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Clean Language in Peace and Reconciliation Work

Martin Snoddon

Through my work with the Conflict Trauma Resource Centre I have been using Clean Language in many situations.  This has included the following areas:

Research into the experiences of former members of the British Army.  This research included 4 workshops where on each occasion upwards of 20 participants attended.  It also included 12 individual interviews.  During both the workshop sessions and the individual interviews Clean Language Questions (CLQ’s). In this case, 'developing' and 'moving time' questions were used to positive affect both acknowledging what had been said and to elicit more information.  They also proved extremely useful when seeking a desired outcome for addressing their needs and developing a service model.

Current research into the legacy of our violent conflict on a small community in north Belfast.  To date this has been one workshop with a group of women and two individual interviews with leading male community activist members of the community.  I have no doubt that CLQ’s will continue to be a part of this process as it unfolds over the coming months.

On a number of occasions I have used CLQ’s while facilitating individual and group thinking about particular issues.  On one occasion this involved two former members of the IRA as I explored their thinking around past experience and current needs of former combatants towards developing a hypothesis as the basis for some future work commencing in September.

On another occasion I used CLQ’s while facilitating a group of leading loyalist paramilitaries.  On this occasion moving time CLQ’s were used to project their thinking into a peaceful future and what the needs of their community would be; and 'what needs to happen?' to facilitate those needs, and 'what happens just before?', etc. allowed me to bring them back to the present with a number of action points to begin their journey of translation from combatant to civilian.

Developing strategies for a number of groups has allowed me to incorporate CLQ’s into this process of community development.  Strategic community development involves eliciting past experience, exploring the current and possible future environment and projecting the future for a group.  I have worked with two groups in particular:

one in west Belfast and the other in east Belfast, changing thoughts of a ‘mission statement’ to a desired outcome through ‘what they would like to have happen?’ and ‘what needs to happen for that to happen?’, repeated as a stepping through aims and objectives in a user friendly manner.  The group from east Belfast had been experiencing internal conflict and this process was used to both give them a strategy to move things and as a means of conflict resolution; initially each person was asked to note down what they would like to see happen for the Ballybeen Improvement Group, then they shared their thoughts with one another and agreed a joint statement, they then shared in fours and again returned with an agreed statement, all the way to a whole group agreed statement of ‘what they would like to have happen’ for Ballybeen community.

The other group in west Belfast were at an early stage of developing; they had only been formed some months previous as a direct result of violence between the police and the community.  CLQ’s allowed facilitating this group to a feasible strategic plan, I say 'feasible' as there would have been a problem if terminology normally associated with strategic development were to have been used.  

It has also been my pleasure that during some training in conflict resolution methodologies I have introduced CLQ’s to elicit group thinking around difficult experiences.  Training groups in mediation and negotiation skills in Northern Ireland and in Macedonia this year has allowed me to ‘play’ with CLQ’s in these settings.  I know that this is not formal research areas but information is often needed to develop experience(s) with participants that they will have in their conscious minds as the training proceeds by exploring stages of conflict.

Finally let me mention that during my mentoring of Community Youth Work degree students from the Balkans I have used CLQ’s during interviewing them and dialogue to support their personal development.  Clean Space was extremely useful for one such student in Sarajevo.

In answer to your ‘and is there anything else?’ pending question, yes actually there is.  Through the work that I do and the places that I do it, CLQ’s will continue to be an extremely useful resource for me as I facilitate addressing the legacy of conflict.  Thank you for all your direct and indirect support in this area of difficult human relationships.

And what happens next?

Martin Snoddon
Centre Director
Conflict Trauma Resource Centre (CTRC)
24 July 2006
Martin Snoddon
Martin is the Centre Director for the Conflict Trauma Resource Centre. Although the Centre is based in Northern Ireland, Martin has worked in a number of conflict zones throughout the world including the Balkans, Central America, the Middle East and South Africa. Martin is also an NLP Trainer and Consultant, he provides training in Symbolic Modelling, Clean Language and NLP in Northern Ireland.
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