Conflict Matters is a major European conference exploring the potential of conflict in the process of individual and social transformation.

In the context of democratic societies, conflicts – whether they be over the values or distribution of goods, resources or rights – are mainly staged and expressed through political antagonisms and deliberation in the public sphere. The deliberative model of conflict resolution, however, fails to live up to its idealised form. Access to the public sphere and the ability to put ‘public problems’ on the agenda are themselves unevenly distributed, and subject to contestation and struggles. Therefore, thinking about contemporary conflict amounts to evaluating its capacity to change social relations and inequalities.

In response to the increasing discords and polarisation in our societies, Conflict Matters 2017 will focus on societal tensions, and on the educational policies and practices needed to work with these in a constructive way.

We will start with a public debate at the British Academy to discuss the conditions for productive dialogue in divided societies, actualising or displacing major axes of social and political tensions. We will examine how democratic institutions and practices both express conflict and minimise the escalation of divisions into violence, and how we can conceive of new forms, discursive styles and registers that enable actors previously ‘shut out’ to participate in public disagreements.

During the two following days at the Friends House, we will explore how to turn conflict into an educational opportunity, balancing confrontational and deliberative approaches in a context where a strong desire for agreement and consensus persist.

Through a series of experiential sessions, we will try out concrete methods that allow disagreement and contestation to be expressed, but at the same time transform this into inclusive, egalitarian dialogue – in the classroom and beyond.

We will reflect on different strategies to address major educational challenges: teaching controversies, dealing with polarisationbuilding coalitions between schools and communities, decolonising educationyouth violenceeducating political subjectivities. Ultimately, we will seek to reflect on how (citizenship) education can foster political subjectivity and agency.

During the conference we will also award the Evens Prize for Peace Education to New-Bridge Integrated College, Northern Ireland, for its comprehensive and inspiring approach to teaching controversies.

We address a wide public of educators, teachers, researchers, policymakers and parents  who regularly face the challenge of dealing with societal tensions. We invite you all to a collective reflection: how, in today’s societies, can we transform conflicts into a productive force that leads to social justice?

Organizer & Partners

The event is organized by the Evens Foundation, in collaboration with the Faculty of Education of the University of Cambridge and the British Academy.

The conference is an opportunity to foster collaborations between education practitioners and researchers. The purpose is two-fold: to facilitate the dissemination of completed research, and to shape future inquiries that pertain to the realities educators face in their daily work.

The conference is organized with the kind support of the Flemish Peace Institute and Friends House.

The Evens Foundation is a European public benefit organisation with a mission to contribute to the progress and strengthening of Europe based on cultural and social diversity.

Focusing on citizenship, peace education, media studies, media education, arts, and sciences, our work includes: initiate and support experimental educational and civic initiatives; contribute to the development of innovative pedagogical methods; fund relevant research; support advocacy initiatives; facilitate mutual learning among education practitioners, and stimulate knowledge production by organizing lectures, conferences and summer labs.