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University of Bath

Building inclusive civil societies with, and for, young people in five post-conflict countries

The project will investigate the role and efficacy of civil society organisations as they support young people in societies that have experienced conflict.

Confronting the past

Over the last 40 years Colombia, Cambodia, Rwanda, Kosovo and South Africa have had to confront the material consequences of their violent pasts. Each has a very different relationship to this past; from Colombia, where the processes of reconciliation are only just beginning, to Cambodia, where the violence of the Khmer Rouge has passed into history, yet its memory continues to shape contemporary society.

The international development community and donor states have invested heavily in the work of civil society organisations (CSO) supporting reconciliation initiatives, particularly focused on children and young people; a disproportionately large part of the population due to the effects of past violence on their parents’ generation.

Changing the story

The Changing the Story project will explore efforts to promote social reconciliation and respect for equality and human rights in the aftermath of conflict. It involves UK researchers working with University researchers and partner organisations (CSOs, including museums, heritage organisations, community participatory arts and activist groups) from Colombia, Cambodia, Rwanda, Kosovo and South Africa.

Changing the Story will begin by undertaking a critical review of current work by CSOs across these countries, in order to highlight innovative practice, as well as areas that require further investigation. This will lead to five proof of concept pilot projects, based on lessons learnt from the review.

Our initial research and development phase will then lead to the commissioning of two rounds of projects, one aimed at early career researchers, and one for researchers at all career stages.

Utilising arts and humanities research for international development projects

Working at the intersection between the arts and humanities and social sciences, and crossing a broad range of disciplines (including languages, cultural studies, arts practice, film, history, post-colonial studies, cultural policy, anthropology, social policy, development studies, education and law), this project will forge new ways of utilising arts and humanities research for practical international development projects with a lasting legacy. In so doing, we will highlight the broad potential of arts and humanities within the context of international development.

Research aims

This project has been designed in collaboration with our partners to ensure genuine, long-term sustainable impact on three levels.


Our most immediate impact will be on the communities we will support to directly effect change in young peoples' lives. These initiatives will provide proof of concept projects for two further sets of projects, to be commissioned during Strand 2, which will support further communities across and beyond these five Official Development Assistance (ODA) recipient countries.

Civil society organisations

The project is designed to support CSOs to reflect upon their practice, providing international networking and support opportunities for practitioners. The CSOs with whom we will be working have a wealth of area-based experience. However, opportunities are frequently limited for such organisations to learn from each other, or for them to undertake a longer-term review of their work, given their focus on the direct delivery of support to communities on the ground.

Our particular focus, which has been identified as a key need by all our in-country partners, is on how CSOs have sought to deal with the legacy of past violence and its impact on the issues facing young people in these societies, be it the work of Stacion in Prishtina or the National Commission for Historical Memory in Colombia. The British Council (BC) will be a key partner in this regard.

Policy level

This will be twofold. First, one of the envisaged outputs of our research will be the development of new approaches to child-led advocacy, designed to help the children and young people we will support to have their voice heard within their local communities in order to improve the services designed to help them.

Secondly, the project will enhance the efforts of our partners to engage regional and national policy makers. Through the government connections within our network of academic and CSOs (UK contacts with Department for International Development (DFID), the BC, the Institute for Reconciliation and Social Justice at UFS, AEGIS Trust, Hope and Homes for Children, UNESCO) and supported by a major event to be organised in partnership with the Salzburg Global Seminar, we will engage policymakers at a regional and national level.

In the process, this will also give policymakers access to a substantial research base, significantly enhancing the effectiveness of their work.


This project is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council - Global Challenges Research Fund.

Project team