Spinning Peace in Africa

Strengthening the Web of Relationships for Peace

Conflict and Transformation

A fact of life

For many people the thought of conflict causes panic; for most it is so overlaid with negative connotations that they have devised elaborate ways of avoiding it. In some cultures even, avoidance of conflict has become a norm. This often goes hand-in-hand with a conflation of conflict and violence where the avoidance of conflict is a sure-fire way to avoid violence.

communication gap

And yet, whilst violent conflict certainly can be a destructive force, conflict (without the violence) can certainly also be a constructive force. It can lead to new relationships, new ways of doing things, stronger institutions, and the abandonment of old ways of working that no longer respond to current realities and so on.

Our ambivalence about conflict has spawned many different approaches to dealing with it. From attempts to resolve conflict that focus on the immediate dispute through to managing conflict which carries some recognition for a longer-term relational aspect, several areas of skills and knowledge have developed over the years. In this Learning Series and in this Treasure Trove, we saw conflict not as something to be resolved or managed, but rather in its transformative guise. The fact that there is conflict in a situation suggests that the situation is changing, is going beyond its present form (the etymological meaning of transform) and that what we are called upon to do is to observe and discern what that new, emergent shape is.

Bottom Up

 Conflict then is not something to be feared; it is to be welcomed as evidence that we, and the situation, are alive and therefore are active participants in the shaping of the new.


Click here to find a Treasure Trove of exercises and insights on working with Conflict and Transformation from the Learning Series and elsewhere.


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Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation

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