Conflict Frontiers Seminar

Spring 2017
Seminar Syllabus and Posts to Date

Spring 2016
"Beta" Seminar Posts


This seminar looks at frontier-of-the-field issues involving the nature of intractable conflicts and more effective ways of addressing them. We are particularly interested in applying a complexity and systems approach to intractable conflicts, and examining ways to scale up responses to be effective in large scale, complex conflicts. The seminar is based on ideas and materials that we (Guy and Heidi Burgess) have developed and have taught over the last 30 years.However, these ideas and materials are based on our collaboration with over 400 people who have contributed to the development of Beyond Intractability and related projects. Thus it includes the work and ideas of many people, not just us.

Intended Audience: This is primarily designed for people know know the "basics" and are interested in a cutting edge discussion of what makes intractable conflicts particularly difficult, and what can be done about that.  We are thinking this is likely to be of particular interest to advanced (MA and PhD) students and professionals (scholars and practitioners) in peace, conflict, and related fields. However, the seminar is open to all participants.  (We also are offering a "basics seminar" called "Conflict Fundamentals.")

Scope: The topics that we are planning to address in this first semester-long MOOS are outlined below.  This is a daunting list – one that will certainly generate “sticker shock” among some participants.   Still, this is a “thinking big” seminar focused on developing a very broad strategy for a scale and complexity-oriented approach to peacebuilding---one that we think is required for any serious effort to address the “intractable conflict challenge.”  Unlike a MOOC, where the readings and videos are required, participants are only asked to look at those things that interest them.  Some of you may be interested in the broad, overview materials, others will want to focus on narrower sets of topics.  Feel free to pick and choose.
A Note about Post Order:  We should also note that while syllabi (or even topic lists or sequences of posts) are inherently linear, 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, in a sense, 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.

Other Notes: 

  • Unit 0 and Unit 1 are the same in this seminar and the Fundamentals Seminar. Starting with Unit 2, the two seminars diverge.
  • [D#] indicates the discussion(s) that are associated with a particular post.  These discussions will be available when the associated post is posted.


Spring 2017 Seminar Topics / Syllabus
with Associated Discussions 

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

"Preface-Posts" -- Introduction to the MOOS

    Welcome, Getting Started Videos

    Guy's Welcome, Project Rationale, and Quick Preview

     Heidi's Welcome & What's a MOOS?
    Using the Moos

    1. Invitation and Quick Introduction -- April 5, 2017
    2. The Intractable Conflict Challenge -- April 5, 2017
    3. A Complexity-Oriented Approach -- April 6, 2017
    4. MOOS Audiences -- April 6, 2017
    5. MOOS Seminars -- April 7, 2017
    6. Conflict Fundamentals Seminar -- April 7, 2017
    7. Conflict Frontiers Seminar -- April 8, 2017
    8. Accessing MOOS Content -- April 9, 2017

    Section I: Understanding the Intractable Conflict Problem

    Unit 1: The Intractable Conflict Problem

    1. Why Can't We Fix Anything Anymore?  -- April 10, 2017
    2. What Are Intractable Conflicts? -- April 11, 2017
    3. What Makes Conflicts Intractable? -- April 12, 2017
    4. Intractable Conflict: A "Climate Change-Class" Problem -- April 13, 2017
    5. Limits to Growth, Tragedies of the Commons, and the Conflict Problem -- April 14, 2017

    Unit 2:  Pushing the frontier: the Limits of Business-as-Usual 

    1. Business-as-Usual Introduction --April 17, 2017​ 
    2. Part 1: Same Old Approach, Just More or Better -- April 18, 2017​ 
    3. Part 2: Boys Will Be Boys" -- April 19, 2017​ 
    4. Part 3: The "Blame Game" -- April 20, 2017​ 
    5. Part 4: Power and the Power Strategy Mix -- April 21, 2017​ 
    6. Part 5: The Interplay of Reason and Emotion -- April 24, 2017
    7. Part 6: More Bad Assumptions -- April 25, 2017​ 
    8. Part 7: The Return of I'll Fight-you-for-it Rules -- April 26, 2017​ 
    9. Part 8: The Backlash Effect and Coefficient  -- April 27, 2017​ 
    10. Part 9: Recent Peace and Conflict Paradigms -- April 28, 2017​ 

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

    1. Developing a Systems/Complexity Paradigm -- May 1, 2017
    2. Dugan's "Nested Theory of Conflict" -- May 2, 2017
    3. Lederach's Pyramid -- May 3, 2017
    4. Lederach's Big Picture of Conflict Transformation -- May 4, 2017
    5. Diamond and McDonald's Multi-track Diplomacy -- May 5, 2017
    6. Ury's "Third Side" -- May 8, 2017
    7. Coleman's "Five Percent Part 1 -- May 9, 2017
    8. Coleman's "Five Percent" Part 2 -- May 10, 2017
    9. Ricigliano's SAT model -- May 11, 2017
    10. Hauss's "New Paradigm" -- May 15, 2017

    Unit 4: Moving Toward a Complexity-Oriented Paradigm

    1. Embracing Complexity: The Key to Dealing with Intractability -- May 23, 2017
    2. Complex vs. Complicated Systems -- May 24, 2017 
    3. System Levels -- May 25, 2017
    4. The Really Big Picture Ecodynamics and Planetary Evolution -- May 31, 2017
    5. Meeting the Adaptation Challenge -- June 1, 2017
    6. The Evolutionary Choice: "Power With" or "Power Over"  -- June 12, 2017
    7. Our Most Important Conflict: Coexisters vs. Fighters vs. Divide-and-Conquerors - June 15, 2017
    8. The Complex Causes of Social Problems 
    9. Social and Psychological Complexity 
    10. Engineering and Medical Troubleshooting 
      • Discussion #16: Conflict Pathologies
    11. Scale Up -- June 19, 2017
    12. The Google Traffic Metaphor 
    13. The Decentralized, "Markets Plus" Metaphor 

    Unit 5:  Massively Parallel Peacebuilding (MPP)

    1. Massively Parallel Peacebuilding – Introduction
    2. Constructive Confrontation - Parts 1 and 2
    3. Keys to Making MPP Work
    4. Precedents for MPP
    5. Complexity-oriented Capacity Building 
    6. Ways of Knowing and Learning
    7. Learning and Teaching in Different Settings
    8. Institutional and Structural Capacity Building

    Unit 6: Owning the problem

    1. Starting at Home
    2. Mega Worry How Bad Could It Get 
    3. Routine Worry: Why We Can't Fix Anything (Again and Still)
    4. Background: Peacebuilding at Home and Abroad - Part 1
    5. Peacebuilding at Home and Abroad Part II: "Wearing the Others's Shoes"
    6. US Focus/International Applications
    7. Open Goals and Accountability
    8. Meta-proposal for the Field
    9. Further Ownership Issues
    10. Examining Our Own Assumptions: What We Don't See and Talk About Does Hurt Us.
    11. Compassion and Empathy
    12. Building and Using Mirrors
    13. Beyond the Binary Frame

    Unit 7: Examining US Politics

    1. Red/Blue Cultural Divide
    2. The Role of Culture in Conflict
    3. Constructive Responses to Cultural Differences
    4. Neuroscience and Cultural Lag
    5. The Gold/Purple Divide Parts I and II
    6. The 2016 Presidential Election
    7. Unmet Human Needs
    8. Mirror: Cosmopolitan Meritocracy/Distributional Conflict
    9. Mirror: Cosmopolitan Progressive Cultural Values
    10. Mirror: Government/ Blank Industrial Complex
    11. Mirror: Environmentalism
    12. Mirror: Trump supporters
    13. Mirror: Business Excesses/Caveat Emptor Values
    14. Fighters and Compromisers
    15. Divide and Conquer Strategy
    16. Power Strategy Mix (reprise)
    17. Backlash (reprise)
    18. Legitimate and Illegitimate Power
    19. Justice in the Red/Blue/Gold Divide
    20. The many elements of Democracy and Avoiding Dystopian Tyranny
    21. Partisan Structures
    22. Partisan Frames

    Section II: Moving Beyond Intractability: Defining Goals, Objectives, and Make-a-Difference Actions

    Unit 8: Exploring Goals

    1. Exploring Alternative Goals
    2. First Focus: Violence-limited Societies
    3. Big Picture Prequel
    4. Distributional Goals
    5. Moral Goals
    6. Identity Goals
    7. Type I and Type II Cultural Issues and Conflicts
    8. Constructive Responses to Cultural Differences
    9. Security Goals
    10. Justice Goals
    11. Peace Goals
    12. Forgiveness Goals
    13. Lederach's "Meeting Place" - Balancing Peace, Justice, Truth, and Mercy 
    14. Distinguishing Core Goals from "Astroturf Goals"
    15. Visioning

    Unit 9: Examining Objectives: Traps and Opportunities

    1. Section Introduction
    2. Framing traps and opportunities
    3. Identity and Characterization Framing
    4. Win/lose, Competitive & Into-the-sea Framing
    5. Power Frames
    6. Spoilers  
    7. Risk frames
    8. Process frames
    9. Bad Communication
    10. Misunderstandings
    11. Cognitive Dissonance, Confirmation Bias, and Sacrifice Trap
    12. Narrowcasting and Media Bias
    13. Propaganda and Disinformation and "Alt-Facts"
    14. Cultural Blinders
    15. Bandwidth Stereotype Problem
    16. Fact-Finding Problems (Introduction)
    17. Confusing Facts and Values
    18. Risk and Uncertainty
    19. Distrust of Science/News/Facts/Experts
    20. Analysis Paralysis, Certainty Trap, Ilnumeracy, QED Syndrome
    21. Escalation 
    22. Escalation Spirals
    23. Riding the Tiger
    24. Polarization
    25. Ineffective Negotiation and Decision Making
    26. Ineffective Negotiation
    27. Ineffective Agreement Implementation
    28. Ineffective Governance
    29. Market pathologies
    30. Mission creep

    Unit 10: Make-a-Difference Actions - Principles

    1. Identifying First-order and Second-order "Make-a-difference" Actions
    2. Implications of the "Massively Parallel" Approach - Simultaneous Micro, Meso, and Macro Efforts
    3. Use of Mapping to Identify "Ripe Places" for Intervention
    4. Beyond Crisis Response: Working in the Short, Intermediate, and Long-term Simultaneously
    5. Matching Actions to Objectives
    6. Avoiding
    7. Grabbing Opportunities
    8. Forming Coalitions
    9. Insider and Outsider Roles
    10. Third Sider Roles
    11. Large-Scale Actions
    12. Defining  "Good Governance" 

    Unit 11: "First-order" Actions

    1. Empowering “Power-With” Compromisers So That They Can Successfully Resist The “Power Over” Machiavellians.
    2. Mirror Building, Compassion, Pragmatic And Principled Empathy
    3. Face-Saving Actions
    4. Crisis Response
    5. Rumor Control
    6. Tolerance and Coexistence
    7. Constructive Confrontation of Moral Differences
    8. Community-Building Actions
    9. Expert/Non-Expert Trust-Building
    10. Islands Of Collaboration Within Conflict
    11. Ripeness, Compromise And Interest-Based Bargaining
    12. Fighting Fair/Referees
    13. Peacekeeping
    14. Nonviolent Direct Action
    15. Implementing "Good Governance"
    16. Election Reform And Monitoring
    17. Market Reform to Limit Fraud
    18. Market Reform to Reduce Inequality
    19. Market Reform to Limit Tragedies of the Commons
    20. Peacebuilding Social Entrepreneurship

    Unit 12: Second-order Actions - - Peacebuilder Mobilization Strategies

    1. Review Of Difference Between First-Order and Second-Order Actions
    2. Match-Making (E-Bay Approach)
    3. Diagnostic Questionnaires
    4. Social Movement Organization
    5. University Reform
    6. Peacebuilder Support
    7. Mobilizing And Legitimizing Expertise 

    Unit 13. Second-order Actions - Capacity Building 

    1. Section Introduction - Second Order Capacity Building
    2. Media strategies
    3. Traditional Education and Training
    4. Identity-Group Training
    5. Cross-Fertilization Opportunities and Events
    6. Cost Containment
    7. Big Picture Design, Monitoring, and Evaluation 

    Unit 14: Where Do We Go From Here?

    1. Section Introduction: Where Do We Go From Here?
    2. Things Individuals Can Do
    3. Things Grassroots Leadership Can Do
    4. Things Mid-Level Leadership Can Do
    5. Things Elite Leaders Can Do
    6. Things The Conflict-Resolution and Peacebuilding Field Can Do



    Spring 2016 "Beta" Seminar Posts