After a summer spent planning and upgrading the Moving Beyond Intractability (MBI) system and continuing development of the Constructive Conflict Initiative (CCI), we want to give you an update on where things stand and our plans for the next several months.
Phase I Comments and Feedback
We have received statements of support and thoughtful next-steps advice from 100+ people who have responded to our invitation to get involved. For example, some respondents emphasized the importance of framing the Initiative in positive and hopeful ways with lots of examples of successful projects that are making genuine progress. Others stressed the importance of identifying concrete steps that people can take that will help address the problem. Others made it clear that we need to understand the interests that lead people to handle conflict poorly. We then need to show them how alternative, more constructive approaches can help them better advance their interests.
Given the large number of conflict problems and the wide range of settings in which those problems occur, respondents also emphasized the importance of developing a database for cataloging information on more constructive approaches and then matching that information with people who are likely to find it useful. Still others reminded us that information needs to be presented in ways that mass audiences find attractive and accessible. This probably involves the abundant use of visuals, animations, and podcasts. Others urged us to simplify things in ways that offer users custom-tailored advice that avoids debilitating information overload. More suggestions are listed on our Initiative Feedback Page.
Obviously, doing all of these things will be a very tall order. That's why the Initiative is envisioned as a long-term project, not a quick fix. Still, from the many suggestions we have received, we have identified a series of next-steps projects that, if we can recruit the people and funding needed to do the work, will place us in a position where we can realistically start to pursue the more ambitious suggestions listed above. Current next-step plans include:
- Public Awareness Building
- Inventory of Ongoing Activities that Address the Initiative's Ten Challenges and Advance Initiative Goals
- Inventory of Publications that Address the Initiative's Challenges and Goals
- Additional Participant Recruitment and Networking Efforts
- Initiative Planning Conference
- Funding Strategy Development
If you are interested in getting involved in any of these efforts, please let us know. While, over the near term, volunteer opportunities are all that we have to offer, over the longer term there may be paid opportunities (especially if you are willing to get involved in fundraising efforts). We need people with all levels of background and experience—from students to project directors.
Opportunities for Getting Involved!
- Give us Feedback -- Despite the great advice received thus far, there are still a great many more people who could provide valuable insights to add to the Initiative planning process. If you have thoughts about the initiative--and how to make it better or move it forward -- please let us know.
- Help us spread the word -- We would greatly appreciate any assistance you can provide in circulating the Initiative Invitation to anyone who might be interested. Please forward the Invitation link, along with the Initiative's new, easier-to-remember, homepage link (www.constructive-conflict-initiative.org) to anyone (and everyone) who might be interested. You can also send us people's contact information and we will contact them directly. Or, you can simply just suggest groups that we should try find a way to reach.
- Volunteer Some Time -- We need help pursuing all of the next steps listed above. We need people with all levels of background and experience—from students to project directors. Right now we are we are looking for a few people willing to commit to at least four hours a week to the project. The work can be done on your own schedule and from any computer connected to the Internet. If you have a few hours a week to help us develop the project further, please get in touch!
- Share Your Related Work -- Consider what you are currently doing or could do to help advance the goals and/or address the challenges listed in the Initiative. If you are already working on a project that relates to one or more of the Initiative goals or challenges, let us know about it! We will be featuring lots of these on the MOOS (when, of course,they are ready for public release). We are also starting to compile a list—which may turn into an organized database or extension of the BI Knowledge Base—which shares as much as possible about what is currently going on.
- Start Working on One of the Challenges -- If you aren't yet working on anything of this sort, consider where you might be able to start. This can simply range from reaching out to people you know "on the other side," to reading more about the challenges we face, to starting to develop efforts to address one or more of those challenges. While we can't promise that this work will be easy, we can promise it will be rewarding. It is also every bit as essential to the welfare of future generations as efforts to promote climate action.
The Fall/Winter 2019/20 Constructive Conflict Massive Open Online Seminar (CC-MOOS)
Given the enormously difficult problems that the Initiative is seeking to address, it makes sense to start now to exchange ideas about how best to approach these problems. This is going to require us all to start thinking outside the box imposed by business-as-usual approaches. As a first step toward cultivating this kind of thinking, we are going to convene a new "Massive Open Online Seminar" (MOOS) focused specifically on the constructive conflict challenge posed by the Initiative.
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 the new Constructive Conflict 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 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. 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). Lastly, 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.
We intend to post materials suitable 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 won't have the time to do that. Accordingly, each post was created as a stand-alone document or video with the expectation that visitors would, as they had time, focus on those posts 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 simultaneously. We expect that the Initiative's next phase will be strengthened by the growing collection of information that we expect 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" featuring approximately one post per day and more extensive, "All CC-MOOS Posts"collection with 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 also be monitoring Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn for comments which we will then copy to the MOOS discussion, just as we plan to do with emails.
With the Burgesses' retirement from their research and teaching positions at the University of Colorado, the Conflict Information Consortium (the parent organization for Beyond Intractability and the Constructive Conflict Initiative) will be discontinued as a University program effective May 15, 2020. As retired faculty, Burgesses are committed to maintaining and continuing to develop the Beyond Intractability system and pursuing the Constructive Conflict Initiative after that date. Fortunately, the efficiencies of a web-based project like ours make the shift to an independent structure easy and relatively seamless with no noticeable changes in website functionality expected.
As part of this transition, we are no longer able to accept donations through the University of Colorado Foundation. As an alternative way of raising the modest funding needed to cover Consortium expenses (but not the Burgesses time) we have established a simple Go Fund Me page. Please contribute what you can. We are also interested in partnering with other organizations to pursue the Initiative's Next Steps Projects outlined above. There are also a great many ways in which volunteers could help us speed and strengthen our efforts. If you are interested, please contact us.