This book is not a novel, but it does tell a story; in fact it tells two stories.
On the surface, it is the story of how the global aid agency, World Vision, came up with a new way of analysing politically unstable contexts using local perspectives, along with sharing what that method is (that’s the boring bit for most of you).
But the other story, what you won’t know by reading just the book, is the other, deeply encouraging story behind it: how 14 years ago a woman with a career in the aid sector got this participatory conflict analysis project started. She soon became a mother and gave up that career. That project grew and developed and became something so useful that 9 years later it was thought a book should be written to share those learnings. The mother was sought out, and asked to help write the book. That woman is, of course, me.
This is a story of how a mother’s decision to put her career aside for her children for a season is not work-suicide. It is just that: a season. I’ve long been a believer in seasons; accepting a new phase as an opportunity to grow in a different way, and to try not to fight against it. This book confirms that belief.
It is the story of how this can be even when a woman doesn’t return to her original career. I didn’t. I simply didn’t feel able to commit to regular overseas trips whilst my husband
died in the process of multi-tasking looked after the kids and his job. But I kept my hand in the charity sector locally (became trustee for a local charity for a few years) and took up a passion I’ve always had but never pursued (creative writing and blogging). By doing those two things, I kept my skills up and my brain from dying, and so was in some sort of fit shape to say ‘Yes’ when asked if I would co-write and developmentally edit this book.
I may have deeply wondered about my ability to remember all those high-fallutin’ concepts, theories and phrases. But it’s amazing what lurks within….
There is actually a third story, another one that you won’t find by reading it on kindle. It’s the comical narrative about mums juggling work and childcare: overlooking the small detail of a passport renewal date and discovering it on the day of departure; managing the dilemma of a child rushing into the garden office where I’d sought sanctuary for a conference call to ask in loud desperation of the whereabout of her underwear; and watching husband and son try to catch a wounded bird in the garden whilst discussing the intricacies of conflict sensitivity via Skype. Thanks to this writing project last year, I now recognize that glazed-over, far away look in the eye that can be spotted in certain mums in the school playground at afternoon pick up; and I also know that its possible to find an entirely different family holiday in the space of 6 hours without even unpacking the car!
It is rather fitting that 4 days before my eldest celebrates her 11th birthday, the book will be launched here in London (it is also being launched in New York, Washington and Geneva).
So, if you’re a mum who is in anyway in the position I was, take heart. Embrace the season. You never know what’s around the corner…..
And if you’re someone who in the aid sector, is an academic or a peace practitioner, you might like to take a look at the book in more detail. Betty Bigombe, Senior Director for Fragility, Conflict and Violence at the World Bank, thinks it worth your while:
“This is an important and timely contribution to the field of conflict analysis (that) will spark new discussions in the international community about participatory conflict analysis. I strongly encourage you to engage this important body of work in order to make better sense of the turbulent contexts where you work” – Betty Bigombe
The book is available for download by going to the website: www.participate-mstc.net
The book is being launched in at the University of Coventry’s London Campus on Monday 1 June, where there will be a panel discussion.