. (10 minutes)  Key points to be made:

  • Nonviolent movements, by design and by definition, do not use tools of violence – guns, bombs, and other tools of destruction.  But that does not mean the strategic use of tools is absent.  Nonviolent movements spend time thinking strategically about how to use other tools, particularly communication tools to organize actions, mobilize, educate, document, etc.
  • Advancements in communication tools and technology – printing press, phone, radio, and television – have been utilized by both movements and their adversaries throughout history.  The internet, social media platforms, and digital technology, represent the newest advancement in this field and have raised new questions about their uses and limitations in nonviolent struggles.
  • Some in the mainstream media have referred to the recent uprisings in Iran, Tunisia, and Egypt Facebook, Twitter, and even Wikileak revolutions.  These labels have been both embraced and rejected by activists and followers of these movements.

(5) Participants are broken up into equal sized groups of no more than 6 per group.  Each group is given the “Struggle Conditions” handout and the “Big 4 Online Tools” handout.  Each group is asked to imagine themselves in the shoes of a nonviolent activist and to discuss what the potential uses and limitations of a particular online tool/platform would be given the struggle conditions. The movement’s “vision of tomorrow” is a country free from corrupt, autocratic rule and one that allows for political opposition and free and fair elections.  Groups should be reminded to think strategically and creatively about both uses and limitations. (20 minutes) Key questions:

  • What are some effective and innovative ways the online platforms you are analyzing can be used strategically to help advance the movement?
  • What ways can the your adversary leverage these same tools in ways that are detrimental to your movement?
  • How do the “struggle conditions” influence your responses to these questions?
  • Are their any real cases you can think of that share similar struggle conditions or capture the strategic use of your online platform?

(6) Groups are asked to report back key points from their discussion.  The facilitator harvests these points and populates them on a chart with the categories: uses and limitations.  As participants share their group’s discussion points and reference the “struggle conditions,” the facilitator connects these points to real-life cases where these uses, limitations, and struggle conditions have played out. (20 minutes)

(7) Participants are asked to revisit their opinion from when they first entered the workshop and think about whether or not their opinion has shifted or changed as a result of their exploration into this topic and conversation.  If so, how did their opinions shift and why?

(8) Facilitator suggests other resources for participants to explore if they want to learn more about this topic.

I had the pleasure of attending they keynotes and some other workshops.

Creative Responses to Conflict: A Model for Teaching Conflict Resolution in the Elementary Classroom
Presenters: Priscilla Prutzman, Creative Responses to Conflict and Marsha Blakeway, George Mason University

This workshop will use an experiential process to acquaint participants with an effective framework for teaching conflict resolution in the PK – Grade 5 classroom. Activities will represent the themes of Creative Response to Conflict: Communication skills, Cooperation skills, Affirmation, Conflict resolution principles, Creative problem-solving skills, Bias awareness, Mediation, Creative responses to bullying. Creative Response to Conflict is a global organization that educates individuals and groups to transform conflict into experiences of growth toward a just and peaceful world. Classroom teachers, counselors, and conflict resolution specialists can use this framework to support children’s learning of nonviolent conflict resolution and developing positive relationships in the elementary classroom.

Creating Inclusive Classrooms: Appreciating Diversity
Presenter: Shermariah Arki, The Diversity Center of Northeast Ohio

Participants will gain skills and discover resources to teach in a manner that is unbiased and non- prejudicial and will be provided with tools to create an inclusive classroom learning experience for all learners. The program will incorporate the following methodology: Interactive learning and teaching; Diverse facilitators and presenters; Integrating new and enduing theories of diversity awareness and social justice education; Historical and social perspectives of diversity issues.

Respect Everyone Despite Odds: Middle and High Schools Celebrating Diversity
Presenters: Sharon Richardson and Lori Burton-Cluxton, Abuse and Rape Crisis Shelter of Warren County

This workshop focuses on efforts made by a group of high school and middle school students, Stand for Peace, who are committed to creating a non-violent culture in their communities and schools.  Learn about their biggest project, Re-Do (Respect Everyone Despite Odds) Day, an in-school character education workshop that provides students with activities that reveal the potential for
connectedness, peace, and equality in their lives through the celebration of diversity, truth, and free expression.

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