Listing of Seminar Topics
We ask educators who use Beyond Intractability as a major part of their courses or training programs to ask their students / trainees to donate roughly half of the cost of a comparable textbook. (For example, we ask our students to donate $5-$30 depending upon the amount of material used.) More information is available on our Using BI as a Textbook page.
A Note about Post Order: We should note that this list is inherently linear, but this set of ideas is not linear. Rather, it is a web. We have (as usual) had a very difficult time deciding what to post first, what later, what toward the end. So we will be presenting a lot of different ideas up front, and then circling back to them over time as we explore earlier ideas further and present related ideas that need to be linked to something that came before. On this page we present the posts in a "Table-of-Contents" order, meaning from the first to the last. The Conflict Fundamentals Blog has the same posts, but like all blogs, lists the most recent post first.
- The MBI Overview and Unit 1 are the same in this seminar and the Fundamentals Seminar. Starting with Unit 2, the two seminars diverge.
- The dates shown are the dates that these posts will be (or were) sent out on social media. However, all through Unit 4 and part of unit 5 are available here, now. If you see a topic on this list which has not yet been posted, in most cases it currently exists as a Beyond Intractability essay. You can search for the existing BI essays with the search tool before the essay is posted as part of this Fundamentals Seminar.
- If you sign up to receive these posts on social media (Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn), you will be getting the blog, with one Fundamentals (and one Frontiers or Things You Can Do) post sent out each day.
Seminar Topics / Syllabus
(List of Current and Planned Posts)
Moving Beyond Intractability Overview
- The Challenge of Complex, Intractable Conflicts -- An explanation of why intractable conflicts are the biggest--and most critical--problems humans currently face. -- February 28, 2018
- Beyond Intractability, CRInfo, and Moving Beyond Intractability -- Knowledge base, online seminars and blogs focused on strategies for limiting the destructiveness of (and generating benefits from) all kinds of conflict. -- February 28, 2018
- Constructive Confrontation Initiative -- An extensive series of posts exploring ways to more constructively handle both simple disputes and seering conflicts that are tearing societies apart. -- March 1, 2018
- Things You Can Do To Help Limit Destructive Conflict -- A new blog highlighting concrete and realistic steps we ALL can take to promote more constructive conflict processes and outcomes. -- March 1, 2018
- Conflict Frontiers Seminar/Blog -- The Frontiers Seminar explores a new complexity-oriented, "massively parallel" approach to complex intractable conflicts. -- March 2, 2018
- MBI Discussions -- This page lists all the MBI Discussions and explains how to join the conversations. -- March 2, 2018
- Peacebuilding in the Era of Trump -- Join our first, over-arching, introductory discussion to investigate one of our core questions. -- March 3, 2018
- Conflict Fundamentals Seminar/Blog -- The Fundamentals Seminar is an introductory course, presenting the field's key theoretical and practical ideas. -- March 3, 2018
- Beyond Intractability in Context Blog -- Drawing from news, opinion, scholarly and NGO reports, this blog highlights "real world" examples of intractable conflict and responses to it. -- March 4, 2018
- Colleague Activities Blog -- This blog highlights interesting and important work being done by others on the intractable conflict problem. -- March 4, 2018
- BI/CRInfo Knowledge Base -- The combined BI/CRInfo Knowledge Base contains links to all the original BI materials. Browse it or search it to find what you need. -- March 5, 2018
Unit 1: Understanding the Intractable Conflict Problem
- Why Can't We Fix Anything Anymore? -- Intractable conflicts are making many critical problems all over the world impossible to deal with. -- March 7, 2018
- What Are Intractable Conflicts? (A Fundamentals Essay) -- While some people argue that most conflicts aren't intractable (or that even none are) we are finding more and more that fit into this designation. -- March 8, 2018
- The Core Causes of Intractable Conflicts (Fundamentals Post) -- An essay which goes into more detail about the factors that combine to make conflicts intractable. -- March 9, 2018
- Intractable Conflict: A "Climate Change-Class" Problem -- The peacebuilding field is roughly where the climate change field was in the 1970s. That movement's sucesses and challenges have a lot to teach peacebuilders. -- March 9, 2018
- Limits to Growth, Tragedies of the Commons, and the Conflict Problem -- The "Commons" is a term generally used for environmental issues. It is much broader than that--as this video illustrates. -- March 10, 2018
Unit 2: Core Concepts
- Conflicts and Disputes -- This article explains the difference and why it matters--you can't address conflicts the same way you resolve disputes. -- March 11, 2018
- Interests, Positions, Needs, and Values -- An explanation of the meaning of each of these terms and why the difference matters. -- March 12, 2018
- Settlement, Resolution, Management, and Transformation -- An examination of another important distinction. Each process is useful at different times. -- March 14, 2018
- John Paul Lederach on Transformation -- More detail about how conflict transformation is different than resolution--and much more applicable to intractable conflicts. -- March 15, 2018
- Reconciliation -- Reconciliation used to be a common conflict resolution goal. While it still may be for the peacebuilders, it isn't sought by disputants nearly as much. -- March 16, 2018
- Lederach's "Meeting Place" -- None of these are simple and it is very hard to have all four together. But doing so, says Lederach "is the meeting place of reconciliation." -- March 17, 2018
- Stable Peace -- The region of stable peace, Boulding observed, included North America, Western Europe, Japan, and Australia. Is this region growing or shrinking? -- March 18, 2018
- Principles of Justice and Fairness -- An examination of the many different meanings of justice: distributive, procedural, retributive, and restorative among others. -- March 20, 2018
Unit 3: Conflict Parties
- First Parties, Third Parties, and Thirdsiders -- An essay examining the different roles conflict parties play, showing how even disputants can also be dispute resolovers. -- March 21, 2018
- Ury's "Third Side"' -- Ury describes 10 third side roles that both conflict insiders and outsiders can play to help make conflicts more constructive. -- March 22, 2018
- Leaders and Leadership -- An examination of the different meanings of the word "leader," what makes leaders good or bad, and the dynamics between a group and their leader. -- April 4, 2018
- Lederach's Pyramid -- A well-known diagram from Building Peace,this essay explains the roles of top-level, mid-level, and grassroots leadership. -- April 5, 2018
- Within-Party Differences -- A look at "persuadables," "reluctant persuadables," "traders" and "hardliners." Each needs to be treated differently. -- April 6, 2018
- Extremists and Spoilers -- Written before the "countering violent extremism" paradigm was developed, this essay lays out early fundamental thinking on the problem. -- April 7, 2018
Unit 4: Core Factors
- Core and Overlays Part 1 -- An examination of the Burgess's theory of core and overlaying factors which contribute to conflict intractability. -- April 9, 2018
- Core and Overlays Part 2 -- Following on from an examination of core factors, this article examines the Burgess's notion of "complicating factors" that also contribute to intractability. -- April 9, 2018
- High-Stakes Distributional Issues -- A further discussion of one of the Burgess's core factors driving intractability. -- April 10, 2018
- Inequality -- Inequality was a key driver of intractability when this article was written--it is even more so now. -- April 12, 2018
- Moral or Value Conflicts -- Value conflicts cannot be dealt with as if they were interest-based conflicts, although that's how mediators are often taught to handle them. -- April 13, 2018
- Identity Issues -- Identity has long been identified as a driver of intractability. This essay explains why, and what can be done to address these conflicts. -- April 14, 2018
- Status and power struggles -- Another core driver of intractability--the fight over social status never seems to end, as is discussed in this Fundamentals Post. -- April 15, 2018
- Power -- Power, also, is more complex than it seems. This explains the difference between power sources, power strategies and when to use what. -- April 16, 2018
- Oppression -- Written by well-known conflict scholar Morton Deutsch, the entire series is more relevant today than ever. -- April 18, 2018
- Humiliation -- While commonly used, humiliation is extremely destructive--to its victims, and also, often, to the person or group doing the humiliation as well. -- April 19, 2018
Unit 5: Overlay Factors
- Fundamentals Unit 5: Conflict Overlay Factors -- Reviewing the concept of core and "overlay" or "complicating factors"--which are explored in detail in the Unit 5 Fundamentals posts. -- April 20, 2018
- Frames, Framing and Reframing -- An exploration of different kinds of frames that often are found in intractable conflicts, their impact, and strategies for constructive reframing. -- April 21, 2018
- Process Frames -- An examination of one kind of frame that determines how conflicts are approached. -- April 22, 2018
- Win/lose and competitive/cooperative framing -- The Fundamentals Seminar examines competitive versus cooperative frames--two other process frames that can get us into trouble. -- April 23, 2018
- Into-the-Sea Framing -- An extreme extension of win-lose and competitive framing, "into-the-sea" framing is used distressingly often. -- April 25, 2018
- Identity Frames -- Another post in the framing series--identity frames are powerful determinants of group identification and conflict behavior. -- April 26, 2018
- Stereotypes -- Negative stereotypes eem to be flying particularly fast in social media and political discourse these days. The implications are extremely dangerous. -- April 27, 2018
- Enemy Images -- Similar to stereotypes, breaking down enemy images is essential to conflict transformation. -- April 28, 2018
- Cultural and Worldview Frames -- Another kind of framing is explained here, along with its implications for conflict exacerbation and transformation. -- April 29, 2018
- Rational and nonrational decision-making -- This Fundamentals post continues the examination of emotions' role in conflict decision making. -- April 30, 2018
- Psychological Dynamics of Intractable Conflict -- This begins a set of essays by Daniel Bar-Tal, explaining how psychological dynamics can drive group, as well as individual, behavior. -- May 1, 2018
- Ethos of Conflict -- The second Bar-Tal essay exploring group psychological dynamics. -- May 3, 2018
- Siege Mentality -- A third in the Bar-Tal series of group psychological dynamics. -- May 7, 2018
- Delegitimization -- The fourth and last of Bar-Tal's essays exploring group psychological dynamics. -- May 8, 2018
- Victimhood -- Often both sides see themselves as the victim and the other as the aggressor. This essay explores this complicated psychology and its impacts. -- May 9, 2018
- Cognitive Dissonance -- This essay explores the dual nature of cognitive dissonance and how it can be utilized for constructive outcomes. -- May 10, 2018
- Interpersonal Communication -- An introductory essay to our section on conflict communication. -- May 11, 2018
- Misunderstandings -- A look at one of the most prevalent conflict communication problems. -- May 14, 2018
- Channels of Communication -- Another common communication problem in conflicts is no communication at all--but rapidly escalating assumptions and fears about the other. -- May 15, 2018
Additional, Related Posts from the Knowledge Base
We are in the process of adding "Current Implications" updates to these original, knowledge base essays. These updates will integrate this material into future Fundamentals Seminar posts.
Unit 5: Overlay Factors
- Conflicts over "facts" -- Facts used to be simple "correct information." Now it is hard to distinguish between "real facts" and "fake facts" and what is "real" to some people, is "fake" to others. How can one sort all that out?
- Fact-finding problems -- If people disagree about "basic facts," it should be easy to determine what's true. But that is no longer true, as worldviews cause people to see facts and "truth" very differently.
- Ways of learning and knowing
- Distrust of experts, science, and technical facts
- Confusing facts and values
- Analysis paralysis, certainty trap, ilnumeracy, qed syndrome
- Destructive conflict dynamics
- Escalation spirals and positive feedback loops
- Polarization -- Polarization of a conflict occurs as a conflict rises in intensity (that is, escalates). Often as escalation occurs, more and more people get involved, and take strong positions either on one side or the other. "Polarization" refers to the process in which people move toward extreme positions ("poles"), leaving fewer and fewer people "in the middle."
- Conflict History
- Conflict Ethos
- Unrightable wrongs
- Principles of Justice
- Retributive Justice -- Retributive justice promises punishment or "retribution" for wrongdoing.
- Restorative Justice
- Distributive Justice -- Restorative justice is justice that is not designed to punish the wrong-doer, but rather to restore the victim and the relationship to the way they were before the offense. Thus, restorative justice requires an apology from the offender, restitution for the victim, and forgiveness of the offender by the victim.
- Procedural problems
- Procedural justice -- Procedural justice describes approaches that define justice not by a fair outcome but by a fair process.
- Distrust of Process or People
Unit 6: Power and Conflict
- Understanding power (power sources and power strategies)
- Over-reliance on coercive power/backlash
- Integrative power -- Integrative power is the power that binds humans together. Kenneth Boulding calls it "love" or, "if that is too strong," he said, "call it respect." Though seldom studied or discussed, Boulding argues that it is the strongest form of power, especially because the other two forms (exchange and coercive power) cannot operate without integrative power too.
- Power strategy mix
- Power Hierarchy
- Legitimate and illegitimate power
Unit 7: Culture and Conflict
- The Role of Culture (Culture & Conflict)
- Cultural and Worldview Frames (reprise)
- Cross-Cultural Communication -- Even with all the good will in the world, miscommunication is likely to happen, especially when there are significant cultural differences between communicators. Miscommunication may lead to conflict, or aggravate conflict that already exists.
- Communication-tools for Cultural Differences --Edward T. Hall writes that for us to understand each other may mean, "reorganizing [our] thinking...and few people are willing to risk such a radical move." This essay offers strategies for improving cross-cultural communication.
- Culture-Based Negotiation Styles -- In Asian, Canadian, and U.S. cultures, touching outside of intimate situations is discouraged. But, Mediterranean, Arab, and Latin American cultures allow more touching. Cultural differences like this can cause problems in cross-cultural negotiations. Such differences are explored in this essay.
Part III: Conflict Transformation Processes
Unit 8: Conflict Assessment
- Theories of Change -- Theories of change are theories that explain how particular interventions (such as dialogues or problem-solving workshops) influence people and change their behavior enough to change the character of the entire conflict in which they are involved. All interventions should have a theory of change, and should assess its validity by outcome evaluations as much as possible.
- Conflict Assessment
- Graphical Conflict Mapping
- 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.
Unit 9: Exploring Alternative Goals
- Recent Peace and Conflict Paradigms
- Conflict styles/dual concern model
- Settlement, Resolution, Management, and Transformation (Reprise) -- This essay refers to four different goals for a conflict intervention. It defines the four terms and explains how their meanings have evolved over time.
- Lederach's "Meeting Place" (reprise) -- None of these are simple and it is very hard to have all four together. But doing so, says Lederach "is the meeting place of reconciliation." -- March 17, 2018
- Visioning -- Envisioning is a process in which people try to see into the future--not only what they expect to happen, but what they would like to happen. In order to attain "peace," people must have an image of what "peace" would look like. Only then can they figure out what they need to do to get there.
Unit 10: Improving Relationships
- Interpersonal / Small-Scale Communication Robert Quillen wrote, "Discussion is an exchange of knowledge; argument an exchange of emotion." These resources explain why interpersonal communication breaks down and how to make it more effective.
- I-messages -- I-messages can be a useful tool for defusing interpersonal conflict. This essay describes how they can be used, their benefits, and their problems.
- Empathic listening -- Richard Salem writes, "I spent long hours learning to read and write and even had classroom training in public speaking, but I never had a lesson in listening or thought of listening as a learnable skill until I entered the world of mediation as an adult."
- Creating safe spaces for communication -- Constructive communication between parties is often facilitated by creating a "safe space" for such communication. This essay describes what such spaces are, how they are useful, and how they can be established.
- Dialogue -- In dialogue, the intention is not to advocate but to inquire; not to argue but to explore; not to convince but to discover. This essay introduces the concept of dialogue, discusses why it is needed, and suggests ways to do it effectively.
- Cross-cultural communication -- Even with all the good will in the world, miscommunication is likely to happen, especially when there are significant cultural differences between communicators. Miscommunication may lead to conflict, or aggravate conflict that already exists.
- Communication Tools for Understanding Cultural Differences -- Edward T. Hall writes that for us to understand each other may mean, "reorganizing [our] thinking...and few people are willing to risk such a radical move." This essay offers strategies for improving cross-cultural communication.
- Rumor Control -- Rumors spread quickly in escalated conflicts. Here are strategies to slow or stop this process media.
- Managing distrust -- Trust has often been praised as the "glue" that holds relationships together and enables individuals to pool their resources with others. Unfortunately, when conflict escalates to a dysfunctional level, trust is often one of the first casualties.
- Building Trust -- Trust comes from the understanding that humans are interdependent, that they need each other to survive. Third parties can attempt to use this insight to promote trust between disputing parties.
- Expert/non-expert trust building activities
- Respect (reprise) -- Treating people with respect is key to conflict transformation. When they are denied respect, people tend to react negatively, creating conflicts or escalating existing ones.
- Face-saving actions
- Apology and Forgiveness -- These are two sides of the mutli-faceted "diamond" of reconciliation. Both are necessary for true reconciliation to take place.
- Tolerance -- William Ury explained, "tolerance is not just agreeing with one another or remaining indifferent in the face of injustice, but rather showing respect for the essential humanity in every person."
- Coexistence -- In a state of coexistence, the parties agree to respect each other's differences and resolve their conflicts nonviolently.
- Community-Building Activities
- Integrative Power (reprise) -- Integrative power is the power that binds humans together. Kenneth Boulding calls it "love" or, "if that is too strong," he said, "call it respect." Though seldom studied or discussed, Boulding argues that it is the strongest form of power, especially because the other two forms (exchange and coercive power) cannot operate without integrative power too.
Unit 11: Exchange Power and Negotiation
- Exchange Power -- Simply, exchange power means that I do something for you in order to get you to do something for me. However, this simple concept has formed the basis for very complex human interactions, for example our economic system.
- Ripeness -- A conflict is said to be ripe once both parties realize they cannot win, and the conflict is costing them too much to continue. This tends to be a good time to open negotiations.
- Ripeness Promoting Strategies
- Conflict styles/ dual concern model (reprise)
- Distributive (positional) bargaining -- In distributive bargaining the parties assume that there is not enough to go around. Thus, the more one side gets, the less the other side gets.
- Interest-based (integrative) bargaining -- In integrative bargaining, the parties attempt to "enlarge the pie" or allocate resources in a way that everyone gets what they want.
- BATNA -- BATNA is a term invented by Roger Fisher and William Ury which stands for "best alternative to a negotiated agreement." Any negotiator should determine his or her BATNA before agreeing to any negotiated settlement.
- ZOPA -- The ZOPA is the common ground between two disputing parties. The ZOPA is critical to the successful outcome of negotiation, but it may take some time to determine whether a ZOPA exists.
- Islands of collaboration within conflict
Unit 12: Alternative Dispute Resolution
- Traditional Third Party Processes
- Facilitation -- Facilitation is a process in which a neutral person helps a group work together more effectively. Good facilitators can help groups stay on task and be more creative, efficient, and productive.
- Mediation -- Mediation is a conflict resolution process in which a third party assists the disputants to communicate better, analyze their conflicts and their options and to develop a mutually satisfactory solution.
- Collaborative Problem Solving and Consensus Building
- Dialogue (reprise) -- In dialogue, the intention is not to advocate but to inquire; not to argue but to explore; not to convince but to discover. This essay introduces the concept of dialogue, discusses why it is needed, and suggests ways to do it effectively.
- Arbitration -- Arbitration is a method of resolving a dispute in which the disputants present their case to an impartial third party, who then makes a decision for them which resolves the conflict. This decision is usually binding. Arbitration differs from mediation, in which a third party simply helps the disputants develop a solution on their own.
- Adjudication -- Adjudication is a judicial procedure for resolving a dispute. In the context of ADR, it usually means the traditional court-based litigation process.
- Dispute Systems Design
- Which Dispute Resolution Process is Best?
- When to Mediate
- When to Arbitrate
- When to Litigate
- How to Find a Mediator
- How to Find an Arbitrator
- William Ury's "Third Side" Roles -- Third siders act in a community threatened with destructive conflict as an immune system acts in a body threatened by disease. Average citizens such as teachers, journalists, artists and police officers can play key roles in preventing, de-escalating and resolving conflict. Bill Ury has labeled these people "third siders."
- Prevention roles
- Resolution roles
- Containment roles
Unit 13: Peace Processes
- Preventive Diplomacy and Violence Prevention -- Violence prevention has evolved from being focused almost exclusively on short-term interventions. It now refers to long-term initiatives that target the root causes of conflict.
- Peacemaking -- Peacemaking is the term often used to refer to negotiating the resolution of a conflict between people, groups, or nations. It goes beyond peacekeeping to actually deal with the issues involved in the dispute, but falls short of peace building, which aims toward reconciliation and normalization of relations between ordinary people, not just the formal resolution that is written on paper.
- Track I Diplomacy -- Track I diplomacy involves the actions of official government representatives.
- Track II Diplomacy -- Track II or citizen diplomacy are peacebuilding efforts undertaken by unofficial (usually non-govermental) people who try to build cross-group understanding and even develop ideas for conflict resolution that have not been broaded in official channels.
- Track I - Track II Cooperation -- The prevention and resolution of complex conflicts depends on a the efforts of both officials (track one) and non-officials (track two). This essay discusses the importance of cooperation between these two tracks.
- Peacekeeping -- Peacekeeping is the prevention or ending of violence within or between nation-states through the intervention of an outside third party that keeps the warring parties apart. Unlike peacemaking, which involves negotiating a resolution to the issues in conflict, the goal of peacekeeping is simply preventing further violence. Peacekeeping can also happen at lower levels of conflict, in families, communities, or organizations.
- Peacebuilding -- Peacebuilding is a long-term process that occurs after violent conflict has stopped. It is the phase of the peace process that takes place after peacemaking and peacekeeping.
- Dialogue -- In dialogue, the intention is not to advocate but to inquire; not to argue but to explore; not to convince but to discover. This essay introduces the concept of dialogue, discusses why it is needed, and suggests ways to do it effectively.
- Analytical Problem Solving/Problem-Solving Workshops
- Trauma Healing -- When conflict results in physical or psychological abuse, people can become traumatized. Trauma causes victims to continue to suffer, to be almost frozen in time.This essay details the effects of trauma and offer suggestions for healing.
- Narratives and Story-Telling -- Stories have been vital to all cultures throughout history. Recently, they have been purposefully employed as tools to promote empathy between adversaries and to help people heal from past trauma.
- Apology and Forgiveness (reprise) -- These are two sides of the mutli-faceted "diamond" of reconciliation. Both are necessary for true reconciliation to take place.
- Peace Education -- Peace education involves practical and philosophical training that uses empowerment and nonviolence to build a more democratic, harmonious community.
- Joint Projects -- Adversaries usually focus on their differences, while neglecting their common interests. One way to overcome this problem is by organizing and pursuing joint projects, which can help to repair the parties' relationship.
- Disarmament, Demobilization, and Re-Integration -- Disarming and demobilizing military forces (especially militias) and successfully reintegrating the former warriors into a peaceful society is one of the major challenges of a post-violence or "post-conflict" peacebuilding stage of a violent conflict.
- Nation Building -- The general public sees nation-building programs as those in which dysfunctional or "failed states" are given assistance. This essay looks at the history of nation building and how it has been interpreted differently over the years.
- Transitional Justice
- Retributive Justice (Tribunals) -- Retributive justice promises punishment or "retribution" for wrongdoing.
- Restorative Justice (Truth Commissions) -- Restorative justice is justice that is not designed to punish the wrong-doer, but rather to restore the victim and the relationship to the way they were before the offense. Thus, restorative justice requires an apology from the offender, restitution for the victim, and forgiveness of the offender by the victim.
- Election Reform and Monitoring - Elections are a cornerstone of democracy and, hence, figure prominently in democratization efforts around the world. This essay explores different electoral systems, elections in post-conflict situations, and the role of the international community in election monitoring.
- 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.