A Portrait of Empathy in Peacebuilding Practice



Schmelzer, Emma Lee

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Empathy is often invoked in the language of conflict analysis and resolution, but rarely examined fully or exclusively. I seek to add gravity to our field's conceptualization of empathy by asking a group of practitioners how they define and design for empathy in practice. The thesis describes theories of empathy as they stand, the methodology utilized in this study, and the main themes that can be distilled from the data about what empathy is, how it looks in practice, and what peace practitioners might be able to do to encourage it. Those interviewed laid out a multifaceted vision of empathy and placed empathy at the heart of their peacebuilding work. They also shared gorgeous stories of lived and witnessed empathy, which support their insights. Thirteen key aspects of empathy emerged from their reflections, and while it was clear that empathy cannot and should not be manufactured or forced, these interviewees did suggest seven lessons a facilitator can use to design spaces in which empathy may be more likely to emerge between conflict parties.



Empathy, Peacebuilding, Conflict resolution, Practitioner, Facilitation, Corrymeela