Since the beginning of 2011 ICCO has launched a number of learning communities on different topics. Two of them are the learning communities on ‘conflict transformation and democratisation’, and on ‘gender and human rights based approach’. Gender and human rights based approach are crosscutting issues for ICCO and should be mainstreamed in all its programmes and projects. ‘Conflict transformation and democratisation’ is one of ICCO’s thematic programmes. ICCO’s learning communities are platforms for exchange of experiences and questions on how to work on specific issues, and combine virtual exchanges through e-tools such as D-groups, Yammer, Wikis and Skype, with face to face meetings.The first face to face meeting of the conflict transformation and democratisation and the gender and human rights based approach learning communities was a five days encounter that took place in the last week of September 2011. Fair and Sustainable Advisory Services supported ICCO in the design and implementation of the sessions on conflict transformation and democratisation.
Besides getting to know each other, the meeting aimed at:
- Developing a common language on the concepts of conflict transformation, democratisation, gender and human rights based approach
- Reflecting jointly on how to integrate gender and human rights based approach in ICCO’s programmes and projects, especially in its conflict transformation and democratisation programmes
- Making everybody familiar with the tools that ICCO has developed on conflict transformation and democratisation, gender and human rights based approach
- Finally, an important objective was to define learning needs that could be taken on in the two learning communities.
The programme alternated attention for gender and the human rights based approach with sessions on conflict transformation and democratisation. It also alternated theory and practice. The first two days focused on questions such as: what does it mean to work from a rights based approach, or from a gender perspective? What makes conflict transformation a different approach from, for instance say, conflict resolution? What is ICCO’s approach to the broad field of democratisation? The third day was entirely dedicated to practice, discussing the various tools developed by ICCO and others to help programme officers to apply these concepts in their daily work. What questions should one ask to ensure that a programme has integrated the gender and human rights based approach? How can we support partners in really tackling the root causes of a conflict instead of just the symptoms? How do you make sure that the structural causes of exclusion and marginalisation are addressed, how can you analyse power relations and adjust your strategies accordingly? The fourth day facilitated exchanges between programme officers working in ICCO’s regional organisations, and the thematic specialists working in the global office. Finally, the last day was dedicated to formulating learning needs and making some agreements on how to proceed further with the two learning communities.
Each learning community now has its own digital network. The challenge ahead is how to develop the learning communities in such a way that they become useful platforms to their members. This will most certainly depend on the extent to which the members integrate learning in their work. If people are used to think of their work as something that can be improved and benefits from exchange with others – through sharing experiences, documents, insights etc., they will also be able to identify learning needs. A learning community can then be an excellent means to learn from others and find some answers to burning questions.