Pathways people 2

Pathways to Reconciliation


Professor Sandra Jovchelovitch leads this UKRI project to investigate the impact of Schools for Forgiveness and Reconciliation (ES.PE.RE) on the psychological and social wellbeing of people living in territories hit by the Colombian armed conflict.

Our aim is to help forge positive coping responses to stabilise communities hard-hit by armed conflict

Professor Sandra Jovchelovitch

Depression, loss of emotional control and feelings of rage are frequent in the reaction to violent and traumatic events. Foregiveness and reconciliation, although difficult to do or maybe even contemplate, can be key in helping to mitigate these effects and can even help contribute to the reconstruction of civil-war-torn societies. 

All our news, events, media and research will be updated online on this page and on Twitter @reconciliaLSECo.


Forgiveness and reconciliation are two central components to build sustainable peace in post conflict societies. Forgiveness allows people to heal the psychological wounds of war, while reconciliation is key to rebuild trust, social ties and cooperation among affected communities, some of whom may have stood on different sides in a given conflict. 

Pathways to Reconciliation investigates the impact of Schools of Forgiveness and Reconciliation (ES.PE.RE), a third-sector programme in Colombia, on the psychological and social wellbeing of people living in territories hit by the Colombian armed conflict. More specifically, it studies if and how these ES.PE.RE Schools improve mental health, social capital, and positive lifetracks.

The project adopts a clinical socio-cultural approach to human development under contextual adversity, which we define as environments characterised by poverty, violence and stigma. It explores ‘first hand’ accounts of experiences, meanings and narratives lived by young people and adults from five rural territories heavily exposed to the Colombian conflict. It draws on a multi-method design combining qualitative in-depth interviews with quantitative measurements of mental health, social capital and possible selves.

Pathways to Reconciliation involves an international, multiple stake-holder research partnership, comprising academics and NGOs activists and practitioners from Fundación para la Reconciliation, Fundación Santa Fe de Bogotá and the LSE. It is offering us a rich research experience with non-WEIRD populations (Western, educated, industrialised, rich and democratic) in a challenging context.




We seek to assess the role of participation in ES.PE.RE (Schools for Forgiveness and Reconciliation) in psychological and social wellbeing, defined as mental health, social capital and choosing a fulfilling lifetrack.


This project will impact multiple stakeholders from different sectors of society, including government and policy-makers, communities affected by the conflict and the public at large.

Government and policy

From the policy and governmental sector, we expect it will increase knowledge and the evidence-base for programmes seeking to improve mental health, youth development and social capital of victims of the conflict, as Colombia moves into the implementation of the peace accords.


For communities, we envisage it will increase knowledge, reach and the capacity to improve their psychological and social wellbeing to enable them to build a more fulfilling life project.

Participants in the ES.PE.RE workshop will experience its pedagogic methodology, which offers psychosocial support and fosters narratives of peace in safe spaces, enabling people to work through difficult emotional experiences, steering them towards alternative ways of re-telling stories of hatred, rage and revenge. 

Sharing Knowledge and Reaching Out

We hope to share and exchange knowledge through Festivals of Reconciliation in all the communities where the research is taking place, one international policy conference in Bogotá, which will reach Ministries (Government Departments), NGOs, the Reincorporation and Normalization Agency (ARN) as well as global audiences and international organisations such as UNESCO in addition to an LSE public lecture event (to be announced).


We are co-founded by UKRI, Newton Fund and Colciencias, as part of a larger programme funding ten UK-Colombian research projects seeking to build the evidence-base in Colombia as the country transitions from conflict into sustainable peace. Our team is led by the UK PI Professor Sandra Jovchelovitch at PBS, LSE, who is working with Dr Maria Cecilia Dedios and Dr Natalia Concha as Research Officers.

The Colombian side is led by the PI Dr Fabio Idrobo, who is based at the Public Health Axis of the Santa Fe Foundation (FSFB). He is working with Co-Investigators María Camila García Durán, Diego Salcedo, and Dr Elizabeth Borrero (FSFB) and with Co-Investigators from the NGO Foundation for Reconciliation, including the founder of FFR Leonel Narvaez and the Director, Paula Monroy.


Coming soon

News, media and events

October 2019

Professor Sandra Jovchelovitch visited Bogotá, meeting our Colombian partners from Fundación Santa Fe de Bogotá and Fundación para la Reconciliaciֶón, continuing on to develop joint ways of working to address some of the complexities surrounding our project’s territories. Sandra’s visit centred on participating in a Colciencias-UKRI strategic workshop with Colombian-UK academics and funders to build the evidence base and future planning for global mental health, which focused on: community engagement, ethics of participation, hollistic contextualisation, scalability and sustainability. 

ES.PE.RE moments in the territories

We have continued to visit the territories where our fieldwork and the ES.PE.RE workshops have taken place. Below we’ve included moments capturing the process. 

Pathways circleComing together in Florencia and San Vicente del Caguan in Caquetá: a ritualised activity in the ES.PE.RE workshops involves building symbolic circles to help people understand and make sense of the dynamics of forgiving and reconciling. 

Pathways communications

In Bolivar, part of the North Atlantic and Caribbean region, ES.PE.RE explores with participants the meanings of communication, uplifting the importance of calm and serene words to move away from disruption and conflict. 

Pathways bonding thread

In Chaparral, Tolima, another ES.PE.RE activity illustrates how people unite by bonding through a representational thread, enabling linkages through human contact.  


All images are courtesy of Diego Salcedo.