Storytelling for Resistance

This page provides an overview of a grant funded project LearnJam was awarded by the British Council Palestine. The project will run from March 2024 until September 2024 and will focus on .

Problem space

Palestinians are a forcefully fragmented society which is the result of  a conscious effort by the occupying regime to divide Palestinian communities in order to weaken resistance. The apartheid wall, checkpoints and travel permits are all policy features that lead to a deteriorated social fabric. The occupation creates unlivable conditions for Palestinians within historic Palestine and in particular in Gaza (through war, threat, dehumanisation and humiliation). 

The forced expulsion of Palestinians has led to a diaspora, residing in other countries in the region, Europe, the US and Latin-America. Connecting Palestinians across those borders is a challenging but essential task. 

This project acknowledges these challenges and, therefore, invited Palestinians from across the globe to participate in co-learning sessions on creative storytelling. 

The occupying regime targets not only people, but also their very essence; Palestinian culture and heritage. We currently witness occupation in its most brutal and relentless form: an ongoing genocide in Gaza. This is evident in the massive arrests of  students, the murder of Refaat Alareer, the bombing of museums, and censorship of Palestinian creative voices, among many other things. Palestinians, however, continue to resist their cultural erasure and live up to the words of legendary activist and writer Ghassan Kanafani: “you have something in this world, so stand for it”. 

Programme goals

In the face of these problems, we have defined two key goals for this programme:

  1. Support the documentation and dissemination of Palestinian culture through creative storytelling 
  2. Connect and build unity between fragmented Palestinian communities both in historic Palestine and around the world 

Value proposition 

For those who self identify as Palestinian (anywhere around the world) and aspire to develop their own creative output (art, music, writing, film)…

…The co-learning programme provides a safe and empowering space in which creative storytelling (in a variety of mediums) can be developed, shared, and documented in English. 

This programme is different because it connects fragmented Palestinian communities through exploration of Palestinian culture and stories, allowing space for critical thought and debate on issues such as occupation, identity, apartheid and liberation. 

Intended audience

To achieve these aims, we are intending to work with participants with these characteristics:

Intended audience characteristicJustification
Young adults (aged 18-35) interested in cultural production, i.e they care about Palestinian art and culture and, for example, read about it, write/draw/paint themselves, or go to see creative performances. Because this group will be more likely to create and document their stories
People who identify as Palestinian anywhere in the world and are keen to build community with other Palestinians who might be from a very different contextSo that we can build solidarity and connection among fragmented communities.
B1+ level of English and some communicative competenceBecause the programme is in English (due in part to the source of funding), and because we believe that documenting stories in English will allow more people (including Palestinians in the diaspora) to connect with and learn from those stories. 
Able to commit ~2 hours a week for this programmeSo that people attending know the commitment up front and are more likely to stay in the programme to the end
People who are motivated to document their own story in English and open to creating things in different media formats (film, text, image, etc.)Because people already motivated to tell their story will benefit more from the programmeDifferent formats because we want to expose participants to different formats so that they can choose media formats that work well for them, either in terms of a hobby or a potential career
With an internet connection and access to a device to attend the sessions Because the programme will be online in order to connect fragmented communities 
Open to co-learning with others, in a less structured way, understanding that others they are learning with may have beliefs and behaviours different to their ownBecause the format will be less formal, i.e. co-learning rather than conventional teaching, with a range of different contexts and perspectives.

What is co-learning?

Co-learning is an approach that centres collaboration, reflection and discussion as parts of the learning experience. It is particularly useful when helping bring about changes in perspective and mindset, and when inspiring action. 

At LearnJam we generally use an external resource as the ‘input’ for a co-learning session, This may be a blog post, article, video, podcast etc. 

We have used the co-learning format in our our own projects, with the following steps

  1. A check-in to help people arrive in the session
  2. Time to engage with the resource independently
  3. Journaling / solo reflection time
  4. A group reflective discussion
  5. An invitation to set an action or intention 

Programme details 

Programme detailJustification
Six weekly sessions over the summer of 2024This fits in with the funding requirements, and hopefully works for people who have more time and energy for this over the summer
Each session 2 hoursLess than 2 hours would feel to rushed, more than that feels like too big a commitment
Each session has a theme and a mediumWe wanted to connect key themes like identity and resistance with different cultural media such as literature, visual art, music, film, etc. 
Optional (based on sprint with facilitators): The final session being a showcase event that others from outside the cohort can be invited to attendSo that a wider audience, outside of the participants can benefit from the documentation of the stories 
Each session is centred around a resource created by Palestinians, in EnglishThis follows LearnJam’s existing co-learning format, provides a starting point for reflection and conversations, and provides inspiration for participants to tell their story in English 
A light-touch, reflective and emergent methodologyThis will hopefully allow participants to connect with their own responses to the resource, and the responses of others. The emergent element allows the cohort to follow their collective energy and interest
Participants are organised into cohorts, with some options given to choose their cohort characteristics (e.g. a women only / men only cohort)Smaller groups allow for more opportunities for deeper connection between the participants and help it feel like a safe and creative space
All cohorts are facilitated by a PalestinianSo that participants can feel comfortable to speak their truth and share their stories, without fear of having it witnessed and used against them by non Palestinians 
Reflection questions aimed at getting participants to notice uses of languageAs opposed to explicit language focus activities, which would take a lot of the time in the programme, and not fit in with the semi-emergent nature of co-learning
Reflection questions aimed at getting participants to notice storytelling tools and techniques in different media As opposed to explicit focused activities looking at the details of different storytelling techniques, which would take a lot of the time in the programme, and not fit in with the semi-emergent nature of co-learning
Pre-session activities to prepare learners for the live sessionsTo help participants prepare for and get the most out of the sessions. For example, to introduce some vocabulary and help them activate existing knowledge about the topic.
A task / action following each session to create and document a story in the medium from the sessionTo align with the overall goals of the project
An area (e.g. a Google Drive folder) for stories to be kept and shared with others – optional: collaboration with Palarchive.To align with the overall goals of the project, and so that the stories can impact others around the world.
Project management and facilitators are responsible for creating a safe environment throughout the program so that  participants can express themselves freely and voice opinions Because this is conducive to learning, connecting and growing together

Example of session material 

The facilitators of the cohorts

Role 

We are hoping to work with 4 facilitators, who will each host a cohort of 12-16 people through the co-learning journey of 6 online sessions. The role of the facilitator in the co-learning experience is to:

  1. Hold a safe and open space where participants feel comfortable to share their thoughts and feelings
  2. Help ensure that conversation is honest and respectful
  3. Guide participants to make their own reflections, rather than to deliver information to participants
  4. Keep an eye on the schedule and move the group on so that the session doesn’t overrun
  5. Organise participants into breakout rooms where necessary, and guide them in their discussions
  6. Be tuned into the needs of the participants and explore how to meet those needs in the sessions

In addition to hosting the co-learning sessions, we imagine that the facilitators will:

  1. Carry out safeguarding training and any necessary checks 
  2. Help to recruit participants for their cohort
  3. Attend some training in how to host the sessions
  4. Give their input into the programme resources and materials
  5. Ensure that any monitoring and evaluation materials (such as surveys etc.) are shared with the [participants
  6. Provide their own feedback on the programme to help ensure future impact of the programme

Safeguarding

As mentioned above, facilitators will be required to adhere to a project safeguarding approach. More details will be shared as part of the contracting process.

MEL

As part of our commitment to understanding the impact of our projects, we will define a project approach to monitoring, evaluation and impact.

This will likely include:

  1. Some kind of survey to understand the contexts, attitudes and behaviours of the participants as they join the programme
  2. An additional survey to understand the attitudes and behaviours of participants as they complete the programme.
  3. Reflections from the project team on the programme and the observed impacts on participants 

Our hope is that following this phase of the project, the programme will be able to be used (for free) by anyone who wants to run their own cohort. We would like the MEL approach to give us information and facilitate iterations that help us achieve this aim.

“I’m proud that we are able to do this project, and support the cultural resistance in Palestine.

Jo Sayers, Director, LearnJam