Constructive Conflict Initiative*

A call for a dramatically expanded, long-term effort to improve society's ability to constructively address the full scale and complexity of the challenges posed by destructive conflict.

Guy Burgess and Heidi Burgess
Co-Directors, Beyond Intractability Project, Conflict Information Consortium
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Initiative Goals: 



The Coronavirus not just an epidemiological problem, it’s a serious conflict problem. 
Find out about our effort to help us all think through what we can do to help.

  • Promote awareness of the many ways in which our future is threatened by the destructive ways in which we commonly handle conflict, 
  • Clarify the challenges (see list) that will have to be overcome as part of any effort to limit the destructive conflict threat,
  • Promote collaborative problem-solving based on mutual understanding, respect, and the collaborative search for wise and equitable solutions to common problems,
  • Promote constructive advocacy strategies that use a more sophisticated understanding of conflict dynamics to help the parties better protect their legitimate interests,
  • Scale-up constructive conflict strategies to work at the full scale of modern society with its mass media, social network-dominated communication environment.
  • Resist "divide and conquer" politics in which Machiavellian actors try to advance their selfish objectives by driving society apart and attacking the institutions of collaborative governance.
  • Accelerate conflict research and development focused on addressing the legitimate concerns of the field's skeptics and promoting efforts to tackle the tough problems at the frontier of the conflict field,
  • Persuade large numbers of people to promote more constructive approaches to conflict and give them the training they need to be effective, and
  • Build the funding base needed to support such work.

For More Information...

We need to quit thinking of each other as enemies and start focusing on the real problem – the destructive way in which we handle conflict.
  • Initiative Summary briefly explaining the underlying rationale (5 minutes)
  • Full Initiative Statement with a much more in-depth explanation of what needs to be done and why  (20 minutes)
  • Constructive Conflict Imperative article explaining the nature and importance of the conflict problem and a realistic strategy for addressing it (20 minutes -- suitable for use in conflict-related classes)

Initiative Development Process

Solving our conflict problems will take a long-term, large-scale effort. There are no quick and easy fixes.

The Initiative highlights an extremely daunting series of problems – problems that can only be successfully addressed through a sustained, long-term, large-scale effort.  However, in this initial phase, the Initiative's focus is much simpler. We want to recruit a network of people and organizations interested in supporting the Initiative and helping pursue its goals. We then want to collaboratively develop an effective strategy for doing so.

Invitation to Participate and Help Shape the Initiative

The Initiative continues to circulate an open Invitation to anyone who might be interested in the project. Right now we are simply asking people to take a look at the materials and then let us know: 1) what they think about the effort,  2) how it might be strengthened, 3) who else is doing related work and should be invited to participate, 4) what next steps would be most effective, and 5) whether they would be interested in getting involved in some way. (This involvement can consist of continuing to do your current projects, if they relate to Initiative goals or challenges.)  

A synopsis of the 80+ almost universally-supportive comments received thus far are posted on a Feedback Summary PageMid-Summer 2019 Update and our Initiative Discussion page and are incorporated into other Initiative documents.  You can add your thoughts by emailing us directly, using our contact form, filling out an online questionnaire, or joining the Initiative's discussion group

The Initiative can only succeed if we can persuade large numbers of people to do what they can to contribute to the effort.

Things You Can Do to Help

Contribute to Initial Startup Costs

Initial Initiative development work is being done under a very meager (mostly "pro bono") budget that was made even tighter in October, 2019, when the University informed us that it could no longer house the Consortium, thereby eliminating our non-profit, 501(c)(3) status.  However, we continue to work on this project, Beyond Intractability, and all the associated projects independently of the university, and have set up a Go Fund Me Page to solicit funds to help us do that.  So, if you can contribute financially, we would really appreciate it.

Quick and Easy Ways to Help

  • Help publicize the Initiative and invite others to get involved by simply forwarding the Initiative URL to those who you think might have the interest and background to contribute,
  • Offer your thoughts on how the Initiative might be most effectively developed (see above), and
  • Send us links to information about Initiative-related efforts that you think might be of interest ( including your own).
There are many career opportunities implicit in the Initiative. We need to find people interested in developing and pursuing them.

Get Involved in One of the Initiative's "Next Steps" Projects

The success of the Initiative depends upon finding individuals and organizations with appropriate skills willing to play a major role in organizing and conducting a series of essential, next-steps projects.  We are now looking for people interested in spending a significant amount of paid or unpaid time on core Initiative projects. (Paid opportunities will, however, require successful fundraising.) There is also a need for people, with appropriate backgrounds and experience, to take a lead administrative and fundraising role in many of these activities.  Please let us know if you're interested in exploring the possibility getting involved it some way, and we would be happy to explore options with you.

At the moment, we are focused on developing "next steps" projects in the following areas.  We expect to add additional projects based on the many suggestions we continue to receive.

  • Public Awareness Building — We need people to help us make the case for the Initiative at professional conferences, on social media, and in other public settings. We need to help everyone see that the conflict problem is destructive conflict processes, not each other. 
  • Inventory of Ongoing Activities that Address the Initiative's Ten Challenges and Advance Initiative Goals — A great many people are already making major progress toward meeting the challenges posed by the Initiative. We need to systematically identify these activities as a foundation for our network-building effort and to publicize them to help demonstrate that the Initiative's goals are not only realistic, but are being actively pursued.
  • Inventory of Publications that Address the Initiative's Challenges and Goals — We need people to help us assemble an annotated online library of publications relating to the initiative challenges and goals. 
  • Recruitment and Networking — We need people with good networks and networking skills to help us build connections with those doing (or interested in doing) Initiative-related work (including those not traditionally included in the conflict and peacebuilding community).
  • Initiative Planning Conference — We need people to help convene, facilitate, and report the results of an in-depth working conference to develop realistic and detailed plans for pursuing the Initiative's broad goals. 
  • Funding Strategy Development — We need people to develop relationships between the Initiative and potential funders that expand the base of support for this work and clarify the terms under which funding might be available.

Pursue Initiative Goals in Your Own Professional and Civic Work

We also seek to encourage and build connections with those who are (or would like to) work within existing organizational mandates and funding streams to address Initiative challenges. For these independent projects, we would like to cultivate an informal but mutually-supportive relationship in which we would enhance the visibility and, hopefully, the fundability of this work. Such projects might, for example, include academic papers and conference presentations, community dialogues across political divides, learning materials, and news articles that clearly and succinctly summarize various aspects of the intractable conflict problem and efforts being made to address it.  If you are engaged in such activities, please let us know.

Initiative-Related Moving Beyond Intractability Learning Materials

The Initiative has emerged from Beyond Intractability (BI)'s 25-year inquiry into the nature of intractable conflict and associated dangers.  The BI Knowledge Base and the newer, Moving Beyond Intractability's growing collection of learning materials provides a starting point for the Initiative and what we see as a realistic strategy for addressing the problem of destructive intractable conflicts.  Available Initiative-related materials include:

* We are indebted to Louis Kriesberg who in 1998 taught us the phrase "Constructive Conflicts" which we see as the most succinct statement of what should be the goal of the conflict resolution and peacebuilding fields--promoting the constructive aspects of conflict while, at the same time, working to limit its many destructive aspects.  Lou recently published the fifth edition of his excellent book on the subject, Constructive Conflicts, with co-author,  Bruce Dayton.

We have another initiative called the "Constructive Confrontation Initiative" which is designed to show people how the skills typically used by third parties (for instance mediators) can also be usefully applied from an advocacy (i.e. confrontation) perspective.  This initiative is different from that one.  The Constructive Conflict Initiative has a much broader scope. We apologize for the potential confusion, but each title does say, we think, what the initiatives are about better than alternative titles. 

NOTE: During the initial development process, the Constructive Conflict Initiative website ( is being housed on the Beyond Intractability ( system. Both of these systems are "works in progress" which are continually being updated.