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Creating the Right Spaces: Civil Participation and Social Inclusion: A Report on West Heidelberg Residents' Conflict Management Workshops

Author(s): Elizabeth Curran

The report is written with the view that the workshops and the lessons drawn from them can aid in providing a community engagement model for other residential groups in different localities as well as for other community projects with different social groups. With this aim in mind, the hope is to encourage the completion of the project as envisaged which involves a comprehensive approach to civil participation, conflict management and constructive communication involving all sectors of civil society.

The report outlines the approach taken to the workshops and their outcomes and some of the challenges for communities who feel excluded and who may not have had positive experiences or training in how to navigate complex systems and have conversations. It makes some recommendations and outlines some of the lessons learned by all.

The workshops achieved the overall goal of the ‘Creating Right Spaces’ project: of benefiting people with the least access to justice and community development to voice their concerns and learn some skills that could be helpful to them. This was achieved on a small scale and yet this project demonstrates how beneficial such a program can be as well as the importance of it being a continuing project. “One off” funding misses the opportunity for ongoing recurrent work. Continued support is necessary if any real gains are to be made to ensure behaviour change and ongoing skills development and to ensure that the work can transcend often fixed negative patterns of behaviour and give people the capacity to generate real, long lasting and sustainable positive change.

The extraordinary richness of the interactions that arose in the workshops occurred not just from the stories shared and the skills learnt together but, in the words of the residents, from the growing awareness of how the strength of a community comes from within the community itself and its ability to organise, support and respect its members as well as learn more about creating better relationship and engagements. There was individual and collective growth which involved rekindling a sense of being worthy of happiness, opportunities, and a better future – and this happened because the group itself supported each person to take risks, acknowledged each other’s strengths and weaknesses, and demonstrated honesty, respect and gratitude.

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Research theme: Health, Law and Bioethics, Human Rights Law and Policy, Indigenous Peoples and the Law, Law and Social Justice, Legal Education, The Legal Profession

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