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Expressive Writing Workshops in Lebanon

Expressive Writing project in collaboration with AND - Aakar Network for Development, Lebanon:

Expressive Writing Capability Transfer Programme Supported by The Global Challenges Fund


This Expressive Writing capability transfer project, developed with Akkar Network for Development (AND), addresses trauma as an outcome of gender-based violence and refugee experience. It began with an initial needs assessment and collaborative adaptation of bespoke workshop materials suited to ANDs’ safe space contexts and lead to three days of capacity-building workshops with 11 AND social workers in Beirut, followed by 8 weeks of ongoing monitoring, support and discussion to achieve permanent capacity transfer. A second narratives-based intervention and training is planned for 2019.

Benefits and impacts:

  • This pilot program collaborated on the development of adapted Expressive Writing materials and transferred permanent capacity to 11 AND Social workers in five areas of the Akkar region to deliver workshops on an ongoing basis to women who visit AND safe spaces.

  • These social workers engage daily with 110 women, both Lebanese nationals and Syrian refugees, who seek psychological and or legal support through AND, and are following a “life plan” that aims to increase their openness to new approaches for expression and to develop skills to support physical and mental health and resilience leading to greater economic independence.

  • This project met these stakeholder-defined challenges through train-the-trainer workshops conducted in Beirut which transferred capacity to these social workers to deliver a sustainable, low cost and effective toolkit enabling expression of beneficiaries’ perceptions, feelings, and reactions towards their situation and supporting them in gaining a sense of agency over their lives.

The impact of ‘story’ on governing complexities in NGO narratives

In addition, recognising that the contexts of research are themselves informed by story, Siobhan Campbell undertook a series of structured interviews with NGO directors and personnel (supported by The Open University’s Strategic Research Area: Justice, Rights and Borders) entitled ‘The Stories We Have to Tell’ – Crossing the borders of story-making in post-conflict cultural recovery. This has led to new lines of enquiry in order to provide a full ethics of recognition of the place of ‘story’ in the work of literary humanitarianism. As Dr. Siobhan Campbell says: ‘Widespread assumptions about the effectiveness of narrative-based interventions in post-conflict cultural recovery may have resulted in the relative neglect of questions about the nature of the creation of such projects. What ethical decisions are being made during the consultative period? How does a ‘needs assessment’ create lines of thought that then permeate a final roll out of a workshop based intervention? How can academics and activists best support their shared work by clear-eyed analysis and self-reflection on how their different personal aspirations, ideologies and beliefs are expressed in ways that become embedded in projects which use a narrative base?

Update on ongoing results

Results of the initial 2018 workshop show that an adaptation for more interactivity in writing exercises worked to allow social workers to implement the techniques with diverse groups exhibiting very different needs. Follow-up has entailed remote monitoring and consultation and a further workshop series with the implementers will take place in April 2019. Director of ‘AND’, Nadine Saba reports: ‘Working with this project meant a liberation of sorts. Our own experience and the narratives of our actual work on the ground were valued in this context. The workshops allowed for expression of the real fears related to anti-refugee rhetoric in play and allowed us to explore how, in mixed groups, writing could interface in positive ways with sensitivities around the refugee crisis. In addition, in terms of interviews with my social workers, they were able to record how they often cannot narrate difficulties of operation for fear of being thought to be inefficient. Life writing has proved itself a valuable tool when supported by the scaffolding that Drs Campbell and Jensen

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