Podcast with Sherrill Hayes-Photovoice as a conflict engagement tool

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Listen as Sherrill Hayes speaks about: first, Pop Culture Peacebuilding - Star Wars, Dr. Who and the Hobbit; and second, Photovoice as a conflict engagement tool. Both represent conflict resolution integrative approaches and techniques.

Learn more at these Sessions and many others at ACR Conference 2014 in Cincinnati at the Cincinnati Netherlands Hilton Hotel. For Conference 2014 information go to www.acrannualconference.org. See you in Cincinnati. Script (we have 15 minutes but can go a bit longer if necessary bc we are speaking about 2 sessions):

Hello – welcome to the Association for Conflict Resolution ACR Conference 2014 Blog Radio – My name is Nancy Flatters, President-elect of ACR and Lead Tri-chair for ACR Conference 2014. ACR Conference 2014 is from October 8-11, 2014 at the Cincinnati Netherlands Hilton Hotel. Over ACR Blog Radio you will hear from many of our Conference presenters and about special Conference events.

Today my guest is Sherrill Hayes Associate Professor & Director of the Masters of Science in Conflict Management at Kennesaw University and a presenter at ACR Conference 2014. Welcome Sherrill.

SH – Thank you Nancy, it’s a pleasure to speak with you and I appreciate this opportunity to share a bit about my work.

Sherrill, you have two sessions at the ACR Conference – let’s speak about the first session scheduled for Friday, October 10 from 1:45-3:15 pm.: Pop Culture Peacebuilding: Why Star Wars, Doctor Who and the Hobbit are Essential to the Future of Conflict Resolution Education.

Now having watched the first episodes of Stars Wars and Dr. Who and having read the Hobbit so long ago you have me – I am compelled to ask – why are Yoda and Darth Vader, the good Dr. and the Hobbit essential to future conflict resolution education? (brief description)

SH – I’ve been making these connections between my professional life and my personal interests subconsciously for many years. I read and watch science fiction as a sort of escape to the personal, community, and global conflicts I spend my working hours concentrating on. Social and political documentaries aren’t much of a mental or emotional break for people like us. However, the resolution of a conflict is central to all storytelling and from the first fairy tales we hear as children to the most complex multi-season story arcs on television, conflict is always there. Unfortunately for my family, my brain never really stops, so “ah ha” moments happen while we are relaxing and watching TV!

So as a teacher and trainer, I am always trying to find things that can connect the ideas and concepts from the classroom to things students of all ages will already know. Over the years, I’ve used the Andy Griffith Show, The Office, Downton Abbey, and other pop culture references in my teaching. I even wrote a piece for mediate.com about 4 years ago on “Jedi Mediation” relating Star Wars to mediation, which was the first time I really tried to share these thoughts with a wider group of people.

Next, I find that as conflict resolution professionals we often have “connection” and “communication” problems with the wider public. When I’m trying to explain my work I can see people start to check out pretty quickly because they hear “peace” and “conflict resolution, especially men and boys,” because these ideas seem disconnected from their world. On the other hand, if I lead in with a Yoda quote or a clip from Harry Potter, I grab their attention and can quickly weave in the ideas. I also talk about sports in relation to conflict resolution for similar reasons.

Finally, the whole idea of “narrative” and “story telling” are really hot right now in our field and I think that in addition to seeing these in a micro-skill context (as in narrative mediation) we have to see the power of stories as an education tool. Imagine you sold yourself to Cartoon Network as a “Jedi Mediator” or “The Doctor” of Conflict problems to BBC or a “Word Wizard” to Universal Studios and could get into front of a larger audience, you could really make an impact. I think for serious people like us it feels gimmicky however I’m sure that Bill Nye “The Science Guy” had greater scientific aspirations than doing middle school science experiments wearing a bow and we know that Anthony Bourdain was a gastronomic genius before he started eating questionable cuisine in some of the world’s most dangerous places, but they have impacted and inspired millions to take up science or culinary arts. Where is our field’s Bill Nye or Anthony Bourdain to inspire a culture wide interest in our field?

So within this how will you set the stage for the focus of the session?

I will give a brief summary of some of the stories/characters for those not familiar and by sharing some clips and quotes that I think illustrate some key concepts and issues in the field. I will also charge the audience with thinking of a story, movie, or TV show that they have seen that they think illustrates a key idea in our field. This is as much an opportunity for people to speak aloud their unspoken metaphors as it is for me to share mine!

And just what will I learn and take away when I come to your session?

Well, you if you don’t know these stories you will learn a little about them, but the real focus of the session is on understanding how to share some big ideas through characters and stories. For example, “The Doctor” on Dr. Who refuses to engage in violent acts regardless of the situation. His only “weapon” of sorts is a sonic screwdriver that he uses mostly to fix things. He often uses humour and wit to defuse tension and as a way to keep people talking to get to the root of the problem. Sounds great, right? In fact, the primary reason he is so anti-violent is because he was once a great warrior who was effectively responsible for genocide of two races, including his own. It’s ironic really since messages about pro-social behaviour are at the heart of most classic fairy tales, fantasy and science fiction stories and especially classic comic books. For those not familiar, Joseph Campbell’s work on the analysis of the Power of Myths, especially the “Hero’s Journey”, and Carl Jung’s work on archetypes are central to understanding how and why human beings relate to some stories.

What is the importance of this then for conflict managers, resolvers, educators and others as we consider our evolving work and profession as conflict responders and resolvers?

Ultimately, I want to help our field to develop a way of thinking metaphorically because we are at the stage where we need a better story that we can share and connect to the wider public. Once you start seeing the ideas from our field in this way, you will find them almost everywhere, and that is a way for us to talk about what we know. Right now, my wife and I are reading the “Divergent” Trilogy by Veronica Roth there’s probably a whole workshop on social and interpersonal conflict based in those stories that someone could do at a public library or on campus somewhere.

Now the second session scheduled for Friday, October 10 from 3:30-5 pm.: Using Photovoice as a Conflict Engagement Strategy in Diverse Communities where you are teaming up with Birthe Reimer. First what is photovoice and then how do you use it in working with diverse communities? (brief description)

First, let me be clear that this is Birthe’s dissertation research for her PhD in International Conflict Management at Kennesaw State and I’m her advisor for this project. So with that preface in mind, Photovoice is an image and dialogue based group process that originally comes out of the public health field. Basically, a group of participants are given a series of prompts about their community and asked to take pictures that respond to the prompts, for example “Take a picture of a something you feel is a strength in your community”. They then meet to share their photos and discuss them for a set number of sessions. Photovoice is typically used as an empowerment tool since it allows an outlet for participants to share their often-marginalized voices with each other and because it reaches underrepresented groups the research can appeal to policy makers.

Most Photovoice studies tended to focus on participants from one marginalized group such as internally displaced persons (IDPs), women living with HIV, the elderly, homeless people, and urban youths. Birthe, who has a background as a community mediator and facilitator, took a different approach and used Photovoice with a group of people from different backgrounds who live in the same geographic community as a tool of conflict resolution. In this case, Clarkston, Georgia, a small suburb of Atlanta, which has been referred to as the most diverse square mile in America.

So within that, what is the principal focus for the session? (explain)

The focus of the session will be on understanding the use of Photovoice as a modified form of small group dialogues for community building and as a useful research tool for understanding complex conflict environments. Clarkston is an historically working-class White and African American small Southern town that has been a refugee resettlement site for almost 25 years now, the impact of the pace of global social, economic, and political change has been keenly felt here. This is a place where interpersonal and intergroup conflicts can be viewed through the lens of multiple histories and cultures.

With that backdrop then, what will I learn about when I come to your session?

We hope that you will learn a bit about the Photovoice process and consider its implications for your work and think of some ways you can apply it in your own communities. We also hope you will consider the richness of these global communities within the US and consider the impact that conflict resolution professionals can have in them.

What is the importance of this session for conflict managers and resolvers as we engage in our work?

As I said earlier about popular culture, I believe that as a field we need to consider ways of fully engaging with the broadest audience possible for our work. I’ve been working with refugee resettlement communities for almost 8 years now and the agencies, professionals, and community members are some of the most welcoming and receptive to the ideas and practices of conflict engagement I’ve encountered. As Birthe and I developed this project, we saw it as part of a new wave of innovative thinking to engage individuals and groups who we don’t often reach with our programs. While small group dialogues and using pictures as conversations are not new, using them in this form as an intervention helps progress us forward.

Sherrill, thank you. I look forward to both sessions: Pop Culture Peacebuilding, Star Wars, Dr. Who and the Hobbit on Friday, October 10, 2014 from 1:45-3:15 p.m. followed also on Friday, October 10, 2014 from 3:15 to 5 pm. by Photovoice, Conflict Engagement and Diverse Communities.

See you in Cincinnati at ACR Conference 2014 at the Cincinnati Netherlands Hilton Hotel from October 8-11, 2014. For complete Conference information go to: www.acrannualconference.org for everything happening at ACR Conference 2014.