In 2020 our flexibility and adaptability was challenged to an extent that we were not prepared for. Uncertainty became the new normal, and we learned to live with a global pandemic and everything it entails; social distancing, growing inequality, shrinking space for civil society and serious threats towardsdemocratic participation in many of our partnering countries.
The year began optimistically with school visits, seminars, and international assignments inAfghanistan and Colombia. We managed to finalize one of our annual trainings in dialogue and conflict transformation in Lillehammer just before everything shut down and we were assigned to home offices and digital meetings.
The question arose; what do we do now? Can we hold dialogue trainings digitally? Is it possible to facilitate trustful conversations in an online space? The skepticism was big, but the need to find ways to meet was bigger.
In Poland, a series of digital dialogues were held during the spring of 2020, with the overarching topic; how to build trust post corona. In Chile, “Encuentro Nansen” became a meeting place where members of civil society, politicians and academia together created a safe arena where those with completely oppositional positions listened to each other with respect and sincere interest.
Trainings and classes were conducted online for teachers in Norway, students in the US and civil society actors in Iraq. The world came close up with participants in the middle of great and current conflicts such as the Black Lives Matter uprising in the US, the fight for civil rights in Poland and democracy activism in Chile.
In a year characterized by social lockdown we have been lucky enough to have occasional free zones in periods and in places with lower infection rates. That has enabled us to organize physical meetings and school visits in our community. Hybrid solutions with different combinations of digital and physical meeting places enabled a high level of activity throughout the year. By meeting in the cloud we have had the chance to include people who could never otherwise travel to Norway, as well as upholding activities in periods of total shutdown. These experiences we take with us – they expand our horizon and make our world smaller and more within reach.
Nansen Center for Peace and Dialogue comes strengthened out of 2020, with new perspectives, methodological innovations and inclusion of new groups and work areas. We see that our efforts has impact in smaller and larger contexts, from building better conversational climates in classrooms to creating safe meeting places in conflict areas. Post 2020 we realize stronger than before that we need to learn to live with uncertainty and our role is to build resilient human connections.
Published: May 6th 2021