What is Experiential Peacebuilding?

Experiential peacebuilding is a term we use to describe an approach that connects experiential learning or “learning by doing” to the practice of peacebuilding. The theory behind this work is that experiential learning can build common language and empathy, accelerate trust and facilitate positive experiences within a group.

Substantial evidence shows that certain types of experience, particularly cooperative learning toward the mastery of critical life skills, such as communication, creative problem solving, and leadership, and sharing a peak life experience, are especially likely to increase the capacity for compassion towards others and promote group solidarity.

Experiential peacebuilding as developed by Outward Bound Peacebuilding builds on the disciplines of peacebuilding as articulated by Professor John Paul Lederach in his book The Moral Imagination (1997). These disciplines include: the centrality of relationships, paradoxical curiosity, space for the creative act, and a willingness to accept risk. In many ways, these four disciplines can be overlaid on and are mirrored by the attributes of the experiential learning model practiced by Outward Bound for more than 70 years. In an Outward Bound Peacebuilding program, participants are encouraged to explore these four disciplines across four frames: Self; Self and Other; Self and Community and Self and Environment.

Experiential Peacebuilding is best thought of as an active process with transformative power. It is truly an experience, comprised of rigorous learning and physical activity – two aspects that unite in a kinesthetic effect on the body and mind. Experiential Peacebuilding naturally and by design lends itself to leadership development, the formation of viable communities and organizational capacity building.