Hidden in Plain Sight: A Peacebuilder’s Story

Blog post by Marie Pace

We’ve all had experiences in our work where things went sideways when we least expected, right? These moments can be messy and difficult, but often some of the most fruitful. I presume that many of us that are drawn to action research know this. We count on it as a way to improve our ability to address problems. But in a globalized world of accelerating change, there is the added challenge that many of our existing tools and ways of thinking were designed for simpler times.

image of woman descending spiral staircase

Image provided by author

What then? In this paper, I tell a story that begins with a moment that took me by surprise and ends with important insights about action research, as well as important insights about how to improve peacebuilding practice. I’ve been working to address intractable social conflict issues for many years, in places such as Nigeria, Yemen, South Sudan and Burundi. I have been inspired by how many in my field are experimenting with approaches to our work that challenge old modes of thinking and doing. I offer this anecdote from my experience as a way to highlight some of what peacebuilding practitioners may be up against as our world is becoming more complex, and as our ways of working are changing. For this, I weave together theoretical and practical issues relating to complexity theory, systems thinking, blindness, and reflective practice.

This story serves as a reminder that no matter how grand our endeavors—working to transform places stuck in conflict—we accomplish what we do through how we engage in the ordinary business of our work. I propose that the key to our effectiveness may be hidden in plain sight when we learn to focus our attention in purposeful ways.

We invite you to learn more about this experience by reading our article HERE. Free 15-day access is available for this article beginning 14 September. 

After you’ve had a chance to read this piece, please share your thoughts, ideas, or experiences with our community in the comments section so we can continue this discussion!