Beyond Intractability
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A new place to explore and discuss ideas for moving beyond the complex intractable conflict problems that so threaten human society.

MOOS Concept

**Note to careful readers: This document is similar to the quick intoductory document linked above, but has more information than that one does.  The detailed description has much more yet. 


This is a "Massive Open Online Seminar" (not course) focused on better ways of handing the biggest challenges of our time: terrorism. war. mass immigration, inequality, jobs, education, deficits, climate name we can't seem to successfully tackle any of these issues.

MOOS stands for "Massive Open Online Seminar" (not course) focused on better ways of handing the biggest challenges of our time: terrorism. war. mass immigration, inequality, jobs, education, deficits, climate name it. We can't seem to successfully tackle any of these issues, largely due to our inability to handle the intractable conflicts these issues spawn. 


In order to encourage many more people to learn about and actively engage with this issue, we are convening this “MOOS,” which is being hosted on Beyond Intractability (, and linked to many of the most popular social networks such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.
Unlike a standard MOOC (massive open online course), which is designed to certify mastery of a settled body of knowledge, this MOOS is being structured as an online seminar designed to present key existing ideas, but also to address unknowns and uncertainties and to discuss tentative new ideas at the frontier the field. The MOOS will consider both the nature of the intractable conflict problem, and strategies for dealing with it more effectively.  We will focus extensively on the problems of scale and complexity that, we believe, make these problems so extraordinarily difficult and dangerous. 
Grading and Certification --- At this stage, there is no effort to provide any type of grading or certification for those who participate–we do not have adequate funding or staffing to do that.  We do, however, hope that the opportunity to learn from other MOOS participants and to consider provocative new ideas for advancing the frontier of the field will be sufficient incentive to participate. There will also be opportunities for participants to publicize and, perhaps, publish their work on Beyond Intractability and the MOOS. 

Post-Based Structure --- In a conventional seminar, discussions are organized around a syllabus that systematically takes participants through an exploration of a complex topic  – the sort of thing that is worthy of a quarter or semester-long effort. Individual seminar sessions are then built around short presentations from the seminar leader that introduce a topic and, as a starting point for discussion, offer some initial ideas or questions for class consideration. The MOOS also has a syllabus (though to sound a little less "academic" we are calling it a Table of Contents (see below).  In place of face-to-face seminar sessions, however, the MOOS is built around a series of posts with short essays or videos that present key ideas and then, like a face-to-face seminar, we ask questions or open topics for participants' discussion.

MOOS Goals

We have four goals for the MOOS:
  1. To get many more people aware of, thinking about, and acting to address the problem of intractable conflict in the US and worldwide,
  2. To get people thinking about which currently-practiced strategies can be scaled up to better work on these large-scale, complex conflicts,
  3. To encourage implementation of those ideas that are already available, but under-recognized or under-utilized, and
  4. To encourage the development of new strategies designed to deal more effectively with specific aspects of the intractable conflict problem.

Topical Focus

The focus of this MOOS goes beyond the narrow goal of limiting violence, to include the broader peacebuilding goals of promoting wiser and more equitable strategies for meeting basic human needs and protecting the social, economic, and environmental commons upon which we all depend.
As this is starting as a US-based project, we feel that we have a special obligation to focus a substantial amount (but not certainly not all) of our attention on the United States' slide into alarmingly hostile, identity-based conflict that is threatening the very viability of US democracy.  Until we can demonstrate that our conflict-handling strategies work on the tough conflicts in our own country (where our own future is at stake), we believe we ought to be very circumspect in offering advice -- or intervening in the conflicts -- of others.
It also seems likely that, over the long term, the global viability of democratic models of governance will, in large part, be determined by how well the US and other developed democracies are able to meet their current challenges.  If we can't make democracy work in these countries, with all of their advantages, should we really expect others to follow our “good governance" model?
Global Connections --- That said, we recognize that intractable conflict is a global problem and that the active cross-fertilization of ideas across social and cultural boundaries offers the best hope for finding solutions.  We also understand that we, in the US and elsewhere, have a moral obligation to help others escape untenable living situations around the world--particularly (but not only) those that we had a hand in creating.  Therefore, we must contribute towards proving safe haven for war refugees, while working diligently to figure out ways to stabilize their home countries so they can return home.  Thus, we want to extend as wide and open an invitation to participate as possible–welcoming participation from people outside the US, and welcoming conversations about issues that are focused outside the US along with conversations about how to deal with intractable conflicts here. 
Unfortunately, at this time, we do not have the funding to provide materials in any language other than English.  Over the longer term, we want to seek the partners and funding needed to effectively span language and cultural differences.

MOOS Format 

Initially, the MOOS content and organization is being based on ideas and materials that we (Guy and Heidi Burgess) have developed and have taught over the last 20 years in both face-to-face and online courses.  These courses are, in turn, based on our collaboration with the over 400 people who have contributed to the development of Beyond Intractability and related projects. Thus the MOOS includes the work and ideas of many other people that relate to the same issues.

 The MOOS is built around a series of posts with short essays or videos that present key ideas and then, like a face-to-face seminar, we ask questions or open topics for participants' consideration and discussion.

In a sense, the baseline MOOS material would constitute a book, if it were being written in a more traditional way.  But given that few people seem to have the time or inclination to sit down and read whole books anymore, and we want to encourage discussion and collaborative thinking on this topic, we are experimenting with this MOOS as an alternative framework for presenting ideas. 
We also hope this MOOS format will allow us to reach a much larger number of people, much more quickly.  Books typically take one to two years (or more) to produce, and most sell only a few thousand or tens of thousands of copies.  Beyond Intractability has been reaching over 200,000 users each month, and we hope many of those will at least “check out” this MOOS.
Another advantage is that the material is being presented in “bite-sized” segments presented in language that that is designed to be broadly accessible (no academic jargon).  The goal is that each segment can be read and/or watched quickly, but taken together over time, they will provide an in-depth look at a very complex and difficult topic.
This format also allows us to get immediate feedback and amplification of the ideas, as readers respond and add their own ideas on each topic.  Unlike a book, which is “set in stone” once it is printed, this MOOS can be constantly expanding and improving. We can change what it says depending on events, we can add many other people’s thoughts to our own.  It is much more “alive” than a book.

Multiple MOOS Seminars

While we originally thought we would produce one MOOS, we realized that we really need several, all of which will "run" simultaneously.  Current plans call for
  • a Semester-Long Seminar (the "Big MOOS"),
  • a set of smaller MOOSes:
    • "Brown Bag Seminars" which are much shorter, one-time events focused on particular (often news-worthy) topics,
    • Key Ideas, which are designed primarily for newcomers to the field and highlights some of the field's most important ideas (sometimes presented though in new contexts or modified to apply to intractable conflicts.)
    • Supplemental Materials - Provocative articles and short video found elsewhere around the web. 
Detailed Overview of the MOOS project is available here.



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