Fundamentals Seminar 7: Framing

This seminar relates to Conflict Frontiers Massively Parallel Peacebuilding (MPP) Challenge 3.

Framing determines how we "see" a conflict.  Is it a simple "us-versus-them," is it a potentially win-win situation, or definitely a win-lose situation..there are many different ways people can define what is going on.  This definition factors greatly into determining how one responds.

Essays in This Seminar:

  • Frames, Framing and Reframing -- Frames are the way we see things and define what we see. Similar to the way a new frame can entirely change the way we view a photograph, reframing can change the way disputing parties understand and pursue their conflict.
  • Back to Basics: Making Sense of Current Events - Can Framing Help? - Sanda Kaufman's 2020 update of the Frames, Framing and Reframing article, reflecting on the importance of framing in the current hyper-polarized era.
  • Interests, Rights, Power and Needs Frames -- The way parties view or "frame" their own interests, needs, rights and power can determine whether a conflict becomes intractable or not.
  • Cultural and Worldview Frames -- People from different cultures often have such radically different worldviews that what seems like common sense to one side, is anything but sensible to the other.
  • Process Frames -- To a hammer, all the world is a nail. People tend to apply their own skills to working out a conflict, i.e. someone in the military pursues military solutions, diplomats pursue diplomatic solutions, and mediators pursue mediation. While this is usually a sensible division of labor, it can also distort choices if people from one procedural frame dominate the process and other options are not considered.
  • Competitive and Cooperative Approaches to Conflict -- This set of materials explores these two different approaches to conflict and the results of pursuing one or the other.
  • Identity Frames -- Identity frames include ideas about who one is, what characteristics they share with their group(s) and how they do and should related to others. These frames are frequently sources of conflict.
  • Stereotypes / Characterization Frames -- Stereotypes are simplified, and often highly inaccurate, images of the motivations and behaviors of others. When in error, they can lead to and escalate conflicts.
  • Enemy Images -- In Rwanda, the Tutsis were referred to as the enemy, cockroaches and rats. These extreme enemy images paved the way for the atrocities of the Rwandan genocide.
  • Prejudice -- Harry Bridges wrote, "No man has ever been born a Negro hater, a Jew hater, or any other kind of hater. Nature refused to be involved in such suicidal practices." This essay discusses how prejudice develops, what its effects are, and what can be done to change it.
  • Into-the-Sea Framing -- When a conflict becomes intractable, many people hope that their enemy will simply disappear. They pursue overwhelming victory without ever really considering the fact that they will still have to live with their enemies after the conflict.
  • Fact Frames -- Facts do not speak for themselves. The same information from different sources, or received by different people, can lead to very different conclusions. One's "fact frames" determine what is believed and how that determines one's choices about what to do.
  • Worst-Case/Loss-Oriented Frames -- When confronted with change, it is common for people to look first, and often exclusively, at the risks and potential downsides, while simultaneously under-rating potential benefits.
  • Reframing -- Bernard Mayer wrote, "The art of reframing is to maintain the conflict in all its richness but to help people look at it in a more open-minded and hopeful way."