Coronavirus, BI and the Constructive Conflict Initiative
The Coronavirus Crisis could easily drive the US (and many other countries) further apart in ways that compound the tragedy by producing even more political dysfunction. Alternatively, the virus could bring us together in ways that lessen its impact and lay the groundwork for reforms that would produce a wiser and more equitable democracy. The choice is up to us.
Our chances of following the more desirable path will be greatly enhanced if we can find ways to better address the many conflict challenges addressed by BI and the Constructive Conflict Initiative. As the Burgesses describe in a letter to the BI community, we will be adding new materials which better focus BI resources on the immediate conflict challenges and on the possibility that the crisis will produce a "never again" learning moment in which we implement a wide range of reforms that will enable us to better work together to advance the common good.
Based on the comments and feedback received on Phase I of the Initiative, we have started to build a database for cataloging information on more constructive approaches to the challenges. We are prioritizing information that is accessible to a general audience, and that which is likely to be of interest and real utility. Obviously, doing this will be a big job that will take some time to complete. That's why the Initiative was originally envisioned as a long-term project, not a quick fix.
In the wake of the Coronavirus, however, we are trying to assemble an initial collection of materials focused on virus-related topics as quickly as possible. We will also be continuing efforts to pursue most of the next steps projects that we identified last fall. These 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
- 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. 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 website (when, of course, they are ready for public release).
- 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 Constructive Conflict Massive Open Online Seminar (CC-MOOS)—a Starting Point for Discussion
Given the enormously difficult problems that the Initiative is seeking to address, we are continuing the Constructive Conflict Massive Open Online Seminar (CC-MOOS) to help us and others to start thinking creatively and widely about how to approach the many problems posed in the initial CCI, as well as the exacerbations being caused by the Coronavirus and the responses to it.
While we are seeding the MOOS with daily posts (ours and others'), 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 have done in response to our initial 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. The legacy content includes a review of our "foundation document" — The Intractable Conflict Challenge (#mbi_challenge) and key posts from our first MOOS, the Conflict Frontiers Seminar, (#mbi_frontiers) which explained why intractable conflict and systems approaches to it are the "new frontier" of the peace and conflict field.
We also draw some content from the Conflict Fundamentals seminar series (#mbi_fundamentals), which has basic lessons for people new to conflict resolution, and the related, but shorter Things YOU Can Do to Help (#mbi_to_do) Blog, which begins to grapple in a single page with things "everyday" people can do to start addressing conflicts more constructively.
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. Here we will be pulling both from our own work, and from our growing Colleague Activities Blog (#mbi_colleague) and the Beyond Intractability in Context Blog (#mbi_context)--focusing particularly on constructive ways of addressing the challenges before us, and now, particularly focusing on ameliorating conflicts relating to the fallout from the Coronavirus.
We intend to post materials suitable for a wide range of audiences. Each post was created as a stand-alone document or video, but has links to related materials that visitors can follow if they so choose. We are designating different types of information 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 for different audiences 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.
Funding, Partnerships, and In-Kind Contributions Still Needed
Although we have streamlined the operation of BI, MBI, and the CCI subtantially, we still need funds to keep it all afloat and moving forward. Since we are no longer at the University of Colorado, we have created a simple Go Fund Me page to receive donations. 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.