by Heidi Burgess and Guy Burgess
June 26, 2022
Overview and Background
As a continuation of Beyond Intractability's Constructive Conflict Initiative, BI Co-Directors Guy and Heidi Burgess, together with Sanda Kaufman, published a "Feature Article" in the Summer 2022 Edition of the Conflict Resolution Quarterly entitled Applying conflict resolution insights to the hyper-polarized, society-wide conflicts threatening liberal democracies. Our goal and the goal of CRQ's new Feature Article Series is to generate a wide-ranging discussion among those with conflict resolution-related expertise about issues of critical importance to the field and to society as a whole.
Our article asks us all to think about how we might better be able to bring our insights to bear on the runaway conflicts that are tearing apart so many societies. Among the tough problems to be addressed by the discussion are the scale and complexity of society-wide conflict, the challenges posed by bad-faith actors who are deliberately working to amplify our divisions, and increasing public skepticism about compromise-oriented approaches to governance. This discussion is being hosted here, on the Beyond Intractability site.
Our invitation to the discussion as well as CRQ editor Helena Desivilya Syna's invitation below give a bit more background about the purpose of this discussion, from BI's and CRQs point of view.
- Welcome and Invitation to Participate — Guy Burgess and Heidi Burgess, BI Co-Directors
- This invitation includes information about how to follow the discussion and how to contribute your insights.
- Editor's Invitation to Discussion on the Hyper-Polarization Crisis: A Conflict Resolution Challenge — Helena Desivilya Syna, CRQ Editor
This discussion is the latest in a series of projects undertaken over the last 30+ years by the Conflict Information Consortium (home of Beyond Intractability) and its related projects. Throughout its history, CIC's focus has been on using web-based information systems to speed the flow of information on strategies for more constructively handling our most intractable conflicts. All of the information generated by the hundreds of participants in these projects is now freely available on the Beyond Intractability website.
The BI/CRQ Discussion is an outgrowth of BI's earlier Constructive Conflict Initiative — an attempt to build support for a dramatically expanded effort to to find better ways of dealing with complex conflict problems like hyper-polarization.
Feature Article and Initial Commentaries
We offer. as starting point for the discussion. our full CRQ article, which is coming out in July 2022 in paper, but is already available to read online for free. Also already available are three "commentaries," written by Carrie Menkel-Meadow, Connie Ozawa, and Barney Jordaan.
- Feature Article — Applying conflict resolution insights to the hyper-polarized, society-wide conflicts threatening liberal democracies — Guy Burgess, Heidi Burgess, Sanda Kaufman
A call for those with conflict-related expertise to do more to help society more constructively handle the scale and complexity of today's big conflicts while also more effectively countering the efforts of bad-faith actors who are actively working to inflame and exploit our conflicts.
- Executive Summary of the Feature Article
- The Key to Revitalizing Liberal Democracy: Think of It As a Conflict Handling System — Guy Burgess, Heidi Burgess
This secondary framing article further develops many of the themes introduced in the feature article while also outlining the structure that we will be using to organize discussion contributions and related materials.
- Commentary — Applying conflict resolution insights to hyper-polarization: “When will (we) ever learn?” — Carrie Menkel-Meadow
Long-time conflict resolution scholar and practitioner, Carrie Menkel-Meadow reflects on the many causes of hyper-polarization and suggests new metaphors and approaches for replacing it with constructive, collaborative problem solving.
- Carrie's original article was twice as long. If you want to read her full comments, they are available here.
- Commentary — Adding to the call to action — a few more thoughts — Connie P. Ozawa
An exploration of the importance of framing and the need to take control of the destructive narratives that are so pervasive in polarized democracies. We need to replace them with a shared vision for our future -- one that is attractive to everyone including those with whom we disagree.
- Commentary — Helping organizations and individuals develop conflict wisdom — Barney Jordaan
An appeal for the conflict field to go beyond interpersonal work to organizational work, particularly in businesses and business schools and an explanation of how peacebuilding "hubs" have been used in Belgium and The Netherlands to "scale up" peacebuilding to the societal level.
- The full CRQ Summer 2022 Issue is available here.
Discussion Content by Topic
To make it easier to see how the many insights emerging from the BI/CRQ discussion and related Beyond Intractability projects fit into a comprehensive, "massively parallel" strategy for addressing the hyper-polarization problem, we are starting to organize available materials around the conceptual structure introduced in the CRQ Feature Article and further developed in the Secondary Framing Article on the advantages of thinking of democracy is a dispute handling system. The first step in this process is a collection of materials that explore five major topic areas related to the discussion: the hyper-polarization threat, scale and complexity, bad-faith actors, good-faith actors, and scale-up examples.