Mo Cohen on conflict transformation

07 May Mo Cohen on conflict transformation

What does conflict transformation actually transform?

This question was posed by Christopher Mitchell, Professor Emeritus of Conflict Analysis and Resolution at George Mason University, in his 2002 essay, Beyond Resolution: What Does Conflict Transformation Actually Transform? (Peace and Conflict Studies, Vol. 9, No 1, pp. 1-23.)

This is my answer: Conflict transformation transforms people’s perception of what their relationship makes possible.

Conflict transformation enables people to upgrade the way they think about and deal with conflict. They find a way to abandon their entrenched positions, stop telling their old, disempowering stories, and create a new, shared story that opens up fresh possibilities for creative collaboration.

There is a tendency in some of the literature to use the word transformation as a marketing tool without giving definition or substance to the term, its relationship to conflict resolution, or exactly how conflict transformation occurs in practice.

Johannes Botes, Conflict transformation: a debate over semantics or a crucial shift in the theory and practice of peace and conflict studies?

I have noticed the tendency mentioned by Johannes Botes beyond the academic realm. As the conflict transformation approach becomes more widely known, some conflict resolution practitioners are simply changing the words on their business cards and websites.

This is not the case here. I have a Masters Degree in Creative Conflict Transformation, and have spent much of my personal and professional life helping people, groups and organisations transform destructive conflict into creative opportunity.

How is conflict transformation different from conflict resolution?

I hope I’ve given sufficient definition and substance to the term conflict transformation and clarified adequately its relationship to conflict resolution.

I’d now like to say something about how conflict transformation happens in practice.

The InterBe approach to conflict transformation

Our approach is principle-based.

Some of the principles that guide our conflict transformation work

Remember that all people are free to fulfil their potential and live out loud.

Encourage the various parties to celebrate diversity, search out similarities and common ground, and recognise difference as the platform for the creation of new value.

Inspire individuals and groups to resolve their differences through creative conversations, appreciative inquiry (see below) and an attitude of curiosity and experimentation.

Seek out opportunities for transformation even when none are immediately apparent.

Stay true to the values of freedom, justice and integrity.

Create new contexts for conversations that shift perceptions about what is possible.

Ensure that no voice goes unheard.

The theories and methods we use include:

  • Social constructionism
  • Narrative work
  • Collaborative design
  • Triple-loop learning
  • Appreciative inquiry (identifying, valuing and amplifying that which is already working)
  • Transformational coaching

Do you want to transform a conflict situation or a difficult conversation?

If so, please contact InterBe. We are ready to help.

Further reading on conflict transformation

Read more about the InterBe approach to conflict transformation


Mo Cohen
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