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PEACE TRAINING is a dynamic field which requires creativity and innovation but also constant engagement, information sharing and coordination among its practitioners. Thus, to contribute in creating a forum for collaborative engagements among different stakeholders in CPPB, Peactraining.eu organised a Practitioners Conference at the Sigmund Freud Private University in Vienna in Vienna from 1-2 October 2018. The conference which was titled “Shaping the Future of Peace Training in Europe and Beyond”, brought together about 150 practitioners from over 37 countries around the world and across different sectors including civil society organisations, training institutions, military, diplomatic and research institutions. The purpose of conference was to create a conducive environment for discourses around the future of peacetraining not only in Europe but worldwide. More importantly, we aimed to share with other actors from training and conflict prevention and peacebuilding (CPPB) practice our project results which included, inter alia workshops, reports, academic publications, a multi-functional web platform and CPPB handbook.
The conference was a great success. The 20 workshops, panels and informal spaces were refreshingly interactive and extremely rewarding. In the words of Picasso, “inspiration exists, but it has to find you working”; and indeed, as practitioners interacted and harmoniously worked together at the conference, inspiration thrived.
For many participants, the conversations and ideas sharing did not only inspire them professionally but also personally. The keynote address and plenary on the first day provided a useful and critical foundation by laying down the contextual relevance and realities in the field as well as facilitating an “energetic and interesting” discussions. The Plenary One titled ‘Mapping the Needs and Challenges in the Field of Peace Training’ in particular elicited enthusiasm among the participants who in the spirit of camaraderie openly engaged in the group discussions; ‘providing a momentum’ which made the conference special and fit for purpose. Plenaries and workshops on novelty, self-care and stress management, CSDP training, e-learning methods and approaches, leadership development, networking among others were professionally inspiring and personally motivating. One participant noted of her experience from the session on self-care and stress management: “It has reminded me about the importance of the “human factor” in peace training and that courses can and should do much more in preparing staff working in difficult environments…It inspired me to include self-care and stress management techniques in modules in courses I design and organize.”
Furthermore, it is said that ‘iron sharpens iron’ and indeed, the creation of such collaborative spaces allowed for the co-creation of new knowledge and learnings as well as much needed ‘fresh’ insights as participants interacted and shared their experiences with each other. Over the course of the 2-day conference, participants learnt new tools and ideas from each other which they could apply in their CPPB work. Serious games such as Mission Zhobia ; arts-based methods such as image sculpting and participatory videos; USIP online courses on CPPB ; and human-centred approach to training; were among the many new learnings which participants benefitted from.
The demonstration of Mission Zhobia expounded the complexities of using and evaluating the impact of technological/computer-based games in training especially in conflict settings, whilst highlighting the potential benefits such games could have in future CPPB trainings. These workshops proved that “accessible forms of e-learning, serious gaming and simulation have a huge potential that should be explored, tested and evaluated in the future.” Additionally, “micro-courses” such as those introduced by USIP are not only cost-effective and time saving tools for self-paced learning, but also a step towards the development of more innovative tools such as mobile/smartphone training apps. These will facilitate easy access by trainees across different continents.
Undeniably, while progress has been made, there are also challenges which continue to persist in the practice of CPPB and peace training; some of which were equally underscored during the conference and are consistent with our project findings see reports.