Guy Burgess and Heidi Burgess
Co-Directors, Beyond Intractability Project, Conflict Information Consortium
July 31, 2019
Over the last several months, we have been encouraged by the degree of support and the large number of thoughtful comments that we have received in response to our invitation to participate in and help shape the Constructive Conflict Initiative. Based on the hundred plus responses received thus far, it's clear to us that there is substantial support for an initiative like this. It is also clear that there are large numbers of organizations and individuals who are, to one degree or another, already trying to address one or more of the challenges that we raise. We have been especially heartened to have received positive responses from people from many different countries, political perspectives, and conflict-related roles and expertise.
We will soon start posting on the initiative website and on Beyond Intractability's Colleague Activities blog information that we've received about publications, projects, and organizations doing Initiative-related work.
Comments, Suggestions, and Discussions
We have received an extensive set of thoughtful suggestions about ways to improve and extend the initiative and “next steps.” Almost all of these comments have come in through direct emails, rather than the public discussion group—perhaps because that’s easier, or perhaps because folks wanted their comments to be private. However, we see a benefit to sharing many of these ideas, so we have posted on the CCI discussion board a series of digests, anonymously highlighting the key comments received.
The discussion is open to everyone to view, but you will need a free username and password to add your comments. (We do this to protect the discussion from the trolls.) We hope many of you will read over ideas already submitted and add your thoughts—on the discussion board, or by directly contacting Guy and Heidi.
We Need Your Help
Perhaps the single most obvious thing to emerge from our discussions thus far is the need to get many more people involved in day-to-day business of promoting the Initiative. Please help if you can! Things we nee include the following:
Networking / Recruitment -- We need people with good networks and networking skills to help spread the word. Please forward the link to the Initiative homepage (https://www.beyondintractability.org/constructive-conflict-initiative) to your networks, adding your thoughts on why this is important and explaining that we are still collecting ideas and as many statements of support as possible. Let us know if you are interested in helping out in other ways.
Publicity -- We also need people to make the case for the Initiative in various public settings. We will soon be creating fliers on the Initiative, which people can download and take to conferences and meetings to distribute. We’d love for people to do presentations and discussions on this at conferences. Personally, we can’t go to as many as we would like because of limited time and, especially, limited money. But if you are going anyway, we’d appreciate your help spreading the word. And, please let us know what you’re doing, we will be as supportive as possible.
We also invite people to write and publish blogs, editorials, journal articles, etc. that make the case that destructive, intractable conflicts are a serious problem that need much more attention. We’d love it if you would reference the Initiative in your piece, but even without it, such publicity is helpful. (Please share with us what you do, so we know about it!)
Social Media. We are in the process of upgrading our efforts to use social media to help advance the Initiative, but our efforts are fairly basic. This is just not an area of strength for us. If it is your strength, we’d appreciate suggestions about better ways to do this—and the legwork to help pull it off.
Funding and “In-kind” Contributions -- Right now this Initiative has very little funding. The initial work has been done on a pro bono basis as Guy and Heidi’s retirement project. Obviously, if it’s to succeed, the Initiative must dramatically expand on this initial base of support and involvement. So, we hope others will be drawn to work on it too, in any way that makes sense given their current circumstances. University faculty, for example, can teach about it, can create learning materials for their own classes, which we would very much like to share on Beyond Intractability (as we are doing with our learning materials). Forrmal academic publications related to the Initiative would also be valuable (please let us know if you write one!).
Similarly, students can write related papers for classes. If they are quality pieces, we can publish them on Beyond Intractability, and link them to the initiative. Students who want to intern with us could gain good experience and be very helpful—though right now we cannot offer funding.
Other people with extra time—retirees, young, under-employed professionals could spend some time helping out with this with the knowledge that they are doing something important to make a real difference in the world.
Or, if you don’t have time, but you agree on the importance of this project, please consider making a donation to the project. A few of you have, but most have not. This is an easy way to help us get this advance the Initiative.
Fundraising -- We have tried to develop the Initiative in ways that minimize funding needs. Still, we are going to have to raise additional funds in order to be successful. The challenge here, we think, is that this initiative is very broad, and it doesn’t fit in many funders’ traditional funding categories. We’re going to have to demonstrate why it is worth of funding anyway. We are beginning to work on this, but would appreciate help here too.
Public education has to be one of the Initiative's primary goals. We simply have to get a lot more people understanding why our inability to deal with conflict lies at the core of so many of our big problems. We also need people to start thinking a whole lot harder about how they can change their own behaviors to minimize destructive conflict.
Guy and Heidi are currently working on developing a set of materials that could be used to initiate discussions in a variety of settings: K-12, undergraduate and graduate classes, civic and church groups, businesses, possibly (we’d hope) government agencies. These will include several articles written for public consumption and a short video that will explain the core ideas of the initiative, and suggest ways “ordinary people” can get involved. Accompanying these will be a discussion guide, and exercises. We are also beginning to think about writing a trade book which lays out the key argument.
Again, though, we need help! If you’d be willing to use any of these materials—in your classes, or in your organizations, write us, and we’ll send them to you just as soon as they are ready. And if you want to create your own materials and are willing to share them, please do!
Beyond Intractability Materials
In addition to these new materials, many more related videos and articles are already available on Beyond Intractability (www.beyondintractability.org). These include a growing collection of short Things You Can Do to Help articles, as well as an extensive set of materials outlining the conflict and peacebuilding field's big ideas and Fundamental Building Blocks. The companion Conflict Frontiers Seminar lays out the need for this initiative in much more detail than the Initiative documents do—that seminar can form the basis of an entire course on this topic, exploring the nature of the conflict problem, the advantages and limitations of current approaches, and what we see as a promising strategy for advancing the frontier of the field. Lastly, BI has a “BI-in-Context Blog that has 100s of articles placing the conflict problem and potential solutions into the broader social context and the Colleague Activities Blog highlights related projects being undertaken around the world.
Beyond Intractability-based Texts
For educators, one way in which you can support the Initiative is by assigning Beyond Intractability materials in your conflict-related classes. It is easy to put together customized collections of materials that can serve as either a primary or secondary text. We ask students to contribute roughly half the cost of a comparable textbook so it's a good deal for students as well. Let us know if you are interested in doing this, and we’ll give you the “how-to” details.