Photo: © 2017, “ARENA Summer School for Creative Strategizing”.
Author: Lyubov Martinets, Kiev, Ukraine
From August 14th to 21st, 2017 the participants of the project ARENA: Community Theatre and Public Art gathered at the Austrian Study Centre for Peace and Conflict Resolution (ASPR) in Stadtschlaining, Austria, for the ARENA Summer School for Creative Strategizing. The place is known as a unique center for peace education in Europe. “The castle Burg Schlaining, the venue of the Summer School, used to be an agricultural center at peace times and a hospital or a prison during wars. From 1982 it is home for Austrian Study Centre for Peace and Conflict Resolution.” – said Laszlo Farkas, the head of the international training programs of the Study Centre, during his presentation of the history of the “Peace Castle” and the current activities of the Study Centre in Stadtschlaining.
The ARENA: Community Theatre and Public Art is an ongoing project organized by Peace Dialogue NGO and its German partner OWEN e.V. for the peace and human rights activists from conflict affected countries in the post-Soviet area. The project unites civil society actors from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Russian Federation and Ukraine. This was the second Summer School organized by Peace Dialogue NGO and its partners in the framework of the project ARENA, the first took place in 2016 in Borjomi, Georgia.
The main goal of the Summer School was to develop a strategy for the ARENA community. Also, the Summer School was aimed at establishing a common ground for the commitment of the participants of the ARENA project. The project team tried to provide an environment for the participants where they could do their activities, learn from each other in a safe and relaxing atmosphere.
During the first three days, the participants were actively involved in designing strategies for their further work in their respective communities. The process was guided by Guido de Graaf Bierbrauwer and Pim Gerritsen, the specialists of the Activist Hive project of the Dutch peacebuilding organization PAX.
“This time we confessed to ourselves that the changes we strive for will never come if we don’t work together. We agreed that we will work together and will start with very small practical steps. However, there is a critical need to develop a jointly acceptable aim, and then ones we have joint vision, we can start our step by step journey,”– said “May”, one of the participants of the Summer School from St. Petersburg.
After identifying their local strategies, the participants started to work jointly on ideas on how the network could support their activities: what kind of resources they expect from the network members, what particular knowledge and skills they need in order to reach the desired changes in the respective communities.
Many of the participants said that they wish to receive more opportunities for internship projects, in order to support each other and contribute to the peacebuilding efforts of their partners from neighboring countries. Apart from that, the participants expressed their interest in having a sustainable safe platform for mutual learning and support.
During the Summer School the participants organized their own workshops based on the work they do in their respective communities. Apart from that, the participants were invited to present to each other the creative products developed in the framework of the ARENA project.
On August 18, the participants of the ARENA project were invited to the Permanent Mission of Austria to the OSCE. During the meeting, the participants of the Summer School presented to the hosts their views and concerns regarding the recent conflicts related to political dynamics and their impact on the civil society processes in their respective countries and shared their visions on how the project ARENA addresses those challenges.
The organizers of the Summer School developed a visual dairy about the Summer School, its participants, notable events happened in the framework of the program.
© 2017, “ARENA: Community theatre and Public Art” is an ongoing project of Peace Dialogue NGO.
German partner – OWEN – Mobile Akademie für Geschlechterdemokratie und Friedensförderung e.V.
Dutch partner – The Activist Hive (a project by Dutch NGO PAX)
The project “ARENA: Community Theater and Public Art” is supported by the zivik (Civil Conflict Resolution) programme of the Institute for Foreign Cultural Relations (ifa) with means from the German Federal Foreign Office.