29/07/2020 - Published by


Our flagship programme for front line professionals has gone digital, in this piece our colleague Mike Waite describes how  Holding Difficult Conversations has been adapted for distanced online delivery.

It’s said that one of the most-used phrases during the Covid-19 lockdown has been ‘you’re still on “mute”!’

Many workers in companies, public sector organisations, charities and voluntary groups have been doing much of their work online, using platforms like Zoom, Teams, or Skype.

Read more about ‘Covid 19 – Working Safely with the Peace Foundation’

At the Tim Parry Johnathan Ball Peace Foundation, we’ve been responding to this situation.

We’ve been tracking how the Covid-19 situation has been generating new issues in cities, towns and neighbourhoods. There have been many positive examples of community activity, with volunteers and agencies supporting people who are shielding, making new links and connections, and providing crucial services like food and medicine delivery.

But there have unfortunately also been new divisions, tensions and issues of contention.

Some of the polarising behaviour around these takes place online, and one of the Peace Foundation’s new initiatives has been to develop our ‘Holding Difficult Conversations’ training course to take account of this.

Download HOLDING DIFFICULT CONVERSATION course introduction

Our online sessions continue to include a mix of interactive exercises to get people thinking and sharing perspectives; inputs on the theory of peace building and addressing disputed issues in nonviolent ways; and extended consideration of the particular challenges and issues facing teachers, youth workers, police officers, council workers, and members of voluntary sector organisations.

I’ve helped devise and deliver online training through lock down and we’ve needed to recast our activities into a form that works online. That has meant making some aspects of them very explicit – and maybe that will feed into further development of our face to face training when we get back to that. There’s a different rhythm to running a course online than in a meeting room, but the key thing is for trainers to use a mix of styles and activities.

We’ve also devised exercises which make use of the functionality of platforms like Zoom, such as practicing online conversations about current issues from #BlackLivesMatter to peoples’ views about wearing masks to protect from Covid-19.

That approach means that there’s always a variety of ways that participants can take part in the sessions and engage with the issues the Peace Foundation are exploring.

People say that they find the sessions useful: ‘very helpful’; ‘sensible and practical advice’ ‘well facilitated – a great training session.

And there have been plenty of lively discussions – even if, sometimes, people have been halfway into the points they are making before someone has to point out to them that ‘you’re still on mute!’.

Mike Waite July 2020

To find out more about how the Peace Foundation can now deliver online contact mike.waite@peace-foundation.org.uk