While it won't be easy, we all have to find the time and do what we can to help this effort (which means learning to distinguish what helps from what doesn't).
Our look at the critical nature of the conflict problem and the scale and complexity with which it must be addressed has led us to what we believe is an inescapable conclusion – our future depends upon mounting a vastly more expansive effort to address the problem of destructive, intractable conflict. We cannot expect the relatively few conflict professionals and political leaders actively working on the problem to be able to make the needed changes.
The problem of destructive conflict arises from the way in which we (and the institutions that represent us) all interact with one another and it can only be changed by changing the nature of those interactions. It will not be enough for us to simply be more understanding, respectful, and tolerant of one another – though that would certainly help.
We also need to enhance the constructiveness with which we address a lot of tough issues including, for example, debates over the appropriate response to the unrightable wrongs of the past, questions about how diverse communities can coexist and tolerate one another in spite of deeply held differences, disagreements about fundamental facts (and the nature of expertise), and irreducible win-lose questions over who gets what.
This means that, in our everyday interactions, and as we exercise our professional and civic responsibilities, we need a much more comprehensive understanding of the many things that we can do to contribute to, or detract from, the constructiveness with which we address conflict. In some cases, there will be relatively clear guidelines for us to follow. In other cases, however, we are going to have to extrapolate from general principles and work out what, exactly, would be most helpful for us to do in specific (and often idiosyncratic) situations.
Beyond this, there is a need for us all to become much more civically involved. We need to figure out how we can work together, despite our differences, to defend the democratic institutions that are our best defense against authoritarianism, chaos, and violence. We need much more effective defenses against those who, for selfish reasons, attack these institutions and the very idea of mutually-beneficial governance.
We also need to show those who are simply trying to defend their legitimate interests how an all-out, us-versus-them confrontation strategy threatens (rather than advances) their efforts, and how a more sophisticated understanding of conflict dynamics can enable them to more effectively defend their interests.
All of this means that we all need to become involved in efforts to address the intractable conflict problem. And, we need to do so in a way that builds on the hard-learned insights of others and frees us from the often unsuccessful challenge of having to "reinvent the wheel."
The Beyond Intractability system, and particularly our new Joint Statement, is a modest, but we think significant, effort to help reframe the conflict problem as a broad civic issue. The Beyond Intractabity Knowledge Base and the MBI Seminars and Blogs provide free and easy access to understandable learning materials that help people build on what we now know as they work to tackle the tough conflict problems we must face together.
However, for a quick set of articles to look at, we suggest perusing: