Earlier this year, Philippines-
based conict resolutionorganization, The Conict
Resolution Group Foundation(CoRe) started a campaignentitled Transformative Cells(T-Cells), aimed at buildingface-to-face communication skills among youngpeople. This spring, T-Cells trained 135 guidancecounselors from colleges and universities in MetroManila. The guidance counselors then trained 50student facilitators in each of their 135 schools.
Each student facilitator will invite six students to
take part in a T-Cell—a small group that will cometogether for a facilitated conversation about anagreed upon topic.Using this model, T-Cells has trained a totalof 1,790 student facilitators and at the endof September, 7,247 students from differentuniversities and colleges across Metro Manilaand nearby provinces had participated in variousT-Parties (events that hold multiple T-Cell dialoguessimultaneously in one venue). Multiple schoolsin Manila have adopted T-Cells as part of theircurriculum, the T-Cells Web site provides studentswith information and learning resources, and aT-Cellebrity Program allows students to vote viasocial media on T-Cells “ambassadors.” As thesestudents reach out to students in other areas ofthe country—and the world—founder Belle Abaya
expects T-Cells to multiply on a grand scale. Belle
started T-Cells after retiring from her position as thePresidential Advisor on the Peace Process in thePhilippines. PCP talks with her about what sparkedthe need for T-Cells and how it works.
Do you have a memory of something
specic that sparked your personal initialinterest in conict resolution?
Las year, I was on vacaion wih wo young women.Beorehand, I wondered wha kind o conversaionhe hree o us migh have. Bu during our rsdinner ogeher, I noiced boh o hem acively exing. Ten heir cell phones buzzed. Suddenly Irealized here were hree simulaneous conversaionshappening a he ime—and I was no in wo o hem.
In his 17 years a PCP, Senior Vice Presiden Bob Sains has brough his experience rom hemenal healh eld, his experisein workshop design, and wisdomabou how people learn o heorganizaion’s raining approach and programs.Bob became aware o PCP in 1994, when he signedup or he projec’s rs workshop on is reshapproach o dialogue. A he ime, Bob was workingor he Beter Homes Foundaion, raveling andeaching abou helping homeless amilies. He oundhimsel regularly coming up agains race, gender andclass issues and was hoping ha his new approach would have a posiive impac on his communiy work. “I had never seen an approach o dierenceand diversiy like PCP’s beore,” shares Bob, “anapproach ha sared wih appreciaion.”He had o miss he second session o he workshopo ravel o Louisville, KY, o give a ve-day raining or 20 sa and voluneers rom localhomeless shelers. On he rs day o he raining,he discovered ha he group was deeply divided by race, economic saus, religion and sexualorienaion. Wih he knowledge rom he rssession o he PCP workshop, he revised his plan and
sared by aciliaing a dialogue insead o eaching.Sereoypes ell away, undersanding emerged andenduring relaionships were ormed. “I was a urningpoin or me,” explains Bob. “I said o mysel: Tis ispowerul. I have o ge more involved wih PCP.”Bob has been deeply involved in developing PCP’sraining programs since he was brough on as
Training Director in 1995. In addition to co-creating
more han 30 workshops or PCP, Bob has rainedmore han 20,000 people, boh in he U.S. andabroad, over he course o his career.Bob’s pah o raining ook him hrough he worldo communiy menal healh. While working or heMassachusets Deparmen o Menal Healh in heearly 1980s as a psychoherapis, Bob helped creaeone o he rs mulidisciplinary psychiaric oureacheams in he counry. Te eam’s mission was ond he naural helpers in a communiy, elici heirknowledge, highligh heir srenghs and equip hem wih basic counseling and reerral skills. “We wouldask around he communiy o nd ou who people wen o when rouble came up,” recalls Bob. “Ten we would work wih olks (hairdressers, buildingsupers, clergy, ec.) o improve communiy healh by enhancing heir capaciy o help ohers.”Bob wen on o rain menal healh praciioners inseveral local and naional setings while mainaininga clinical pracice. Tis background was a good or PCP and is amily herapy roos. “We work romhe inside ou,” explains Bob. “I’s imporan o sar wih he experience o he learner as he rs eacher.I’s easy or us o orge he wisdom ha we have,or orge o exrac he lessons rom experiences we have lived. We creae learning environmensha are opporuniies or people o recall heir ownknowledge and reconnec wih wha hey weren’even aware ha hey knew, as well as o bene romour experience and hinking.”Bob has been insrumenal in collaboraing wih PCPcolleagues o orm a raining approach ha embodieshe same spiri and values as PCP’s work in he eld by emphasizing curiosiy, experienial learning, and aneliciive orienaion.
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Back in he room, when I ried asking a quesion, noone responded. When I looked over, boh women were wearing earphones plugged ino heir lapops,oblivious o my presence. A his momen, I realized echnologies ha were invened o increase conneciviy are hesame echnologies ha are eroding ace-o ace-communicaion skills. Wih young people inheriingan increasingly complicaed world, I became worriedabou he impac o echnologies ha make i easy o“un-riend,” o bully, and o isolae onesel. I wanedo bring dialogue skills o our young people.
CoRe says its purpose is to celebratehuman diversity. For you, how is thisconnected to conict resolution work?
People are increasingly inoleran o dierences.Tey spend an enormous amoun o energy ryingo persuade one anoher o ake heir side or poino view. Tey render a dialogue unsuccessul whenhey can’ ge oher people o agree wih hem. Inconversaions wih ohers, hey pu more eorino demolishing he oher’s argumen, insead o undersanding why people hink dierenly. Tis kindo atiude is very dangerous and damaging and is heroo o many conics. We a he CoRe Group believeha we will live in a much beter world i peoplelearn o appreciae why ohers hink rom paricularperspecives, value he ohers’ voices, and empahize wih ohers’ experiences, wihou necessarily agreeing.
What was the impetus for TransformativeCells (T-Cells)? What are your hopes for the project?
e impetus for T-Cells is the desire to equip our
young people wih he all-imporan communicaionskills hey need o cope producively andconsrucively wih heir uure. We hope o oer young people a model or a new way o speaking andrelaing o one anoher, as well as o oher youngpeople in he Philippines and around he world. We believe ha when people change he way hey speak i can lead o greaer openness and creaiviy aroundaddressing challenges.