Transforming Community for Social Change works to prevent and resolve violent conflicts. It uses eight basic programs.

  1. Listening session
  2. Healing and Rebuilding Our Communities (HROC)
  3. Alternatives to Violence (AVP)
  4. Help Increase the Peace Project (HIPP)
  5. Transformative mediation
  6. Non-violent movement for social change (NVMSC)
  7. Community dialogues
  8. Citizen reporters/call-in centre

Description of Programs used by TCSC in its peacemaking work.

1. Listening sessions

Peacemaker, Eratus Chesondi, presenting a peace message at the funeral for man on Mt. Elgon killed in election violence.

When TCSC is contacted to intercede in a conflict, usually the first response that facilitators do is to arrange for a listening session where all parties to the conflict come together to give their version of the events and issues behind the violence. It is amazing how successful this is in calming violent situations. Nonetheless this is only the first step in bringing peace and reconciliation. The facilitators listen to the community members and from what they have heard, they propose the appropriate intervention to solidify peacefulness in the community. Sessions can have over a hundred people in attendance.

2. Healing and Rebuilding Our Communities (HROC)

One of nine guns turned in after HROC workshops with rebels on Mt. Elgon.

HROC Philosophy

Healing and Rebuilding our Communities (HROC) is based on an underlying philosophy and a set of key principles listed below:

Principle #1: In every person, there is something that is good.

Principle #2: Each person and society has the inner capacity to heal, and an inherent intuition of how to recover from trauma. Sometimes the wounds are so profound that people or communities need support to re-encounter that inner capacity.

Principle #3: Both victims and perpetrators of violence can experience trauma and its after-effects.

Principle #4: Healing from trauma requires that a person’s inner good and wisdom is sought and shared with others. It is through this effort that trust can begin to be restored.

Principle #5: When violence has been experienced at both a personal level, and a community level, efforts to heal and rebuild the country must also happen at both the individual and community level.

Principle #6: Individuals healing from trauma and building peace between groups is deeply connected. It is not possible to do one without the other. Therefore, trauma recovery and peace building efforts must happen simultaneously.

HROC’s approach to learning grows directly from these six underlying principles. HROC workshops rely on participants’ own experiences of violence, trauma, and healing to provide the backbone of curriculum content. Rather than provide multiple didactic lectures, HROC facilitators invite participants to discover their own existing knowledge and their own inner wisdom about how to heal and how to help others. This approach builds a strong sense of community among group members, instills a new confidence in a wounded self, and ensures that the lessons learned are steeped in the context of the particular conflict and the post-conflict recovery process. The fact that the program relies on eliciting actual experiences enhances its adaptability to varying contexts and cultures.

3. Alternatives to Violence

Kakmua -- AVP with Peter

Peter Serete leading AVP workshop in Kakuma Refugee Camp.

The Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP) began in 1975, when a group of inmates near New York City asked a local Quaker group to provide them with non-violence training. Highly experiential in nature, the workshop encourages participants to recognize that they can best find their own answers to the conflicts they encounter.

AVP workshops focus on the following themes:
> Affirmation: Seeking that which is good in ourselves and others
> Cooperation
> Community building skills: trust, respect, and inclusiveness
> Communication skills: deep listening, speaking with clarity, and responsibility
> Conflict Transformation

There are three levels of AVP training: Basic, Advanced, and Training for Facilitators. All workshops last for three days and emphasize building community among participants. The Basic workshop provides an initial introduction to the concepts outlined above. In the Advanced workshops, participants choose the thematic focus that they want to explore more fully. Examples of such themes include fear, anger, forgiveness, or discrimination. In the Training for Facilitators, participants learn the skills needed to lead workshops on their own.

4. Help Increase the Peace Project (HIPP)

HIPP is an energetic, unrestricted, safe space that promotes freedom of expression and positive relationships among young people. The programs use tools like affirmation, communication, cooperation, conflict resolution and prejudice reduction. HIPP aims at impacting communities through schools, social clubs and workshops for young people. The main themes discussed in workshops include tribalism, prejudices, differences in belief and the benefits of diversity in bringing about a positive change. The HIPP program in schools seeks to bring about personal development among students by involving them in activities and experiences that cause them to better understand conflict, and how to create understanding through improved communication skills as well as knowing the resources available to assist in conflict resolution.

The objective is not only to train the students but also to train those who can extend the program and its activities, and equip them to carry the movement forward. Some of those who become trainers will drawn from the teaching staff in schools, others from experienced AVP facilitators, and new HIPP and AVP facilitators who have experience with youth or are deemed to be strong at working with youth.

HIPP will therefore encourage participants to build up skills for solving conflicts without violence, analyze the effect of societal injustice on their lives and those of others, and work on taking action for positive, nonviolent personal and social change.  The workshops will use participatory activities and discussions to help participants build community, develop interpersonal skills, analyze the social forces which contribute to violence, and envision the steps that would lead to a more just institution/world.

5. Transformative Mediation

From the time AVP and HROC were introduced in the region facilitators have been asked to resolve issues brought to them by the participants in their workshops. They felt that they did not have the skills necessary for this type of conflict resolution. Transformative mediation skills greatly enhance facilitators’ abilities to bring peace, reconciliation, and solutions to conflict in their communities by bringing together the conflicting groups to build a mutually cooperative relationship. The transformative approach to mediation does not seek resolution of the immediate problem, but rather, seeks the empowerment and mutual recognition of the parties involved. Empowerment means enabling the parties to define their own issues and to seek solutions on their own.

Historically in Kenya conflicts were solved by methods more like arbitration—people in conflict went to an elder who ideally heard both sides and then pronounced a verdict. This is not compatible with the methods and philosophy of AVP or HROC where inner wisdom and strength of the participants is emphasized. Mediators are trained in a three-day training and then asked to conduct some practice mediation in the home communities. When this has been accomplished the apprentice mediators are brought back together again to assess their experiences, fill in gaps, and resolve ongoing issues.

6. Community Dialogues

Community dialogues are similar to listening sessions, but more structured. These are done following successful interventions in the community. The purpose is for the community members to discuss and strategize on how peace can be developed and enhanced in the community so that subsequent conflict to not lead to violence. The role of the facilitator is not to suggest and push solutions but for the participants to share, listen to each other, reconcile, and move forward positively. Sometime more than one community dialogue is needed to develop the way forward for the community.

7. Non-violent Movement for Social Change (NVMSC)

There is a drastic need for social change in the customs, cultures, government, and politics. These can be better accomplished by Non-violent Movement for Social Change. The program teaches people how to make a significant, but doable, change in their society. This includes analyzing the situation, developing a strategy for the change desired, and the supporters of the current situation and those most likely to want change. NVMSC is a one week training program, followed by practice campaigns, and then regrouping for analysis of the campaigns and how they could have been improved upon. Successful campaigns in western Kenya have included (1) forcing a local counselor who was giving scholarship to his family members and supporters to form a community committee to assign scholarship to really destitute students, (2) successful campaigning by motorcycle taxi drivers to have covered motorcycle stands built, (3) arousing a community against early girl child marriages, and (4) forcing a county government to repair a main road.

8. Citizen reporters/call-in centre

Ezra Kigondu facilitating a workshop for citizen reporters in January 2017.

Selected participants of the AVP, HROC, or NVCSC workshops can volunteer to be trained as citizen reporters. They are given a two-day training with the first day covering content (such as civic education) while the second is devoted to how to be an unbiased reporter. Those who successfully complete the training are given the telephone number of the call-in centre. The call-in centre is organized through Frontline SMS. When something occurs in his/her community, the citizen reporter can text-message to the call-in centre. TCSC has over 1000 citizen reporters on its system. This allows TCSC to be contacted immediately when violence occurs. Frequently TCSC is able to respond the following morning so that the violence does not escalate into revenge violence. The call-in centre can also contact people in a community that is being affected so that they are able to respond.