What We Do
The Green String Network (GSN) is a not-for-profit organization that brings together professionals and experts in the field of peacebuilding, trauma-informed healing and sustainable economic development. We are a network of likeminded individuals and organizations who work on conflict transformation, countering violent extremism and social healing. Our initiatives are driven by local partners who we support with technical expertise. At GSN, we believe that there is a direct link between levels of trauma in vulnerable communities and the challenges faced with justice, reconciliation, security and overall social wellbeing. Over the past years, we have seen applications of trauma healing practices positively affect communities in some of the most fragile areas of this world. Violence begins with a thought, yet few interventions focus on the mental wellbeing of at-risk communities. GSN concentrates on trauma as a root cause of instability and we use trauma-informed approaches for peacebuilding and conflict transformation work.
Green String Network offers a variety of interventions, programs and services. They include:
I. Trauma-Informed Resilience (TIR) Framework
II. Community Social Healing and Cohesion Building Interventions
III. Trauma-Informed Initiative for Security Actors (TIISA)
IV. Trauma-Informed Evaluation and Learning
I. trauma-informed resilience (TIR) framework
“When entire generations and nations have lived in protracted violence and existed in survival mode for decades, the cracks in society are entrenched (tribalism, corruption, revenge attacks, war and displacement, the colonial past, sexual violence, discrimination, lack of hope and opportunity for youth, injustice, historic grievances, the war on terror, etc.).
These cracks are reflected in daily life, and not only affect individuals, but also the systems and structures that are meant to support recovery.
A trauma-informed framework is necessary for addressing the ways trauma influences the different aspects of life and society. Such approaches strengthen both individual and community resilience. By supporting trauma-informed approaches, the intractable becomes possible through tapping into the knowledge, skills and values of local communities.”
TIR Manual, Green String Network. Nairobi, April 2017
The Trauma-Informed Resilience (TIR) framework merges peace building and conflict transformation programming with psycho-social and mental health concepts. It supports community facilitators, leaders and organisations working in violence-prone environments to examine how interventions and programmes are affected by violence and instability through the effects of compounded stress and/or trauma. While Western approaches are usually based on professional expertise as a resource, something often lacking in conflict and violence-prone zones, the TIR model is based on relationships as a resource and builds on existing local community resilience factors.
The TIR framework involves working with practitioners who are already providing some sort of service and support in the community, such as teachers, nurses, doctors, religious leaders, women and youth leaders, NGO staff, elders and traditional leaders. The TIR framework gives them additional support and materials as well as sets up a debriefing and supervision network that makes sure that they are also caring for themselves in their very difficult and complex environments.
The TIR Framework continues to strengthen its use of images and storytelling methodology to simplify the scientific content materials for community participants. In addition, the TIR Framework is now further distinguished in three ways:
incorporation of dialogue as an essential foundation of social healing and reconciliation;
intentionality of group facilitation in delivering learning modules and cultivate ground dialogues; and
development of specific context-based applications of trauma-informed capacity building for community facilitation, leadership and organizations.
Thus, people without a formal education but with rich life experiences move deeply in their understanding of how violence, the impact of traumatic events, and compounded stress affect decision making, community wellness, governance, and social healing. The TIR framework supports people to enter deep conversations about grievances, injustices and their current or perceived inabilities to change the future of their lives, and their social interactions within and beyond their communities. The framework focuses on relationships and builds on existing community strengths. Research shows that this is a more cost-effective and a more impactful way of dealing with complex issues in a sustainable and long-term way in under-resourced areas. This is even more so the case in societies that are communal and relationship orientated.
The TIR framework is designed to give community practitioners a strong platform for developing and providing trauma-informed systems of support. Trauma-informed refers to ways in which leaders, programmes and organisations infuse the impact of violence, trauma awareness, knowledge, and skills into their organisational and programme cultures, practices, and policies.
They work in collaboration with all those who are involved with the overall wellness of the community; they use the best available science to facilitate and support the recovery and resiliency of the society, community, the family unit and the individual. The types of support practitioners may offer vary widely, depending on the setting and community needs. There is no one best approach for this type of personal and/or social healing.
However, practitioners understand and take into account the biological, psychological and social effects that violence, stress, and traumatic events have on human beings. Once practitioners have a common foundation for what they do, and clearly understand why they are doing what they are doing, they can easily design and develop more innovative and resilient interventions that best fit the needs of the target communities.
The TIR framework seeks to:
Support leadership development for practitioners by giving them key training in the basic principles of trauma awareness, stress and healing, thus increasing their level of resilience and reducing the impact of trauma and compounded stress in the work they do;
Assess organisations, programmes, projects, and interventions on the level of trauma-informed approaches in design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation;
Through this foundation, decrease domestic and community violence, and increase communities’ capacities to engage in meaningful dialogue, peace building and development activities. The TIR framework is multi-disciplinary with a foundation in peace building and conflict transformation, social work, psychology, counselling, mindfulness and mediation, and African traditional healing practices and methods.
Target users of the TIR framework include community practitioners and others implementing the “Kumekucha – It’s a new dawn” community healing programme as well as organisations and projects that would like to begin to assess the level of trauma- informed approaches in their programmes, projects or interventions during the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation phases of their projects.
New thinking is emerging around violence. Recent data shows that long-term violence creates invisible wounds that are far more damaging than the physical injuries.
Nearly 75% of the population is demoralised and/or physically and mentally exhausted; 50% are clinically depressed or suffer from post-traumatic disorder; and 25% are mentally incapacitated.
While many of the initial studies are from war zones and countries in long-term conflict, the same outcomes are often found in communities that experience violence from organised crime and violent extremism.
Further reinforcing these findings are several new studies that suggest that sustained poverty in an environment of pervasive violence has a neurological impact on brain development. For instance, a credible study found “kids who grow up with violence as a backdrop in their lives (…) have weaker neurological connections and less interaction in parts of the brain involved in awareness, judgment, ethical and emotional processing.” These disturbing findings imply that a large segment of the population, including leaders who have lived through sustained violence, will naturally default to revenge, anger, separation, deceit, power manipulation and more violence to achieve ends. This trend is passed down from generation to generation and creates an endless cycle of violence.
If social healing, through a trauma-inform lens and transformation are not recognized as fundamental to peace-building and reconciliation - and if the tools to make a cognitive shift are not adopted widely - it will be difficult to break the cycle.
A. Trauma-Informed Resilience (TIR) Leadership training
Peace-building, human rights, civil society, and development leaders who work in conflict-prone communities and environments are confronted by violence every day. The prevalence of traumatic stress in the lives of individuals and communities impacted by human rights abuses, violent extremism, gangs, and gender based violence is extraordinarily high. Often these individuals and families have experienced on-going trauma throughout their lives in the form of childhood abuse and neglect, domestic violence, community violence, human rights abuses and the trauma associated with poverty and the loss of home, safety and sense of security. These experiences have a significant impact on how leaders think, feel, behave, relate to others, and cope with future experiences. Leaders. have learned to adapt to these traumatic circumstances in order to survive, but their ways of coping may seem confusing and out-of- place in their current circumstances.
Often, leaders become negatively affected by trauma that they have not even directly experienced themselves. When we are involved in supporting others who have experienced trauma, there can be a build-up of stress over time which can cause changes to our psychological, physical, and spiritual well-being. A key component of vicarious/secondary trauma are changes in our belief system, which can significantly affect the way we see the world and our deepest sense of meaning and hope. Anyone who works with or supports people who have been traumatised is at risk for developing vicarious or secondary trauma.
GSN periodically offers a five-day TIR for Leaders training in both Nairobi and Mombasa.
Proposed Agenda for the 5-Day Workshop
The TIR Framework is comprised of 7 Key Elements as they relate to violence, compounded stress, and the effects of trauma.
Day 1: TIR Cross-Cutting Element: Stress and Trauma Awareness
Day 2: TIR Cross-Cutting Elements Stress and Trauma Awareness continued and Awareness and Practice
Day 3: TIR Elements of Security and Relationships
Day 4: TIR Elements of Identity and Resilience
Day 5: TIR Leadership
B. Trauma-Informed Resilience (TIR) Organizational training and support
GSN’s Ustawi (Thrive) program provides Trauma-Informed Resiliency (TIR) support for civil society organizations supporting human rights, peacebuilding, combating violent extremism (CVE), gender based violence (GBV) issues. Becoming a trauma-informed organizations means making a commitment to changing the practices, policies, and culture of an entire organization. This type of change requires staff at all levels and in all roles modify what they do based on an understanding of the impact of violence and the resulting trauma experienced by both beneficiaries and program staff. One training will not result in an agency becoming trauma-informed. The process takes time and requires an organization understand the stages of change and how to identify its own strengths and challenges. This process varies from organization to organization and requires both adaptive and technical solutions.
If you are interested in this type of organizational development support, please contact us and we will co-develop with you a program tailor made for your organization.
II. Community Social Healing and Cohesion Building Interventions
GSN has developed a community-based large scale approach and methodology for promoting the long process of community healing and social reconciliation within diverse cultural landscapes. Integral to the process are community-wide small group dialogues that are organised by local leaders and led by trained community facilitators.
The dialogue groups meet regularly for a sustained period of time to engage community members in developing stress and trauma awareness, in understanding cycles of violence, and in building capacity for healthier individuals and communities. To support the overall programme and the facilitators, Green String Network has developed a facilitator handbook called “I refuse to be a Victim. I am a Resource for Peace” that uses local images and paintings as a basis for storytelling and dialogue. The facilitator handbook supports a 12-week educational curriculum that includes both an explanation of the foundational principles and learning methods guiding the programme as well as detailed modules that facilitators use in their work with community participants.
A. Kenya: Kumekucha - It’s a New Dawn
Kumekucha: It’s a New Dawn is the Kiswahili translation for “it’s a new dawn”. In coastal slang, it also means “something is going down”. The name was selected in order to symbolize a self-awakening, harnessing the idea of a new, energized beginning for Kenya regardless of our past.
Currently the project is partnering with the County Government of Mombasa targeting Likoni and Kasauni sub-locations; as well as piloting the project in Majengo, Nairobi.
B. Somalia: Quraca Nabadda
The Quraca Nabadda (QN) program in Somalia was designed by two local GSN partners, Somali Youth Development Network (SOYDEN) and Wajir Peace University Trust, to address social healing and wellness. Since its inception, the federal government of Somalia has agreed to have QN implemented as a part of the Wadajir national framework.
Breaking persistent and existing cycles of violence requires constructive dialogue about the past and envisioning a shared future. QN focuses on the cognitive and affective shifts that need to occur for leaders and communities to come together at the peace table and to recognise the experiences and humanity of the ‘other’ clans. QN fosters such learning spaces, conducted in safe settings and held at national and community levels. These dialogues enable people to come to terms with their experiences, and to move forward in a way that will allow communities to live harmoniously.
C. Ethiopia: Yegarachin
Yegarachin is a social healing programme designed to promote the long process of community healing and social reconciliation within Ethiopia’s diverse cultural landscape.
Integral to Yegarachin are community-wide small group dialogues that are organised by local leaders and led by trained community facilitators. Yegarachin (‘የጋራችን’) ‘in Ahmaric means “It’s Ours”.
The name was selected to symbolise a diverse, inclusive Ethiopia. In other words, Ethiopia belongs to all of us and all of us belong to Ethiopia.
III. Trauma-Informed initiative for Security Actors (tiisa)
Green String Network is in the process of developing a partnership with National Police Service (NPS) with a view to complementing existing psychological counseling programs for police officers. Drawing from a Human Security understanding, and using a Trauma-Informed and Resilience lens, the proposed program will seek to support training of select officers from NPS’ Training and Reform division, development of relevant curriculum material to be from the police station level, and technical advice during the initial 12-month implementation period.
Trauma-Informed Initiative for Security Actors focuses on “dealing with the past” by providing police officers with tools for re-examination of traumatic events and supports the development of trauma-informed skills to enhance mental wellbeing and resiliency. Police officers who are exposed to traumatic events as part of their occupation and whose repeated exposure to traumatic on-the-job experiences may lead to psychological problems such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Police officers are also exposed to stress inherent in their jobs which is considered customary, but which exceeds stress inherent in most other professions. For example, police respond to every suicide, every murder, and every fatal car accident. Arguably, they are routinely exposed to more death and trauma than troops of war. Their lives are often endangered. The effects of trauma are often ignored, resulting in high levels of suicide, divorce, and addictions. Often underappreciated, these men and women help make our communities safer and more secure every day. Unfortunately, police officers work under constant stress and pressure. Many police officers suffer from the effects of trauma and PTSD. However, healing from trauma is more difficult for law enforcement as officers are often reluctant or not allowed to share their experiences. 1
On the other hand, corruption by the police who are there “to protect and serve” the greater good, causes people (especially the young) to become angry. These feelings of anger and resentment also stem from discrimination and from being cheated, humiliated, or harassed by the police and the legal system, with no avenues for appeal. “Early experiences of violence – being roughed up by state security forces, for example – are associated with pushing young people into violent groups.”2 Youth “express a particular anger and frustration from the way they are mistreated by authorities especially the police for whom they reserve some of the harshest criticism and disaffection.”3 The communities being served have had extremely high exposure to violence and traumatic events and their current existence is stressful and precarious. Research suggests a link between traumatic experiences and criminal behavior.4
Traumatized individuals’ negative encounters with the justice system could further exacerbate the phenomenon. Police officers need to be equipped with self-healing and the ability to recognized trauma in the communities they serve. The police need to understand trauma and the various manifestations of trauma in the community in order to better serve them. The trauma-informed. program prepares the police for these difficult tasks.
Lt. Col. David Grossman http://www.killology.com/print/print_psychological.htm
Youth & Consequences: Unemployment, Injustice and Violence | MERCY CORPS. 2016.
Adapted from Khalil, Radical Beliefs
Eur J “Offending Behavior: the role of trauma and PTSD.” Psychotraumatol. 2012; Published online 2012 Jul 20. doi: 10.3402/ejpt.v3i0.18968
IV. Trauma-Informed Evaluation and Learning
1. Consultancy Services
Trauma Informed Programming
Organizational training and support
TIR - Trauma-Informed Resilience (TIR) framework
2. Monitoring & Evaluation
Design & Development of Base Line and Impact Surveys, Focus group
Call Centre Services