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Expressive Life Writing and Telling During Crisis

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Addressing Urgent Needs in the Akkar Governorate, Lebanon

The Lebanese financial crisis has caused significant loss of incomes for households, creating a food security crisis. The Lebanese currency has been reduced in value by 80%. The result has been hyperinflation. The current situation in Lebanon has created several acute challenges for vulnerable groups: increased resentment of - particularly Syrian - refugees manifesting in harassment and discrimination; Lockdowns provide additional cover for sexual abuse, and trafficking; The online provision of education faces barriers including digital divides between households and a cementing of gender roles in quarantined households whereby girls are doing more domestic work than boys. The team of the Lebanese partner organisation for this project, Akkar Network for Development (AND), have previously delivered EW training through a focused psychosocial support curriculum to women and adolescent girls. In 2020, however, the new and increased combination of issues makes the need for adapting existing practice and developing new techniques urgent. The aim of applying the Expressive Writing (EW) methodology in Akkar is to develop support that helps create a life plan, enhances coping mechanisms, builds personal resilience and gives the recipients a feeling of being supported. The research question of this project, therefore, is: Can we adapt the Expressive Writing methodology to these emergency/crisis situations successfully and if so, how can this methodology then be taken to scale and deployed in other contexts.

Research Creative Outputs: Postcards from Lebanon: showcase of Expressive-Creative Writing and Telling: from the humanities intervention, Expressive Writing and Telling in Crisis


The Lebanese financial crisis and resulting hyperinflation has caused significant loss of incomes for households, creating widespread scarcity of food, shelter, and other basic needs. When combined with the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the ongoing refugee crisis, the situation has had catastrophic effects across the country, particularly among the most vulnerable groups.


The works presented here are translations from the Arabic of writing and storytelling which arose in response to a series of recent Expressive Writing and Telling initiatives conducted in Lebanon as part of an Arts and Humanities Research Council - Global Challenges- funded research project, Expressive Life Writing and Telling During Crisis: Addressing Urgent Needs in the Akkar Governorate, Lebanon.

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Creative and Expressive Writing from Lebanon: a short film

(in Arabic with English translation)

Presented in Arabic with translation in English, this short film shows women of Akkar, Lebanon, read selections from the writing which emerged from the Expressive Writing and Telling project. The music of the language is palpable as they speak movingly about difficult subjects and experiences. This is an output from the AHRC funded project: Expressive Writing and Telling in Crisis, Lebanon and is accompanied by the ebook of the same name, also available on ORDO.

Expressive Writing for all: Interactive Supportive Website in English and Arabic

Online Resource posted on 14.03.2022, 13:28

authored by Siobhan CampbellSiobhan Campbell, Meg Jensen, Sally Blackburn-DanielsSally Blackburn-Daniels


Following research findings that Expressive Writing and Telling can be a tool for Social Workers and HRDs in GBV work, in enhancing general care provision, in valuing individual experience and therefore enabling agency, and as a potential ancillary research tool in survey and data gathering, this project has developed an interactive website.


This has two functions: it is a locus to receive Expressive Writing and Telling and it also provides a model for modes and approaches to ethical co-research into these methods.

The Interactive Website acts as a data gathering opportunity that is uniquely poised to gather stories, testimony and personally voiced experience from arenas which may be difficult to reach in person.


These texts respond to the EWT writing exercises that have been specially designed for use in crisis contexts. Anonymised data in the form of written responses provided by participants following the acceptance of the participant information and informed consent permissions, are available to the project’s named researchers for textual analysis and to inform the further development and refinement of EWT approaches that may be rapidly deployed in other emergency contexts.



o EW training materials and techniques that have been specifically adapted to the specific challenges or crises can be shared which enables the potential to be adapted to other crisis contexts in the future.

o Dissemination of the research findings on how the EW methodology can be applied and rolled out in crisis contexts in a quick, versatile and cost-efficient way.

o A collection of the Expressive Life Writing and Storytelling materials produced throughout the project, where participants have given consent, and their work has been anonymised. This collection, in its variety and complexity, will reflect the very exacting nature of each locale and the challenges faced by individuals, thus enabling aid workers and human rights defenders to more

o The Interactive Website acts as an online training delivery portal which presents modules on training of social workers (eg in GBV provision and for Youth) that have been pre-piloted, tested and refined and are now ready to be adapted and used elsewhere.



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Questionnaires and data-gathering in crisis: adapted methodologies for delivery and implementation of Expressive Writing and Telling in Crisis, Lebanon

Dataset posted on 15.03.2022, 12:43

authored by Siobhan Campbell, Sally Blackburn-Daniels, Meg Jensen

Expressive Writing and Telling in Crisis is a humanities-based program which values individual voices and experience.

In terms of research, it attempts to take a 'with' not 'on' approach.

This project established that even in crisis, once primary needs are fulfilled, there may be a place for expressive telling as a psychosocial support for client beneficiaries and also as support to aid workers or social workers in both providing care and gathering information.

As part of this research, new questionnaire techniques were developed. Due to Covid, these had to be adapted to the lockdown situation. This collection showcases the following:

- Questionnaire and headline results data from the two Joint Analysis Workshops held during the project.

- Pre and post questionnaires from the Youth Curriculum in Expressive Telling, piloted by SHiFT International Tripoli.

- Monitoring and Evaluation forms co-developed and implemented by AND NGO in Akkar Lebanon, to assess both quantitively and qualitatively, the effective delivery of EWT by social workers there.

Headline results from EWT in crisis are that participants 'felt better after', 'found it calming' and 'want to do it again'.

EWT providers believe that results are possible because of the nature of the program:
- it does not assume one size fits all
- it allows for conversations to develop over time, meaning that Covid vaccines and stigmas re Covid could be addressed
- participants can develop at their own pace as it is participatory and respondents can feel they are part of shaping the outcomes
- it has the idea that something can change, or may transform, at the heart of the program and this permeates the ethos of the whole.

Expressive Telling in Crisis - a PSS program for online, on-phone or in-person delivery by NGOs and Care Providers

Online Resource:posted on 04.03.2022, 11:01

authored by Siobhan Campbell, Meg Jensen, Sally Blackburn-Daniels

Expressive Telling in crisis - a PSS toolkit presents a set of expressive telling approaches and exercises for use on the phone, using WhatsApp or other services, especially when in crisis situations. Adapted for use by Akkar Network for Development NGO, Lebanon, and piloted by that NGO, these exercises allow for the rapid building of trust, and for a relational understanding to develop between social worker and participant which can lead to better outcomes in terms of understandings and ability to provide targeted care. Adaptable for other crisis situations, these exercises complement the longer version of Expressive Writing and Telling which is also available on request.

For English and Arabic versions click here

Using Expressive Writing and Telling in GBV programs: A Training Curriculum for Social Workers and Human Rights Defenders

Online Resource posted on 02.03.2022, 13:18

authored by Siobhan Campbell, Meg Jensen

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the

gender inequalities in Lebanon and further exposed the weak protection system for women and girls.


With the restriction of movement and confinement to homes, there is the risk that the majority of cases of GBV remain unreported and unrecognised.


As part of the AHRC project 'Expressive Writing and Telling in Crisis, Lebanon', the NGO, Akkar Network for Development, explored how Expressive Writing and Telling could be a tool for combatting the silences around GBV during and after Covid 19.


This is the training curriculm which AND co-developed with UK-based researchers in Expressive Writing and Telling. It sets out the background, contexts and approaches of EWT, giving instruction and support to implementers, along with a full set of workshop exercises, consent forms and adaptable feedback options.


AND NGO report that EWT builds trust, establishes relationship (even when online or on the phone) and has built-in mechanisms for protection. It enables the eliciting of personal experience which can support other GBV mitigation mechanisms. The refinement by AND of this training program enbles it for use in other arenas.

To view click here

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Ethics in Context: Creating Frameworks for humanities-based interventions during Crisis

Presentation posted on 15.03.2022, 12:34

authored by Siobhan Campbell, Meg Jensen

As part of the developing relationship between UK-based researchers and the Lebanese NGO, Akkar Network, when researching the efficacy of Expressive Writing and Telling in Crisis (AHRC project), it became clear there was a need to create a model or framework for such humanities-based interventions.


This is the model: Ethics in Context: a partnership in developing principles of practice between UK based researchers and NGO workers.


This presentation captures the co-development of a model of practice for research in crisis which is sustainable, inclusive and ethical.


• Ethics-in-practice refers to anticipating, attending to, and learning from, the experience of conducting research


• The idea of “Emergency” or “Crisis” is a way of trying to grasp complex and problematic events. It emphasizes unpredictability, abnormality and brevity, and implies that immediate response – intervention – is necessary.


• “Emergency” becomes a specific way of thinking about how the world works, including a particular moral orientation. Once a humanitarian emergency is declared, it shapes who should act, and how. It alters notions about acceptable levels of risk.


• This framework addresses the situation for research, covering Unequal Power and the challenges of working in Fragile Environments and it proffers a matrix of understandings.


• That matrix leads to a set of Guiding Principles for the partnership itself, for voluntary informed consent practices, for confidentiality/privacy and for challenges to care giver support.


• A checklist of principles-in-practice and a set of undertakings are established for both parties.


• The follow-on step of a risk-benefit analysis is also provided within this collection of outputs from this project.

N.B. File(s) under permanent embargo
Reason: As there is some sensitive information regarding the practices of our partnering NGO in this presentation, we ask that researchers contact us to gain access.

Creative-Expressive Life Writing and Telling (in crisis) Youth Curriculum in English and Arabic

Online Resource posted on 15.03.2022, 12:36

authored by Siobhan Campbell, Meg Jensen
A co-developed Curriculum in Creative and Expressive Life Writing and Telling for Youth in crisis situations. As part of the AHRC Global Challenges project Expressive Life Writing in Crisis, Lebanon, the authors co-developed a curriculum for young people in response to direct need for a low-cost intervnetion with proven psycho-social wellbeing improvement markers. Working with Akkar Network NGO Lebanon, with psychology readers from AND and the OU (Dr. Zoe Walkington) and with Farah Sankari of Shift International, this curriculum was subsequently tested and iimplemented by SHiFT International , Tripoli, 2021-22 (see separate report).


N.B. File(s) under permanent embargo

Reason: As there is some sensitive information regarding the practices of our partnering NGO in this presentation, we ask that researchers contact us to gain access.

Expressive Writing Self-Care toolkit for Frontline Workers and Human Rights Defenders working in crisis 

Book posted on 02.03.2022, 13:17 

authored by Siobhan Campbell, Meg Jensen

This self-care toolkit sets out a short course in Expressive Life Writing as a psychosocial support for mental-wellbeing, especially when working in crisis. It provides a method of self-care for social workers and human rights defenders. Co-developed with Akkar Network NGO, Lebanon, the exercises and prompts were tested and refined by frontline workers during the multiple crises in Lebanon: COVID-19, socio-political pressures, the refugee situation, and economic collapse. As Expressive Life Writing draws on imagination as well as memory, those affected by traumatic events find that these story-telling approaches can help process and gain agency over the narrative of those events. This may support frontline workers as they support others.


Available here in Arabic and in English.

Expressive Writing and Telling (EWT) is a form of storytelling that draws on imaginative and creative storytelling to express life experience and emotion and thereby support well-being and the building of resilience.


Previous work in EWT by the researchers has established that working in collaboration with partners who have local knowledge and expertise in the delivery of humanitarian aid and intervention, EWT can measurably increase the well-being of individuals in conflict and post-conflict regions, and aid in the development of social cohesion for vulnerable communities.


The aim of our most recent project in Akkar was to create a more flexible and adaptable curriculum and delivery for EWT during the current multi-faceted crisis. The project sought to forge a framework of support to help both local Lebanese and refugee communities express current challenges, to help enhance coping mechanisms, to build individual resilience and support community cohesion.


Details of the exercises and writing and telling prompts used in this and other EWT projects, as well as supporting research and information on the EWT methodology can be found here:

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