Can it really be possible to overcome entrenched mistrust in a single day?

Our answer: yes.

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Learning Each Other’s Stories

Lokahi's unique method brings together groups locked in conflict, and builds trust in only one day.


Lokahi has always been innovative, creating new methods and formats for building bridges and healing conflicts. And when something really works – often far beyond our own expectations – we study it until we have understood why, and see how we can adapt it to wholly new situations.

Learning Each Other’s Stories, or LEOS, is the method that we developed from the extraordinary experience of Operation Nicole.

It’s amazing: I haven’t seen anything like it before!

The LEOS events provide an opportunity for different groups to share a mutual space and learn the perspective of the other through a uniquely relevant story. Often used with two or more groups of individuals with entrenched positions, we have used it in different contexts including with faith groups, police, local authorities and community organisations. This year we have already seen it work with Muslim youth groups and police, with Somali women and local authority representatives and the Somali community and police.

The problem we solve

Entrenched positions. Deep-rooted prejudice. Tensions between groups and open conflict. People see each other as a threat; and what is good for 'them' must be bad for 'us'. Once mind-sets and gut feelings are locked into opposition, it can be very difficult to shift. And it doesn't stop with individuals; they join forces to hate together. They whip it up on the internet. One side provokes the other, and soon hate propagates through a community. And by now, simple 'dialogue' is not the solution when it is a diatribe of mutual provocation.  

Facing up to the challenge

Local Government Authorities have the difficult job of reaching out to communities in an atmosphere of suspicion and hostility, to broker these sensitive relationships – one borough identified as having a high level of threat of violent extremism called on Lokahi to bring about change.

We wrote a scenario based on real experiences and challenges the community faced in that area – it was so realistic that participants were adamant they knew the family in the story. The event brought together Somali women, local police, the borough council and relevant service providers. Together they analysed the situations, gained insight into each other’s perspectives and left confident of the positive role they will play in strengthening their community.

It helped us communicate with the[m] in a way we didn’t do before; it helped us get into their head and understand where they are coming from.

How it works

How do you turn around hostile attitudes, mistrust, and ignorance? Lokahi methods target these intractable problems in an unthreatening way. The Lokahi approach creates the safe and respectful atmosphere where people can say openly what they really think.

Then the participants play out situations in someone else’s shoes, acting out their perspective, taking their decisions, and having to negotiate all this in a very mixed group.

We got to understand their point of view...and it really helped us get closer because at the end of the day we all want the same things so we might as well work together to make things better.

Lokahi’s LEOS method triggers the exchange of experience that creates understanding. Seeing what others undergo – and being understood yourself – makes it possible to change your attitudes, your behaviour, and see others changing with you. Alienation is rapidly broken down with the recognition that they’re just like us, and that it’s not easy to be ‘them’.

By the end, participants aren’t just swapping business cards – they’re swapping hugs.

If you would like to learn more about our track record, or explore how LEOS can help your community, please contact: Mehmuda Mian, Associate Director at:

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