What is Peace Mapping?
Peace Mapping is a process of visual thinking support for adventures of agreement, conflict and peace building. The process is a magical addition to the work of trainers, mediators, meeting facilitators, public speakers, team building consultants, professional coaches, strategy experts and authentic leadership advocates who want to move insights forward in the groups that they are working with. The visual facilitator collaborates with these professionals to map out the thinking process of the group in real time.
Peace Mapping energizes the engagement, interactivity, connection, clarity, creativity, visibility, progress and follow up of collaborative thinking work. Participants see their contributions evolve on the wall. They feel truly heard, can see new directions and feel empowered to make decisions and take action.
Peace Mapping is also developing visual self-coaching tools for personal and professional adventures of peace.
Peace Mapping works for a wide spectrum of adventures of agreement, conflict or peace. Inner and outer. Personal or professional. For social profit or economic profit. Family or corporate environment. Local or global. Small groups or large communities. Peace is universal, and we all need to create our own maps.
Benefits of Peace Mapping
Visual maps are a valuable addition to conflict transformation meetings. As mediators guide the parties in conflict, and parties explore their solutions to build peace, the visual facilitator draws the map to deepen understanding, enrich communication and see new perspectives. Ideally the visual facilitator has the role of a visual co-mediator.The richer the communication, the better the chances of success. Words and images make a strong team. Flip charts are commonly used basic tools. Visual facilitation (also known as ‘graphic recording’ or ‘graphic facilitation’) takes the basics to an integrated professional level. It enhances the communication on the relational, organizational, transformational, informational and analytical levels of the peacebuilding work. Participants can SEE how they are part of the process of creating meaning and feel engaged on different levels.
Complexity calls for overview and insight. Large wall-size maps literally display the big picture and the details in one format, at the same time. In situations with intense emotions and high stakes it makes sense to use a variety of skills and media. Capturing the rich images, stories and metaphors that participants in the process express verbally shows them the essence and builds a foundation for new answers. People can SEE that they have been HEARD. There is also an important advantage in the more analytical part of the work: a graphic recorder is trained in listening, synthesizing and taking notes of the essential chunks, which is a service to the majority of us who have a preference for visual learning. Technical, factual and other detailed information is easier integrated in the communication, when represented in a central visible format, especially when the display is based on real time collaborative analysis and fact-finding. The maps can be easily used as a focal point in the conversation or meeting.
Somehow, the shared human experience of making sense of complex situations is literally visualized on the spot. Watching some one draw and create something new on a large white sheet of butcher paper is calming and helps people in the room relate. Some parts turn out to be beautiful pictures and others are more a clumsy attempt. Both are fine and part of the process of finding new approaches and expressions. The healing quality of art works even when watching someone else, since it brings up collective memories (brain chemistry!) of playfullness, drawing and creative expression. An inch of relaxation frees at least a yard of energy, available to be invested in building the road of more understanding and capacity to transform the conflict.
Holding the space for clarity
A vital task for mediators, negotiators and peacebuilders is to hold the space, to help people stretch the boundaries of the conflict and create more room in which new perspectives can come through. A graphic facilitator supports this part of the work, by energetically modelling a state of grounding in the conflict in every stage of the process. ” Yes, we are currently working through a big conflict and very opposing views and emotions, but … we also can be at peace now, with this temporary situation as we have just mapped it out”. ”Take a break, breath and step back”. People don’t have to hold the conflict themselves, it’s being held by the mediation team AND the paper on the wall. The visual maps themselves have a natural quality in holding paradox and creating room in which solutions can be developed. The maps simultaneously contain the information that has been exchanged or gathered, help people focus on the process, and naturally guide a transition to questions like “What is next?” “So, what do you we do now? There is no need to repeat the old stories, they are resting on the wall. What could be a new story or version of this relationship?
Large scale conflicts
In large group negotations and peacebuilding efforts – where meeting participants are representing a larger community of stakeholders, interest groups, citizens – visual facilitation can support these representatives in communicating the process to their backing. With consensus of everyone involved in the main process, pictures of maps could be presented to other people that are involved, but not in the room. This helps representatives to frame the essence in a clear and concise way, supported by the collaborative materials, that also reflect the atmosphere of the explorations. By using the same kind of language, metafors, look-and-feel, they can gain support and gather input and feedback that has a higher chance of alignment with the main process.
Another practical benefit is the transfer between meetings for long term, ongoing processes. The maps function as the ‘parking lot’ and contain the steps in information gathering, relationship building and exploring new possibilities. For the next meeting, it’s easier to pick up the process from there and maintain the level of connection that has been build up in earlier sessions.
Strategic peace building work
Apart from the core conflict resolution work, a lot of peace building work involves strategic visioning and planning in some stage of the process. Visual facilitation is an organic addition to the lead facilitation and consulting work. The organizational and strategic frameworks are integrated into powerful charts and maps that capture the collaborative planning and thinking work.
Well-developed professional field.
Visual facilitation has found a solid place in business consulting and organizational development work. Pioneers, like The Grove , Alchemy, and Jam have layed out a strong foundation in conceptual thinking, integration of tools and skills, development of best practices and educating the market on the benefits of this approach. For more information look at the sites of the professional organization of visional practitioners IFVP and the online community of visual thinkers Vizthink.com.
Dan Roam has published an excellent book ‘The back of the Napkin – Solving problems and selling ideas with pictures’.
Peacemapping also finds its roots in The World Cafe process: a collaborative dialogue process to host ‘Conversations that Matter’. Graphic recording is included in this process. The founders, Juanita Brown and David Isaacs, describe this ingredient as ‘Visual Listening’ to make conversations visible.
The exact role of the visual facilitator needs to be closely defined with the mediation team. Sometimes a free-form capture of the essence of the meetings is preferred. The visual facilitator could also prepare a template for a map, based on the models that the lead facilitator is using, while preparing for a close understanding of the level of reframing and synthesizing that is intended. Another approach is to use one or more of the templates for peace mapping that we have developed.
The size of the paper will define the role and the power of the visual capture. It depends on what you need. Just a reminder or information container on the side, or a central screen of information and interaction for the meeting? A big size mural on paper of 4 by 8 feet or larger works best for interactive problem solving and decision-making.
How Peace Mapping is a piece of the puzzle in peacebuilding work: The Big Picture = the human need for respect, safety and access to resources. The small picture = the human need to know where you are and where you are going in the meeting, conversation or process of conflict resolution.