In Milan, October 21th 2023, first Policy Lab of our project on the educational management of conflicts at school.

by Barbara Scarioni

Methods of arguing work. Where they are adopted they bring results, and some also have a great advantage: they are simple.

In Croatia, Malta, Romania it has been chosen to look at conflict as a resource, using pedagogical methods for arguing and learning by arguing. Litigare bene by Daniele Novara from 2 to 10 years old, Friendship Cards from 6 years old, and Peer Mediation from 11 to 18 years old: different and complementary methods that have brought surprising changes (on this website all the documentation, examples, testimonials to touch on a transformation that remains crucial, both in the short and long term).

In Sanremo, in Nice, in Brussels, in Europe, people reason about this kind of educational system and give it credit, they understand that it reduces complexity. It is a social need and by arguing in school we can learn to be better together, able to say no, to understand or accept others’ no, and to act intelligently to curb violence.

But then how can we succeed in giving them more breathing space, how can we turn these little gardens that flourish and expand like wildfire, all with positive outcomes, into a more relevant critical mass? How to expand them to a widespread level?

These questions led to the Policy Lab as a tool for active participation. The first meeting, led by Claudio Dondi, of the Peace Inspiring Lab (eiplab. eu) with Elena Passerini, coordinator of the Erasmus+ project “Arguing at School,” brought together many voices, all involved in the world of education, but all invited to leave off their institutional role to talk freely about what can be done. How to get the message across that disagreement is democracy?

The Policy Lab is a meeting that is as practical and concrete as possible.

While at the European level reasoning about education being a springboard for coexistence is already common, Italy lacks widespread adherence to this thinking. Perhaps it would suffice to be able to communicate that Litigare Bene is more about taking away than adding, that it is a relief for all, not an incitement to further drudgery, and that it ultimately reduces work stress, as well as bringing the educational benefits we know.

How then to raise the bar and move it to a level it can afford to reach?

Let’s try to see what’s not there: here are the 4 steps of the Lab.

The first is the exploration of viewpoints, based on the stakeholders’ perspectives. What is the policy challenge, what is the problem we want to act on? This is where giving a voice to girls and boys, often forgotten citizens, and being able to consider civic education (already present in the school context) as a gateway to include new educational issues proved to be key.

Phase 2 is convergent, listing general proposals and focusing not on what should be, but on what could be. One moves from looking for solutions to experiencing possible, reasonable, and feasible advances.

The third one deals with operational, pragmatic terms: one designs and experiments with proposals, evaluating what factors affect their implementation.

Phase 4 involves the task of developing a Policy Recommendations document (Project Result 4) that aims to reach out to gather organizations, and people not already aligned and informed, who can share the project’s goals.

During the day, possibilities were laid out, confidence-filled and realistic ideas that will then be taken forward. Step by step, to the next step.

The path then plans to meet again at the end of January 2024 to evaluate together the lived experience (including difficulties and potentials encountered) to promote a different way of living conflicts, no longer seen as obstacles, but as opportunities, for rules that create freedom.

Photo by Elena Passerini