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Creative Writing Interventions in Post-Conflict and Cultural Recovery

Creative Writing Interventions is the umbrella name for a set of research projects that emerge from post-conflict work by Dr Siobhan Campbell in poetry and story as part of cultural reconstruction. It works to establish ways in which expressive writing and creative writing interventions can best address and interact with forms of activism and participation that contest and change the borders of exclusion and discrimination in post conflict environments.

Our findings include how the writing workshop environment creates a community of practice which in turn enables, liberates and elicits a set of responses and outcomes that have distinct impact on delivery frameworks for human rights activists, social workers and other actors in post-conflict cultural recovery and resilience building. We make visible the key points in the interface between life-writing, recovery from trauma and the support of human rights, providing ways for NGOs and others to use the creative and the expressive life writing techniques we’ve developed in strategic and targeted ways.

Campbell founded the Military Writing Network in 2009 and she has worked with the Institute of Conflict Research, Combat Stress UK, SSAFA (Soldiers, Sailors, Airmens’ Family Association) and Veterans Outreach Support (VOS). Her research into applying the tenets of Creative Writing which values ‘learning by doing’ and iterative practice has led to her developing a number of frameworks which widen the remit of how writing projects can be used in post-combat, post-conflict or recovering environments.

The work of Creative Writing Interventions at The Open University has been to build upon the insight that developing writing workshop approaches and practices for conflict-affected persons can have a distinctive wider remit, becoming part of an ethics of recognition as to how change can occur and be supported in pressurized environments. Creative Writing Interventions is part of a series of grant-funded applied action-research projects with non-governmental organisations that develop capacities and communities of writing practice in post-conflict and cultural recovery. With partners in Kingston University, we developed the life story-telling methodology ‘Expressive Life Writing’ which supports well-being for survivors of complex trauma as well as providing new frameworks for action on the ground by community actors and it is now used in a number of post-conflict regions internationally as well as with UK constituencies. This work has benefitted both rights defenders and survivors of trauma in Iraq, Lebanon and the UK and has influenced UNDP policy in Iraq.