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Writing on Conflict and Development for the Open University

For the past 18 months, Elizabeth has been a member of an Open University (OU) module team writing a new online educational offering on Conflict and Development.  Known in OU parlance as 'T879', the new module is a core and compulsory component for postgraduate students wishing to achieve the OU's Masters (MSc) in Development Management.  The module replaces TU875, War, Intervention and Development and is presented for the first time in May 2015.

The experience of designing and writing the material for T879 was stimulating, challenging and, ultimately, rewarding.  The process involved working with a team whose members brought diverse and rich expertise in the subject matter, in developing educational materials and in adapting the work for online presentation and learning.  The first part of the module deals with concepts and theories of conflict, development, intervention and humanitarianism, and the interactions between them. This sets the scene and explores the nature of social conflict, illustrating its many manifestations and that it is not confined to war situations or to particular countries. Part 2 deals with conflict analysis and root causes of conflict, and guides the students in building up a detailed conflict analysis of a situation of their choosing.

Elizabeth was assigned the writing of part 3 of the module, a daunting task but one that allowed her to draw on her knowledge and practice in facilitation, mediation and community engagement  to inform the work. This part of the module focuses on supporting students in applying their learning to their practice.  Students consider different approaches to dealing with conflict in developmental contexts. They work together in an highly-interactive mediation activity that provides them with the lived experience of the workings of such a process and brings to life their learning on the theory of group dynamics and interactions.  They also consider the psychological and emotional dimensions of group conflict, delve into the field of conflict transformation and are introduced to the worlds of complexity science and systems thinking.