Reconciliation Index

By Heidi Burgess

September, 2019

Purpose: This exercise aims to get students (or other adults) in discussion groups of various sorts to really think through what "reconciliation" means and what their society would look like if it "reconciled" or "thoroughly resolved" intergroup conflicts (such as political conflicts, racial, cultural, or other identity conflicts). Based on that, it asks participants to build an "index of reconciliation" that would allow them to measure how far or close any particular society was coming to being reconciled.

Time needed 60-19 minutes


This post is part of the
Constructive Conflict
MOOS Seminar's

exploration of the tough challenges posed by the
Constructive Conflict Initiative.


Materials Needed: none


  • This exercise is patterned after Elise Boulding's Future Visioning Exercise, so if your institution can access that, it is worth reading before doing this exercise.  If you don't have permission to download it, this exercise still works on its own.
  • This exercise can be done individually, and an essay written to answer the questions; it can also be done in small groups (or even as a full class discussion.)
  • Consider a "post-conflict" society.  (I should note that I don't like this term, because all societies, no matter how peaceful and reconciled have conflict. But it is a commonly-used term, generally intended to mean post-civil war after a peace agreement is signed.) Although we have not had a civil war here in the U.S. for many years, I do think that this exercise makes sense in the U.S. context as well, given the level of intergroup hostility we are currently experiencing.  
  • Imagine your chosen society thirty years in the future and imagine it is "reconciled."  What level of conflict would/should still exist in a "reconciled" society?  Put another way, what are the social, psychological, political, and economic attributes that would indicate to you (and others) that reconciliation had, indeed, been accomplished?  
  • Consider how these attributes could be measured?   Putting this more broadly, how does one measure the degree to which reconciliation has--or has not--been achieved in any context?  
  • Then as a next step, look back from the future to the present, and imagine what changes it would take to get from where your chosen society is now to the reconciled future you envision?  
    • What are the short-term, 
    • intermediate -term and
    • long-term steps that must be taken in order to achieve your imagined future?  
    • What are the obstacles to taking those steps?  
  • Can you imagine a few realistic steps that might be started now to try to start moving along this "reconciliation path?"