Fundamentals Seminar 3: Conflict Assessment and Mapping

This relates to Conflict Frontiers Massively Parallel Peacebuilding (MPP) Challenge 1-Figuring Out What Is Going On..

Conflicts are often more complex than they appear.  Although we tend to reduce them to simple "us-versus-them," or "right-versus-wrong" stories, there is almost always more to it than that.  Finding out what is going on is critical to dealing with conflict effectively.  These articles explain different ways of doing that.

  • Conflict Assessment -- Conflict assessment is the first stage in the process of conflict management and resolution that begins by clarifying participants' interests, needs, positions, and issues and then engages stakeholders to find solutions.
  • Conflict Mapping -- Conflict mapping is one approach to conflict assessment. Originally developed in the 1970s by Paul Wehr, it has been adapted and used by many scholars and practitioners since. 
  • Complex Adaptive Systems -- Beyond complicated, societal-level conflicts can be considered to be "complex adaptive systems," similar in some sense to weather, ant colonies, or jazz ensembles. The study of these systems requires us to challenge assumptions deeply embedded in the North American/European understandings of conflict intervention.
  • Systems Modeling - One of the central challenges of deciding how to address intractable conflict is to understand how to respond to their dynamics and complexity. Systems modeling is one tool to help you do that.  This article explains systems modeling and gives several examples of how it can be used to design effective interventions in intractable conflicts.

Related Conflict Frontiers Posts

  • See the Complexity It's not Just "Us versus Them" -- Parties, issues, dynamics, power, and relationships are among the conflict elements one must clearly understand.
  • Map the Basic Conflict Elements -- Conflict mapping lets you see what's going on in a conflict, so you can figure out how to engage to have the most positive impact.
  • Identify the Core Issues -- Wonder why conflict mapping matters?  This video shows how it can totally change your approach to a conflict.
  • Identify the Overlay Issues -- This, too, shows why conflict mapping matters as it helps explain why simple, quick "solutions," never work in intractable conflicts.  At the same time it explores what DOES need to happen to tackle such conflicts effectively.

Related Knowledge Base Essays

  • Early Warning -- Based on similar efforts to predict natural disasters and crop yields, many have attempted to construct models to predict where conflict will erupt. This essay explores the difficulties in creating such a system.
  • Evaluation and Assessment of Interventions -- Winston Churchill said, "True genius resides in the capacity for evaluation of uncertain, hazardous, and conflicting information." This essay explains how evaluation can make interventions into intractable conflict more effective.
  • Evaluation as a Tool for Reflection -- This essay argues that evaluation and systematic reflection provides for the learning and knowledge necessary for effective dispute resolution processes. At the same time, it poses significant difficulties.
  • Formative Evaluation -- Long-term conflicts are typically caused by many factors that are both interconnected and constantly changing. Formative evaluation can help practitioners adjust their interventions as the conflict changes.

Related Beyond Intractability In Context Blog Posts