Welcome to the first of our monthly contributors, Fyfe Blair, who today is sharing a fascination insight into the connection between conflict resolution and doodling…

‘John Paul Lederach is a peacebuilder whose insights have informed me in the work of conflict transformation.

In his book The Moral imagination he makes his case that it is neither the rote application of strategies nor techniques alone that enable people to generate constructive responses to the complex issues of a conflict.

Rather, he advocates a place for the (moral) imagination defined as the capacity to imagine something rooted in the challenges of the real world yet capable of giving birth to that which does not yet exist.[1]

In the book he provides a sequence of doodles which he says are drawings he would present in ‘off-the-record  meetings with people involved in conflicts’.

I have always enjoyed drawing and doodling/scribbling. I think in images/metaphors most of the time and seek to portray these to help my own understanding.

However, it was on one occasion in peacebuilding work that I truly began to see what Lederach was on about.

In the midst of a session I started to put down some images and words on the flipchart as the person spoke about the complexity of things.

It was not the brilliance of my scribbling, so much as when the person took their chair and placed it in front of the page and began to point and talk it through that I sensed they were beginning to gain some clarity and insight for themselves.

I believe that the visuals touched their imagination, offering a way of seeing what was being spoken. These together enabled them to gain perspective from another vantage point.

This instance provided me with a new perspective upon the work of conflict transformation and the way in which graphics can facilitate beyond the verbiage and that such visuals touch the imagination, bring this into the fray, providing fresh and new capacity to respond differently to the issue(s).

It has encouraged me to begin to learn and explore further how such seeming playfulness can be set alongside other tools, and used appropriately to enable people in conflicted situations to shift their observational position to offer a new line of sight that in turn may help enable them not only to generate constructive responses but indeed by touching their (moral) imagination enable them to change in their conduct.’

Fyfe Blair
Minister/works with Place for Hope


[1] The Moral Imagination: The art and soul of building peace. John Paul Lederach. 2005 p29