Guy Burgess and Heidi Burgess
Co-Directors, Beyond Intractability Project, Conflict Information Consortium
Starting in Fall 2019, we are starting a new Massive Open Online Seminar focused on the goals and challenges set out in the Constructive Conflict Intiative. Given the enormously difficult problems that the Initiative seeks to address, we believe that it makes sense to start now to exchange ideas about how best to approach these problems.
For those who aren't familiar with our MOOS idea, it is related to the better-known MOOCs, but different. MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) are narrowly-focused courses designed to convey a limited amount of settled knowledge on a particular topic to a large audience at low cost. The flow of information is one way—from teacher to student. The MOOS concept, on the other hand, is focused on presenting and exploring a larger and more complex series of ideas relating to tough problems and unsettled knowledge at the frontier of a field like intractable conflict. We hope to get a large group of people grappling with and exchanging ideas about ways to address all of the challenges the Initiative lays out.
Moving Beyond Intractability: a Starting Point for Discussion
In order to provide a framework for the discussion, and to "seed it" with some ideas as a starting point, we will be posting on this MOOS daily posts which begin to detail our view of the nature of the problem and possible ways of addressing it. We certainly don't think —and don't want to give the impression—that we have "all the answers." Rather, we present these ideas in the hopes of starting a discussion about them and related ideas. Our goal is to get a large group of people grappling with and exchanging ideas about the nature of the problem and ways of addressing it—much like folks are already doing in response to the Constructive Conflict Initiative mailing.
New Discussion Structure
In our past MOOSs, we tried to use a traditional discussion software and required users to receive a user name and password to participate. While many people requested user names and passwords, few participated--perhaps because it was a hassle, or perhaps it was because so many online discussions quickly turn ugly. But people did answer our email about the initiative. So this time, we are just asking people to send us an email with their comments on any MOOS post. With your permission, we will then share those comments to our new discussion pages—either with attribution—or without (your choice). No user name or password will be required, and we will only post respectful comments—though we certainly invite comments that disagree with or challenge things we say. You don't need to agree with us—although if you do, we like to hear that too! Please send anything that will add to our collective image of how to address these challenges!
Constructive Conflict MOOS Content
The Constructive Conflict MOOS will have a combination of legacy content from our earlier MOOSs and Blogs, combined with new content. We will start with a review of our "foundation document" -- The Intractable Conflict Challenge (#mbi_challenge). We will then draw some key posts from our first MOOS, the Conflict Frontiers Seminar, (#mbi_frontiers) which really laid the foundation of ideas that generated the Initiative idea. It lays out what we see as the nature of the problem, why people tend to fall into destructive behavior patterns, and why it is so critical that we address this now. Although many of these ideas are presented at least briefly in the Full Initiative Statement, the Frontiers Seminar and the associated The Intractable Conflict Challenge elaborate on many of these ideas and the former does so in video format—which a few respondents suggested would be helpful for the Initiative.
We will also draw some content from the Conflict Fundamentals seminar series (#mbi_fundamentals), which has basic lessons that are useful for people new to the topic of Conflict Resolution, and the related, but shorter Things YOU Can Do to Help (#mbi_to_do) posts, which begin to grapple in a single page with things "everyday" people can do to start addressing conflicts more constructively. Information about associated projects and publications—particularly stories about people and organizations doing constructive things—will be drawn from our Colleague Activities Blog (#mbi_colleague) and articles drawn from a wider circle of expertise (beyond conflict resolution scholars and practitioners) will be highlighted in posts from our Beyond Intractability in Context Blog (#mbi_context).
The above posts will be supplemented with new posts which focus more on the positive side of the story than our original material did—things that people can do and have already done to address the Initiative's ten challenges. And, the entire MOOS will be supported by additional content found under all of the above links and on the Beyond Intractability Knowledge Base.
This seminar will include materials for a wide range of audiences. While the original seminars were designed for people interested in systematically working through a complex series of ideas, we recognized most of our visitors don't have the time to do that.
So each post was created as a stand alone document or video, with the expectation that visitors would, as they had time, focus on those materials that they found to be especially interesting and/or useful. Visitors could then, if they chose, follow links to find related posts.
We are continuing with this approach, but are trying to make the new material even shorter, so it takes less time to watch or read. Different types of information will be indicated by associated hashtags (see above). Part of the idea behind the "massive" nature of this seminar is that it allows us to pursue a wide range of topics and types of materials simultaneously. We expect that the Initiative's next phase will be strengthened by the growing collection of information that we hope to accumulate from seminar participants.
Options for Following and Participating in the Constructive Conflict MOOS
Since everyone is very busy, we will be presenting the new CC-MOOS materials in "bite-sized" pieces that, we hope, will fit into most people's daily "news feed" reading time. As before, we will be posting the materials to Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, as well as to the BI/MBI and CCI sites. We will also be presenting a digest of recent posts in our Newsletter.
We will continue to offer social media followers two options: "Selected CC-MOOS Posts" will feature approximately one post per day and the more extensive, "All CC-MOOS Posts"collection will provide up to three posts per day. See the inset box for sign-up links. (If you are already signed up for one of our "news feeds," you do not need to sign up again--we will be using the same ones.)
The More Structured Frontiers and Fundamentals Seminars
The Constructive Conflict MOOS Seminar structure described above is analogous to a "brown bag" seminar series with an eclectic mix of presentations focused around a broad theme, with the expectation that participants will drop in and out depending upon their interests and time availability.
Those wanting a more structured experience that parallels a graduate-style seminar might prefer our Conflict Frontiers Seminar which explores the nature of the intractable conflict problem and what we see as the most realistic strategy for addressing it—something that we call Massively Parallel Peacebuilding.
The Frontiers seminar is, in turn, supported by our Conflict Fundamentals Seminar which provides a comprehensive overview of the conflict and peacebuilding field's big ideas—the foundation upon which the Conflict Frontiers Seminar is built. Since the Frontiers Seminar is presented in a jargon-free, generally-accessible format, the Fundamentals Seminar is not a strict prerequisite. Still, it does provide important material that dramatically enriches the ideas presented in the Frontiers Seminar and one's general understanding of the multifaceted nature of the intractable conflict problem and potential solutions.
Taken together, the two seminars provide a detailed explanation of why we think that the intractable conflict problem demands the kind of very large-scale approach that the Constructive Conflict Initiative demands.