So much more than conflict resolution
Conflict Resolution is not Enough
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.
How does conflict transformation happen, in practice?
The InterBe approach to conflict transformation is principle based
The principles that guide our conflict transformation work include
- 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
Further reading on conflict transformation
- Conflict transformation – Wikipedia
- Conflict Transformation, by John Paul Lederach Ph.D., Professor of International Peacebuilding at the University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, Indiana, and concurrently Distinguished Scholar at Eastern Mennonite University
- Conflict transformation: a debate over semantics or a crucial shift in the theory and practice of peace and conflict studies? by Johannes Botes