Building Peace: The Power of Storytelling

girl and boy talkingAs I mentioned in a previous post, I had the great fortune of attending the Build Peace conference at MIT in April.  There were many peacebuilding strategies featured.  Today I will highlight one of those: Storytelling.

There is no denying that storytelling is a powerful tool for sharing key information and wisdom…many stories are passed down from generation to generation as a way of carrying on cultural values and traditions.  We know through the work of people like Andy Goodman that storytelling is a way to educate, persuade and connect with your audience (see a previous blog post on this topic and how we are capturing bystander stories at the NSVRC).  So, I was thrilled to see a few of the Build Peace Ignite Talk and working session speakers touch on the role of story-telling in their peacebuilding work.  One such program is the Accounts of the Conflict project out of the University if Ulster in Ireland.  This project is currently working to connect storytelling and technology by digitally recording the experiences of those who lived through the conflict in Northern Ireland.  These stories will be pulled together and preserved in a digital archive to capture the voices of many who were impacted by the conflict.  It provides both therapeutic and societal benefits as communities seek reconciliation and peace in the region.

The storytelling theme continued into the working sessions, as demonstrated by the Acting Together on the World Stage presentation that I attended.  This collaborative effort between Brandeis University’s Peacebuilding and the Arts program and Theatre without Borders works to pair peacebuilding efforts and the arts by capturing stories from conflict survivors all around the world in a documentary, Acting Together on the World Stage: Performance and the Creative Transformation of Conflict.  In places like Cambodia, Peru, Belgrade, Uganda, New Orleans, and Australia, people are harnessing the power of music and theatre performance to speak about their experiences with war and conflict, of their own personal losses, and of ways to keep their history and stories alive as they build bridges and seek peace and restoration.   

I was moved not only by these presentations, but by the way that other conference participants jumped in to share their own stories from their own communities.  It was a ripple effect.  And it reminded me that personal stories and experiences play a powerful role in our efforts to engage communities in meaningful work to address and prevent sexual violence.