Watching Inside Out in Action

“Imagine a community as like a bowl. Humanitarian aid, whether for peacebuilding, health, education, economic development or any other purpose is like a bottle of water. When there is a crisis, resources get poured into the bowl — but they just go right through. The bowl is cracked. And if you keep pouring water into a cracked container, it widens the cracks and can damage it further — while also depleting the supply of water. Not a healthy cycle for anyone. The community container itself is invisible in the system, and the work of repairing the cracks completely absent. An inside-out approach to peace is not about pouring water into a community. The work is about repairing the container. When the cracks in the bowl are fixed — when a community is healed and whole — it holds water, and the community’s own resources flow over.” –Libby Hoffman

On Monday, the opening day of Constellating Peace from the Inside Out, the global learning event Catalyst is hosting this week in Sierra Leone with Fambul Tok and the Government of Sierra Leone, CFP President Libby Hoffman shared a metaphor that has come back again and again and again this week — about the community cup.

The Community Cup from Catalyst For Peace on Vimeo.

One of the places we all heard this again was out in the villages, from Fambul Tok’s community members themselves.

We left Tokeh Beach on Tuesday afternoon, traveled several hours and slept overnight to be ready to reach the communities, some of them quite remote, in good time. 

It was an eye-opening experience, full of song and dance and embodied learnings that touched each participant differently.

Here are some of the key ideas that people took away from their visits to different villages:

  • “It was most interesting to me to see what is meant when talking about inclusiveness — you saw all kinds of kids represented there.”
  • “I was very interested by the youth accomplishments and youth activities — how much they have earned, and how they have contributed to the community out of their earnings.”
  • “I saw the pride of a village, the pride of people in their communities — that the contributions from one village to another are also contributions to the community. I also went to a place where people were making cassava flour, palm oil — like 100 people were working, and everyone was busy doing something, so there’s no time for gossip, no time for things that could break them, or break their unity. That was really wonderful.”
  • “The first thing I’m taking from this is that people in this country of Sierra Leone are not dependnet on donor funds. They make use of the resources in their country to make a living, and despite everything, they are proud of what they have in their country.”
  • “The support that men are giving — its’ true. They say, ‘Women power! Men, support and top up.’ It’s not just a slogan. It’s real. The men were giving support to everything the women were doing. In my country, if they see a woman progressing, the first thing they will think is, ‘How come?’ Here, the men will join them and do it with them. I’m so touched by that.”
  • “The thing that fascinated me most was seeing kola nut for the first time in my life.”
  • “The women’s power has come, but in my country, the men are not supporting and topping up. They’ve checked out. They’ve withdrawn. How do we have women-power as well as getting men to support and top up?”
  • “I saw the power of metaphor — immediately the way the community explained what they are doing to us was through the story of the broken up. So if you can find a way to explain what you’re doing that is simple and powerful, I saw how extraordinary that can be.”
  • “I was impressed with the way they are using the resources of people outside the country. We have a lot of people born outside the country, but there appears to be some disunity between those inside and those outside. I learned that here they went out to Sierra Leoneans even outside the country to contribute to these plans, which for me is a very progressive move.”
  • “I liked acknowledging that communities have the resources they can use before even external resources come in. I think it takes a whole mind shift to do that. In most countries, the donors wait until the bowl breaks, and then we wait for the donor to come and repair it again. We need to build that mind shift for people.”
  • “Whenever a decision is made, the whole community is there. It reminds me of 2,000 years ago, what the Greeks have done, with Greek direct democracy. That was awesome.”
  • “It makes me think there is a change. A paradigm shift is happening, away from punitive and toward restorative justice.”



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