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Pensamiento palabra y obra

Print version ISSN 2011-804X

Pensam. palabra obra  no.22 Bogotá July/Dec. 2019  Epub Mar 26, 2020



Preparative, Enactive, and Intertwined Theories of Change: Cultural Practitioners Influencing Conflict in Ecuador

Teorías de cambio preparatorias, promotoras y entrelazadas: practicantes culturales que influyen en el conflicto en Ecuador

Teorias de mudança preparatórias, ativas e entrelaçadas: praticantes culturais que influenciam conflitos no Equador

Sarah Ullom-Minnich* 

* ORCID: 0000-0002-3644-248X. BA in Conflict Dynamics and Transformation of Juniata College, Huntingdon, PA, USA. Correo electrónico:


The use of arts-based work as a form of conflict intervention is still an emerging field, and scholarship often focuses more on the theory of this work than the application. This research article seeks to contribute to the bridge between theory and practice, by presenting the findings from a study of narrative interviews conducted in June and July of 2017 with cultural workers in Ecuador who were members of the Cultura Viva Comunitaria movement. The goal of the study was to explore practitioner's theories of change of how arts-based cultural work influenced conflict. Through an analysis of the many theories identified, three notable categories emerged. Some practitioners described preparative impacts, impacts that came about because of the process of preparation of a work of art or cultural project. Others described enactive impacts, which were driven by the actual performance of the work. The final category was intertwined impacts, in which practitioners included both preparative and enactive elements to describe the impacts that were created. Different theories of change often corresponded to different contexts and purposes of practice.

Key words: conflict resolution; cultural diversity; cultural revitalization; art therapy


El uso del trabajo basado en las artes como una forma de intervención en conflictos sigue siendo un campo emergente, y la academia a menudo se centra más en la teoría de este trabajo que en la aplicación. Este artículo de investigación busca contribuir al puente entre la teoría y la práctica, presentando los resultados de un estudio de entrevistas narrativas realizadas en junio y julio de 2017 con trabajadores culturales en Ecuador que eran miembros del movimiento Cultura Viva Comunitaria. El objetivo del estudio era explorar las teorías de cambio de los profesionales sobre cómo el trabajo cultural basado en las artes influía en el conflicto. A través de un análisis de las variadas teorías identificadas, surgieron tres categorías notables. Algunos practicantes describieron los impactos preparativos, impactos que surgieron debido al proceso de preparación de una obra de arte o proyecto cultural. Otros describieron los efectos enactivos, que fueron impulsados por el desempeño real del trabajo. La categoría final fue los impactos entrelazados, en los cuales los profesionales incluyeron elementos preparatorios y enactivos para describir los impactos que se crearon. Diferentes teorías de cambio a menudo correspondían a diferentes contextos y propósitos de práctica.

Palabras-clave: resolución de conflictos; diversidad cultural; revitalización cultural; terapia de arte


O uso do trabalho artístico como forma de intervenção em conflito ainda é um campo emergente, e a bolsa de estudos geralmente se concentra mais na teoria desse trabalho do que na aplicação. Este artigo de pesquisa busca contribuir para a ponte entre teoria e prática, apresentando as conclusões de um estudo de entrevistas narrativas realizadas em junho e julho de 2017 com trabalhadores culturais no Equador, membros do movimento Cultura Viva Comunitária. O objetivo do estudo era explorar as teorias de mudança dos profissionais sobre como o trabalho cultural baseado em artes influenciou o conflito. Através de uma análise das muitas teorias identificadas, emergiram três categorias notáveis. Alguns praticantes descreveram impactos preparatórios, impactos que ocorreram devido ao processo de preparação de uma obra de arte ou projeto cultural. Outros descreveram impactos de enação, que foram impulsionados pelo desempenho real do trabalho. A categoria final foi de impactos entrelaçados, nos quais os profissionais incluíram elementos preparativos de enação para descrever os impactos criados. Diferentes teorias de mudança frequentemente correspondiam a diferentes contextos e propósitos da prática.

Palavras-Chave: resolução de conflito; diversidade cultural; revitalização cultural; arteterapia


While the first image that comes to mind when the word "conflict" is spoken is often one of direct physical violence on a personal or societal scale, many of the "conflicts" in the field of peace and conflict studies look very different. Burton (1986) suggested that conflicts may not always be over material goods or resources, but over more elusive concepts such as "commonly held or universal goals such as identity, recognition, a sense of control through effective participation, security and such basic needs that we know are a part of the human developmental process" (p. 99). Other scholars have highlighted how conflict can method for navigating human difference, which may be either constructive or destructive (Lebaron & Pillay 2006; Brigg,2008). Each of these scholars built on the ideas of Galtung (1969), who posited that violent conflict could be present without the subject-object relationship of one person physically harming another, but be built instead into the very structure of societies. This kind of violence was visible, for example, in massive structural inequalities between different societal or identity groups. Conflicts like this are often buried beneath the surface of society, but have deep historical roots and may seem impossible to fully resolve.

When conflicts of great significance such as these go unresolved for a long period of time, they become what Coleman (2000) terms "intractable conflicts." These are the conflicts that can remain below the surface in a society for many years, and persist in structural violence against persons or groups even in the absence of direct violence. Direct violence may surface from time to time, or the conflict may manifest only as structural violence. Building on this theory, Arai (2006) argues that certain types of events are more likely to become salient conflict phenomena, or indicators of intractable conflicts, including "intensive protracted violence; forced movements of people; mergers of different cultural groups; and introduction of new systems of thinking" (p. 99). Events like colonization, slavery, and the destruction of local environments or ways of life as a result of globalizing forces are all potential salient conflict phenomena that can develop into intractable conflicts (Coleman 2000; Arai 2006). This is particularly likely when there is an imbalance of power between differently affected groups (Coleman 2000).

The mechanisms by which these conflicts remain active have been investigated by many in the field. One measurable way may be through the statistical inequalities and outcomes of structural violence on oppressed groups, which may be perpetuated by institutions, governments, individuals, and/ or systems, as Galtung (1969) discussed. Another method of accessing and identifying these conflicts may be through collective narratives. Volkan (1998) uses a theory of chosen traumas to explain how traumatic events are often re-activated within collective narratives and storytelling to perpetuate conflict cycles and violence. He suggests that communities and groups have collective representations of conflicts, and that these may be used to perpetuate or to resist oppression by keeping the conflict alive in collective memory. In some cases, he acknowledges, these collective narrative representations of conflict might actually help to navigate difference productively.

Intractable conflicts, as the name suggests, are not easily resolved or addressed. Dilts (2012) describes contrasting views in the field regarding the nature of structural conflict; it is debatable whether structural conflict is allowed to continue on a wide scale in a supposedly peaceful society because it appears to be invisible and is therefore not easily seen or addressed, or whether the sheer scale and frequency of such violence are what make it invisible to a society at large, and particularly to privileged groups. In other words, did the normalcy of structural conflict make it invisible, or did its invisibility allow it to become normal? While the answer is unknown, the question itself suggest that both the scale and the banality of structural violence must be addressed in a successful intervention.

Many kinds of conflict intervention have struggled to overcome and re-imagine intractable conflicts. Arts-based methodologies of intervention, the focus of this paper, have been shown in various contexts to be powerful. Lederach (1995; 2003) found storytelling to be key to his process of conflict transformation, because of the way that conflict was activated within stories. The storytelling allowed the conflict to be brought forth, but also reimagined. Taylor (2006) expands this idea with the argument that performance can be a powerful way to navigate and re-imagine past narratives, and to keep alive infrastructures and epistemes. Graham and Penny (2014) have argued that performance and performativity are often "a powerful means of expressing, asserting, and also constituting Indigenous identity" (p. 8) in the face of state oppression. In this context, performance is actively used to resist structural violence and wage transformative conflict in the search for an end to structural violence, or as Galtung (1969) referred to it, positive peace. In theory, the capacity of the arts to impact conflict narratives and address structural violence is strong.

Having established this theoretical basis for arts-based interventions in conflict, what remains is the question of how arts-based interventions are applied to intractable conflicts in the field. To answer this, I conducted a study within the context of the Cultura Viva Comunitaria (Alive Communitarian Culture) movement in Ecuador, working with practitioners of arts-based cultural work who saw their practice influencing conflict. This site of investigation was appropriate for several reasons. Ecuador has been the site of many historically salient conflict phenomena, including globalization, colonization, environmental destruction, and the dislocation and oppression of indigenous nations, yet visible, direct conflict and violence is largely absent. This made it an appropriate context to explore whether and how salient conflict phenomena were being negotiated at a structural level as intractable conflicts. The Cultura Viva Comunitaria Movement is an ideal context for investigation of intervention because it actively focuses on achieving social transformation through grassroots organizing to promote cultural, artistic, and other human experiences as agents of change (Cultura Viva Comunitaria EC, 2015). While members of the movement are a diverse group, they share in common a desire for increased social justice and positive peace, and value human experiences such as arts and cultural work. All of these factors made Cultura Viva Comunitaria in Ecuador an appropriate context for an investigation of applied arts-based conflict interventions.


The study consisted of 15 narrative interviews with cultural practitioners, conducted with participants at the three regional conferences and one national conference of Cultura Viva Comunitaria in Ecuador during June and July of 2017. The "umbrella" term cultural practitioner encompassed a wide variety of professions including -but not limited to- teachers, government officials, practitioners of the fine arts, and grassroots activists.

Interviews were recorded and later transcribed. Practitioners who agreed or volunteered to be interviewed were given the option to include their name, with full attribution in any publication, or to participate anonymously. All involved chose to include their name.

The participants were demographically diverse in their area of practice and age. Significantly more men than women were interviewed, which in part reflects a gender disparity in attendance at Cultura Viva Comunitaria conferences, with more men attending than women. Men were also more likely to approach the author for interviews.

The interviews ranged from 7-45 minutes in length, and always consisted of the same six open-ended questions about the participant's perceptions of and experience with cultural work and conflict. A definition of conflict was not injected into the interviews, interviewees were encouraged to describe their own perceptions and understandings of conflict, and particularly of conflicts they saw their work interacting with. This open style of investigation was preferred as a way to avoid imposing academic definitions of conflict onto the lived experience of practitioners. It was also a conscious choice based on the theoretical underpinnings of Lederach (1995) and Arai (2006) to explore which conflict phenomena were most salient for practitioners, and how those conflicts played a role in their stories.

The coding process was inductive. I began by identifying every instance where a practitioner described how their work affected a conflict. I will refer to these instances here using the term theories of change, because they are the practitioners' theories of how arts-based work can enact change in a conflict. Conflicts were not always explicitly stated, but could only be identified through the context of the conversation. Several key underlying assumptions often went unstated due to context, including Cultura Viva Comunitarias explicit ethos of being anti-colonial, anti-racist, and anti-patriarchal. There was also the underlying assumption that culture is a human right, and that the erasure of culture is a significant conflict that must be organized against.

Almost every interview contained at least one theory of change -and many contained more than one. After these theories were identified, I used an inductive cycle of coding to identify commonalities and differences between them, moving over time into distinct, but related, realms.

As the author, I attempted to approach these theories of change using the context of the full interviews and my time working with Cultura Viva Comunitaria to represent what was shared authentically. Nevertheless, as I approach these theories with my own Western academic background and cultural lenses, the findings presented here are inevitably a blending of different worldviews and epistemologies, and should be treated as such. To preserve the voice and agency of the participating practitioners to the best of my ability, they will be quoted in the original Spanish in the results section with my own English translation following.


Three general groupings of theories of change began to emerge during the coding process: preparative, enactive, and intertwined. Preparative theories of change centered on the process of preparing art or cultural work. In contrast, enactive theories of change were focused on the impacts of the act of presenting the work. Intertwined theories carried equal or similar levels of emphasis for both preparative and enactive impacts in creating change and influencing conflicts. It should be noted first that there exists some fluidity between the categories, and that rather than being seen as wholly separate, they might better be described as ends of a continuum. The following section will explore these categories by analyzing several examples from a variety of interviews.

Preparative Theories of Change

Some theories of change grew out of the process of preparation of art or cultural work. Rather than seeing the performance or display of the work as the most impactful moment, practitioners who articulated preparative theories were focused on the changes in perceptions, abilities, beliefs, and identities that took place in the participants. Fourteen theories that were shared emphasized preparative impacts. Four examples of those theories will be shared here.

The first comes from Patricio Vascoñez, educator and member of multiple cultural networks from the Sierra region of Ecuador.

"Las dinámicas participativas, el tomar los diferentes lenguajes artísticos como un medio para llegar, yo creo que ha hecho que los estudiantes vayan creciendo con otro tipo de pensamiento. Vayan viendo que hay otro tipo de alternativas para dar solución a diferentes conflictos. Entonces yo creo que, desde mi experiencia en las aulas, verlos a los chicos y chicas, que ya buscan soluciones de esa manera, ya a través de los lenguajes del arte" [The participatory dynamics, the use of different artistic languages as a means to reach (people), I think that it has made the students grow up with a different way of thinking. They see that there are other types of alternatives to solve different conflicts. So from my experience in classrooms, I see that the boys and girls are already looking for solutions in this way, through the languages of art].

In this example, Vascoñez describes how the process of working with art encourages students to approach varied conflicts in alternative ways. The observation is based on his experience using arts-based methods with students in classroom settings. This is considered a preparative theory of change because the increased creativity and adaptivity in the way the students think are a result of the preparation and practice of the artistic languages, rather than any certain performance.

Another example of preparative impacts comes from a cultural worker from the coast, Jonathan Borbor de la Cruz, who works with festivals, dance groups, and community development.

"Pero el hecho de jugar con los niños, de enseñarles, de encender transferencia de conocimiento a ellos es una manera creativa [sic] poder generar en el presente estos liderazgos, poder generar el tema de que ellos tengan una alternativa. Una alternativa porque la educación en nuestro país lamentablemente como está avanzado [sic], si tú ya estás en la escuela, ya estás en el colegio, o sea ya eso es suficiente" [But the act of playing with the kids, of teaching them, of sparking a transfer of wisdom to them is a creative way to generate here and now these types of leaderships, to be able to make sure that they have an alternative. An alternative because the education in our country unfortunately, even as it has advanced, if you're already in school, secondary school, then that's already (seen as) enough].

Borbor de la Cruz expresses a similar theory of change, in which using creative methods to educate children sparks a different kind of "alternative," to conventional ways of looking at things. He speaks from his own experiences with cultural work, and specifically dance groups for children and youth. Borbor, similarly to Vascoñez, describes the impacts of this type of cultural work on children as stemming from the process of creating and learning, not from performance. In this case, the impacts empower young people to become leaders in their communities, and eventually address larger scale social conflicts.

Another third is shared by Freddy Gonzalez Ponce, a cultural worker from the coastal region who is engaged in educational projects for communities and schools.

"Creo que una de la manera de llegar a ellos, y de llegar a persuadir, y de llegar a decir estratégicamente es mediante el arte. Mediante la pintura y el arte. Todo lo que tiene que ver con el arte creo que va a persuadir, va a permitir que nosotros asimilemos cosas y llevemos cosas de otra perspectiva. Y lo hicimos e interesó, porque lo hemos hecho con escuelas y hemos visto el resultado" [I think that one way to reach them, to reach out and persuade, and to be able to say (it) strategically is through art. Through painting and art. Everything that belongs to art I think will persuade, and help us to understand things and take things from another perspective. And we did it and they were interested, because we've done it with schools and we've seen the result].

Gonzalez Ponce also explores the capacity of the preparation of art to influence youth. The conflicts in this case were the destruction of the environment and problems between parents, teachers, and apathetic students. With his organization, he engaged in several projects with local schools that promoted care for the environment through group art projects. This quote is in reference to the various projects that were conducted and the positive impacts he saw on the students. It is another example of a preparative theory of change because he describes the process of making those art projects as a way to help change student behavior, in this case he earlier explained how the students went from littering to taking more responsibility for cleaning the area. He also described a change in motivation in students who were disengaged from their schoolwork, who applied themselves more after the projects were conducted. The impact of the art projects on observers who did not participate in making them was not mentioned.

Not all preparative theories of change were focused on youth. Alex Narankas, a Shuar activist and youth leader in the Amazon region of Ecuador used a preparative theory more broadly that focused on participative dialogue.

"la base seria hacer trabajos culturales, para hacer perder el racismo. porque a través de la cultura, uniones haciendo estos tipos de congresos, haciendo encuentros, haciendo diálogos, se puede llegar a una conclusión. que congregan instituciones, congregan culturas de otros lugares, y llegamos a una conclusión allí conversando, porque el diálogo es la única arma que define todo y sería la manera, el camino más perfecto para hacer perder el racismo" [the foundation would be to do cultural projects, to get rid of racism. because through culture, unions doing these types of congresses, having meetings, having dialogues, one can reach a conclusion. that institutions should meet, that cultures from other places should meet, and we should reach a conclusion by conversing with one another, because dialogue is the only tool that defines everything and it would be the way, the best path to get rid of racism].

To counter the structural conflict of racism, particularly discrimination against the Shuar nation, Narankas talks about the importance of cultural projects and congresses with an emphasis on dialogue. Congresses like the ones held by Cultura Viva Comunitaria are run using arts-based facilitation methods to promote dialogue and grassroots participation, rather than presentations of the few to the many. When Narankas talks about having these kinds of congresses, he is describing participative cultural work that promotes the sharing of ideas through various communal grassroots dialogue activities, including collective drawing or creation of graphics to better understand problems. This participative element in the cultural work process is what makes this theory of change preparative rather than enactive. The conclusion is important because through participating in dialogue, racism is eliminated.

Enactive Theories of Change

Not all theories of change were rooted in preparation. Enactive theories of change instead rest on the impacts of the actual performance or presentation of the work, of seeing or being seen. Ten enactive theories of change were identified, and three examples will be provided here.

The first comes from Christian Vicente C., an architect, cultural worker and activist for the use of public space in the network of the south of Quito, in the Sierra region of Ecuador.

"Y recién últimamente, la última vez que hicimos fue lo de la fogata, y allí hicimos que los dirigentes, de los primeros que había, cuenten la historia de cómo fue que llegó la energía eléctrica, llegó el agua, llegó el teléfono al barrio. Y la gente respondió, si fueron, les interesó, se pasaron fotos, y allí es como estamos empezando de [sic] hacer activar memoria e identidad" [And recently, the last time we did something was the campfire, and there we had the executives, the first ones that there were, tell the story of how electricity, water, and telephone service came to the neighborhood. And the people responded, they went, they were interested, they shared photos, and that's how we are starting to activate memory and identity].

Vicente C. is speaking about some of the work done in his neighborhood in South Quito, where he identified a conflict in how the neighborhood had become increasingly loose-knit and run down in recent years. More homeowners were choosing to rent, and people no longer knew their neighbors well, which contributed to numerous problems in the neighborhood. Here, he describes a community event in which the sharing of stories in a public forum promotes public participation and memory activation. The focus is clearly on the sharing of stories and how those stories have activated imaginations, rather than the process of preparation, which is not mentioned. The impacts that brought about community engagement are based on how people responded to seeing the activity, and how it influenced them.

Another example of an enactive theory comes from Willan Rivadeneira Rivadeneira, a cultural worker in communication, working with radio, print, television, and social networks, from the amazon region of Ecuador.

"El hacer, hacer cosas, hacer acciones, hacer funciones, proponer actividades relacionadas con mi propia naturaleza y con mi propia sostener. Allí estoy yo, demostrando una autenticidad de vida, y estoy dando a [sic] un ejemplo al otro. No te me quedes en la envidia. No te me quedes solamente en la oposición. Dedícate que tú puedes hacer mejor que yo, porque tú harás, y tendrás mi apoyo, y haremos los dos lo que ahora estoy haciendo. Yo y tu apoyo. Entonces vamos generando la cultura del dialogo, esa es la propuesta que, desde el ámbito de la gestión cultural, de la acción cultural, ya estamos demostrando de que ser cultura viva comunitaria, de que ser comunitario, va más allá de ser pintor, de ser escritor, de ser cantante, sino de ser hombre vinculado con la naturaleza, y dentro de la naturaleza la belleza en el ser humano" [The doing, doing things, doing actions, having functions, proposing activities related to my own nature and my own subsistence. There I am, demonstrating an authenticity of life, and I'm giving an example to the other. Don't get stuck in envy. Don't get stuck in opposition. Dedicate yourself, because you can do it better than I can, because you will do it, and you'll have my support, and the two of us can do what I'm doing now. Me and your support. So here we go generating the culture of dialogue, this is the idea, that from the realm of cultural work, cultural action, we are demonstrating that being of living community culture, being communitarian, goes beyond being a painter, a writer, a singer, but rather that it's being a man linked with nature, and within nature the beauty in the human being].

Rivadeneira Rivadeneira has a clear emphasis on doing and performing as a way of promoting a communitarian lifestyle and living in harmony with oneself and surroundings. This work was directed at an implicit conflict of a lack of participation and a loss of value of being communitarian. Much of the impact of the work he does comes from others seeing it, and being inspired to emulate it. This sharing of talents is what he sees as ultimately promoting a culture of dialogue that can address society's problems. Rather than the preparation of the work, it is the performance, or enaction, that creates change in society.

A final enactive theory comes once again from Alex Narankas, Shuar activist and youth leader in the Amazon region of Ecuador.

"Vamos a hacer encuentros de hip hop, cultura de tipo Shuar, vamos a hacer un concurso para que los jóvenes vengan a su espacio, para que los jóvenes vean con una visión más culturista" [We are going to do hip hop meets, of Shuar culture, we are going to do a tournament so that the youth come into their space, so that the youth will see with a more culturist vision].

Here Narankas describes the power of performance of hip hop music with Shuar lyrics to empower youth to claim their identity and cultural heritage as Shuar. This work is directed against the conflict of cultural erasure and discrimination, particularly for Shuar youth. He emphasizes the importance of performance to give meaning, passion, and purpose to the activity. Naraknas speaks at length in the interview about the importance of cultural performances to youth in helping them stay connected with their identity as Shuar. Doing and seeing both share emphasis here, but in both instances where he describes his work with youth the performance is given more emphasis. More so than practice, performance is an important way of keeping Shuar culture alive and vibrant, despite the social and structural discrimination it faces.

Intertwined Theories of Change

As might be expected, many theories of change involved both preparative and enactive elements to affect change in conflicts. When a theory of change did not preference one over the other, it was categorized as intertwined. Eight theories are considered enactive, and four will be presented here as examples.

The first example comes from Ivonne Ronquillo, an arts educator working with differently-able children in the Sierra region of Ecuador.

"Entonces por vía del arte hemos trabajado en los talleres, y los padres ven ahora que sus hijos sí tienen cómo hacer cosas y tienen potencial artístico, que en muchos años ellos estuvieron muy guardaditos y no generaron esta autonomía. El poder ellos hacer cosas por sí solos" [So through art we've been working on workshops, and the parents see now that their children do have a way of doing things and do have artistic potential, even though for many years many of them were very guarded and didn't generate that kind of autonomy. Their ability to do things on their own, independently].

Ronquillo describes the power of making and seeing art to transform the conflictual relationship between differently-abled children and their parents. The participative process in itself is seen as a chance for the children to develop skills and confidence, and the presentation/enaction of that work is also key because it changes the perceptions of parents who were overprotective, or unable to see their children's capacity for autonomy. Ronquillo repeatedly emphasizes that her work helps to discourage overprotection of children, and promote autonomy and self-sufficiency. She also emphasizes the importance of the relationships that are built between children and educator, and how art provides a medium for connection and personal growth for everyone involved. Because this theory relies on both the participative elements of skill and relationship growth, as well as the enactive elements of changing outside perceptions when the work is presented, it is considered intertwined.

Another example of an intertwined theory comes from Juan Merino, the director of the house of culture in Morona Santiago, in the Amazon region of Ecuador.

"Con eventos fuertes, lindos, bien organizados por decirle. Hasta septiembre nos hemos conocido. Hasta diciembre, hemos aprendido. Hasta mayo, ya compartimos. Ya sabemos uno de otros. Y el fin del año próximo hacemos el gran evento mundial en donde unos y otros estamos conectados y el mundo nos ve lo que estamos haciendo. Sin usar ni una gota de esto (indica al fuzetea), ni un cigarrillo del (señala un cigarrillo producido en masa) lo que viene si es que fuma la persona que fuma el cigarrillo de hoja. Si. Estoy hablando en exageración, ¿no? En donde todo sea lo nuestro" [With strong, lovely events, well organized, so to speak. By September we've gotten to know each other, by December we've learned from each other, by May we've shared. We now understand each other. And at the end of the next year we're doing a huge world event where people near and far are connected and the world sees what we're doing. Without using not one drop of this (points to Fuzetea), and not one cigarette (points to a mass-produced cigarette) it would be so that if a person is going to smoke, they smoke a cigarette made of leaves. I'm exaggerating to make a point, you see? (It would be) where everything comes from what is ours].

Merino describes a way of combating the conflict of globalization that he describes as destroying more traditional ways of relating to one another and one's surroundings. He proposes wide cooperation in a global network of sharing culture and presentations. In a notable departure from many other theories shared, this project was not one he had worked on, but rather was his response to how cultural work might better influence conflicts. It is a hypothetical theory of change, rather than an actual one.

Merino describes an almost cyclical progression, in which initial event performances feed into the preparation of new events, all of which are part of an intercultural dialogue, and that culminate with a big performance and participative event. Participation in a way that affirms local realities is also emphasized, such as drinking only locally-made beverages rather than bringing in imported plastic ones like the Fuzetea. The enactive element of performance and observance is clearly important because it enables recognition and mutual learning. However, the emphasis on how preparation should take place in a way that actively resists globalization, and the growth and learning that is meant to occur through repeated event cycles, also suggests an importance in the preparative process. Such a complex cycle requires both preparative and enactive elements to produce the desired impacts on the conflict.

A third example comes again from Christian Vicente:

Porque al final la idea es que la gente vaya apropiándose del proceso, y digan sí, este proceso es mío. No este proceso es lo que se están [sic] haciendo las cosas aquí, sino que también soy parte de esto, también puedo ayudar. Entonces el simple hecho de que la gente diga a, ya me voy aquí con la escoba y me voy a limpiar la calle. Eso ya es decir 'si voy a también a portarme.' Porque ellos también a veces salen a limpiar y todo, y eso ayuda un montón. Entonces eso es la idea, que si la gente está respondiendo" [Because in the end the idea is that the people take ownership of the process, and they say, yes, this process is mine. Not that this is what they are doing here, but rather that I am also part of this, I can also help. So the simple fact that the people say, "oh, I'm going to help here with the broom and clean the street." This is the same as saying, "yes, I'm going to behave" Because they do sometimes go now and clean everything, and this helps a ton. So this is the idea, that people are in fact responding].

Vicente also describes a cycle of enaction and preparation while discussing the recent increase in the number of events and activation of public space in his formerly disconnected, run-down neighborhood. While the cycle begins with the performance of events, it is the ownership and participation of the neighborhood that ultimately generates a sense of community, and promotes more events in an increasing mutually-constitutive cycle. This suggests that while the initial phase of the project may have been enactive in its focus, over the long-term multiple cycles of preparation and enaction are needed to generate real change in the conflict. Therefore, this project's theory transitions into the category of intertwined theories.

A final example comes from Marlene Corozo Estupiñán, a member of Pueblo Negro in Esmeraldas, in the coastal region of Ecuador.

"Hay un canto que cuando son niños se canta. Entonces, desde chiquitito que [sic] tú ves que cantan. Y cuando tú ya eres madre, tal vez comienzas a hacer lo mismo a cantar. Pero eso va desde adentro. Y esa forma de crecer esos niños, como una madre negra comienza a educar sus hijos, eso es desde adentro" There is a song that when they are children you sing. So, from very little, you see that they sing this. And when you're a mother, maybe you begin to do the same and sing. But this comes from within. And this way of raising the children, as a black mother begins to educate her children, this is from within.

Corozo Estupiñán shared a great deal about the conflict of discrimination that Pueblo Negro confronts in the coastal region of Ecuador, particularly regarding the difficulty they often face accessing resources that are made available to other groups including funds, language and cultural education, and agricultural resources. Throughout the interview, she emphasizes culture as a way of being and relating to the world that is vitally important for communities. In this example, she describes the practice of singing a certain song to be about more than performance, but rather tied to a way of being and knowing. Singing the song is about enacting to the extent that it is sharing it with the children and with the community, but it is also about a deep connection to identity that comes from within, and the singing itself is important. This theory of change suggests that cultural practices are themselves ways of being and knowing, and completely transcends the categories of preparative and enactive. Not only are there both preparative and enactive elements that create impacts, but the activity itself is the most important impact on structural conflict.


One of the largest limitations for the conclusions is the wide definition of conflict that was intentionally applied in the study, and the occasional resulting ambiguity in identifying theories of change. Identifying the conflicts at play in interviews was sometimes challenging. Some practitioners spoke about large-scale conflicts such as racism or the colonization of thought, others spoke of highly personal conflicts such as problems with coworkers or in local neighborhoods, still others drew bridges between specific local conflicts and larger structural ones. On several occasions, practitioners directly referenced a session or discussion from the sessions at Cultura Viva Comunitaria conferences to provide context rather than re-explaining these ideas themselves. Sexism, racism, colonialism (past and present), and the erasure of culture were frequent implicit conflicts at local and structural levels. Sometimes practitioners would identify one conflict as particularly salient, but discuss the impact of their work on a completely different one. As an investigator from a different cultural context, it was a difficult balance to identify when implicit conflicts were being used and when inferring a link between a local and structural problem would be overstepping. While every effort was made to stay true to the practitioner's intentions, there is always the possibility for misinterpretation and misunderstanding.

While each theory of change was uniquely suited to each practitioners' context, there were some general commonalities among theories in each category. However, before outlining them, it is important to keep in mind that preparative, enactive, and intertwined are not hard and fast categories. Rather, as shown in several examples, practitioners might use more than one theory in different contexts, or the same activity might begin using one type of theory and eventually transition into another type.

The figure 1. demonstrates the fluid relationship between enactive, preparative, and intertwined theories of change.

Figure 1 Relationship Between Theories of Change. 

Theories fell on a spectrum between preparative and enactive, but this relationship was not necessarily linear. They varied in how far they were skewed to one aspect or another, or one theory might have been applicable in one phase of a project, and then transitioned into a different theory in a later phase. Interwoven theories could be simultaneously very preparative and very enactive, and cyclical in their use. Several of the interwoven theories discussed as examples demonstrated this cyclical motion in the way they were articulated by practitioners. What remained constant is that theories of change were adaptive and practitioners often used more than one.

With the fluid nature of theories of change in mind, there were still some general similarities between theories that fell into the three categories. These trends were not necessarily true of every example, but were true of a large number. Preparative theories of change shared an emphasis on participation as key to the desired impacts. As in all four examples discussed here, arts-based methods promoted a fundamental internal change in the participan understandings, beliefs, perceptions, or identities, which in some cases manifested through behavioral changes. In addition, three of the practitioners in the examples here emphasized the impact on youth. Youth were a common target audience for many preparative theories of change though other contexts were mentioned as well. Preparative impacts were often, though not overwhelmingly, implicitly or explicitly paired with the idea of creating something new, such as a new way of looking at things or interacting with conflict, or a new openness to ideas. Occasionally, they were seen as crucial for re-learning something old, such as cultural practices or ways of relating to one another.

Enactive theories generally dealt more directly with the importance of being seen or of seeing. As a group, they dealt more directly with visibility for groups confronting structural conflict and erasure in society, which was a theme present to some degree in all three of the examples discussed here. It is also consistent with the observations of Graham and Penny (2014) that performativity of cultural practices may serve as a method of resistance to state power. In contrast to preparative impacts, enactive impacts were very likely to be paired with the idea, implicitly or explicitly, of keeping something alive or revitalizing it, which was also true of all three examples of enactive theories of change discussed here.

Intertwined theories of change often tended to exhibit a cyclical relationship, as seen in the second, third, and fourth examples. However, this was not universally true.

Ronquillos example of an intertwined theory of change was closer to a dual theory of change for a single project in which one conflict was addressed through the preparative work-the self-confidence of the children-and another through the enaction and presentation-the overprotection of the adults. Repeat cycles were not discussed in this example in the same cyclical way with the others. However, intertwined theories consistently relied upon both preparative and enactive elements in a responsive way that allowed practitioners to address the conflicts that they saw, and often used a complex and/or multi-step process to create change.

The results of the interviews suggest that practitioners adopt diverse strategies to affect change in diverse contexts, which unsurprisingly create differences in the purpose and impacts of their theories of change.

The similarities among theories in the same group might indicate that each category is best-suited to achieve a certain type of change, or that practitioners with similar goals tend to adopt similar strategies. Theories of change that seek to address complex, deeply-rooted, structural conflicts in society may often require the adaptivity of both enactive and preparative elements.

Further research is necessary to explore whether and how preparative, enactive, and intertwined effects would be articulated by practitioners outside of Ecuador's Cultura Viva Comunitaria. The broad definition of cultural work encompassed by this movement may not be as applicable in many other contexts. Regardless, the present study suggests that practitioners in various regions of Ecuador are using art-based cultural work to confront a variety of structural conflicts at personal, local, and national levels, and that the theories of change they are using are distinct, but also fluid. Their contributions to peacebuilding have much to teach the burgeoning scholarship of arts-based conflict intervention.


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Received: April 20, 2019; Accepted: May 15, 2019

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