The full Conflict Frontiers Massive Open Online Seminar (MOOS) consists of a series of shorter seminars, organized into several different topic areas. Each of the individual seminars includes a set of short (~15 min) videos, supplemented with related written materials from other BI and MBI sections (Conflict Fundamentals, the BI Knowledge Base, Things YOU Can Do to Help, BI in Context, and at times, Colleague Activity posts.) Only the videos are listed here, but a link to each full seminar provides access to all the associated written materials on each topic.
In addition to accessing the seminars here, you can sign up to receive them on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter. Alternatively, you can get an email compilation of each seminar by signing up for our Newsletter.
Currently available seminars include:
- Topic Area 1: Scale, Complexity, & Intractability
- Topic Area 2: Massively Parallel Peacebuilding
- Topic Area 3: Authoritarian Populism
- Topic Area 4: Constructive Confrontation
- Seminar 9: Constructive Confrontation
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. Conflict, and particularly complex systems, are very much chicken-and-egg affairs--everything relates to everything else. 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.
Frontiers Topic Area 1: Scale, Complexity, & Intractability
An essential precondition for success is a realistic assessment of the difficulty of the challenges that have to be addressed.
The Conflict Frontiers Seminar series starts by arguing that the destructive way in which society handles intractable conflict is the single greatest threat facing humanity. We then explore the factors that make intractable conflict so difficult including, especially, the challenges posed by the enormous scale of society-wide conflict and the many problems posed by the social and psychological complexity of these conflicts. We also examine the limitations of current strategies for addressing the conflict problem and suggest a broad strategy for getting around those limitations.
Conflict Frontiers Seminar #1
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Here we introduce the Conflict Frontiers Seminar and discuss what we mean by the term "intractable conflict." We then explain why we think our inability to successfully address such conflicts is the single greatest threat facing humanity today. This seminar goes on to explore the factors that make intractable conflict so difficult including, especially, the challenges posed by the enormous scale of society-wide conflict and the many problems posed by the social and psychological complexity of these conflicts.
Frontiers Seminar 1 Videos
- Welcome and Introduction to the Frontiers Seminar -- Limiting the destructiveness of today's big and intractable conflicts will require majors advances at the frontiers of the peace and conflict fields.
- Why Can't We Fix Anything Anymore? -- Why can't we fix our serious social, economic, political, and environmental problems? Because we don't know how to deal with the underlying conflicts!
- What Are Intractable Conflicts? -- Intractable conflicts aren't impossible to resolve--they are just very difficult. Recognizing their true nature is the first step towards transformation.
- What Makes Conflicts Intractable? -- Why are intractable conflicts like the earth and an onion? They all have multiple layers that hide the core.
- Intractable Conflict: A "Climate Change-Class" Problem -- What are the parallels between intractable conflicts and climate change? There are many--and much to be learned from studying them.
- Limits to Growth, Tragedies of the Commons, and the Conflict Problem -- Conflict problems associated with wisely and equitably managing the social, political, economic, and environmental "commons" are society's real "limit to growth."
- Constructive Conflict Initiative Video - A class-length video describing the Initiative--what it is and why the issues it addresses is so important. (The video also shows why studying conflict is so important and is a good resource to show at the beginning of any peace and conflict course.)
The full Frontiers Seminar 1 Syllabus contains many more written materials relating to these topics (in addition to the videos shown above).
Conflict Frontiers Seminar #2
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 25% 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.
Part of our inability to successfully address intractable conflicts is that we try to treat them as if they were like other more "normal" conflicts. But our "business-as-usual" conflict resolution and management strategies don't work. Often such approaches actually make things worse. Here we explain why--and start discussing what can be done instead.
Frontiers Seminar 2 Videos:
- Business-as-Usual Introduction -- Business-as-usual strategies don't work for intractable conflicts--they often make them worse!
- Part 1: Same Old Approach, Just More or Better -- Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. Why do we do that with conflict?
- Part 2: "Boys Will Be Boys" -- Are conflict and war inevitable? Is "compromise" bad? Common attitudes turn us into cynics and block learning.
- Part 3: The "Blame Game" -- In conflict, we often blame the other. But then that person or group gets defensive, and the conflict often escalates.
- Part 4: Power and the Power Strategy Mix -- What is power? The ability to get things done? The ability to push other people around? Which is right? (Actually, they both are.)
- Part 5: The Interplay of Reason and Emotion -- Can you be "rational" about conflict?
- Part 6: More Bad Assumptions -- If they'd just talk, they could work it out! Exploring this and other bad assumptions.
- Part 7: The Return of I'll Fight-you-for-it Rules -- Are efforts to solve problems collaboratively now losing to naked contests of Machiavellian power?
- Part 8: The Backlash Effect and Coefficient -- If your backlash coefficient is more than one, your cause cannot be won! Learn why!
- Part 9: Recent Peace and Conflict Paradigms -- Peace cultivation and massively parallel peacebuilding: two ideas for a new complexity-oriented conflict paradigm.
The full Seminar 2 Syllabus contains many more written materials relating to these topics (in addition to the videos shown above).
Conflict Frontiers Seminar #3
Seminar 2 ended by explaining the shortcomings of the past conflict resolution paradigms, and calling for a new "complexity" or "systems" paradigm for conflict and its resolution. This seminar introduces a number of conflict theories and theorists who have been developing such an approach to conflict over the last 20 or so years.
Frontiers Seminar 3 Videos:
- Developing a Systems/Complexity Paradigm -- An introductory look at a developing new paradigm for peacebuilding: using systems thinking and complexity analysis.
- Dugan's "Nested Theory" of Conflict -- Conflicts exist in many levels at once - seeing these helps you see the entire conflict system.
- Lederach's Pyramid -- Leaders at three levels of society all contribute to peace, but those at the middle-level are often the most effective.
- Lederach's Big Picture of Conflict Transformation -- Lederach's circle of conflict transformation shows how to design change processes that work.
- Diamond and McDonald's Multi-track Diplomacy -- Diplomats are not just officials, but include 9 different types of people--all contributing towards peacebuilding.
- Ury's "Third Side" -- Everyone can play at least one of Ury's 10 "Third Side" roles--even the disputants themselves.
- Coleman's "Five Percent" Part 1 -- Peter Coleman says intractable conflicts are formed by powerful "attractors" or seemingly inescapable traps.
- Coleman's "Five Percent" Part 2 -- Different from linear approaches, Coleman says intractable conflicts can still be tamed by 3 steps.
- Ricigliano's SAT model -- Complex conflicts require complex responses: the SAT and PAL models are linked approaches for doing just that.
- Hauss's "New Paradigm" -- Intractable conflicts are "wicked problems" that need an entirely new paradigm to deal with, says Chip Hauss.
- Mari Fitzduff's An Introduction to Neuroscience for the Peacebuilder-Part 1 -- Neuroscience can explain why so many peacebuilding interventions don't work as hoped--and how to do better.
- Mari Fitzduff's An Introduction to Neuroscience for the Peacebuilder-Part 2 -- How can peacebuilders use a knowledge of neuroscience to do their jobs better? We are just beginning to learn.
The full Seminar 3 Syllabus contains many more written materials relating to these topics (in addition to the videos shown above).
Conflict Frontiers Seminar 4
This seminar continues our discussion of a complexity-oriented approach to peacebuilding, drawing from the work of Kenneth Boulding and Wendell Jones, and then adding a "Burgess spin" on the topic. Posts in this seminar include:
Frontiers Seminar 4 Videos:
- Embracing Complexity: The Key to Dealing with Intractability -- Understanding the difference between complicated and complex systems is key to understanding that no one is in charge in intractable conflicts.
- Complex vs. Complicated Systems -- Intractable conflicts are complex adaptive systems, so they need complex, adaptive responses.
- System Levels -- Simple models won't work! We must develop conflict intervention models for higher-level complex systems.
- The Really Big Picture Ecodynamics and Planetary Evolution -- An exploration of how understanding ecodynamics and evolution can help us deal with complex conflict.
- Meeting the Adaptation Challenge -- Speeding society's ability to rapidly adapt to changing conditions should be a key goal of the conflict field.
- The Evolutionary Choice: "Power With" or "Power Over" -- An explanation of why this may be our best/last chance to make democracy work (and avoid autocracy and anocracy).
- Our Most Important Conflict: Coexisters vs. Fighters vs. Divide-and-Conquerors -- We need to resist "divide and conqueror's" efforts to control society by exacerbating left/right tensions.
- The Complex Causes of Social Problems -- We need to think about social problems as complex adaptive systems requiring massively parallel problem-solving.
- Social and Psychological Complexity -- Those who seek power-over others are dealing better with social and psychological complexity. This needs to change!
- Engineering and Medical Troubleshooting -- Complexity-oriented approaches to conflict are more like medicine and less like engineering.
- The Scale Up Problem -- We need to stop thinking in terms of mediation triads, and scale up conflict work to societal levels.
- The Google Traffic Metaphor -- Google traffic and other traffic control activities can teach us a lot about dealing with conflict.
- The Decentralized, "Markets Plus" Metaphor -- Harnessing the power of markets: a strategy for scaling up efforts to deal with complex, intractable conflict.
The full Seminar 4 Syllabus contains many more written materials relating to these topics (in addition to the videos shown above).
Frontiers Topic Area 2: Massively Parallel Peacebuilding
A decentralized, conflict handling strategy based on very large numbers of independent but mutually supportive efforts.
In the next part of the Frontiers Seminar we explain how we think that a strategy of Massively Parallel Peacebuilding (MPP) can help address these problems. MPP is a highly-decentralized strategy for meeting the scale and complexity challenge. Building on what we now know (and can reasonably expect to find out), MPP identifies an Action List over 100 steps we can all take to help address ten big challenges that lie at the core of the intractable conflict problem.
Conflict Frontiers Seminar 5
Here we introduce Guy Burgess and Heidi Burgess's concept of Massively Parallel Peacebuilding (MPP) as a systems approach to intractable conflict. MPP introduces ten "challenges" that need to be met to overcome intractability, and suggests over 100 things (10 or so per challenge) that need to be done (by 1000s of people and organizations) working in parallel to successfully address any intractable conflict. (The last Frontiers video explains how this isn't a totally crazy idea.)
Frontiers Seminar 5 Paper and Videos:
- Massively Parallel Peacebuilding (MPP) Paper -- A text overview of the big ideas underlying MPP — ideas that are explained in greater detail in the following videos.
- Frontiers Seminar Part II: Introduction to Massively Parallel Peacebuilding - Part II of the Frontiers Seminar shows how EVERYONE can and must get involved in solving today's big problems.
- The Risk of Large-Scale Civil Unrest and Violence in the United States -- Are we on the brink of catastrophe...and if so, can we step back...or will we fall (or jump)?
- The Peace and Democracy-Building Continuum -- In 1978, it looked as if democracy and peace were advancing globally. Now they are both retreating. Can we reverse that trend?
- The Peacebuilding / Constructive Confrontation Synthesis -- Good conflict resolution skills are not just for peacebuilders--they are crucial for disputants as well.
- Massively Parallel Peacebuilding (MPP) -- Massively Parallel Peacebuilding enlists everyone engaged in or affected by conflict to help change its destructive course.
- Why MPP Isn't Such a Crazy Idea - The civil rights movement, & the environmental movement are both successful "massively parallel" precedents to MPP.
- Massively Parallel Peacebuilding: "Things You Can Do" Actions - Here's a start of a list of things you can do to be a part of MPP.
- 2nd, 3rd, 4th… Order Problems - Cynicism, reinventing the wheel, information friction and overload are among the problems that need to be tackled.
The full Seminar 5 Syllabus contains many more written materials relating to these topics (in addition to the videos shown above).
Massively Parallel Peacebuilding Action List (text) - The ten challenges of MPP are daunting, but there is a role here for everyone.
Conflict Frontiers Seminar 6
One of the common traps of intractability is that there is a tendency to over-simplify a conflict to a simple "us-versus-them" struggle. But they are always much more than that. The first challenge in Massively Parallel Peacebuilding is simply figuring out what is really going on in any particular conflict.
Frontiers Seminar 6 Videos
- 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.
The full Seminar 6 Syllabus contains many more written materials relating to these topics (in addition to the videos shown above)
Frontiers Topic Area 3: Authoritarian Populism
Applying "Massively Parallel Peacebuilding" to the challenges posed by authoritarian populism.
Authoritarian Populism is a term that we and others use to refer to the rise of "light" or "would-be authoritarian leaders" who purport to be "men of the people," who are, indeed, being elected by popular vote in a number of democracies around the world. Their behavior, once in office, however, is much more like an autocrat than a democratic leader. In this unit, we explore how our ideas of Massively Parallel Peacebuilding can contribute to an understanding of this problem, as well as suggesting constructive responses to it.
Conflict Frontiers Seminar 7
As an example of how MPP can be used, in this seminar we explore one of the greatest threats to world and national peace today
-- what we (and others) call "authoritarian populism." The following are a series of posts explaining what this is, and how and why it has developed in the U.S. and elsewhere. Then we will be utilizing the MPP approach to explore avenues for reversing or resisting such tendencies.
Frontiers Seminar 7 Videos:
- Using the MPP Action List: The Authoritarian Populism Example (Part I) -- Here we introduce a set of posts we plan to show how the MPP Action List can actually be used to address a problem that is high on people's minds in the U.S., Europe and elsewhere around the world.
- Using the MPP Action List: The Authoritarian Populism Example (Part II) -- This video highlights a few of the actions from each of the ten challenges on the MPP Action List that are particularly important for addressing the U.S. Authoritarian Populism problem.
- Mapping the Authoritarian Populism “Conflict Complex," an Overview -- Authoritarian populism is actually a complex array of complex conflicts. This post introduces a series of posts designed to make it easier to understand what's going on.
- Mapping the Continuum between Democracy and Authoritarianism -- First things first, what do we mean by authoritarianism and how does it relate to democracy.
- The Red/Blue Cultural Divide -- In the first of a set of posts, we will explore how conflict mapping (and later, the other action steps) can be used to address a real-world problem--in this case the core moral conflict in the U.S. and elsewhere between right-leaning "traditionalists and left-leaning "cosmopolitans over cultural, social, and political change.
- The Purple/Gold Distributional Divide -- This will look at another core aspect of the authoritarian populism problem: the distributional conflict between four major groups: the "1%"; the "99%", the "left behinds", and the "protected classes"--a U.S. legal term for race, color religion, national origin, sex, age, disability, and veteran status.
- Red, Blue, Gold Interactions, Destructive Polarization and the Peacebuilding Imperative -- Using a triangular, graphical map of the above, interlocking conflicts, this post will explain how things have polarized into an all out left versus right conflict and outline how peacebuilding strategies could constructively "repolarize" the conflict as a struggle between the authoritarians and those who want to make democracy work.
- The Divide and Conquer Authoritarian / Plutocratic Threat -- One example of overlay issues is understanding how the cultural and distributional core conflict issues are being exacerbated (and sometimes initiated) by authoritarian "wannabes" for selfish purposes unrelated to the core issues of the parties.
The full Seminar 7 Syllabus contains many more written materials relating to these topics (in addition to the videos shown above).
Conflict Frontiers Seminar 8
Seminar 7 introduced and explained the nature of the "Authoritarian Populism Problem." In this seminar we introduce a series of posts that begin to explore ways to constructively address the problem.
Frontiers Seminar 8 Videos
- Meeting the Authoritarian Populism Challenge 1: Authoritarian and Partisan Conflict - An appeal for us all to put our partisan differences in perspective and work together to strengthen democracy.
- Meeting the Authoritarian Populism Challenge 2: “Hate Bait,” Framing, and Escalation - Learn about things small groups can do to push back against "hate bait," distraction-based propaganda, scapegoating, and other conflict problems.
- Meeting the Authoritarian Populism Challenge 3: Communication, Governance, and Economics - Strategies for limiting the destructiveness of red/blue conflicts based on better communication, fact-finding, collaboration, governance, and economics.
- Meeting the Authoritarian Populism Challenge 4: The "Super Rich" and the "Meritocratic Elite" - A look at things that those at the top of the hierarchy are doing to make things worse and strategies for persuading them to change.
- Meeting the Authoritarian Populism Challenge 5: The "Protected Classes" and the "Left Behind" - A look at strategies for helping grassroots citizens on the left and the right come together to advance their common interests.
- Why Relationships Matter - This video explores how social media is driving conflict & why real human relationships are so important.
- Limit "Us-vs-Them" Language, Thinking and Action - This video explains why and how to think of and treat "the other" as a partner, not as an adversary.
- Counter Hate and Malevolence - Part 1 - Hate is a cause and consequence of escalation that almost always makes conflicts worse. Don't help it along!
- Counter Hate and Malevolence - Part 2 - The second of two videos, this focuses on how to respond constructively to people who (seem to) hate you.
- Promoting De-Escalation – Part 1: Conciliatory Gestures - Conciliatory gestures are a way to break down stereotypes and start de-escalating conflicts with surprise overtures of kindness.
The full Seminar 8 Syllabus contains many more written materials relating to these topics (in addition to the videos shown above).
Frontiers Topic Area 4: Constructive Confrontation
Applying conflict and peacebuilding insights from advocacy (not just intermediary) perspectives.
This fourth Frontiers Topic Area builds on our earlier "Constructive Confrontation Initiative." Unlike the other topic areas, which combine several individual Conflict Frontiers Seminars, this Topic Area only has one seminar of the same name.
Conflict Frontiers Seminar 9: Constructive Confrontation
This seminar is set up somewhat differently than the previous ones. It and combines materials from (primarily) our Things You Can Do to Help Blog and our Conflict Fundamentals Seminar. Links to each of this Seminar's sections are given below; and all the details can be found in the full Seminar 9 Syllabus.
- Constructive Confrontation Introduction - This post introduces the idea of "constructive confrontation," explaining how it is a way that disputants can constructively engage in conflicts without the help of a mediator or other intermediary.
- First Steps: Things to Think about Before you Jump into the Fray Before you engage it is worth figuring out if engagement is worth it, and what it is likely to accomplish.
- Next Steps: Once You Are In—Plan your Strategy Once you decide to engage, you need to assess the situation and plan your strategy--keeping in mind the importance of flexibility when things don't go as expected.
- How to Communicate Constructively A number of suggestions of ways to de-escalate, rather than escalate, conflict through effective communication.
- Roles Each of Us Can Play Intractable conflicts are so complex, they cannot be resolved by one person, no matter how powerful. Everyone can (and should) play a role in making these conflicts more constructive.
The full Seminar 9 Syllabus contains many more written materials relating to these topics.