Conflict Fundamentals Seminar/Blog

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Conflict Fundamentals

As conflicts have been heating up and becoming both more destructive and intractable, many of our friends who are not in the conflict resolution field have been asking me "what can I do?" or "What can be done to defuse the deepening level of distrust, hostility, and even hate that we see growing daily in the United States and elsewhere around the world?"  We created this seminar series -- along with the "What Everyone Can Do" Blog -- to try to help answer that question.  These seminars go into more detail than the Blog, presenting the core knowledge from the conflict resolution and peacebuilding fields---knowledge that is, to a large extent, considered a "starting point" for our more advanced Conflict Frontiers Seminar Series.  They are also useful on their own to better understand and defuse many day-to-day as well as complex intractable conflicts.

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Syllabus Overview

After introductory material, the Fundamentals seminars examine core concepts in the field, the different parties that often get involved, and the things that tend to make conflicts either resolvable or intractable.

We then go on to make a distinction between the "core factors" that typically underlie difficult and intractable conflicts and what we call "overlay factors" -- things that are not central drivers, yet tend to develop and make situations worse.

Typical core factors in intractable conflicts are high-stakes distributional issues, moral issues, identity issues, and status and power issues. Overlay factors include the way conflicts are seen (i.e., how they are framed), other psychological factors that distort the way we view conflicts and how we decide to deal with them, fact-finding problems, procedural problems, and escalation.

The seminars then go into a long list of ways these core and overlay problems can be addressed in order to resolve conflicts, or when that is not possible, to transform them so they are more constructive and less destructive.

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Latest Posts
  • Channels of Communication
    When channels of communication between hostile actors close, risks of destructive conflict raise substantially.
  • Misunderstandings
    Even if the misunderstandings do not cause conflict, they can escalate it rapidly once it starts.
  • Interpersonal Communication
    We take it for granted, but so much can go wrong with our communication. In conflict, care is essential!
  • Cognitive Dissonance
    Cognitive dissonance can escalate or de-escalate conflict depending on how it is used.
  • Victimhood
    Victimhood has a dual nature—people can be both ashamed and proud of their victim status at the same time.
Detailed Syllabus

See syllabi for the entire seminar series with a list and short descriptions of all posts.

Participation Options and Guidelines

There are four ways to participate in the Fundamentals Seminar:

  1. Visiting: You can simply drop into the seminar, reading and watching as your interest and time allows.
  2. Following: You can sign up to follow the core seminars or all the seminars and blogs on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or through the MBI Newsletter.
  3. Join the Discussions: If you get an MBI user name and password you can join the Conflict Frontiers Discussions
  4. Contribute: We hope users will contribute information about their activities and/or donate money to help move this project forward. We cannot complete this project without financial help!

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