LEAP Confronting Conflict
Leap Confronting Conflict began in 1987, originated by British Quaker Alec Davison, as a Leaveners initiative. The Leaveners work through music and drama to explore social injustices, and conflict, seeking to bring Quaker values to bear. LEAP ‘s early work was with young unemployed adults, using drama to bring out the conflicts in their lives, and to help them ‘leap’ into change. Theatre projects enabled them to take a serious look at these conflicts, and develop ways of dealing with them more constructively than before. Participants built self-esteem, and were empowered.
The project soon attracted wider attention, and in 1992 it secured funding from the Department of Education and Employment, as the conflict resolution centre for the British Youth Service. The work diversified beyond working directly with young people to training others to work with them, and to undertaking research and dissemination activities. LEAP began working in schools, with young offenders, and with young homeless people.
From this early work a set of key ideas began to emerge, culminating in the 1995 publication of the book ‘Playing with Fire: creative conflict resolution for young adults’, by Fiona Macbeth and Nic Fine.
The work grew and grew, and in 1999 LEAP became an independent charitable organisation, though still with much Quaker involvement. It now focuses on young people in the 11 - 25 age range in all manner of conflict situations.
In 2000 it began working with gangs, and training young people as peer mediators. It runs weekend training courses with titles like ‘Quarrel Shop’ and ‘Leadership”, aiming to empower participants with mediation skills through a mix of drama and other creative activities, discussions and experience sharing. In 2006 it published a manual, ‘Working with gangs and young people’.
Young mediators work in many different conflict contexts, not only gangs. They learn skills of defusing conflicts as they get started, which LEAP calls ‘on the spot’ mediation, and they learn skills to do with resolving long-standing conflicts. They also learn about keeping safe themselves. In 2006, LEAP launched PeerLink, which links young mediators together. There is a website, and there are PeerLink events. The site contains short descriptions of the experiences of individual mediators, and short YouTube films that reconstruct particular conflict events and any resolution methods used.
All are welcome to become involved in peer mediation, and at present about 1500 young people are participating. In addition to welcoming individuals, LEAP sometimes targets specific groups, such as young offenders, or communities/schools experiencing particular difficulties. The scope of its work has now extended beyond London with two further centres in Leeds and Glasgow. There is now a cadre of more than 40 professional trainers.
In Leeds, LEAP has formed a partnership with Leeds Metropolitan University, and established the Leap Academy of Youth and Conflict. This will enable validated qualifications to be offered to trainers and others, and will facilitate research and evaluation.