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Introduction to Workcamps

A workcamp is a place where people of diverse race, ideology, nationality, and age live together for two to four weeks while working on a community project. The workcamps are initiated and organised by community groups and are designed to be of tangible benefit to the local community. They enhance local initiatives and do not replace paid labour. Workcamps usually take between 8 and 20 international participants who work and socialise with the local community. Workcamps take place all year round but in Europe most occur during the Northern hemisphere summer.

Through workcamps, IVP incorporates and sustains visionary aims. Workcamps provide an opportunity for individuals to combine their energies and together address problems vital to our shared global future. Internal decision-making, problem solving and a sense of group identity are promoted. Workcamps aim to increase tolerance and facilitate the questioning of values. Whether working at a children’s centre in Paris, on an environmental project in Colorado, or helping with relief programs in Thailand, the volunteers help establish paths to peace.

In this section you will find more information about workcamp philosophy, workcamps as paths to peace and what to expect on a workcamp.

What to Expect on a Workcamp


In Europe, international workcamps can last from ten days to three weeks. The international workcamps in Africa normally last from two weeks to almost a month and workcamps in Latin America generally last from three to four weeks. Asian workcamps can have a very different length, ranging between three days up to three weeks. Usually, the work will take place from Monday to Friday except for Muslim countries where the official free day of the week is mostly on Fridays. The weekends are normally free to enjoy and plan leisure activities.


English is the most common camp language. If you need another or an additional language, this will be stated specifically in the workcamp description.

Activities in Workcamps and Projects

Generally the local organisation defines its own way of working and this sometimes reflects the work that will be expected from the international volunteers. It can involve:
Animation and social training
Leisure time activities with children
Construction, renovation and manual work
Path cleaning, reforestation and agricultural work
Arts (e.g. music, theatre)
Raising awareness

Other workcamps can be more directly related to basic community development such as the building of roads and clearing parts of the jungle for bringing clean water to the village. Often the work can be physically strenuous and different to what some volunteers will be used to. Usually care is taken that there will be several refreshment breaks during the day.


During the work camp the volunteers can be hosted in a variety of accommodation: in family houses or in a building provided by the local co-ordinators, in a youth hostel, or in tents. Although anything is possible, it should be kept in mind that accommodation is nearly always simple and sometimes primitive. It is preferred that people bring their own sleeping bags unless otherwise written in the work camp information sheet.

It is expected that the volunteers will participate in the daily life of the hosting community with the aim to maximise the exchange with the people concerned with the project. This is even more so in the exchanges, which take place in Latin America where the international volunteers are mostly hosted individually with local families.

Extra Costs

In addition to the IVP membership and application fees, Australian volunteers pay their travel costs from Australia to the work camp location, insurance cover (see insurance section) and in some countries, there is an extra project fee which is paid to the hosting organisation. Food and accommodation are provided and paid for by the project host. In the case where there is an extra project fee, this covers not only the costs of board and lodging for the programme period, but more substantially, it is used to support the organisation and its programmes. In countries where this fee is charged the host organisation depends in most cases entirely on the voluntary income to run their programmes. Organising workcamps costs money, as it needs a fair amount of preparation and co-ordination throughout the year. The fee paid will help cover these pre-programme costs.


Workcamps offer an excellent opportunity for exchanging ideas about social, political and other issues about the local situations. Apart from the daily work of the project, it enables volunteers to have the opportunity to participate in debate, propose visits and meet with other local organisations. Every work camp does not have an organised study programme. Often the informal talks with other volunteers, project workers or local people give the scope for debate and learning. However, on many workcamps an effort is made to organise a more structured study participation, either closely linked with the social aim of the project organisation or linked to national or international campaigns SCI is implementing at the time.

Work Camp Leader or Coordinator

In most camps, though not in all, a work camp leader or camp co-ordinator will be appointed to facilitate the camp. A large part of the role of the co-ordinator is simply being the point of communication between the camp organisation, the host project and the volunteers. It is the primary task of the leader to try to meet the aims and expectations of all three. This should be done in the most harmonious way so that all are satisfied and so the maximum numbers of objectives are achieved.

A camp leader’s function is threefold: to lead, organise and mediate as appropriate. But above all, a camp leader is a member of the group and the relationship with the volunteers should never be hierarchical, even if participants expect him/her to play a decisive part in the course of the camp.

What can volunteers expect the camp leader to do?

– Organise orientation and evaluation meetings
– Include volunteers in decision making processes
– Liaise between volunteers & project partner
– Co-ordinate work and rosters
– Consider the needs of different cultural backgrounds and help with overcoming language barriers, but not being a translator
– Lead the theoretical discussion about the project’s work & goals
– Help with conflict solving
– Initiate discussion about political, social, cultural affairs related to the camp
– Represent SCI in public
– Inform the volunteers about the work, structures & aims of SCI
– Keep track of the entire program

Group Dynamics

How will the group interact?

Each group you work with on an international project will interact differently. Good internal group dynamics are ensured if there is awareness of each other and the forces in operation.

The activities necessary for effective group operation can be learned. It is usual for people to automatically assume ‘roles’ and take on ‘functions’ within the group that can help or hinder cohesion. It is important to encourage behaviours that help a group to function well. When one or several people seem to be having a negative influence on the group dynamics, Non-Violence theory encourages us to separate the ‘person’ from the ‘behaviour’. In other words don’t blame the person but address their behaviour. Sometimes having a provocative person in a group can lead to real issues being aired, leading to greater understanding and help group-building.

One of the main tools to better group dynamics is to learn and practise ‘listening skills’. This involves really listening to what the other person is saying, trying to understand where they are coming from rather than just having a conversation. We find this easy to do when we have a rapport with someone, but need to make sure we practise it with those with whom we perceive differences.

Each workcamp group will go through stages as the volunteers get to know each other better. One way of understanding these stages is to use Bruce Tuckman’s theory of group development. Tuckman described four stages of group development: forming, storming, norming and performing. The descriptions which follow have been adapted from Wikipedia.


In the first stages, the team meets and learns about the volunteer project, the work, the living arrangements and will decide how to share tasks and may set up cooking and cleaning schedules. Team members tend to behave quite independently. They may be motivated but are usually relatively uninformed of the issues and objectives of the team. Team members are usually on their best behaviour and interested in getting to know each other better. Mature team members model appropriate behaviour. Workcamp leaders will usually be directive, setting up meeting times and facilitating the development of work schedules and leisure activities.


Once the volunteers have got over their initial politeness, they will start to get to know each other on a deeper level and this is usually when differences begin to arise. The group is usually figuring out how they will interact with each other, how they will function independently and what leadership model they will accept. Team members open out to each other and confront each other’s ideas and perspectives. Individuals may become competitive or overly attached to their own ideas. In some cases, this stage can be contentious, unpleasant and even painful to members of the team who are averse to conflict. Tolerance of each team member and their differences needs to be emphasized. Leaders of the team during this phase still need to be directive in their guidance of decision-making and appropriate behaviour.


At some point, members adjust their behaviour to each other and develop work habits that make teamwork seem more natural and fluid. Team members often work through this stage by agreeing on rules, values, professional behaviour, shared methods, working tools and even taboos. Team members begin to trust each other and motivation increases as the team gets more acquainted with the project.


High-performing teams are able to function as a unit as they find ways to get the job done smoothly and effectively without inappropriate conflict or the need for external supervision. Team members have become interdependent. By this time they are motivated and knowledgeable. The team members are now competent, autonomous and able to handle the decision-making process without supervision. Dissent is expected and allowed as long as it is channelled through means acceptable to the team. Workcamp leaders during this phase are almost always participative, but the team will make most of the necessary decisions.

Adjourning and Transforming

Tuckman later added a fifth phase, adjourning, that involves completing the task and breaking up the team. Others call it the phase for mourning. This can be quite a difficult phase of a workcamp. You may have developed quite strong bonds with your fellow volunteers. Goodbyes can be very upsetting and tears are quite usual. You may feel it hard to get back to ‘normal’ after such an intense two weeks, but keeping in touch with each other after a workcamp can help ease the transition.

In the next section we discuss managing conflict in groups

Application Procedures for Short Term Projects

Application Procedures for Short Term Projects

Once you have finished reading through your Volunteer Guidebook and have a better idea of IVP’s goals and philosophy it’s time to consider which volunteer projects you would like to apply for.

Step one:
Check that you fulfill all necessary criteria:
• You must be a current IVP member to participate in a workcamp.
• Applicants must be 18 years or over for workcamps in Australia or Europe and 21 or over for workcamps in Africa, Latin America and some Asian countries. There is no upper age limit and older volunteers are encouraged to apply as we aim to have a diverse age range on camps. Please note that a small number of partner organisations have a maximum age limit of 28-35.
• You must be willing to contribute to the team life, including sharing the cooking and cleaning duties, and to integrate with other volunteers on the workcamp.
• Volunteers should be fit enough to carry out the work of the project and be prepared for the additional emotional challenges that arise when confronted with new people, cultures and environments.
• Some camps specifically require volunteers to have previous workcamp experience. This is usually for countries where contacts are new, where conditions are especially trying, or where there have been difficulties in the past and volunteers are needed who can use their experience to develop future work.
• Volunteers need to be flexible and adapt to their local environment. Following local customs and respecting local behaviours and beliefs is generally expected.
• At all times volunteers must comply with both local laws and minimum Australian standards in regard to the consumption of alcohol and the use of illicit substances.
• Check the official language of the workcamp and make sure you have a strong knowledge of the required language.
• Finally, please make sure you are aware of our cancellations and refunds policy found below.

There are also special conditions for volunteers applying for workcamps in Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and Latin America, since volunteers face extra challenges when working in less developed countries with very different cultures. For these workcamps volunteers should:
• Be at least 21 years old
• Have prior workcamp experience with IVP, SCI or a similar organisation or relevant social work experience
• Demonstrate commitment to IVP, volunteering in the office or assisting the organisation in other ways, eg, writing an article, editing the newsletter, running an IVP Infonight in your area.
• Undertake to remain active in IVP on return to Australia, and to provide a report of the workcamp.
• Demonstrate knowledge of development issues and respect for other cultures.
• Most camps in Latin America will require a good knowledge of Spanish or Portuguese, and some African camps will require French. Many of these camps may require extra documentation. This information will be on our website.
• All volunteers attending workcamps in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and Latin America are advised to read this Guidebook thoroughly to enhance understanding of IVP’s work and to assist in preparing you for living in a culture and conditions very different to your own.

AN EXTRA PARTICIPATION FEE – often applies to workcamps in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and Latin America. These countries have limited resources and the extra payment is a contribution towards the development and continuation of workcamps. This fee is payable to the host organisation on arrival at the workcamp. Generally, this fee is payable in Euros or $US currency and ranges between $US75-200. For workcamps in Mexico, the fee is between $US200-450.

Other things to be aware of:
On the workcamp
• Volunteers must cover their own costs to and from the workcamp and are responsible for passports and visas.
• Accommodation and food will be provided for you during the workcamp.
• There is usually at least one workcamp leader, who helps co-ordinate the day-to-day activities of the volunteers and liases with the project sponsors and local people.
• Conditions vary from camp to camp and country to country, but volunteers usually stay together (in a village hall, community centre or similar) and prepare their own meals.
• Accommodation is usually simple, a sleeping bag is often required and volunteers should be prepared for less privacy than they may be used to.
• Volunteers are generally required to work a 30-35 hour week. However, it is the right and the responsibility of the volunteer to refuse dangerous work while on a workcamp.
• Mostly, evenings and weekends are free and can be used to develop the study part or organise leisure activities. Leisure programmes and cultural activities may be organised by the host, workcamp leader, or the volunteers. Some projects require the work to be done during the weekend and in such cases volunteers will get time off during the week.
• Don’t overdo it! We recommend that you don’t do a number of workcamps in a row. Apart from possibly being physically tiring, your contribution to group life will be weakened through over exposure to intensive group work. Rest periods of at least two weeks are recommended between camps. Also, it is recommended that you don’t do more than 3 workcamps in a season.
• It is a good idea to learn about the country/situation you are applying for. If requested, we will try to assist by putting you in touch with an experienced volunteer who has been to the country or done the same type of workcamp you are interested in.
• Experienced volunteers are always needed as workcamp leaders. If you are interested please let us know. IVP holds a Workcamp Leader Training most years. For details please contact the IVP office.

When planning your overseas trip, make sure you check the visa requirements of all the countries you plan to visit. If the country you are visiting requires a visa, apply for a tourist visa. If necessary, use the term “cultural exchange” instead of “volunteer work”. Leave plenty of time for the processing of visas, as this can sometimes take weeks or even months. Conditions of entry into some countries may change suddenly, so keep in contact with embassies for the latest information.
Some countries require a ‘letter of invitation’ before visas will be granted. This will be supplied by our contact organisations in these countries.
It is advisable to apply for the visas while in Australia. To avoid long queues and hours of frustration, ring the embassy first and find out:Do I need a visa? Do I need a special invitation? How long can I stay in your country? What documents do I require? (e.g. photos, medical certificate etc)? How much does it cost? How long does it take to process? Opening hours of embassy?

A small number of workcamps require extra documentation. These could include a reference, medical certificate or a more detailed motivation letter. If you are volunteering for a workcamp involving children, or if children will be involved in activities relating to the project, you may also need to complete appropriate background checks.

IVP strongly recommends that volunteers obtain their own comprehensive insurance coverage before leaving Australia.

The SCI/IVP insurance scheme provides cover for volunteers in cases of illness, accidents or death for the duration of the camp for all our workcamps. Conditions NOT covered by the insurance policy include: Volunteers with pre-existing physical or mental conditions. Travel to and from the workcamp. Exhaustion or nervous and psychiatric disorders. Volunteers over 70 years of age. Cancellation of workcamp/project. Personal belongings.
The SCI/IVP insurance scheme is limited and should only be viewed as additional cover.

IVP encourages volunteers with disabilities to participate in workcamps and we try to make this possible wherever we can. Conditions vary from camp to camp, but generally workcamps are considered wheelchair accessible unless stated otherwise. In Part 5 of the Application Form, please give details of your disability, so that we can confirm that the workcamp is suitable.

We welcome applications from volunteers wishing to bring their children. In general, many workcamps can accept children, but please specify this clearly on your Application Form so that we can confirm that this is the case. (NB: Under 16-years-old are not automatically insured by SCI’s insurance scheme).

The idea of these workcamps is that half the participants will be over 30. This is to encourage older volunteers who may be wary of attending a workcamp where all the other participants are 18-20yo.

Select your Workcamp options
If you satisfy all the required criteria and feel able to fulfil what is expected of you as a volunteer then it’s time to decide which workcamp/s you would like to apply for.
Understanding the Workcamp Listings
Most workcamps can be found through a link on our website. Workcamps in countries that are not part of the SCI network can by found in a separate document on the IVP website. This can be downloaded and printed off for easy reference.
• The workcamps are first divided by continent and then arranged alphabetically according to the country in which they take place.
• Each workcamp is given a code which begins with abbreviations denoting the country and the organisation.
• Subsequently, camps are divided into themes which are denoted by code numbers, which are listed below. These codes are only a guide and sometimes categories overlap. Finally if there is more than one camp on a particular theme, they will then be numbered sequentially. So for example the second environmental camp in Finland would be numbered FI-SCI 6.2.
NB: While SCI is moving towards having a consistent code system between all partner organisations, some partner organisations may use a different numbering system or none at all.
• After the workcamp code, there will be the location of the camp or the actual name of the project, and then the dates and number of volunteers required.

1. Anti-racism, anti-fascism, refugees and ethnic minorities
2. North-South solidarity
3. Peace and disarmament
4. People with disabilities
5. Children, teenagers, elderly
6. Environment
7. Sexuality and gender
8. Socially disadvantaged (homelessness, poverty ) 9. Arts, culture and local history
10. Ideological and spirituality
11. Other

Please note that new camps will be organised throughout the year. Check our website for updates.

Fill out your application form
The Application Form is available on our website or by contacting the IVP office. If you wish to attend more than one workcamp, you will need a new form for each camp. On each form you should indicate your workcamp choice, giving at least three and up to six choices in order of preference. This will help your application to succeed.

Fill in the Application Form on both sides, with a black pen. Nominate the camps you wish to attend in order of preference. Attach extra sheets for the motivation section (Part 8) as well as a photo, and don’t forget to sign the form.

Return completed forms and application fee
Applications must be received at least 6 weeks before you travel for applications to workcamps in Europe, North America or Thailand, or 8 weeks for workcamps in other overseas countries. Applications for workcamps in Australia must be received at least 3 weeks before the camp start date.

$350 full price, $300 concession
$250 early-bird application for Australian workcamps (at least 6 weeks prior to start of camp)
$200 for each additional workcamp application processed concurrently
In order to receive a concession rate you must send a copy of your concession card.
In the event of genuine hardship, there is one scholarship available to subsidise an Australian workcamp application. Ask about it by emailing
Volunteers who have contributed to IVP for at least 3 months or 40 hours are eligible for a special rate of $120 per workcamp.
Workcamp leaders on Australian workcamps who have completed a Leader Training Course with IVP or SCI will be exempt from paying the Application Fee.
IVP is run predominantly by volunteers and relies on contributions from members to keep the organisation running. Your Application Fees go towards administration of exchanges, communication charges, managing the information database, volunteer insurance, and developing and organising Australian workcamps.

An EXTRA PARTICIPATION FEE often applies to workcamps in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and Latin America. See information on previous page under Special Conditions.

You may pay you application by cheque or postal order (payable to IVP) or by electronic transfer (EFT).
If you choose to pay by EFT, the details are:

Account Name: International Volunteers for Peace Inc
Bank: Bendigo Bank
BSB: 633000
Acct No: 156815888

Please use your surname as the reference code so that we can track your EFT. Please add any extra information that might be necessary for us to understand what your deposit is for. Eg, if you are a concession and wish to pay for a workcamp AND membership, please put this information in the reference field with your surname.

The following describes IVP’s processing time-line. Feel free to contact the IVP office if you have any queries regarding the application procedure or wish to know how your application is progressing. Please bear in mind that the IVP office is staffed entirely by volunteers.
• Once your complete application form is received (including signature, any extra documents and applicable fees) you will be sent a receipt and an email of acknowledgment.
• We will then begin processing your first choice by sending your application to the appropriate partner organisation.
• They should reply within two weeks of receiving the application. If you are not accepted on your first choice, your application will be immediately forwarded to your second choice, followed by your third choice if necessary.
• You should receive notice of which camp you have been placed in within three weeks.
• With your acceptance will be a confirmation form, which needs to be completed and returned as soon as possible. Please note that your place is not secure until this confirmation form has been received.
• When you have confirmed your participation, you will receive the workcamp information sheet which will contain more details on what to bring, travel directions and meeting place.

IVP is a small, not-for-profit organisation. It cannot accept any liability for inconvenience caused or costs incurred, other than the application fee, in the event of cancellation, either by you or of the workcamp itself. (Please see the section on Insurance).

The following Cancellation and Refund Policy applies to all workcamp applications. Please note that these are the policies for 2008, but could change in subsequent years.

Workcamp preferences unavailable:
If IVP cannot place you on any of your workcamp preferences, you are entitled to a full refund of your application fee, minus an administration fee of $15.

If the volunteer cancels after being accepted into a work camp:
• giving notice more than 4 weeks before the workcamp start date – 50% of the Application Fee will be refunded
• giving notice less than 4 weeks before the workcamp start date – no refund of Application Fee

Situations will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis, if extraordinary circumstances can be established.
Workcamp cancellation:
In very few instances, workcamps may be cancelled after volunteers have been accepted. If this does happen, we will make every effort to find a suitable alternative workcamp for you. However, if the workcamp is cancelled close to its scheduled commencement, we may not be able to offer you another camp. If we cannot offer you another camp, we will fully refund your Application Fee minus an adminstration fee of $15.

Conflict on a workcamp

If the situation in a workcamp develops into conflict, the next chapter on conflict resolution skills will be helpful. Conflict could range from dealing with someone who refuses to take any domestic chores to sexual or racial harassment. The way conflicts develop in a camp and how they are dealt with and resolved depends on the motivation of the camp participants and the conduct of the camp leader.

The basis for the conflict solutions is to treat the views and feelings of the camp community with equal respect. During the programme the relationships between people concerned are generally at least as important as the issues at stake. That is why volunteers should always try to find a positive “win -win” solution, which is the basis of the non-violent approach to conflict resolution: without drawing lines and creating a “them and us” situation. Of course they should never resort to force, either in the sense of physical violence, verbal intimidation or any other kind of coercion.

In order to achieve a constructive solution to a work camp conflict, the following items need to be clarified:
– The issues at stake
– The “wants” of those involved
– The feelings which have arisen as a reult of the conflict

Often, conflicts can be heightened or even caused by differing perceptions as to what the issue is and by a lack of awareness of people’s feelings. Once these are acknowledged and expressed, then people, if willing to, are able to see more clearly the root of their problem. Cases of personal dislike, antipathy or cultural misunderstanding should be treated in a way that they do not affect the main common interests of other volunteers.

Some common sources of conflicts:
– Difference of opinions on work & leisure
– Leadership style (too much or not enough co-ordination)
– Work (too much or not enough)
–  Misunderstandings and rumours
– Lack of flexibility and adaptability
– Group interactions and outsiders
– Conflicts between the sexes
– Language problems

Some Solutions:
– Proper planning of the work camp
- Training for volunteers & camp leaders
- Orientation at the beginning of the camp
- Open discussions, meetings, mid-evaluations
- Individual responsibility, clearly defined goals
- Games and role plays
- Information about the local culture
- Motivating volunteers
- Constructive thinking
- Affirmation & positive approach
- Co-operation and understanding

Conflict Resolution Skills

Conflict is the Stuff of Life

This section will introduce you to some of the basic concepts of non-violent conflict resolution. Being aware of these possibilities will help you play your part in making your workcamp experience a path to peace.

Have you ever had a conflict and wished you could have handled it better?

We all have differences – in needs, values and motivations. Sometimes these differences will complement each other, but sometimes they will conflict. Conflict is not a problem in itself – it is what we do with it that counts. Taking positive action to resolve a conflict is important, because whether we like it or not, conflicts will demand our attention. In fact, an unresolved conflict can call on tremendous amounts of our attention. We all know how exhausting an ongoing conflict can be. It is not always easy to fix the problem but a great energy boost can come when we do. Being able to resolve conflict is not dependent on being a ‘nice’ person, rather it is a skill we can develop.

What are Conflict Resolution Skills?

Conflict resolution skills allow us to find ways of bypassing difficult personal differences so we can open up new possibilities of relating to others. Rather than polarising people, using the skills of conflict resolution can draw people closer together as they attempt to balance needs and search for fair solutions. This can create a beneficial shift in the way we interact – instead of seeing each other as adversaries, we can become co-operative partners.

Often we are quite unaware of the way we argue. We may most often use knee-jerk reactions to operates within difficult situations. When challenged, we experience separateness, disconnectedness from those around us – a feeling of “you versus me” – a sense that there isn’t enough for both of us and that if one person is right, then the other person must be wrong. Often we haven’t taken even a moment to consider what is the best approach in the circumstances. One of the first steps to reacting more positively to conflict is to understand that there are often many different levels to such situations.

In the following sections we will discuss the components of conflict, responses to conflict and some methods of conflict resolution.

Four Main Components of a Conflict

Often it is hard to tell what a conflict is ‘really’ about, assuming that it is only related to the most obvious point of difference might obscure a deeper problem – so one of the first things to think about in any conflict is the possibility that it is made up of different components such as;

1. TEXT – Operates at the conscious level. This is the explicit aspect of the conflict, what is being spoken, or argued about. Example: “we want to kick Luis out of the program”.
2. SUBTEXT – Operates mostly at the conscious level, sometimes at the un-conscious level. The subtext is often not spoken about, or is part of a hidden agenda. Example: ” I’m tired of being ignored and I’m going to show that I have a part in decision-making too”.
3. DEEP TEXT – Operates at the un-conscious level. It is also unspoken, but the difference is that the actor is not conscious about it. Eg: Achievement of basic needs: power, security, food, love.
4. SUPER TEXT – Operates at the social level and includes propaganda, political ideologies, cultural ideas of what is acceptable or unacceptable. These are the behaviours or beliefs that you must hold in order to fit into a particular culture or society. Example: Liberal democracy is the most moral method of government.

Styles of response towards conflict

While a conflict may operate on a variety of levels, we can also respond to conflict in many different ways. These styles often vary along two different scales – from assertive to passive, and non-collaborative to highly collaborative. This leads us to four main styles of responding to conflict:

1. Competitive (assertive, non-collaborative)

This style often involves “fighting it out” and will focus on achieving the result the actor wants for themselves. There is little or no concern for the relationship with the other person. Responses might include; physical/psychological attacks, criticism, put-downs, arguing, threatening, or making black and white claims such as; I’m right-you’re wrong, I’m good-you’re bad.

2. Avoidance (non-assertive, non-collaborative)

Avoiding the conflict suggests that neither the results nor the relationship are sufficiently important to work on. Responses might include; walking out, ignoring the other person, distracting them, joking or changing the subject.

3. Adjustable (non-assertive, collaborative)

Often this style will result in one party surrendering to the demands of the other. In this case the participant may believe that the relationship with the other person is more important that the particular issue at hand. Responses might include; agreeing, apologizing or giving in.

4. Collaborative – (assertive, collaborative)

The collaborative style is often the most positive method of resolving conflicts as it attempts to solve the issue, but also seeks to keep the relationship intact. The aim is to find a satisfactory resolution for both sides.

Four methods for conflict resolution

So while we may agree that the collaborative method appears to be the most positive, finding a satisfactory resolution is often easier said than done. This is where the skill aspect of conflict resolution comes into play. In what follows, we will discuss four examples of different methods you might employ to achieve a positive result for all involved. These are not the only possible methods, but may provide you with a good place to start.

1. Win-Win

As long as people battle over opposing solutions – “No, that’s no good! Do it my way!” – the conflict remains little more than a power struggle. What we can do in this situation is change the agenda to one which attempts to find the best solution for both parties. This, of course, is the win-win strategy – where you are interested in both parties obtaining a positive result. The problem is how to achieve this result.

One good tactic is to go back to needs.

Strategies for clarifying each party’s underlying needs include asking questions such as; “Why does that seem to be the best solution to you?”, “What values are important to you here?”, “What’s the outcome or result you want?”.
The answers to these questions can significantly alter the course of the discussion. They give both parties the materials they need to start problem solving in a co-operative manner. It also ensures that you both get to express what it is you need from the situation.

Addressing each person’s underlying needs is important because it means you build solutions that acknowledge and value those needs, rather than denying them. This will help both parties to feel that they have been respected and they may also feel as if they now understand the other better. The Win/Win Approach is certainly ethical, but the reason for its great success is that IT WORKS. When both people win, both are tied to the solution. They feel committed to the plan because it actually suits them.

It’s a successful strategy. Usually, co-operation can result in both people getting more of what they want. The Win/Win Approach is Conflict Resolution for mutual gain.

2. Creative Response

The Creative response to conflict is about turning problems into possibilities. It is about consciously choosing to see what can be done, how things can move forward, rather than staying stuck in recriminations or blame games. Responding to conflict creatively affirms that you will choose to extract the best from the situation.

The creative approach focuses on being more aware of the way our attitudes colour our thoughts. Usually we are quite unaware of how our attitudes shape the way we see the world. Two dramatically contrasting attitudes in life are “Perfection” versus “Discovery”. Let’s call them attitude “hats”. What “hat” do you get dressed in each day? The Perfection hat says: “Is this good enough or not?” (Usually not!) “Does this meet my impeccably high standards?”. While the Discovery hat will say: “How fascinating! What are the possibilities here?”

Being overly concerned with perfection can lead to seeing life as a permanent struggle where mistakes are unacceptable. It is easy to become judgmental, because it may often seem that there is only one way to do things – the ‘right’ way. This can be difficult for others around you, but can also mean you place undue pressure on yourself. The search for perfection means there can only ever be either winners or losers.

Approaching the world with an interest in discoveries rather than perfection can mean that you are more enthusiastic about exploring new possibilities. It is easier to take risks and look at things from a variety of angles because you are not interested in being right but rather learning something new. Focusing on discovery means that there are no absolute losses, instead there are winners and learners.

If there are no failures, only learning, your self-esteem and that of those around you can get a big boost. It also means that you can approach conflicts with the attitude – another challenge – how fascinating. This means that you can begin to ask questions about what can be done differently, how else could this be approached, what other solutions will meet these underlying needs. In order to do this you have to be able to occasionally make mistakes. But life doesn’t have to be about winning and losing – it can be about learning.

With this attitude conflict becomes welcomed as an interesting opportunity.

3. Empathy

Empathy is about rapport and openness between people. When it is absent, people are less likely to consider your needs and feelings.
The best way to build empathy is to help the other person feel that they are understood. That means being an active listener.

Listening strategies for different situations


This listening strategy focuses on getting a clear picture – it is often called active listening. The speaker aims to get across what is wanted so there is no confusion, while the listener focuses on gathering information and confirming that they have understood correctly. The listener will try to find out about needs, instructions, background information, but will also ask for clarification about issues the speaker has forgotten to mention. The listener should focus entirely on the other person and try to ignore their own objections, disagreements or anger. You are trying to get a clearer picture of what the other person thinks, not what you think they think.


This listening strategy develops empathy within conflict situations, focuses on affirming, acknowledging and exploring the problem. The aim of the speaker is to talk about the problem at hand, while the aim of the listener is to acknowledge the speaker’s feelings and to help them hear what they are saying. Here you are recognising that the other person would be helped by you taking time to hear their problem.


A third listening strategy involves responding to a complaint or attack on you. In this case, the aim of the speaker will be to tell you that you are the problem. However your aim will be to let the speaker know you’ve taken in what they are saying and to defuse the strong emotion. Here you are choosing the most useful response when someone is telling you they are unhappy with you, criticising you, complaining about you, or just simply yelling.

Four steps make up this strategy;
– Don’t defend yourself or start justifying
Instead you can acknowledge that the situation has got out of hand and you may need to change your approach.
– Deal first with the speaker’s emotions
People shout because they don’t think they are being heard. Make sure they know they are – that you are hearing how angry or upset they are.
– Acknowledge their side
This does not mean you agree with them, only that you are registering their viewpoint e.g. “I can see, if you think that was my attitude, why you are so angry”, “I can see why the problem makes you so upset”.
– Draw them out further
Once the heat is out of the conversation, you might say how it is for you without denying how it is for them. Ask what could be done now to make it OK again. If they heat up again, go back to Active Listening. Move towards options for change or solution. Ask what they want now.

4. Appropriate Assertiveness

The fourth method of conflict resolution involves learning when to use “I” Statements. The essence of Appropriate Assertiveness is being able to state your case without arousing the defences of the other person. The secret of success lies in sharing your opinion rather than forcing your ideas of what people should or shouldn’t do. Attaching the phrase – “the way I see it…” – to your assertive statements can help.
A skilled “I” statement goes even further.
When you want to state your point of view helpfully, the “I” statement formula can be useful. An “I” statement says how it is on my side, how I see it. You could waste inordinate quantities of brainpower debating how the other person will or won’t respond. Don’t! You do need to be sure that you haven’t used inflaming language, which would be highly likely to cause a negative response i.e. it should be “clean”. Because you don’t know beforehand whether the other person will do what you want or not, the cleanest “I” statements are delivered not to force the other person to fix things, but to state what you need.

Use an “I” statement when you need to let the other person know you are feeling strongly about the issue. Others often underestimate how hurt or angry or put out you are, so it’s useful to say exactly what’s going on for you- making the situation appear neither better nor worse i.e. your “I” statement should be “clear”.

The next time someone shouts at you and you don’t like it, resist the temptation to withdraw rapidly (maybe slamming the door on the way out). Resist the temptation to shout back to stop the onslaught, and deal with your own rising anger.

This is the time for Appropriate Assertiveness. Take a deep breath. Stay centred, feet firmly planted on the ground, and make an “I” statement, with the following three ingredients:
1. When… [I hear a voice raised at me]
2. I feel… [humiliated]
3. And what I’d like is that … [I can debate an issue with you without ending up feeling hurt.]
The best “I” statement is free of expectations. It is delivering a clean, clear statement of how it is from your side and how you would like it to be.

Democratic Decision Making Skills

Your conflict resolution skills will come in handy for another important aspect of commitment to the group process – making decisions as part of the group. This is because IVP workcamps are often run with the aim of using consensus decision making as often as possible. Unlike other democratic methods, such as majority voting, reaching consensus can be a much more involved process, but will give you the chance to learn more about your fellow volunteers. It will also give you practice at the hard work of finding a solution which fits the needs of everyone.

Consensus Decision Making

In consensus decision making there is an attempt to develop a course of action that can be accepted by all members of a group. While not everyone may feel that it is the best personal outcome, all group members should still feel that it is a decision that they can accept. So if a minority disagree with a certain decision the group must listen to their objections and find a solution that will answer these objections. Even so, complete agreement is usually not the goal, rather consensus decision making tries to ensure that all relevant parties have the chance to share their opinion, and that this opinion is taken into account throughout the decision making process.

Because consensus decision-making is a process which seeks to take everyone’s perspective into account, it is often more time consuming than going straight to a vote, or simply asking the workcamp leader to decide for you. In fact, it can often be surprising how long it will take for your group to reach a decision, especially if the members have very little experience of this type of decision-making. While this can be frustrating, it can also be a very interesting experience and will allow you to learn a great deal about the difficult work of building democratic communities, which respect the needs of all their members.

Below are some points to remember when trying to reach a consensus:

Firstly, remember to use active listening. That is, when listening to others – listen for what they are trying to say, rather than what you think they are saying and avoid focusing on how they disagree with you. Make sure the person you are listening to feels that you are actively trying to understand their point of view. This is particularly important in an international group – where everyone will have different language abilities. Watch out for those who may be too shy to speak up, or may not even understand what is going on.

Next – when you are speaking – try to use clean ‘I’ statements, which state your position clearly, but do not make claims about what other people should or shouldn’t do. Also remember to speak slowly and clearly so that everyone will be able to understand what you are saying.

We should also try to be aware if some members of the group are using avoidance to dissolve a disagreement. Be cautious about decisions that are reached too quickly, some might be ignoring the problem or may not really understand what is going on. This means that we shouldn’t accept silence as agreement. Check the reasons why people agree to a certain solution.

When trying to find ways of resolving differences within the group try to avoid using a competitive approach. Instead of assuming there must be a winner and a loser, try to find ways in which you can reach a decision collaboratively. This can involve looking for a win-win situation, or thinking creatively about the situation itself. Maybe there are entirely new possibilities that no one has thought of yet.

While it may be tempting to try to reach a decision more quickly by using a majority vote, averaging, coin toss or bargaining – try to avoid shutting down the process in this way. Put on your ‘discovery hat’ and remember that the more disagreement there is, the more we each have to learn about other people’s perspectives, preferences and ways of dealing with the world.