Nonviolent Communication Approach in Adult Education in Historical Museums and Memorial Sites

Uczestnicy projektu dyskutują, siedząc w kręgu.
fot. P. Ostrowski

POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews (Poland), together with its partners from the Mémorial de la Shoah (France), the Žanis Lipke Memorial (Latvia) and the Holocaust Fund of the Jews from Macedonia (North Macedonia) is implementing the "Nonviolent Communication Approach in Adult Education in Historical Museums and Memorial Sites" project.

The aim of the project, implemented as part of the Erasmus+ program, is to introduce the method of "Nonviolent Communication" into the daily work of institutional teams and, through it, to activate groups of adult recipients in the field of expanding their knowledge about the Holocaust in Europe.

"Nonviolent Communication" method at museums and memorial sites

"Nonviolent Communication" (NVC) is a method developed by Dr. Marshall B. Rosenberg, a psychologist and peace activist, in the 1960s. It aims to support dialogue between people and build societies based on empathy and taking into account the needs of each person. It helps in the conscious choice of words to express what we feel and what we want and to increase the chance of mutual understanding.

By initiating the "Nonviolent Communication Approach" in 2020, POLIN Museum proposed to use the NVC method in communicating with its own audience and that of the partner institutions invited into the project. The aim of the project is to introduce this method into the daily work of institutional teams and, through it, to activate groups of adult audiences, primarily in the field of expanding knowledge about the Holocaust in Europe. The practice of partner institutions shows that this topic, as it evokes social discussions, often emotional and burdened with political contexts or stereotypes, requires special attention. During the seminars, consortium members exchange experiences related to difficult situations in dealing with the public and practice using the method of empathetic communication in their work with the audience.

Seminars organized within the "Nonviolent Communication Approach" project

So far, project participants have met twice. The first seminar, with NVC trainer Magdalena Malinowska, took place online in June 2021. It was mainly devoted to learning the theoretical basics of the "Nonviolent Communication" and to using it in practice. The participants trained the four steps of NVC: observing, defining own feelings and needs, and formulating requests.

For the second time, and for the first time in person, the project participants met in Paris, at the Mémorial de la Shoah, in February 2022. Under the supervision of Karine Ducrot, NVC trainer, they practiced empathetic communication by, for instance, recognising non-empathetic messages and distinguishing "jackal language" (accusing oneself and others) from "giraffe language" (empathetic attitude towards oneself and others).

In-depth training in the field of communication was intertwined with equally important meetings with the Mémorial de la Shoah staff, such as Karen Taieb, Lior Lalieu-Smadja, Ariel Sion and Delphine Barre. In the example of the “Hall of names” (i.e. a commemoration presenting the names of Jews deported from France to death centres), as well as selected parts of the Mémorial de la Shoah permanent exhibition and contacts with guests of the Photographic Documentation Department in this institution, the participants - constantly assisted by the NVC trainer - discussed the difficult communication situations with visitors of the Mémorial de la Shoah. 

Further plans and results of the "Nonviolent Communication Approach" project 

As part of the project, further seminar meetings are planned in Riga, Skopje and Warsaw. One of the results of the project, which will end in August 2023, will be the creation of a consortium which, in turn, will help employees of historical museums and memorials to deepen their expert knowledge and develop a sense of community in their professional experiences on the European level. In the perspective of long-term benefits, it will be possible to introduce, into these institutions, a model of active communication with adult guests, especially those who would like to broaden their knowledge about various historical contexts of the Holocaust in Europe. The outcomes of the project will be compiled into a compendium of best practices and recommendations published on the European Platform for Adult Learning in Europe (EPALE), available to all users of the Erasmus+ platform.

Find out more about the project on the EPALE platform.

"Logo of Zanis Lipke Memorial: grey pentagon on white background"  Logo Holocaust Memorial Center – Skopje: yellow Star of David and lines in the shape of Menorah.Logo of POLIN Museum of the History of Polish JewsLogo of Memorial de la Shoah.

"Logo of Erasmus Plus Program: yellow stars in a circle on navy background, with inscriptionErasmus+"

Project is co-financed by the European Commission under the Erasmus + program.

The European Commission's support for the production of this publication does not constitute an endorsement of the contents, which reflect the views only of the authors, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.