A Phronetic Model of Practice
The GRACE model is the consolidation of just under forty years of CRIS’s practical experience partnering with schools and communities to build a shared and inclusive society in Northern Ireland. Built organically out of a context of historic conflict and division, GRACE is what may be described as a ‘phronetic’ model of peacebuilding. Drawing on the Aristotelian term for practical wisdom ‘phronesis’ the term has recently been adopted by academics within peacebuilding to describe knowledge gained from practical experience navigating complexity, uncertainty and instability- a common feature of protracted social conflict (Stanton and Kelly, 2015). Rather than using predetermined approaches or templates, ‘phronetic’ models of peacebuilding place a high value on understanding local contexts and thus emerge organically as a product of reflective practice, experimentation, trial and error, and by being responsive to nuances within differing localities. Rather than a one size fits all blueprint, CRIS recognizes that all schools and communities are unique with multiple pathways towards building a shared partnership which places priority on building durable (strong) and ductile (able to be stretched without breaking) relationships at every stage of collaboration.
The GRACE model views the school community as unique location for anchoring social change in meaningful ways.
Academic scholarship also provides strong support and explanation to suggest why the school community is an important location for generating collaborative relationships to enhance peace. Scholars such as John Paul Lederach (1997) have written extensively about the importance of including all levels of society within peacebuilding and place emphasis on the role of leadership at what is described as the mid-range level within civil society for example: non-governmental organisations (NGOs), trade-unions, churches and schools (Lederach, 1997). Middle-range leadership is an important conduit between wider civil society and grassroots communities while simultaneously retaining access to those responsible for policy and political leadership. For this reason, Lederach views middle-level leadership as a strategic location for influencing social transformation.
Academic peacebuilding scholarship highlights the importance of ‘everyday peace,’ describing the ways that peace can be naturally woven into ordinary life. In this view, it is the simple rhythms and routines of shared daily living which can be become building blocks for a cohesive society. This point underscores the importance of working with the education sector to highlight the role schools can play in connecting communities and families across localities in the building of relationships. The regular rhythm and routines of shared school life, shared learning, visits, and playdates all serve to normalise the formation of relationships with those who might initially be view as strangers. By extending this hand of friendship towards the wider school community and involving them in parent coffee mornings, joint celebrations, festivals or concerts- a ripple effect is created across school leadership teams, teaching and non-teaching staff, Boards of Governors, and parents and communities alike. Roger Mac Ginty one leading academic peacebuilding expert has written that ‘everyday peacebuilding’ is important because it may also, at times, set an example to our political level leaders:
“…Everyday peace and diplomacy can send important signals to political elites. It may signal the unsustainability of narratives of ‘the other’ as untrustworthy, illegitimate or not worth talking to. It may serve as an exemplar to political elites, encouraging them to investigate new avenues and suggesting that their constituencies are prepared for change” (Mac Ginty, 2014 p. 560).
Lederach, J.P. (1997) Building Peace: Sustainable Reconciliation in Divided Societies. Washington, D.C: Unites States Institute of Peace Press.
Mac Ginty, R. (2014) Everyday Peace: Bottom-up and Local Agency in Conflict-Affected Societies. Security Dialogue, 45 (6) p.548-564
Stanton and Kelly (2015) Exploring Barriers to Constructing Locally-based Peacebuilding Theory: The Case of Northern Ireland. International Journal of Conflict Engagement and Resolution, (3) 1 p. 33-52.