The Art of Reconciliation: Do reconciliation-funded arts projects transform conflict?

Lead Research Organisation: University of Liverpool
Department Name: Irish Studies


It is claimed that Art for Reconciliation (AfR) produces work that reflects, represents, or responds to multiple forms of political conflict in ways that encourage conflict transformation. This claim is reflected in international political and financial support for the growth in AfR. We question the validity of this claim - not because it is untrue, but because as noted in the AHRC Cultural Value report, "long-term evaluations of arts and cultural initiatives in post-conflict transformation have rarely if ever been attempted".

Without such an 'attempt' we face a series of problems. Firstly, the various outcomes of AfR are not adequately understood. AfR can potentially replicate the divisions of conflict. Or, it can enable processes of healing, witness testimony and inter-community engagement. It can be transformational and stimulate positive relational change between communities in conflict. If we do not research these differing forms and outcomes then AfR will not possess the definitional robustness required to adequately understand how positive reconciliatory outcomes can be realized. Secondly, we do not possess proper evaluative forms which measure how AfR achieves a shift out of and away from conflict. Evaluations are often tied to audience reaction as opposed to more in-depth and grounded techniques that measure positive relational change between communities in conflict. Thirdly, we do not know how funding practice, community response and the management and production of art affect the landscape of AfR. Fourthly, without robust techniques and grounded research the value of AfR cannot be adequately disseminated. Finally, when we locate art as conflict transformation it is generally non-transferrable. Better knowledge production concerning AfR will aid wider dissemination.

In solving these problems we will develop a co-produced research project that grounds its methods in interaction with funders, policy makers, arts managers, artists and communities engaging in AfR. Through a focused study of funded AfR our research project aims to:

1. Determine if AfR initiatives do, or possibly could, affect meaningful conflict transformation;
2. Share evidence regarding art as conflict response beyond the arts community and communicate its value to those who are currently unaware;
3. Develop ways in which transformative AfR can be achieved through better evaluation, auditing and articulation;
4. Create an evaluation mechanism that promotes deeper understanding of what is actually taking place within AfR to all sectors involved in designing and delivering this work;
5. Develop a dissemination strategy to share information about creative arts engagements and interactions which respond to conflict and aim for meaningful reconciliation;
6. Contribute to effective knowledge that highlights the value of art as a facilitator of conflict transformation.

Knowledge transfer is important not only to develop social science and arts/humanities engagement, but to develop and show how art may play a role in broader conflict transformation processes. Current frameworks, typologies and methodologies, both in academia and amongst communities of practice (i.e. funders, policymakers, artists and arts managers, and community support professionals) do not always reflect or adequately evaluate transformative outcomes. Ultimately, we seek to address these aims in ways that can have direct, meaningful and purposeful impact on the work of funders, communities of practice and the public. The project will speak to how communities respond to conflict and work to better explain, understand and appreciate how their lived experiences of harm and injustice, inform that response. The dissemination strategy will be used by groups involved in different types of reconciliation projects to sustain and develop conflict transformation activity.

Planned Impact

This research project will have impact across a range of sectors and communities engaging directly and indirectly with the project, and this engagement will be at local, national and international levels. Outside of academic outputs, impact is linked to a critical learning process with multiple participants and partners who will aid the determination, design, forms and relevance of impact strategies. The project's outcomes will be co-produced through its Research Advisory Committee whose members will be embedded in knowledge exchange and the design of impact strategies throughout.

The audit of funded post-conflict arts projects aims to benefit funding organisations and bodies such as the NI Executive (Ministry of Communities), EU Special Programmes Body, local authorities, Arts Councils, foundations that fund Art for Reconcilation (AfR) (e.g. UNESCO, the Big Lottery Fund, the Clive Richards Charity Ltd, Arts NSW, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Art for Amnesty (Amnesty International), Kellogg Foundation, the William Cadbury Charitable Trust and Fellowship of Reconciliation), and reconciliation work in the devolved Parliament, Assemblies and Westminster. This will be achieved by examining the efficacy of present and future funding strategies.

Assessment of funding and evaluation strategies will aid impact in terms of developing a more effective dialogue between these groups and the production of new and enhanced ways to determine, evaluate and disseminate the potential transformative capacities of AfR. Additionally, communities and professionals who respond to conflict through art (i.e. Youth Action; NICVA; Healing through Remembering; Community Dialogue Arts, Kabosh Theatre Company; The MAC; Community Arts Partnership, Voluntary Arts Network; Culture + Conflict; The Acting Together Project) will also learn more about the processes of designing, auditing, achieving and presenting the value of AfR.

Three Exchange Forums will provide voice, networking and learning opportunities, and foster development of critical learning by asking pertinent questions that are relevant to policy-design, the methods of evaluation and experiential learning. The forums address the following issues:

Forum 1: 'What are our intentions? Interpreting the goals of AfR'
Forum 2: 'What's happening? Understanding AfR in practice'
Forum 3: 'What are we learning and what's next? An international perspective.'

The project's findings and methodological approached, hosted on a dedicated website, will include a typology of AfR outcomes and facilitate shared understanding of how peace-building and reconciliatory goals may be achieved through the arts in light of the differing needs, resources and capacities of individuals and organisations involved in AfR, and lay the groundwork for potential international impact.

Case studies, insights from the Exchange Forums, the AfR database, and regular project updates will be available online via the project website and dedicated Twitter account. To drive traffic to the project website and ensure wider dissemination, the research team will make contributions to a wider network of websites for arts and cultural management practice, policy and research. Content on the website entitled i) What is AfR ? ii) Why do communities use art as a response to conflict? iii) What are the experiences of AfR (co) production? iv) Does AfR achieve reconciliation/conflict transformation? and v) How do we place AfR into wider academic and policy-making responses to conflict? will be co-produced with the research partners to develop impact upon funding strategies to aid more precise evaluation processes, promote art as a means for relational change between communities in conflict, and the mobilization of voice of those harmed by conflict.


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Title 2nd Exchange Forum 
Description The second artistic/ creative activity involved co-curated exhibition and screenings, Agreement: The People's Process, was delivered at the Golden Thread gallery, Belfast between Saturday 7 December 2019 and January 18 2020. Agreement: The People's Process combined contemporary photography, painting, sculpture, installations, animation and textiles, in an exhibition that examined reconciliation in the context of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement and violent conflict in Columbia, Iraq and Argentina. Artists, co-producers, curators and participating organisations included: • Chad Alexander, artist and photographer, Belfast • Ken Bartley, gallery director and exhibition curator, Artisann gallery, East Belfast. Member of AfR Advisory Committee • Dr. Jordana Blejmar, School of Arts, University of Liverpool • Eugene Dolberg (London) and Sajida Um Mohammed (Basra) • Sarah Feinstein, Common Ground Research Network, University of Manchester • Jamie Holman, artist, Bolton, Lancashire • Peter Richards, Director, Golden Thread gallery, Belfast • Frankie Quinn, photographer, Belfast • Patricia Barrera Ramírez, Director, Centro Nacional de Memoria Histórica • Edwin Cubillos Rodriguez, artist and photographer • Professor Claire Taylor, University of Liverpool • Hannah Watson, Belfast Exposed Photography • Raymond Watson, artist. • Helen Zout, artist and photographer, Argentina • National Centre for Historical Memory, Colombia • Institute of Irish Studies, University of Liverpool The third artistic/ creative activity involved a series of 14 co-produced films made in Belfast and Derry (for screening at future events and on the AfR website) during December 2019. The films were designed as part of an evaluation and feedback process for collecting data during and after co-curated events. They posed 2 key questions: • What does reconciliation mean to you? • What is the distinctive and specific contribution that your artistic practice makes to reconciliation? (or 'your company's artistic practice' or 'the artistic practice of the organisations you fund'/ as appropriate). Each film runs for between 3 and 4 minutes. The films were shot on location in Belfast and Derry over three days (5,6 and 7 December). Interviewees included • Damian Gorman - writer, Derry • Anne Walker and Kathleen Gillespie, Theatre of Witness practitioners, Derry • David Boyd, Beat Carnival, Belfast • Raymond Watson - artist • Elaine Forde, cultural manager, Derry Playhouse • Pauline Hadaway, ArF Resaecr project • Alex Coupe, AfR Research Project • David Grant, AfR Research Project • Ollie Green - Shantallow community arts, Derry • Pauline Ross - Playhouse (Derry) • Peter Richards, Director (Golden Thread) • Peter Young, Videographer • The Playhouse, Derry • The Golden Thread Gallery, Belfast • The Seamus Heaney Centre Belfast As film shorts made in various arts and community locations in Belfast and Derry under the direction of videographer Peter Young, they have become art for reconciliation co-productions and will be screened as such on the AfR website and at future AfR co-curated events, including the Exchange Forum 2 and 3. The AfR research team published information promoting the events on the AfR interactive website The AfR research team designed an evaluation and feedback process, including questionnaires, filmed responses and more detailed Reflections to collect data during and after events. The AfR Administrator collected, compiled and, where appropriate, published data to help support the work of organisations and practitioners involved in the field of AfR 
Type Of Art Performance (Music, Dance, Drama, etc) 
Year Produced 2019 
Impact Agreement: Peoples Process • Exhibition Launch: 120 people • Artist Talk by Raymond Watson: 20 people • Overall audience total: 1,245 • 6 film responses recorded Exchange Forum co-curated performances • 70 Eventbrite bookings • 42 Attended Exchange Forum conference • 11 Feedback forms completed • 4 film responses recorded Film Shorts • 14 filmed responses to questions of the value of AfR collected, compiled and edited for publication on the AfR website as published data to help support the work of organisations and practitioners involved in the field of AfR. • 3 participating organisations in Belfast and Derry 
Description Although in Phase 1 what has emerged includes no overall understanding of what AfR means. No coherence in funding strategies. Few examples of evaluative coherence. These are being developed as findings to be produced for the first Exchange Forum. They have already been debated and presented with the RAC. In the 2nd phase we are finding that artists are using and developing very sophisticated approaches to reconciliation even though they do not use that terminology.
Exploitation Route The findings are provided to our RAC and will soon be delivered to our Exchange Forum. We are developing policy options. These are being co-produced with the RAC. The RAC includes policy-makers and funders and thus far they recognise the relevance of the research.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Creative Economy,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections,Security and Diplomacy

Description The project is presently achieving the end of research phase 1. Any findings have been relayed to the RAC. The project has achieved an immense analysis of some 13k funded projects. It has undertaken an extensive analysis of funded projects and has achieved this through co-production. The project has now began an exploration of the issues between funders and funding recipients and policy makers.
First Year Of Impact 2019
Sector Communities and Social Services/Policy,Creative Economy,Government, Democracy and Justice,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural,Societal,Policy & public services

Description Building Impact
Geographic Reach Local/Municipal/Regional 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a advisory committee
Description Agreement: People's Process and Exchange Forum
Amount £6,500 (GBP)
Organisation Belfast City Council 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 12/2019 
End 01/2020
Title Case Study 
Description question: what are the distinctive strategies and practices of Arts for Reconciliation (AfR)? The case studies are designed to reveal how conflict transformation strategies have been conceived and practised and the understanding of them by practitioners, audiences and community participants. The Case Study method is based on the AHRC Cultural Value Project report's recognition of the potential of arts-based and hermeneutic research methodologies to "enable access to forms of knowledge and awareness that are difficult [] to articulate in words". Members of the academic research team are undertaking six case studies of AfR projects: four retrospective studies, and two prospective, durational projects. The case studies were selected in consultation with the Research Advisory Committee, on the basis that they are reflective of the findings identified in the first phase of the research, for example being varied by art form, partnership structure, design and method. In moving beyond Phase 1 and its concern with funding and outcome, the case studies examine the way creative and expressive processes are/ have been used not only as a response mechanism to conflict but as vehicles for conflict amelioration and relational change. This more grounded case study approach is aimed at teasing out how art is deployed as a distinctive medium to respond to the emotions, symptoms and experience of harm, transgression and conflict experience, using a range of methods. The Case Study research method combines the following research tools: performance ethnography, participant observation, focus groups, videographic methods and interviews. This combination of research methods is aimed at bringing to light the experiential impressions of individuals involved in AfR and what is occurring 'on the ground' during, and as a result of, the practice itself. The case studies are not all completed, information on the case studies and about the participating organisations and individuals is published on the AfR website. 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Year Produced 2019 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact Facilitating co-production and greater engagement with research processes, e.g. • The Research Team consulted with the Research Advisory Committee (RAC) membership on the design of the Case Study Research Framework, shared Case Study Selection Criteria with members and invited members to point out gaps and propose amendments to the Selection Criteria • RAC members assisted in the Case Study selection process by pointing out gaps and proposing amendments to the Selection Criteria; and also identified relevant projects, events and activities that would be happening during 2019/20 and that might make suitable case studies. • RAC members have responded to the case study research framework through feedback and discussion. 
Title Arts for Reconciliation (AfR) Funding base: A Database of AfR funders from 1995 to the present, including Primary Funders Arts and Primary Funders Peace. 
Description As per the research proposal, Phase 1 of the project sought to gather 'data across all administrative scales of publicly funded projects from 1995'. In the process of identifying and prioritising funders and sources of funding data below, we shifted the specific focus on publicly funded projects and sought information on any and all types of funding which was available. Though this was not done intentionally, the limitations present in data on public funds would have posed even greater challenges to what we can learn from the data than what we eventually encountered anyway (more on this below). In the first meeting of the Research Advisory Committee (21 March 2018), we asked those in attendance what funders they were aware of which might have financially supported AfR activity. This exercise produced over 70 currently operating and historic sources of funds. This co-produced list guided an initial scoping of each funder for information about the funding bodies which in term provided a greater sense of the structure of the overall funding environment. As data gathering proceeded, the list was refined to reflect the evolution of funding bodies (i.e. the reform of 26 Local Councils into 11 District Councils), clarify sources of funds (i.e. City of Culture is a funding stream which was administered by multiple funding bodies) and remove funders whose involvement with AfR has been negligible. Headline information about what data we have been able to gather for each funder identified with the help of the RAC is held within an Excel spreadsheet entitled 'AfR Funders' in AfRAHRC/Phase 1 Data Gathering/AfR Funders folder. The information is categorised into: • Characteristics of funders: type, level, whether they explicitly fund arts and/or peace, where their funds originate, who delivers/administers the funds, years funding • Overview of what data we were able to access for each funder: funding recipients, funding streams, award amounts, project titles, project descriptions, geography, applications, objectives, evaluations, years the data relates to, total number of awards, total number of awards identified as AfR, total sum of awards, total sum of awards identified as AfR, data sources • Some notes on data gathering process for each: website data, interview, miscellaneous It lists 44 current funders (including all types/levels, so some are 'originators' of funding and therefore information about what/who they have funded is listed under their respective intermediary organisations). Councils listed here include any data we found from their previous forms before they were consolidated in 2015. It lists 30 historic funders (including previous councils), though naturally the data pertaining to these funders is much less accessible/reliable. This database was published, presented and formed the basis of discussions at RAC meetings in November 208 and March 2019, and at the 1st Exchange Forum in June 2019. It will be published on the AfR website during Phase 3 of the research project. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2020 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact The Research Team presented the Database to the Research Advisory Committee on 18 November 2018, as part of an overview of the first phase of data gathering and initial findings The presentation set out how different funders involved in the AfR field were categorised on the basis of different types of funding bodies (e.g. arms-length, charitable, local authority, etc.); different levels of funding activity (e.g. as originators, intermediaries, etc.); different locations and remits (e.g. national, international, local); and different intentions behind their work (e.g arts, reconciliation, etc.). Analysis of the data also showed the nature of the work and relationships between key funders in diagram form. Analysis and discussion of the Database of AfR funders identified key questions for future research, which chimed with key areas of interest and concern for artists, arts organisations and funders working in the field of arts for reconciliation, e.g.: • The data remains somewhat opaque, e.g. in many cases, funders can only supply headline data; there is limited availability of evaluations; and some organisations no longer exist • Data frequently comes with caveats, due to size and complexity of the field, e.g. some inconsistencies in official databases and difficulties in separating potential AfR activities from core activities • More can be said about data collected from projects running during the past 10 years, because more precise records are available and projects appear more purposeful Awards to Victims and Survivors organisations were largely determined by different funding priorities to AfR projects, i.e. organisations supporting people who had suffered personal harm or injury in the conflict were less likely to prioritise reconciliation objectives • Larger concentration of funding were awarded in Belfast and Derry • Theatre, music and visual arts were most frequently funded art forms • Little has been learned about evaluations to date, beyond their variable importance to funders and mixed feelings about the relative value of outcome based and attitudinal measurements These findings influenced the direction of Phase Two of the research and will influence Future Steps, Outputs & Knowledge. 
Description Artistic & Creative Record 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Art for Reconciliation co-curated performances, exhibitions and screenings. A series of co-curated performances, exhibitions and screenings that connect art for reconciliation practice to academic research processes and to wider audiences beyond the academy.
• Select type of artistic or creative product from the list
Co-curationpublic performanceexhibition..
The first artistic/ creative event involved a co-curated programme of performances and screenings delivered on 8 June at the Brian
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019