What is the truth?

This project focuses on Quibdó, the capital of Chocó in the Colombian Pacific: a remote area disproportionately affected by armed conflict and home to mainly Afrocolombian and indigenous populations.  The project has emerged from a longstanding partnership between the University of Edinburgh, Universidad Claretiana, Fundacion Casa Tres Patios and Mr Klaje. It brought together young people, researchers from Colombia and the United Kingdom, artists, educators and local organisations, to respond to priorities identified by young people: tensions within/between neighbourhoods (barrios), violence and armed gangs, and feelings of fear and distrust.

Through a co-produced participatory music-and art-based approach, our project has aimed to:

  1. Enable young people to become critical co-constructors of their communities’ histories and visualize alternative futures through a co-produced music- and arts based methodology.
  2. Generate dialogue between youth groups to break down neighbourhood barriers and deconstruct post-conflict tensions.
  3. Make visible the experiences of marginalized young people and support the creation of sustainable alliances with CSOs, policy and educational stakeholders and researchers for delivering social justice for young people.
  4. Investigate the potential of participatory music and arts as a tool for reconciliation and capacity building.


Despite the difficult territorial conditions present in Quibdó and the physical distance that the pandemic generated between the group of facilitators and our young co-researchers (including difficulties of virtual connectivity), we were able to transform our original arts- and music-based methodologies into successful online alternatives.  From a methodological point of view, this has provided many interesting learning experiences for our team, captured for example in our methodological toolbox. Through this toolbox, we aim to contribute directly to the technical and conceptual strengthening of the various processes that co-researchers carry out in their territories, within the framework of their personal projects and through their collectives and communities. This will result in  expanding their capacities for action in the communities they inhabit and allowing the construction of new narratives from art and music, as a language that unites people and enables them to create spaces for reflection.

As part of the process, a series of audiovisual content was produced with the main objective of making visible the young people linked to the ¿Cuál es la verdad? project as active individuals in the construction of the territory and to enable, from this audiovisual exercise, the generation of networks between new organizations, groups, young people and the community that wish to be linked to the processes developed by the group of young co-researchers. Bringing together all these different groups has generated opportunities for collaborative work between various actors that inhabit Quibdó, promoting creativity, collectivity and empathy, and sparking concrete actions to reduce the exclusionary or violent practices that historically marked the relationships between neighborhoods.

In doing so, the ¿Cuál es la verdad? project has generated meeting spaces to reduce violence, to enable the empowerment of young co-researchers as active, critical and purposeful actors in the transformation of their territory and the exploration of arts and music as a language and an effective methodology for bringing communities together and collectively build spaces for the construction of peaceful and self-sustainable territories.

Phase 1

A playful and participatory process was developed for this phase, namely the virtual adaptation of a traditional Yincana game. The game was carried out through eight interconnected stations which invited the young co-researchers to engage with key questions with the ultimate goal of collectively defining our research problem and steps to address it. Each station addressed a particular concept, such as collectivity, community and motivation. Some stations were devoted to exploring the identities and characteristics of the young co-researchers, such as their diverse abilities and talents, their learning needs and their research and planning skills. The final stations focused on defining the final research problem and desired outcomes, and on developing a concrete work schedule to realise the research and implementation of the co-researchers’ idea.

Co-producing the research focus
and design through
jamboard participatory sessions

Phase 2

Following Phase 1 (the Yincana), which identified a core research problem, Phase 2 was devoted to developing a methodological toolbox that the young co-researchers could utilise as part of this and any other future projects. During this phase, the co-researchers were introduced to a variety of creative research tools and trialled and adapted them within the group in weekly sessions. The tools were designed in a way to work both online and in person, and to be adaptable to different research problems and contexts.

Co-producing the methodological toolbox

Phase 3

In Phase 3, our young co-researchers have implemented the methodological tools by organising and facilitating a series of workshops involving members of their local communities. With support of the research team, the co-researchers organised eight workshops involving more than 80 children and young people in different neighbourhoods of Quibdó. Some of the workshops took place in person at community locations, and others took place online. The aims of these workshops were to a) enable the co-researchers to develop their skills of facilitating arts-based participatory workshops, b) to foster dialogue within and across groups in the communities, and c) to generate in-depth research data about children and young people’s everyday lives, dreams and hopes within their local communities. The findings illustrated that many young people in Quibdó are keen to participate in processes of social change and peace-building, but feel that they do not often get an opportunity to do this. There is a need to create more safe spaces for young people to come together, for example by creating welcoming music, arts and sports spaces.

Replicating the learning
in communities

Phase 4

Chocó is one of the regions in Colombia that are most affected by difficulties in accessing education, poverty, crime and violence. The ‘4 Corners’ project is a community project conceived by a group of young people from this area, with the aim to address the economic precariousness experienced by many families. The project considers the dynamics within families, and seeks to address the needs and interests of each member by involving them in each of the components (or ‘corners’) to generate economic, recreational, cultural and collaborative activities within each family and community. The vision of ‘4 Esquinas’ revolves around symbols of Afrocolombian spiritual heritage and tradition. Central to ‘4 Esquinas’ is Yemayá and each of the other corners generates income to support that project. The project hopes to create a network of mutual support, repair the social fabric and provide economic opportunities for families in this territory.