How Funders Can Use the Power of Art to Heal in Post-Conflict Settings

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

How Funders Can Use the Power of Art to Heal in Post-Conflict Settings
By Christina Mallie and Nadia Fazal, Colors of Connection

From our experience working in war torn towns in Liberia and refugee camps in Burkina Faso, we have seen, first hand, the role that the arts can play in transforming identities and helping individuals and groups to move from an identity focused on the survival of conflict toward a new identity focused on a more positive future and different reality. 

At the recent Philanthropy New York panel discussion ‘Healing from and Preventing Conflict: The Unique Power of the Arts,’ we discussed the capacity of the arts to create a safe space for individuals and communities. When relevant, this safe space can facilitate the sharing of differences as well as commonalities, and can help to build bridges across societal divides.

Funders also wanted to know: What about metrics and research? From an M&E perspective, it would be helpful for funders to be open to new and different ways of reporting the “success” and “impact” of arts-based projects. Qualitative measures are essential in this case. For example, interviews, short video clips, digital stories, photographs, and other forms of qualitative data will provide funders with richer information that they can use to assess the diversity of positive changes that these projects are making, like the following:

As for research needed in this new and emerging field of the arts in the conflict setting and post-conflict settings, we need to be in direct communication with researchers who are engaging in this field in order to make evidence-informed decisions about effective programming in the arts. It is essential to consistently draw on relevant research in this field in order to make decisions about program planning, implementation, as well M&E processes. These decisions will be particular to the context, and will always need to be rooted in the desires and needs of the local communities where we work.

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