Obstacles for Intervenors

Frank Blechman

Private Consultant. Formerly at the Institute of Conflict Analysis and Resolution, George Mason University

Interviewed by Julian Portilla, 2003

This rough transcript provides a text alternative to audio. We apologize for occasional errors and unintelligible sections (which are marked with ???).

Q: What are the major obstacles to your work?

A: Well, the nature of the complex public policy area that I practice in is that by time I get involved it is pretty grid-locked and pretty messed up. People have been batting at it for a while and they have driven themselves to grid-lock and that is the point where they turn and say maybe we should get somebody who knows something about this or could help us in some way. Often they have exhausted other experts, which is why they turn to someone such as myself because they have exhausted the conventional experts. Good news is that their expectations are fairly lowered already. The bad new is they have genuinely created lots of obstacles for themselves. They have dug themselves in deeply entrenched positions. They have already spent most of the resources that they are going to need to solve the problem. The trust is pretty low. Communication is pretty poor.

They have a pretty deeply grounded belief that they know everything there is to know and what they know is bad. So the notion that somehow there is something new to learn here; that belief is pretty low. That's the biggest obstacle; is cynicism, lack of hope, lack of belief that anything is possible. At the extreme end of that are the civil war situations where people believe if I ever agree to anything I'll be murdered. That's obviously sort of an impediment to settlement. But at the public policy level within the United States it's the belief that even if something good were to be found I am not sure I can sell it to my constituents, which is sort of the civil equivalent of you'll be assassinated.