Promoting a Culture of Peace through Workshop Schools

Workshop Schools are spaces for labor insertion, peaceful coexistence and reconciliation.

Workshop Schools were first set in Colombia in 1992, supported by the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID by its Spanish acronym). Since their creation, thousands of vulnerable young Colombians have received comprehensive training aimed at achieving human development through technical training for employment and entrepreneurship. Workshop Schools contribute to prevent young people from joining illegal armed groups, in addition to supporting the reintegration of demobilized persons or of those at risk of exclusion. For these reasons, Colombia’s Workshop Schools are considered “Tools for Peace” (AECID, 2017).

This training for employment is designed for young adults between 16 and 25 years of age, of both sexes and with scarce resources, who are interested in learning though practice (using a “learning by doing” method) while prioritizing skills that incorporate traditional knowledge, key to maintaining communities’ social fabric.

As a result of the potential this experience has to be replicated in contexts facing similar challenges, between 2020 and 2022, a Triangular Cooperation project was carried out to transfer the Colombian National Workshop Schools Program to Workshop Schools in San Salvador and Zacatecoluca. The initiative was developed to specifically transfer the “Culture of Peace Toolbox” (CHCP by its Spanish acronym), a pedagogical instrument to promote peaceful coexistence and social and labor insertion of young people at risk of exclusion. The project was financially supported by AECID and APC-Colombia, and the possibility to transfer the methodology to Central-American schools was considered since the very beginning.

According to the project’s systematization report, this toolbox will strengthen human competencies in Central-American Workshop Schools while providing know-how on the use of this instrument to develop a culture of peace in Colombia (Case study factsheet, 2021, internal document).

The implementation of this initiative coincided with the COVID-19 pandemic, so activities had to be adapted to available tools and resources. The project was carried out in different phases, all of them online, with the exception of a final seminar that took place in March, 2022, in El Salvador. In this event, participants shared how the CHCP was adapted to another context with delegates from Honduras, Guatemala, Panama and the Dominican Republic. In addition to addressing Workshop Schools’ current challenges, other activities aimed at the application of the Program and its appropriation by participating countries were also carried out. During the visit to Zacatecoluca Workshop School, representatives of the Cali Workshop School in Boyacá and the Colombian Ministry of Culture shared their experiences and success stories of Workshop Schools in Colombia (AECID, 2022).

This initiative has proven to be remarkably replicable, as it was first transferred from Colombia to El Salvador and later to Central-America as a result of the similarities between all contexts and the adaptability of the tool itself, which introduces a participatory approach and focuses on the beneficiaries. This tool is only an instrument which content is provided by each country or region according to its characteristics (APC-Colombia, 2021, internal document).

Through this project, which strengthened capacities in the Peace, public and national security and defense sector, Colombia, El Salvador and Spain contributed to the alignment of Ibero-American cooperation mainly with SDG 16 (Peace, justice and strong institutions) and SDG 4 (Quality education) and SDG 8 (Decent work and economic growth).

Learn more about the participants of Workshop Schools in the following link:

November 2022

Sources: AECID (2017), (2022) and Case study factsheet (2021).

Photographs: Final Seminar of the project to transfer of the “Culture of Peace Toolbox” (AECID, 2022).