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BSCI-9059 Conflict Management

Explore the vast resources on the website of the National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation. If you find something that you feel will enrich the class, share the link and say something about it. Start a dialogue about something important to you or even something controversial. Start a discussion post and invite your classmates to participate keeping with spirit of dialogue as expressed by Bohm and Lederach. (150 words)

In this module, you are introduced to two related streams that fall on the conflict transformation side of the dispute continuum: dialogue and restorative justice. Both present a path towards long-term sustainable change.

What is Conflict Transformation?

Looking back to Module 4 and the Conflict Dispute Continuum, you will note that we have arrived at the conflict transformation side of the continuum.

The distinction between the three dimensions is noted in your reading by Kathy Bickmore, professor at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE), where she reports on her study of Peace-Building Dialogue in Schools project. She writes:

“Peace and conflict theory distinguishes three overlapping goals for managing conflict, ranging from relatively unidimensional (post-incident intervention) to comprehensive and proactive. Peacekeeping involves monitoring and control interventions (including discipline sanctions) to enforce temporarily cessation of violence (negative peace). Peacemaking includes both intervention and problem-solving dialogue, to resolve disputes after they surface. Peacebuilding includes peacemaking dialogue, for peacemaking but also for longer-term, more fundamental processes of redressing injustice, democratization, and nurturing healthy social relationships” (Bickmore, 2011, para. 3).

Keeping in mind that a blending of approaches is possible in practice, the chart below provides a comparative look at transformative mediation and problem-solving mediation (i.e., interest-based approach).

A key distinction to look for is the attention to complexity and critical reflection that characterises a transformative approach. When we think in terms of systems and complexity, we are in essence looking to understand the interconnections within the conflict at the personal, group (relational), structural and cultural dimensions of conflict. Not all are relevant or essential to the same degree at all times, but they are always present.

This is a summary of the four central modes that Lederach discusses:

Change Goals in Conflict Transformation:

Transformation understands social conflict as evolving from, and producing changes in, the personal, relational, structural and cultural dimensions of human experience. It seeks to promote constructive processes within each of these dimensions.

  • Personal:Minimize destructive effects of social conflict and maximize the potential for personal growth at physical, emotional and spiritual levels.
  • Relational:Minimize poorly functioning communication and maximize understanding.
  • Structural:Understand and address root causes of violent conflict; promote nonviolent mechanisms; minimize violence; foster structures that meet basic human needs and maximize public participation.
  • Cultural:Identify and understand the cultural patterns that contribute to the rise of violent expressions of conflict; identify cultural resources for constructively handling conflict.
Did You Know?

Kuttner (2012) would refer to this as relational thinking as is discussed in his article that looks at the concepts of dialogue as a framework for understanding conflict transformation.

If you are interested in learning about the philosophical underpinnings of dialogue, you will find this suggested reading a treat!

Pause and Reflect

How important is it to think in terms of relations?

Let’s take a small example of what can happen if you intervene in a public conflict situation.

Imagine that you are on the subway and you witness a Muslim woman with her children being verbally assaulted by a stranger. What would happen if you physically moved closer to the woman as if to demonstrate to her and the attacker that a witness is present? How might publicly establishing this relational connection alter the scenario in a constructive way?

Comparing Models: Transformative and Traditional Approaches to Mediation

Note: These are idealized descriptions. Actual mediators will hold these ideas and follow these actions to lesser or a greater degree.

Can you identify the aspects in the transformative model that represent cultural diversity? For example, the value around time is treated differently.

What is Dialogue?

Judging by the number of times the term dialogue has popped up of late, it would seem that the need for "dialogue" is great, perhaps even greater then ever. But, when we talk to one another, is that not dialogue and don’t we do it all of the time?

Not surprising, the answer is yes and no. Yes, in all forms of relationships, we communicate with our friends, colleagues and even strangers on the bus. With our mouths we speak, and with our ears we hear. However, this ability to communicate may be referred to as dialogue, but rarely is it even close to the kind of qualitative dialogue that is needed for conflict transformation to take place.

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