Conflict Frontiers Massive Open Online Seminar (MOOS) Syllabus - Spring 2018


Listing of Seminar Topics 

Jump to Part II: Massively Parallel Peacebuilding Posts

All posts can be found here or you can sign up to receive them on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter. Alternatively, you can get an email compilation of each unit by signing up for our newsletter.

Low-Cost Textbooks

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.  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.  On this page we present the posts in a "Table-of-Contents" order, meaning from the first to the last.  The Conflict Frontiers Blog has the same posts, but like all blogs, lists the most recent post first.

Other Notes: 

  • 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 are available here, now.  We are now starting to work on Unit 5, and will post those posts here when they become available as well. 

Moving Beyond Intractability Overview

Conflict Frontier Seminar Part I

The Challenge of Complex, Large-Scale Intractable Conflict


Part I of the Conflict Frontiers Seminar 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. 

Unit 1: Understanding the Intractable Conflict Problem

Unit 2: Pushing the Frontier: the Limits of Business-as-Usual Approaches

Unit 3: Introduction to Complexity and "Systems Thinking" -- Theoretical Antecedents

  • Developing a Systems/Complexity Paradigm -- An introductory look at a developing new paradigm for peacebuilding: using systems thinking and complexity analysis -- April 3, 2018
  • Dugan's "Nested Theory" of Conflict -- Conflicts exist in many levels at once - seeing these helps you see the entire conflict system. -- April 4, 2018
  • Lederach's Pyramid -- Leaders at three levels of society all contribute to peace, but those at the middle-level are often the most effective. -- April 6, 2018
  • Lederach's Big Picture of Conflict Transformation -- Lederach's circle of conflict transformation shows how to design change processes that work. -- April 7, 2018
  • Diamond and McDonald's Multi-track Diplomacy -- Diplomats are not just officials, but include 9 different types of people--all contributing towards peacebuilding. -- April 8, 2018
  • Ury's "Third Side" -- Everyone can play at least one of Ury's 10 "Third Side" roles--even the disputants themselves. -- April 10, 2018
  • Coleman's "Five Percent" Part 1 -- Peter Coleman says intractable conflicts are formed by powerful "attractors" or seemingly inescapable traps. -- April 11, 2018
  • Coleman's "Five Percent" Part 2 -- Different from linear approaches, Coleman says intractable conflicts can still be tamed by 3 steps. -- April 12, 2018
  • Ricigliano's SAT model -- Complex conflicts require complex responses: the SAT and PAL models are linked approaches for doing just that. -- April 13, 2018
  • Hauss's "New Paradigm" -- Intractable conflicts are "wicked problems" that need an entirely new paradigm to deal with, says Chip Hauss. -- April 15, 2018

Unit 4: Moving Toward a Complexity-Oriented Paradigm

Conflict Frontiers Seminar Part II

Massively Parallel Peacebuilding

Massively Parallel Peacebuilding LogoPart II presents Massively Parallel Peacebuilding, a highly-decentralized strategy for meeting the scale and complexity challenge presented in Part I of the Frontiers Seminar.   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. 

Unit 5:  Introduction to Massively Parallel Peacebuilding (MPP)

Unit 6: MPP Challenge 1: Figuring Out What Is Going On 

  • 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. -- July 25, 2018
  • 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. -- July 26, 2018
  • Identify the Core Issues -- Wonder why conflict mapping matters?  This video shows how it can totally change your approach to a conflict.- -- July 27, 2018
  • 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.
  • Example: 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.
  • Example: Mapping the Continuum between Democracy and Authoritarianism -- First things first, what do we mean by authoritarianism and how does it relate to democracy.
  • Example: The Red/Blue Cultural Dvide -- 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.
  • Example: 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.
  • Example: 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.
  • Example:The Divide and Conquer Authoritarian 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.
  • Identify Your Areas of Influence - Before taking action, or even choosing which actions to take, you should consider where you have the most influence and ability to impact the conflict system in a positive way. Especially important are strategies for "scaling up" your influence beyond your immediate circle of contacts.

We Need Your Help

We do not now have the resources needed to complete the full Massively Parallel Peacebuilding Learning Materials. Completing this work and making these materials freely available will require your support. More information is available on our Donations Needed! page.

Unit 7: Challenge 2: Defending and Promoting Democracy

  • Understand What we Mean by Democracy
  • Establish and Protect the Rule of Law 
  • Contend Nonviolently
  • Resist Divide-and-Conquer Provocateurs
    • Defend Against Propagana
  • Prevent Scapegoating 
  • Limit the Concentration of Power 
  • Develop a New Global Security Regime
    • Promote Collective Security Arrangements
    • Control Arms to Make Them Less Threatening 
    • Control the Military-Industrial Complex 
    • Defend Against Attacks from Non-State Actors
  • Delegitimize Aggression, Conquest, and Human Rights Abuses 
  • Initiate Violence Prevention Programs
  • Pursue Peacemaking through Track 1 and Track 2 Diplomacy
  • Provide Free and Fair Elections

Unit 8: Challenge 3: Constructively Framing Conflicts and Relationships

  • Limit "Us Vs. Them" Language and Thinking
    • Resist Enemy Images
    • Limit Negative, Outgroup-based Framing
  • Resist Dehumanization Pressures
  • Expose the False Promise of Decisive Victory
    • Understand the Limits of "Conversion"
  • Resist the Revolution Trap
  • Focus on Common Interests, Not Just Differences
    • Frame Goals Consistently with Societal Ideals
  • Focus on the Real Enemy: Destructive Conflict Dynamics
  • Identify Unmet Human Needs
    • Promote Inclusive, Needbased Protections
  • Limit Alienation
  • "Recognize and Acknowledge Your Side's Contribution to the Problem."
  • Balance Rights with Responsibilities
  • Focus on Individual, not Group, Responsibility
  • Be Careful of Absolute Good and Evil Thinking
  • Think "Win-Win," not "Win-Lose"
  • Go Beyond Anger to ProblemSolving 
  • Limit Worst-case Thinking

Unit 9: Challenge 4: Reconciling the Past and Developing an Attractive Societywide Vision for the Future

  • Promote Peace and End Violence
  • Determine the Truth about the Past
  • Provide Justice for Past Wrongs
  • Limit Retributive Justice
  • Provide Restorative Justice Options
  • Provide Distributive Justice
  • Provide Procedural Justice
  • Blend Apology and Forgiveness for Past Wrongs
  • Balance Peace, Justice, Truth, Apology, and Forgiveness to Achieve Reconciliation
  • Provide Trauma-Healing Assistance
  • Use Narratives and Story-telling for Trauma Healing
  • Imagine A Realistic Future That We Might All Want to Live In
    • Promote Diversity Amid Intolerable Differences
  • Plan for the Future and Protect Posterity
  • Balance Demands for Cultural Security and Cultural Freedom

Unit 10:  Challenge 5:  Limiting and Reversing the Escalation Spiral

  • Promote Escalation Awareness
    • Promote Constructive Mobilization 
  • Use the Power Strategy Mix to Limit Escalation
  • Ratchet Down Tensions
  • Treat Opponents (and Allies) with Respect
  • Voice Complaints Respectfully 
    • Use "I-messages" to Soften Disapproval, Making It Easier to Receive
  • Challenge Hate and Malevolence
  • Counteract Provocateurs 
  • Delegitimize Conflict Profiteering 
  • Utilize peacekeepers to control violence
  • Provide DDR Programs
  • Prevent the "Good Fight" from Becoming an End in Itself 
  • Honestly Examine Downside Costs
  • Find (and Act as) a Witness
  • Encourage Disarming Actions
  • Establish Early Warning and Crisis Communication Systems 
  • Cultivate of Facesaving Opportunities 
  • Set Fair Limits on Competition

Unit 11: Challenge 6: Improving Communication and Correcting Misunderstandings 

  • Open Communication Channels
  • Get Out of Our Bubbles
  • Learn to Communicate Effectively Across Cultures
  • Empathically Listen to The Other Side
  • Provide Safe Spaces for Communication
  • See Ourselves as Others See Us
  • See Others as They Really Are
  • Scale Up Constructive Communication
  • Facilitate Group Learning
  • Correct Inaccurate Rumors Quickly
  • Employ Good Policy Analysis and Fair Marketing 
  • Restore Vibrant Local News Coverage And Debate
  • Overcome Narrowcasting
  • Overcome the Problem of Feel-good Noise
  • Encourage and Participate in Dialogue Processes

Unit 12:  Challenge 7:  Obtaining and Effectively Using"Real Facts" 

  • Disentangle Facts and Values
    • Foster Credible Bipartisan Fact Checking
  • Be Aware of and Work to Counteract the Confirmation Bias 
  • Prioritize Information Flows
  • Promote Resistance to Propaganda and Disinformation
  • Assess Contradictory Experts
  • Pursue Joint Fact-finding
  • Decode Misleading Statistics
  • Reestablish Respect for Science and Expertise
  • Evaluate Impacts of Actions

Unit 13:  Challenge 8: Pursuing Collaboration and the Power of Working Together 

  • Find Common Ground Amidst Differences
  • Manage Distrust
    • Build Trust
  • Build understanding and trust through joint projects
  • Demonstrate Collaborative Potential
    • Develop and Pursue "Back Channels" 
  • Think "Win -Win", not "Win-Lose"
  • Understand "BATNAs," "ZOPAs," "Ripeness" and ways to Promote Ripeness
  • Expand your Conflict Styles
  • Improve Your Conflict-Handling Skills through Training
  • Use Intermediaries 
    • Use a mediator
    • Use a facilitator
    • Engage in a Collaborative ProblemSolving Process
    • Utilize an arbitrator
    • Go to Court
  • Develop Verification Measures and Performance Guarantees
    • Guarantee Policy Recommendations 

Unit 14:  Challenge 9:  Promoting Good Governance

  • Strengthen Civic Education
  • Provide Peace Education
  • Protect Individual Rights
  • Assure Transparent, Ethical Government 
  • Limit the Concentration of Wealth
  • Provide a Social Safety Net
  • Protect the Commons 
  • Provide Support for the Common Infrastructure
  • Encourage Grassroots Interest Groups
  • Discourage "Free-Riding"
  • Prevent Fraud
  • Institutionalize Future Protections
  • Assure Meaningful Elections
  • Assure Expertisebased Governance 
  • Provide Governmental Oversight
  • Consider How Safe Is "Too Safe"

Unit 15:  Challenge 10:   Promoting the Invisible Hand While Controlling the Invisible Fist

  • Promote Socially Responsible Businesses
  • Constructively Engage in the Private Sector
  • Offer Quality Goods and Services to the Economically Disadvantaged
  • Expand the NonExploitive Sharing Economy 
  • Provide Consumers with Accurate Information 
  • Require Business to Take Responsibility for their Public Harms 

Massively Parallel Peacebuilding: Making it Happen