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On 12th - 14th January 2015, Elizabeth of iFacilitate participated in a conference on 'Bridging Theory and Practice of Creative Conflict Engagement'  which took place at Bar-Ilan University, Ramat Gan, Israel.  She was  invited to be a panel member along with Professor Jay Rothman and Dr Nimrod Rosier of Bar-Ilan University and Dr Nerkez Opacin of the International University of Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina. The panel session considered the topic of 'Critically and personally engaging with conflicts in teaching and learning', considering the relationship between teaching and learning and engaging constructively with conflict. Elizabeth spoke about the role of Higher Education in developing the capabilities of students for analysis, critical thinking and reflective practice. 

Her presentation can be viewed here:

A 'buzz session' was incorporated into the question and answer part of the panel session. Here, the audience were offered the opportunity to converse with each other and to discuss the content of the presentations. They then engaged with the panelists in providing observations and asking questions. This form of audience engagement creates a greater degree of participation for all and could be used more widely in academic gatherings. 

The question and answer session can be viewed here (the 'buzz session is at 13.00mins):

SELVET - Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) in Vocational Education and Training (VET) - was a Leonardo partnership project subsidized by the EU under the Lifelong Learning Programme. The partnership consisted of five organisations: AKUT Alapítvány, Hungary; The Hague University of Applied Sciences,The Netherlands; Creative Youth, the United Kingdom; Volkshochschule Göttingen, Germany; and Malta College of Arts, Science and Technology, Malta.

Elizabeth of iFacilitate was a member of the UK partner team and participated in the visits, undertook the evaluation of the meetings, helped in the design and facilitation of the UK meeting, and co-wrote and co-edited the guidebook, a major output of the project.


Social and emotional learning (SEL) programmes help children and adults to develop the fundamental skills for life effectiveness. SEL helps students to become good communicators, cooperative members of a team, effective leaders, and caring, concerned members of their communities. The present project aimed to explore the implementation of SEL programmes within vocational education and after-school settings in the different partner countries. Each partner hosted a 3-day visit to their country and organized lectures, meetings, excursions, discussion sessions and cultural activities.

As a result, good networking and relationships were developed between the representatives of the participating countries. Partners were able to experience and to appreciate the different cultures and settings of each of the 5 countries. The educational visits organized by the different host countries contributed towards a better understanding of the diverse provision of vocational education in Europe

Visit of the partners to the UK

Elizabeth worked with Creative Youth to plan and to organize the UK meeting of partners which took place in Kingston upon Thames. The process required a high degree of coordination as the agenda included visits to Kingston College, presentations by colleagues, workshops run by theatre companies mentored by Creative Youth (Smoking Apples Theatre, Page One Theatre and Filksit Theatre), and discussion sessions.

The experience was seen as very positive. The mix of activities enabled the group to get to know each other better, to share common interests and to make progress on the project. The partners enjoyed greatly their experiences of community events such as Ski Sunday, the King’s Soup and Homage de Fromage Cheese Club, and the arts-based activities during the working sessions. Such actvities were not only creative and fun, but also fostered communication and collaboration, and could inform approachs to Social and Emotional Learning provision. 

I believe that it is very important to attend and participate in different community events mainly because it would help us to get a clearer picture of the community. From this experience I was intrigued because, although they did not use extravagant resources they were all a huge success (especially the Ski Sunday and the King's Soup). Furthermore, I believe that the arts-based workshops were very informative and appealing, not only to the project but also to us as educators.”

Writing and Production of the Guidebook

With the completion of the visits to each partner country, a great deal of learning, insights into practice, and information had been shared.The groundwork for the production of a ‘guidebook’ was laid.The partners agreed that the purpose of this document was to

  • Give an overview of the concept of SEL and its application within partner countries
  • Raise awareness of its importance of SEL programmes in formal and informal education
  • Provide a rationale and argument for inclusion of SEL programmes in VET.

The main target audience included school directors, principals, and teachers, as well as decision-makers and policy-developers within vocational education. All partners contributed content for the guidebook. As well as acting as co-author and co-editor, Elizabeth worked  with Creative Youth to co-ordinate the proofreading, design and final production of the document.

Copies can be downloaded from:


In undertaking the SELVET project, and in visiting each participating country, the partners created a rich resource of learning, and compiled a valuable databank of literature and case study examples. Future work will involve closer examination of this material, in order to inform the assessment of practical means by which SEL provision can be extended and improved in different settings.  The partners will build on the very constructive relationships created in the course of this project and plan to meet and to discuss future collaborations.

“I enjoyed the meetings very much and would love to get together again soon, e.g. for another project. The vibe was all of time, in every country great, and I think the output of highest value as well. It is really rare to find so many nice and capable people at once, therefore I would like to stay in contact and keep the chance for many future collaborations to come.”

Completion of the SELVET Project

SELVET (Social and Emotional Learning in Vocational Education and Training) was a partnership project subsidized by the EU under the Life Long Learning Programme. Elizabeth of iFacilitate worked as a member of the UK team, and participated in all meetings, undertook evaluation activities, and helped in producing and in editing the guidebook, a major output of the project.

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.

 A rich experience indeed for developers, students and tutors!


Applying Systems Thinking toPractice in Conflict Transformation: Elizabeth of iFacilitate successfully completed her Master of Science (MSc) in Systems Thinking in Practice. The research inquiry was on the topic of ‘What helps, what hinders in applying Systems Thinking to Professional Practice in Conflict Transformation?’

Writing on Conflict and Development for the Open University : on the experience of writing online educational materials.

Bridging Theory and Practice of Creative Conflict Engagement (2015): Presentations from a conference held at Bar-Ilan Unversity, Israel in January 2015. 

Teaching Peace and Conflict in Higher Education (2012):  A paper exploring the role of Peace and Conflict Studies in Higher Education in bringing together theory and practice in conflict work. 

Module 1: Learning Conflict Management This module seeks to engage the user in learning about conflict management through a process of inquiry. It looks into the impact of history and perspective in the giving rise to, and working with present-day violent conflicts. In this first form, Northern Ireland is used as case study material.  Your feedback is welcomed and appreciated as the module  is a work-in-progress and needs addition of further components such as additional case studies and underpinning theory, learner guidance and an assessment framework.  The attached pdf file provides an overview of the module and its development. 

Building Bridges across Divides in Communities: This is an exploratory paper exploring my thinking on the relationship between conflict and violence, and how the latter may lead to ingrained divisions  and segregration in communities.  I consider the advantages and disadvantages of groups staying apart, and  processes of bridging such divides. 

Teaching peace and conflict in Higher Education - the need for a changing dynamic in a changing world

Elizabeth Mc Donnell    August 2012

The field of peace and conflict studies (PCS) first emerged in response to the destruction wrought by the Second World War and continues to evolve and grow in response to the challenges to peace arising from an ever-increasing world population, poverty and inequality, climate change and global movements of peoples.  The 2005 riots in Paris and those in London in 2011 indicate that there is a need to build capacities in all societies for addressing conflict creatively and for collaborative problem-solving if such conflicts are not to take a negative destructive path and end in violence and long term damage. The growing recognition of the need and role of peacebuilding is creating new opportunities for qualified professionals and thus increasing the demand for education and training in the field.

However, herein lies somewhat of a paradox. There is no clearly defined discipline of peace and conflict studies nor of the field of peacebuilding - there are many divergent interpretations of they are and the context of operation and application is in constant flux.  In academia, there is no agreement on a core curriculum or on core competencies for graduate education in peace and conflict studies, resulting in a lack of coherence across academic provision. The field is interdisciplinary in nature and draws on many areas of the social sciences including political science, history, psychology, international relations and sociology.  This brings benefits but also generates difficulties in creating educational programmes that are adaptable and flexible to changing student demands and needs.  The place and role of Higher Education (HE) is coming under challenge and scrutiny. Increasing competition, decline in public funding, change in student populations and attitudes, and rapid technological advances are drivers for change that will continue to grow. The potential of open educational resources (OERs) has yet to be realized but their impacts on educational provision could be transformative. Phelen (2012) queries the role of teaching and academic institutions in a world that makes it possible for the creative learner to seek out and put together a learning package for themselves outside of any formal HE institutional setting, especially if novel approaches to validation and accreditation become accepted and recognized.  In the field of practice, the boundaries between security, peacemaking, humanitarian aid, development and peacebuilidng are becoming increasingly blurred and there is no consensus on what constitutes a ‘peace professional’.   Yet the concepts of a duty of care and ‘do no harm’ are central to addressing the needs, and working with the  vulnerabilities, of those who are experiencing, or have experienced, the devastating impacts of violence and war.  Education and training has a critical role to play in ensuring the preparedness of professionals to work in this complex field and to provide them with grounding in the relevant knowledge, skills and attitudes.

Given such issues, a study was undertaken on behalf of the Higher Education Academy on the teaching of peace and conflict in UK Higher Education institutions and a workshop held on the topic of ‘Connecting the study of peace and conflict with professional practice’ at the Open University in London.  The workshop brought together 25 participants from academic institutions and practitioner organizations, all of whom engaged enthusiastically with the topics of discussion and considered the opportunity to meet in such a way to be very timely and beneficial to all involved.  The study showed that peace and conflict study programmes are spread across a range of disciplines and departments in UK universities and that the approach taken in course content and teaching is  primarily of an ‘academic’ nature i.e. placing emphasis on learning of theory and its application, developing skills in critical inquiry, analysis and evaluation and building research capability. 

From the workshop and ongoing discussions in a Linkedin group, the existence of a divide between academic and practitioners is acknowledged.  For some, the divide shows itself as a seeming arrogance by students and academic researchers and a lack of appreciation of the problems faced by communities in situations of violence or post-violence.  Academic researchers show little empathy with their "subjects" and little realization to what extent conflict can take a toll on a population, and how being looked at as a 'dataset' can be. This can lead to highly questionable ethical practices and NGOs (non-governmental organizations) at grassroots level get stuck with the consequences. On the other hand, practitioners may show a lack of appreciation and knowledge of what it is academics do and assume that they lack capacity to do anything useful on the ground.  However, these are generalised views and do not reflect those of all practitioners or all academics, especially as some continually criss-cross academic-practitioner boundaries.

The study and discussions show an immense goodwill and interest between practitioners and academics to collaborate, to learn from each other and contribute to developing learning and teaching in peace and conflict. They acknowledge that the ‘divide’ between them creates wariness, suspicion and lack of recognition of the inherent value in each and the potential greater value in unity.  Practitioners have many questions regarding peacebuilding and methodologies that academics could help to answer and, in turn, have access to data of use to academic researchers. Combining the two ways of seeing gives the best of both worlds- scholars could add a practical dimension to their work and practitioners a scholarly aspect.  Opportunities for training and gaining practical experience could be negotiated as well as bringing an awareness of the assumptions and bias that external interveners bring coming into a situation from their own cultural context.  The benefits could be extended to the communities with whom practitioners work.  Translating academic language and concepts into simpler words (which does not mean simplifying the idea) and using accessible language enables local people and practitioners to own the processes of peacebuilding rather than seeing them as something complicated being done by outsiders. In turn, conveying their own work in terms that the academic community can more easily understand supports the appropriate framing of both research and application in practice.

References and further reading

Botes, Johannes (Jannie) (2004) Graduate Peace & Conflict Studies Programs: Reconsidering Their Problems & Prospects Conflict Management in Higher Education Report, Volume 5, Number 1, Sept 2004   Accessed 26th July 2012

Carstarphen, N., Zelizer, C., Harris, R. and Smith, D.J (2010) Graduate Education and Professional Practice in International Peace and Conflict United States Institute of Peace, Special Report 246. Accessed 26th July 2012

Fitzduff, Mari (2006) Core Competencies for Graduate Programs in Coexistence and Conflict Work—Can We Agree? Project on Leadership and Building State Capacity, Leadership Series notes, Issue no. 1, September 2006  Accessed 26th July 2012

Kubler, Jay and Sayers, Nicola (2010), Higher Education Futures: Key Themes and Implications for Leadership and Management, Research and Development, Series 2, Publication 4.1, The Leadership Foundation for Higher Education, London, UK 

Olcott Jr., Don (2012): OER perspectives: emerging issues for universities,  Distance Education, 33:2, 283-290.  Accessed 15th August 2012

Phelan, Liam (2012), Politics, practices, and possibilities of open educational resources, Distance Education, 33:2, 279-282, Accessed 15th August 2012

Windmueller, John, Wayne, Ellen Kabcenell and Botes, Johannes (Jannie) (2009) Core Competencies: The Challenge for Graduate Peace and Conflict Studies Education International Review of Education (2009) 55:285–301, Springer 2009

World Development Report (2011) Conflict, Security and Development, The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development / The World Bank

Accessed 25th July 2012

Zelizer, Craig and Johnston, Linda  (2005) Skills, Networks & Knowledge: Developing a Career in International Peace and Conflict Resolution  Alliancefor Conflict Transformation (ACT) Inc., 2005 Accessed July 26th 2012




Fun and games - writing Open Educational Resources

on Wed, 08/29/2012 - 23:21

Success! I have managed to produce an Open Educational Resources (OER) on the use of cooperative games in learning about conflict management.

Argentine tango, swimming and reflection - spot the link!

on Sun, 07/22/2012 - 18:21

So what on earth would bring tango, swimming and reflection together? Obvious, of course - none other than Kolb's learning cycle!

Whether you wish to evaluate the effectiveness of your programme or project, get feedback from your stakeholders, or get an overview of activities in a particular field, iFacilitate can help you. We carry out action research in the fields of conflict management, community development and environment, making use of Kolb's Learning Cycle to inform our approach and making learning integral to the project process. iFacilitate draws on the latest developments in evaluation practice in determining the effectiveness and impact of project actions and interventions, providing a participatory process and ensuring that review and reflection is inbuilt from the start, rather than being a bolt-on at project completion. We provide

  • links to academic expertise and research
  • feedback infomation on events
  • evaluation information on the effectiveness of projects 
  • research and evaluation reports in a range of formats, both hardcopy and online.








Workshop feedback subsequently written up in a paper and report.