2020 CCI/Coronavirus Feedback
- Guy and Heidi Burgess: The Original Coronavirus/CCI Idea and Convergence Around a "Crossroads"
- Guy and Heidi Burgess: The Pandemic as a "Never Again" Moment
- Cynthia Cohen: Artists Can Help Us Frame Our Coronavirus Narrative
- Bruce Dayton: We're at a Crossroads between Tribalism and a New Supra-Ordinate Identity
- John Paul Lederach: We Need Moral Imagination to Respond to Covid-19
- Shannon Kupersmith: We are at a complicated intersection with lots of roads. What if we use this opportunity to move forward in a better direction?
- Alan Yarborough/Steven Paulikas: Another "Independent" Reflection on the Choice Ahead of Us
- John Lande on the Crisis-New-Normal (CNN) and the Normal-New-Normal (NNN)
- Lou Kriesberg - On Taking Action
- Chip Hauss - Shifting from "Me First" to "We First" and Other 'Takes" on the Coronavirus
- Mark Chupp - An Exponential Rise of Trust and Goodness
April, 2020 Feedback
On April 6, Guy and Heidi Burgess posted a letter that we are also slowly beginning to send out to some of our colleagues, giving them an update on the Constructive Conflict Initiative and how we think it relates to the Covid-19 crisis. We are beginning to get responses back to this mailing, and have been struck by the similarity of people's thinking.
The idea that keeps on coming up is the notion that we are at a "crossroads," where we can either choose a collaborative road, or a competitive, hostile, us-versus-them road. And we all seem to agree that there is much that can and should be done to encourage people to take the former approach, not the latter, and that our choice now will have profound impacts on the nature of our society and our lives in the future.
In our mailing, we (Guy Burgess and Heidi Burgess, Co-directors of Beyond Intractability and the Constructive Conflict Initiative), said that "it is quite possible that this searing experience will produce a "never again" moment (such as the one we saw at the end of World War II) during which there will be widespread support for the implementation of major reforms based on the 'lessons learned' from the crisis. Obviously, shaping those lessons is going to be of critical importance."
|It is quite possible that this searing experience will produce a "never again" moment (such as the one we saw at the end of World War II) during which there will be widespread support for the implementation of major reforms based on the 'lessons learned' from the crisis.|
We then suggested that 3 lessons were key: 1) the need to strengthen institutions which govern the global commons, 2) the need to address the unmet needs of those "left behind," and 3) the need to delegitimize and prevent "scapegoat politics."
We then warned that some are drawing the opposite conclusion -- that global governance and expertise is simply a tool of oppression used by the dominant class and should be resisted by people who are not interested in cooperation. Protecting ourselves and out-competing "the other" is still seen by many as the best way forward.
We (Guy and Heidi Burgess) think that the competitive approach is a very dangerous way forward--both for the people who pursue it, and for the world overall. We suggested that people in the conflict and peace fields can (and should) do much to try to get people to learn the first set of lessons from this event, rather than the second.
Another way to frame what we (the Burgesses) are saying is that people can choose different "narratives" to explain what is going on now and what's to be done about it.
|A crucial factor in determining the long-term impacts of the pandemic will be the nature of the narrative(s) that emerge from people's efforts to make sense of what is happening.|
The term "narratives" is central to the response we got from Cynthia Cohen, Director of the Program in Peacebuilding and the Arts, Brandeis University; and member of the Leadership Circle, IMPACT- Imagining Together: Platform for Arts, Culture and Conflict Transformation.
Cynthia noted that "I have been thinking lately that a crucial factor in determining the long-term impacts of the pandemic will be the nature of the narrative(s) that emerge from people's efforts to make sense of what is happening. Artists can play a major role in framing possible narratives." IMPACT is preparing a newsletter that will list arts-based inititiaves related to the pandemic and more will be listed on their website. We will add links here as soon as we have them.
We’re at a crossroads that could reaffirm tribalism, suspicion,and borders or could lead to building a new supra-ordinate identity among people now facing a common foe / threat.
Similarly, Bruce Dayton, Associate Professor and Chair, Master in Peace and Justice Leadership and the Executive Director of the CONTACT Peacebuilding Program and the SIT Graduate Institute wrote: "it seems to me that we’re at a crossroads that could reaffirm tribalism, suspicion, and borders or could lead to building a new supra-ordinate identity among people now facing a common foe / threat. What we collectively do now will determine which of those paths is blazed. I also see here a chance of connecting the fields of constructive conflicts and crisis management. I’ve long taught in both and see some common ground that could be very fertile.
John Paul Lederach shared with us a video that he made recently as he gave a talk to the Upaya Zen Center in Santa Fe via Zoom because of the pandemic.
|The moral imagination requires the capacity to imagine ourselves in a web of relationships including, even, our enemies.|
In the first part of the video, he shares the key ideas from his 2005 book The Moral Imagination, (which is wonderful, by the way) but then he goes on to apply the key ideas of the book to the Covid-19 pandemic. As he explains in eloquent detail, the four key components of the "moral imagination" are: 1. the capacity to imagine ourselves in a web of relationships, one that includes even our enemies, 2. The ability to sustain a robust curiosity, 3. a commitment to the creative act, and 4. an acceptance of the risk that necessarily goes along with attempts to transcend violence (or in this case fear and division).
Again, the key idea is one of making choices of which "road" to follow--responding in an "us-versus-them," "me-first" way, or understanding that we are all in a "web of relationships" and need to respond together. Also, he points out, we must remain curious about the situation we are in, which he refers to as a "great mystery," about which none of us knows the end. We will need creativity to deal with this mystery effectively, and we will have to take risks. There's no "safe way" out of this predicament we are in.
|Lederach illustrates how he captures beauty through Haiku in his 'Unfolding Poem' for the Moment We're In.|
Lederach continues his talk by explaining how he uses Haiku to help him make sense of this mystery--and other such profound challenges. Haiku, he explains, forces one to pause and notice one's environment. "Noticing," he says, " is the first discipline of compassion. Without the capacity to pause enough to notice, compassion doesn't fully rise."
Haikus, Lederach also explains, build bridges between things that are often held separate. Writing haikus helps him look deeply into his inner self, and then connect that inner self with the outside world, particularly with nature and beauty. After telling a parable about a young girl who jumped into a well to escape a tiger, only to find a dragon at the bottom of the well, Lederach ends with a moral: "When you feel caught between a dragon and a tiger hanging by a thread or a branch, don't forget to pause, to notice--and take your daily dose of vitamin awe." (Lederach's 'Unfolding Poem' for the Moment We're In is a growing set of Haikus written as he shelters in place in Arizona.)
|We've had a mass movement of people, taking a small step to do something on behalf of others.|
At the end, Lederach observes that lately we've had a mass movement of people ... going home. "That's very unusual for a mass movement. But now we've had a mass movement of people, taking a small step to do something on behalf of others."
I (Heidi Burgess) heard this as saying, we've had a mass movement of people taking a small step down the road of collaboration, of relationship, of helping others--again a road or "crossroads" metaphor.
Shannon Kupersmith: We are at a complicated intersection with lots of roads. What if we use this opportunity to move forward in a better direction?
Shannon Kupersmith, a Yosemite Park Ranger and graduate student in Heidi's Reconciliation Course at George Mason University's School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution (SCAR) turned in a particularly thoughtful essay for her latest discussion board post--which also echoed the notion of "a crossroads." This wasn't intended to be a "coronavirus assignment," but Shannon turned it into one, and again focused on the notion of "a crossroads." She, to my knowledge, hadn't read our Coronavirus essay, so this isn't technically, a response to that. It is, however, a restatement and elaboration of the crossroads idea, so I thought it was worth posting here.
The prompt for her post read as follows: "Start by thinking about how one might build an "index" of reconciliation. Following on Elise Boulding's future visioning exercise, think 30 years into the future with respect to the post-conflict society of your choice (the US is fair game, and to my view--a very interesting and important challenge!) Say by that time, reconciliation had been achieved. What would it "look like?" What level of conflict would/should still exist in a "reconciled" society? Put another way, what are the social, psychological, political, and economic attributes that would indicate to you (and others) that reconciliation had, indeed, been accomplished? How would these attributes be measured? Putting this more broadly, how does one measure the degree to which reconciliation has--or has not--been achieved in any context? Then as a next step, use Elise Boulding's approach of looking back from the future to the present, and imagine what changes it would take to get from where your chosen society is now to the reconciled future you envision? What are the short-term, intermediate -term and long-term steps that must be taken in order to achieve your imagined future? What are the obstacles to taking those steps? Can you imagine a few realistic steps that might be started to try to start moving along this 'reconciliation path?'
Shannon's response was as follows:
Life as we knew it in 2019 is gone. The world is about to change, and what if we use this opportunity to move forward in a better direction?
"While we all start our fourth or fifth week of sitting around our houses in our pajamas, boredom eating, and maybe cutting our own hair, I think it’s pretty clear to see that we are at a crossroad.
Actually, we may be at a complicated intersection with lots of various roads, highways, and the occasional bikeway, really; regardless, life as we knew it in 2019 is gone. The world is about to change, and what if we use this opportunity to move forward in a better direction?
What would a reconciled US look like in 2050 if we took this moment in history to realize we all basically want the same things (to live, work, and be safe)?
|Groups that socially respect and appreciate their similarities and differences come together much more easily in the face of threats, like a pandemic, allowing for a swifter, more appropriate response for all.|
Socially, we’ll still be divided into groups in some ways, that’s just human nature. There will still be blue and red politics, Southerns, Northerns, nerds, jocks, you get it. Only in a reconciled US, those difference would no longer be threatening. People can respect that not everyone agrees (nor should they), and those difference can generate positive change instead of polarizing rhetoric or violence. Groups that socially respect and appreciate their similarities and differences come together much more easily in the face of threats, like a pandemic, allowing for a swifter, more appropriate response for all.
Psychologically, we’d have to address Bar-Tal’s (2000) conflict ethos, changing it into a peace ethos. Of his societal beliefs, I think ending our delegitimization of the opponent and instead pursuing unity are the biggest shifts needed in our national psychology. In a reconciled US, we no longer view each other as the enemy, racking up examples of “see how they did wrong!?” but recognizing that differing views is useful. Instead of using those difference as ways to further alienate each other, they are used as ways to move towards a common goal in a stronger way.
Political change is profound in the reconciled US. Although the current state of the US is a much more complicated conflict than just saying “Democrats vs. Republicans,” it is the facet most commonly attributed to "the divide." It’s hard to imagine how much it can change in 30 years. The binary system that’s currently in place would likely have to change, but honestly, even a 3-party system would be a substantial improvement. Regardless of the makeup, the biggest change in the political future is tolerance. Van Doorn (2014) describes political tolerance as an emphasis on equal civil liberties. The current push of intolerance would dissolve into a system that, while believing in individual ideas, does not feel the need to subject the entire population to them. Furthermore, Van Doorn discusses social tolerance, another red flag in our current political system. In 30 years, a shift away from xenophobia and bigotry would allow people to participate in the political system for their ideas and not their appearance or station in life.
Economically, it’s difficult to imagine where we can be in 30 years considering how we all just witnessed the razor’s edge that is our economy. A reconciled US would have some level of a more equal distribution of wealth. We would have a living wage for everyone, or be well on our way to it.
Elise Boulding (1999) describes an activity she does with inmates in prison, imagining how the world can be improved, and where they’d be in 30 years. The answers are, of course, utopian, but the steps the designed to achieve that world are realistic.
|We need to recognize that this moment in time is Lederach’s (2005) concept of “moral imagination,” or the possibility to venture down a new path.|
Thirty years is not enough time to fully overhaul the divisions, structural violence, and other conflicts in the US, but there are perhaps goals we can achieve to at least move towards the right road. We need to recognize that this moment in time is Lederach’s (2005) concept of “moral imagination,” or the possibility to venture down a new path.
For a short-term goal, we must create a common goal. This common goal will have to be powerful enough to overcome a lot of other aspects of division.
|Perhaps an international health crisis with no resolution and no end in sight could be a great place to start. Coming together as a community at every level (local, state, national, international) to defeat an enemy that is blind to political divide is exactly the incident that could trigger a first step down the path.|
Perhaps an international health crisis with no resolution and no end in sight could be a great place to start. Coming together as a community at every level (local, state, national, international) to defeat an enemy that is blind to political divide is exactly the incident that could trigger a first step down the path. Recognizing that we all have the same goal (survival and preparedness) can help equalize fear or hatred of our differences because there are currently no differences with the virus. The teamwork needed to overcome this pandemic is unprecedented and a real opportunity, or Lederach’s (2005) “critical yeast” to get people moving en mass. However, it would require a leadership style bent on unification, and not politicizing or blaming, to rally enough yeast to move even these first few steps to reconciliation.
A medium-term goal would be to, again, use this international crisis, once under control, to look back to see where the holes in society were during the worst of it. Even a short life disruption of a month or two lead to evictions, starvation, homelessness, etc. while billionaires set up foundations for other people to donate to. People didn’t seek medical treatment for fears of financial destruction. If we use the pandemic as a reminder of how these weaknesses made it harder for us to overcome the problem as a community, we can inspire people to move towards the above-mentioned society as a safety net, if nothing else. We don’t have to agree about tax rates for the rich to recognize that even the slightest hiccup in our society created a cataclysmic effect on our economy, which in turn impacted us all. Using these lessons, we can move forward towards a healthier, happy society that agrees on the basics and works towards those goals.
If we get our country walking down the road to reconciliation motivated by self-preservation, well, at least we’re walking.
The long-term goals would be a transition in motivation from “because we must!” to “because it’s right!” If we get our country walking down the road to reconciliation motivated by self-preservation, well, at least we’re walking. But to stay the course, that motivation needs to transform to something more compassionate and righteous. Perhaps as we achieve our medium-goals and reap the benefits of a more equitable society, those satisfied feelings will help more people see that life is happier and easier when we work together for its own sake.
Another of my students, Alan Yarborough, responded to Shannon's post by sharing an op-ed, written by Steven Paulikas, an Episcopal priest, that was recently published in the New York Times. It is entitled "The World is Empty Now. How Should We Fill It? After talking about the spiritual meaning of "emptiness" in many different religions, Paulikas ends:
"The emptiness of this moment is incredibly powerful. Pope Francis has said, “Let us not lose our memory once all this is past, let us not file it away and go back to where we were.”
Life will not be the same next Easter and Passover. Once the world opens back up, we can choose to fill it with the wisdom and insight gained from these weeks — or allow it to be filled with horrors that are even worse than what we had before. The choice will be ours."
In response to our mailing, John Lande shared three of his recent blogs, all focused on the "Crisis-New-Normal" and the "Normal-New-Normal." In the first blog post, after looking at other major socio-economic shocks of the past, John discusses three other articles,all of which examined how Covid-19 might change our societies over the long term. First was a Politico article entitled Coronavirus Will Change the World Permanently. Here’s How. This article included short essays from 34 "big thinkers," including our colleague Peter Coleman. Peter's essay parallels our notion of opportunity of the "never again moment," as well as looking at this moment as something of a crossroads, although he uses the terms "changing course," and shocks "breaking different ways, making things better or worse." But, he says, "now is the time to begin to promote more constructive patterns in our cultural and political discourse. The time for change is clearly ripening."
|The extraordinary shock(s) to our system that the coronavirus pandemic is bringing has the potential to break America out of the 50-plus year pattern of escalating political and cultural polarization we have been trapped in, and help us to change course toward greater national solidarity and functionality. (Peter Coleman)|
"The extraordinary shock(s) to our system that the coronavirus pandemic is bringing has the potential to break America out of the 50-plus year pattern of escalating political and cultural polarization we have been trapped in, and help us to change course toward greater national solidarity and functionality. It might sound idealistic, but there are two reasons to think it can happen.
The first is the “common enemy” scenario, in which people begin to look past their differences when faced with a shared external threat. COVID-19 is presenting us with a formidable enemy that will not distinguish between reds and blues, and might provide us with fusion-like energy and a singularity of purpose to help us reset and regroup. During the Blitz, the 56-day Nazi bombing campaign against the Britain, Winston Churchill’s cabinet was amazed and heartened to witness the ascendance of human goodness – altruism, compassion and generosity of spirit and action.
The second reason is the “political shock wave” scenario. Studies have shown that strong, enduring relational patterns often become more susceptible to change after some type of major shock destabilizes them. This doesn’t necessarily happen right away, but a study of 850 enduring inter-state conflicts that occurred between 1816 to 1992 found that more than 75 percent of them ended within 10 years of a major destabilizing shock. Societal shocks can break different ways, making things better or worse. But given our current levels of tension, this scenario suggests that now is the time to begin to promote more constructive patterns in our cultural and political discourse. The time for change is clearly ripening.
The second article John highlights is in the New York TImes, entitled Is the Coronavirus Shaping the Future of How We Work? This article, too, suggests that we may be at "an inflection point of the same significance as World War II." As John explains, "this article highlights a potential "pendulum" shift in attitudes about individual versus community responsibility and the importance of strong government policy."
The last article is a New York TImes op ed entitled What Is a College Education in the Time of Coronavirus?, Here again, John sees a "crossroads." "During the NNN, various educational programs may mostly go back to what they previously were doing with some additional online education, or they may make more fundamental changes in their educational theories and techniques."
Decisions in the CNN period are likely to have long-term effects during the NNN period. Some “interim” changes will become institutionalized for the indefinite future and others will not. There may or may not be decreased polarization, increased communitarian social policy, and increased online education.
What will happen is not inevitable. It is contingent on people’s attitudes and actions, individually and collectively
It’s easy to imagine that there would be increased consensus or continued bitter political polarization. The US government may provide for broad New Deal / Great Society social protections or a more limited “safety net.” Colleges and universities may make fundamental changes in the structures of their programs or they may maintain traditional models.
This describes polar opposites as if on a single dimension, but the reality is likely to be somewhere in the middle and more complex with substantial variation.
What will happen is not inevitable. It is contingent on people’s attitudes and actions, individually and collectively
John's second blog post focuses on the NNN in legal and dispute resolution practice, the courts and legal education examining how much of this can successfully be done with video, and he wonders how much a reliance on video and other technological innovations will persist after the crisis is over. He also observes that the Federal Bureau of Prisons is releasing criminals who are not considered a threat to society and wonders will the crisis lead to policies which dramatically decrease the U.S. incarceration rate in the future? John then considers how the crisis might change Legal and Dispute Resolution Education and introduces a book and a project that might be of interest to our readers. One is called the Theory-of-Change book which presents useful ideas about possible new approaches to teaching. The second is John's "Stone Soup Project" which is designed to teach and to learn what is actually happening in the world of dispute resolution, and as John points out, this will be a great opportunity to learn what is happening in the dispute resolution world in the wake of Covid.
The third blog post is entitled Communication, Privacy, and Community in the New Normal. Here, again, John quotes several other articles at length, one being The World After
|"When choosing between alternatives, we should ask ourselves not only how to overcome the immediate threat, but also what kind of world we will inhabit once the storm passes. Yes, the storm will pass, humankind will survive, most of us will still be alive – but we will inhabit a different world.” (Yuval Noah Harari)|
Coronavirus, written by an Israeli historian Yuval Noah Harari. Harari advises: "When choosing between alternatives, we should ask ourselves not only how to overcome the immediate threat, but also what kind of world we will inhabit once the storm passes. Yes, the storm will pass, humankind will survive, most of us will still be alive – but we will inhabit a different world.” Areas that are likely to be different, John suggests, are communication, privacy, and community, each of which he discusses in turn.
On communication, he turns to Esther Pfaff's post in the Kluwer Mediation Blog, Communication After Covid-19, in which she argues that the pandemic “will have long-term effects on our communication culture and the culture of conflict.” While conflict communication is typically poor, she has noticed improved conflict communication since Covid has hit.
Lately, I have participated in a number of telephone conferences and video chats with a very different vibe. These calls were thoroughly organized, in full awareness of the challenge that bonding and working in a team via a screen represents. The calls started with an introduction round, making sure everybody is fine and giving everybody a good understanding of who is actually on the call (in part because everybody is kind of excited about the new working situation, but still). There was a clear agenda circulated before and rules of communication agreed on. Many of these calls happened in a pleasant and productive atmosphere, we actually got a lot done. Because it clearly was the only option. . . .
Over time, my expectation would be that a much more sophisticated ethical and social code will develop around long-distance communication. And the more it becomes established, the less likely long-distance communication will be the root cause for so many commercial conflicts. On this long and bumpy road, I believe mediators have a worthwhile contribution to make.
Going back to Israeli professor Harai, though, John suggests that privacy issues are going to be worsened by the crisis. Here he discusses the massive personal surveillance that has been started in China and elsewhere to track people with the virus and their contacts which might be continued after the crisis subsides. In addition, as a lawyer and mediator, he is concerned with the lack of confidentiality of online communications that not only can be hacked, but can also be recorded and then distributed without the knowledge of participants.
Returning once again to the "crossroads theme" regarding cooperation, John again quotes Harari:
|“Humanity needs to make a choice. Will we travel down the route of disunity, or will we adopt the path of global solidarity? If we choose disunity, this will not only prolong the crisis, but will probably result in even worse catastrophes in the future. If we choose global solidarity, it will be a victory not only against the coronavirus, but against all future epidemics and crises that might assail humankind in the 21st century.” (Yuval Noah Harari)|
“Humanity needs to make a choice. Will we travel down the route of disunity, or will we adopt the path of global solidarity? If we choose disunity, this will not only prolong the crisis, but will probably result in even worse catastrophes in the future. If we choose global solidarity, it will be a victory not only against the coronavirus, but against all future epidemics and crises that might assail humankind in the 21st century.”
John's adds his own "American" view of this crossroads.
Unfortunately, the outlook for global cooperation isn’t encouraging at the moment, at least as far as the US is concerned. The current American administration is focused primarily on blaming everyone else rather than cooperating with states and other countries to solve problems. Indeed, President Trump is actively instigating conflict rather than promoting cooperation.
On the other hand, the lack of American leadership has prompted states and other countries to develop new alliances and “work around” the American federal government.
The political conflict related to the crisis takes place in the context of the American political campaign in which voters will have starkly different choices in November. The election results surely will affect the level of conflict and cooperation in the future, though not necessarily in predictable ways.
Our long-time friend and colleague, Lou Kriesberg wrote this essay in response to our request for his thoughts on how to move forward constructively in these challenging times. As always, his answers are profound.
On Taking Action
We Americans are beset by many awful circumstances in our country and in the world. As analysts and sometimes as activists we examine such developments, analyzing why they are bad and how they have happened. So many bad things are occurring every day, it is hard to fight against any one of them, as new ones distract us. I sketch out an
I sketch out an approach to taking actions that have a good chance to be effective and satisfying in overcoming objectionable circumstances.
approach to taking actions that have a good chance to be effective and satisfying in overcoming objectionable circumstances.
First, we should select three or four matters that we believe should be bettered. We can each choose those matters that particularly concern us. The matters may or may not be connected and they will vary in magnitude. We should include some local aspects of one or more of the matters that are of concern. We do know that even now, some good things are happening in some cities, some neighborhoods, and some local institutions. They are important, because they have a better chance of being successful, which is encouraging and helps sustain progress. Most bad matters entail contentions, conflicts that embody and sustain them.
Second, we should work with other people to resolve the undesirable matter of concern. It isn’t necessary to build one’s own organization. There are many organizations acting to overcome the bad developments that might concern each of us, which we could join. For example, Indivisible, which functions across the country and was founded soon after Donald Trump’s election, does political action stuff at the local, state, and national level. There also are local union chapters, religious and ethnic organizations, which might be joined or aided. There are also political reform groups and ones working on specific environmental issues. Notably, there are formal official institutions with the charter to manage the undesirable circumstances, which may be joined or aided.
First, we should select three or four matters that we believe should be bettered.
Second, we should work with other people to resolve the undesirable matter of concern.
Third, we should reflect on alternative strategies that might ameliorate or overcome the destructive matters of concern.
Finally, we must do something.
Third, we should reflect on alternative strategies that might ameliorate or overcome the destructive matters of concern. Certainly, one part of any effective strategy is to mobilize support for the possible action to win over the adversaries. The primary objective at this stage is to gather the needed power. There are three sources of power: coercion, persuasion, and positive sanctions, which are combined in many ways in the course of waging a conflict constructively. It would be helpful to hone and apply our persuasive skills in writing and speaking on various platforms; we ought to develop skills to communicate broadly, not only to and for professional colleagues. We should seek to amass resources that can be used as negative sanctions and/or used as positive sanctions. Adversaries should not be dehumanized and their heterogeneity should be recognized so that some cooperative actions might become feasible with some elements of the opposing side.
Finally, we must do something. We should formulate both long term and short-term goals. Long term goals project a vision of a hopeful future. Short term goals should be attainable in some visible way, so a gain can be won. This helps gather more support. In any case, moreover, overreaching should be avoided, since large losses by opponents can provoke them to win great pushbacks. Best of all, opponents may come to see that they have also gained some benefits by the new circumstances.
Acting is a wonderful way of avoiding feeling despair. It can be fun. It keeps hope alive. Having written this, I recognize that I have pursued changing versions of this approach throughout my life.
April 20, 2020
Chip Hauss has a blog that we have written about before in our "Colleague Activities" area. It is worth revisiting now, because he is posting a number of things related to Covid-19 that are very important.
First, on March 17, Chip circulated a post entitled "One Peacebuilder's Take on Coronavirus." Here he described the situation by pointing out that the Chinese characters designating "crisis" are a combination of "danger" and "opportunity."
|The dangers and opportunities we face in the early 21st century are easier to see in our reactions to the coronavirus than other issues precisely because the dangers both hit so close to home and and came upon [us] so quickly.|
"The dangers and opportunities we face in the early 21st century are easier to see in our reactions to the coronavirus than the other issues [climate change, populism, racism etc.] precisely because the dangers both hit so close to home and and came upon [us] so quickly. So, too, is our evolutionary challenge. Here, I’m not thinking about our physical evolution that will take hundreds or thousands of generations. Rather, there are ways in we can and must evolve socially, some of which should be obvious already.
So what are those ways we can and should evolve? Quoting Tom Rath (from his new book Life’s Greatest Questions ) Chip says that our "greatest challenge is to contribute to a cause that is bigger than ourselves. " We can do that in one of twelve ways that Rath lays out:
Creating–initiating, challenging, teaching, training
Relating–connecting, energizing, perceiving, influencing
Operating–organizing, achieving, adapting, scaling
If you buy the book, Chip explains, you can go to a website and find out which of these skills you are best at. But even if you haven't bought the book, you can go to another website called Contribify to understand more about these ideas. All twelve of these provide ways in which we can contribute to social evolution in response to the Covid-19 crisis.
In this post, Chip also discusses how we need to "look upstream," dealing with the root causes of Covid-19 (and any other wicked problem). While it is easy to point fingers and say that the problem is "the other political party" or "China," the reason that this crisis has hit the world as badly as it has is due to many "upstream problems"-- among those being lack of government funding and distrust of government, extreme inequality (both in the U.S. and globally) , poor understanding of the nature of the problem...and many others.
In his second post on April 1, Chip focuses in on a theme mentioned briefly in the first post--that Covid 19 presents us with several "teachable moments."
"Almost by its very nature, discussing the coronavirus pandemics forces us to talk about other issues, too...If we still needed proof that we live in an interconnected and rapidly changing world, we now have it. Terms like exponential rates of growth and community spread have suddenly stopped being the province of academic specialists and become part of everyday discussions. ...
We are living in a time of transition toward a world defined by networks, systems, interdependence, and the like. Yet, most of the ways we think about the world and manage its affairs remain locked in hierarchical and reductionist models that have their roots in ways of thinking based on the enlightenment, the scientific revolution, and the like.
It is, however, important to see that we are living in a time of transition toward a world defined by networks, systems, interdependence, and the like. Yet, most of the ways we think about the world and manage its affairs remain locked in hierarchical and reductionist models that have their roots in ways of thinking based on the enlightenment, the scientific revolution, and the like.
For years, business scholars like John Kotter have discussed ways we could navigate and accelerate our transition toward world views and forms of government that reflect our new interdependence.
Now, the events of the last few weeks suggest that we all should do so.
A second "teachable moment," closely aligned with the first is the need for cooperative problem solving.
"Almost everyone I know understands both that we are in a time of transition and that we need to develop more cooperative approaches to solving the problems we face. However, none of us has figured out how to do that beyond our immediate field of expertise (and we may not even have done that). None of us has more than the foggiest idea how to convince the public at large to change the ways they think and act."
|None of us has more than the foggiest idea how to convince the public at large to change the ways they think and act."|
I (Heidi Burgess) boldfaced that sentence because of all of the truths Chip includes in these posts, this is the one that I think is most important. That is the one--perhaps beyond any other -- that we need to solve.
Chip's suggestion of how to do that turns to Sugata Mitra and his "self organized learning environments."
While making plans to help teach my grandchildren, I rediscovered the work of Sugata Mitra, whose “hole in the wall” experiments introducing computers to Indian children have led to a new approach to teaching known as self-organized learning environments. Twenty years ago, Mitra and his colleagues marveled at how quickly illiterate Indian children learned how to surf the web and teach themselves. Since then, he and others have turned what they learned into self-organized learning environments in which small groups solve seemingly impossible challenges on their own.
While I was explaining the idea to my nine year old grandson, he asked me if grownups could learn this way, too. It was an epiphany....In short, we just might be able to make a dent in the first three challenges [learning to think systemically, engaging in cooperative problem solving, and creating self-organized learning environemnts] if we experimented with an adult version of Mitra’s method.
And Chip is starting to organize people using Zoom to further these thoughts.
|This crisis is showing the importance of shifting our thinking from "me first" to "we first"|
In his April 21 blog post, Chip continues his discussion of teachable moments: "If there is one that will mattter for my work," he says, "it's the new importance that the crisis is giving to the shift from thinking in terms of "me" first wo "we" first." This is a "big deal," Chip says, for three reasons which "build off each other and build in importance. "
The first is the degree to which government provides public goods and services. The U.S. has long believed that the market will do a better job of providing goods and services than the state, so we have long had inferior public health, social services, and environmental protections than other developed countries. But this approach has become blatantly inferior in the face of the current crisis. Although our deficits are searing, Hauss notes that he was heartened by a recent New York Times report that showed "that Americans are beginning to support policies that reduce inequality, provide health care, for all, and address other collective problems or public goods."
|Peacebuilding should be carried out using "a systems framework that views the world as consisting of wicked problems that reflect the rapidly changing nature of our globalizaing world. ... We need to be part of a broader movement for social and political change that will help us make progress on all of the issues we talked about in Peacebuilding 3.0–and then some."|
The second is the movement from "Peacebuilding 3.0 to 4.0" Peacebuilding 3.0 was an Alliance for Peacebuilding document that proposed that peacebuilding should be carried out using "a systems framework that viewed the world as consisting of wicked problems that reflect the rapidly changing nature of our globalizaing world. Among other things, that meant that we had to see peacebuilding in a larger context that included climate change, inequality, and more." Peacebuilding 4.0 goes even wider than that and peacebuilding isn't (and shouldn't) necessarily be at the center. " We need to be part of a broader movement for social and political change that will help us make progress on all of the issues we talked about in Peacebuilding 3.0–and then some."
Third is the notion that "we are all in this together....Indeed, if the coronavirus has taught us anything, it is the fact that we live in an interdependent world with problems that will require cooperative solutions." Our goal, Chip suggests should be " a world that works for everyone which will require good health care (including mental health), a degree of economic equality, true progress against racism, sexism, and all the other “isms,” and more. This, he suggests, we can acheive if we pursue our own human need to have higher-order goals--a sense of belonging and purpose in life that we cannot get by acting alone.
Mark Chupp, Assistant Professor and Network Director of the Community Innovation Network, and the Jack, Joseph, and Morton Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences at Case-Western Reserve University sent us his last two newsletters that include some of his thoughts about our response to Covid 19. The first essay, published on March 30,2020 is entitled "Fear, Denial, and Connectedness." In this he wonders "What can we learn about community from this vexing physical distancing? How can we embrace the new opportunities that are emerging as we work to increase our connectedness while being physically isolated?" He acknowledges the fear that we all are feeling, but notes that it can be a resource to keep us safe. But it also can immobilize us and hurt our mental health.
|We need each other to face our fear and uncertainty and navigate through an ever-changing reality.|
"Ultimately," he says, "we need each other to face our fear and uncertainty and navigate through an ever-changing reality. As we build new pathways to connect with others through social media, old-fashioned mailed cards and phone calls, we discover a deeper level of community that was missing from our frenetic lifestyles. ... Facing reality-based fear and finding safe ways to strengthen our connectedness promises to bring healing to us and our fractured world."
In the second essay, entitled An Exponential Rise in Goodness and Trust, published on April 13, 2020, Mark argues that acts of goodness and trust are growing and have the potential to grow exponentially to counter the exponential growth of the virus itself.
|Most people are doing things that demonstrate a level of trust and faith in others.|
Beyond sheltering in place and handwashing, most people are doing things that demonstrate a level of trust and faith in others. Going to the grocery store requires trust that others will not go out in public if they have symptoms. Crime is down and sharing is up. Coworkers send dinners to one another to show their support. Patrons leave $100 tips for take-out in a show of solidarity for a favorite local restaurant.
In addition, people are performing acts of kindness to complete strangers, not expecting anything in return. Volunteers work long hours to provide meals to school children and families in need. There are creative efforts to show support for healthcare workers making great sacrifices for those who are sick with the virus. Hundreds of Case Western Reserve University employees have turned over their monthly parking rebates, leading to an emergency fund with tens of thousands of dollars for students in financial need.
"Trusting behavior and acting on behalf of the greater good", Mark argues, "are also contagious." The rate of contaigon might not be as high as Covid 19's, but we can make it higher.
|Let’s imagine the exponential impact of a new-found awareness and respect of others. Let’s spike the curve of goodness.|
Let’s imagine the exponential impact of a new-found awareness and respect of others. Let’s spike the curve of goodness. If you catch someone doing something good, call it out by sharing the good news, copying or adapting it in your own life. Let’s create a set of new rituals and peaceful practices that will be the lasting legacy of the coronavirus.
We will be posting more feedback on the CCI/Coronavirus letter--and the CCI more generally--as we get it. Please share your thoughts!