Guy and Heidi Burgess started the CCI in 2019 in an effort to raise awareness about the severity of political polarization in the U.S. and other democracies around the world. We called on everyone in the broadly-defined peace and conflict fields to focus at least some of their time and attention on efforts to diminish this polarization and promote effective collaborative problem solving in its stead. In the three years that have followed, political polarization has gotten considerably worse, but fortunately, peacebuilders and conflict resolvers have, indeed, begun to substantially increase their work in this area. However, much remains to be done, and many more people are needed if our peacebuilding efforts are to be effective.
We originally planned to jump start the initiative with a series of conferences, but COVID derailed those plans, as did the Burgesses' retirement from the University of Colorado. However, the Burgesses continued to work in the initiative by expanding the materials in BI's Knowledge Base which are focused on the problem of political hyperpolarization and by starting a blog on that topic to which we and a number of other scholars and practitioners have contributed.
In the fall of 2021, the Burgesses, along with longtime BI-contributor Sanda Kaufman were invited to write a feature article for the Conflict Resolution Quarterly which focused on the topic of hyperpolarization and the potential contribution conflict resolution scholars and practitioners can make toward addressing that problem. We saw this as an excellent way to further the goals of the initiative, so we agreed to do that.
The resulting article, entitled "Applying Conflict Resolution Insights to the Hyper-polarized, Society-wide Conflicts Threatening Liberal Democracies" is now available online and will be out in the paper version of the journal in July of 2022.
Like us, CRQ is hoping to stimulate a wide discussion of the topics discussed in that article. As such, they are co-sponsoring a discussion page, which we are hosing on Beyond Intractability. They jump started that discussion publishing three commentaries on the article in the same July, 2022 journal. These commentaries are also already available online (see Menkel-Meadow, Ozawa, and Jordaan), and the four articles together form the start of the BI/CRQ Hyperpolarization Discussion.
We are also currently working on redesigning BI's homepage and underlying landing pages to focus them much more directly on the problem of hyperpolarization, which underlies, not only the current political crises being experienced in the United States and many other Western democracies, but is also a driving factor behind other serious national and international conflicts, as seen in Ukraine, Syria, Afghanistan, Yemen, China, and elsewhere. We we will not be erasing any of BI's legacy content, but we are working on adding to and reorganizing the content to make materials focused on the hyperpolarization problem and ways of addressing it much more findable. (By reorganizing our materials by topic instead of by type of material as we had before, we will be making all of our materials on other topics more finable as well.)
We will also be continuing our work on:
- 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
Opportunities for Getting Involved!
- Join the BI/CRQ Hyperpolarization Discussion. — Tell us what you think about the ways in which conflict resolution scholars or practitioners can contribute to reducing societal-level hyperpolarization. Tell us what you or others are doing; tell us about useful resources we should publicize.
- Help Us Spread the Word — About the BI/CRQ Hyperpolarization Discussion.and the CCI.
- 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.