Designing communities in peace: Participatory action-research approaches embedded in regional education in Colombia

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Gaitania is a rural town located in the Andes mountain range, very close to where the Colombian armed conflict with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrillas began in the mid-1960s. In this context, a situated research and education project was conducted with state, civil and community organisations, including the Agency for the Reincorporation and Normalization of the Colombian Government, coffee producer associations in the south of Tolima, the Nasa Wes’x indigenous community and 150 excombatants, as well as teachers and students from the Design Program of the University of Ibagué, Colombia. The purpose of this article is to demonstrate how creative (design) work can be organically transformed from the instrumental to the creative, favouring autonomous ways
of learning.
This project established collective reflection–action processes that worked in conjunction with four critical learning objectives, as specified by the Bachelor Design Program. Workshops were conducted for the co-creation of a collective brand of coffee that brought together victims and victimisers in a joint process of reconciliation and memory sharing. Through generation of a special coffee brand called The Third Agreement – which is now being commercialised – memory of the territory’s autonomous peace processes and the community’s self-validation
efforts were recovered and developed. Critical skills were also developed in students and communities so that they could understand the implications of producing a design that would capture the market, while also recognising the importance of building transition paths for participants, especially in the contexts of war and peace. The students’ reflections led to the construction of new praxis distinctions, such as plandisposición (planning-disposition), escuchacción (active-action-listening), honest-synthesis and sentipensar-actuar (feeling-thinkingacting), which indicate critical awareness of how design can open possibilities for creating futures in which many worlds co-exist.
Translated title of the contributionDiseñar comunidades en paz: Enfoques participativos de investigación-acción anclados a una educación regional en Colombia
Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)1
Number of pages16
JournalGateways: International Journal of Community Research and Engagement
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2 Jun 2020


  • Action research
  • Design
  • rehumanisation
  • education
  • coffee
  • peace agreement

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