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COVID-19 has been joined by a host of other problems capturing our attention. All are interconnected--and must be addressed in terms of the complex adaptive system they are part of.
COVID, Racism, and Conflict: How Can We Respond Constructively?
In my last newsletter, I noted how much had changed since Newsletter 29. Little did I know! The last month has been tumultuous--both for bad and for good. It certainly gives those of us concerned about conflict, peacebuilding, and conflict resolution a lot to think about, talk about, and do!
In the last newsletter, we introduced our new blog, which, at the time was focused on COVID-19 and conflict. Now we need to add police brutality and systemic racism to the mix of things we are looking at, along with a host of other conflict and peacebuilding topics that are likely to come up. So we are renaming the blog, to be, simply, the Constructive Conflict Initiative (CCI) Blog. We will still be looking at the impact of and our responses to COVID-19 as, clearly, that issue is not going away. But we will also be looking at policing, racism, and other events of current concern.
Blog Topics So Far
- A crossroads: As we discussed in the last newsletter, the blog initially focused on the "crossroads" many of us saw ourselves being at, where we had a choice of coming together to "beat" the virus, or backing further into our hostile, polarized corners and using the virus as an excuse to advance the interests of "our side." As of now, we are certainly seeing both strategies being followed, and it is unclear, I would say, which one will prevail. However, based on earlier posts, and new ones since the last newsletter (such as John Lande's post entitled The Crisis-New-Normal (CNN) and the Normal-New-Normal (NNN), conflict resolvers and peacebuilders have a significant role to play to encourage our societies to change course to obtain societies of greater "solidarity and functionality."
- Wicked Problems and Innovation Chip Hauss has also been blogging about conflict, COVID-19 and now systemic racism, and we have included a number of his posts--one in full, and several others summarized, in our blog. His posts cover a lot of ground but one key idea is that COVID and racism are "wicked problems" which are problems that are so highly complex that " their causes and consequences are so intertwined that you cannot deal with them separately." That means that we need complex answers to these problems--we can not come up with a simple solution (such as "defund the police"--my example, not his) and expect that that will solve our racial problems. Hauss is exploring in a continuing series of posts what such complex responses might look like and we will continue to share his ideas here.
- Dealing with Uncertainty: A third set of posts focuses on the nature of uncertainty and how best to deal with highly uncertain situations. Glenda Eoyang shared a post entitled Crush the Arrogance of Certainty in which she points out that certainty (in the case of COVID-19 and many other complex problems) doesn't exist and pretending it does harms everyone. Matt Legge followed with a post entitled COVID-19 and Responses to Uncertainty, in which he distinguishes between risk, uncertainty, ambiguity, and ignorance. All are present with the Coronavirus, but knowing which we are dealing with will affect our response. Guy and Heidi supplement these ideas in their post Living with Uncertainty in the COVID-19 Era. Here we discuss a number of "traps" that tend to get us into trouble as we try to deal with the uncertainty of current times. These include the Narrowcasting Trap, the Contradictory Expert Trap, The Trustworthiness Trap, the Political Spin Trap, and several more. The most important strategy for dealing with these traps and irreducible uncertainty is flexibility. We need to pursue a variety of options, each designed for a different contingency, so we can quickly switch between options as additional information becomes available. We also need to be willing to admit previous actions may have been mistaken, and we should encourage our leaders to do the same, rather than demanding that they be steadfast and project an air of infallibility. Decision makers (and we) should judge our decisions on the basis of the information they or we had when we made the decision, and their/our willingness to respond appropriately when that information changes.
We have a lot more topics planned, particularly ones that do more to address racial justice issues. After a few posts looking at WHAT has happened so far (not just the basic facts, but the role of the media and framing in shaping our images of what we "know," ) we will be presenting a number of articles that discuss WHY these events likely happened, and most importantly, what conflict resolvers and peacebuilders know about how we should address these interrelated issues (COVID-19, race, justice, inequality, etc.) most constructively.
We welcome comments on these posts as well as additional posts from readers about the current conflict-related challenges we face here in the United States and around the world.
We are also posting a continuing stream of materials outside of the blog, including posts from the Conflict Frontiers and Fundamentals Seminars, the Colleague Activities and BI-in-Context Blogs and from the BI Knowledge Base. A selection of those follows.
Other Recent Posts include:
From the Conflict Frontiers Seminar:
- 2nd, 3rd, 4th... Order Problems -- It's not enough to figure out how to solve problems, we have to figure out how to solve the problems that are preventing us from solving problems. 6/5/2020
- The Risk of Large-Scale Civil Unrest and Violence in the United States -- This video lecture, which I put together earlier in the Trump presidency, seems especially relevant now. We are entering a very dangerous period. 5/28/2020
From the Conflict Fundamentals Seminar:
- Victimhood -- For a time in which so many have good reasons to think of themselves as victims, it's worth thinking about the implications of victimhood. 5/13/2020
From the BI Knowledge Base:
- The Remarkable Growth of Cooperative Problem-Solving Resources Since World War II -- In today's troubled times, it's important to remember that learning how to handle conflict more constructively is a long-term process. This is a HUGE database of information about ways we have been doing this for over 60 years. June 15, 2020
- The Franco-German Relationship: From Animosity to Affinity -- An examination of how France and Germany transformed their relationship from long-term enemies to strong allies--a story of successful reconciliation unlike most others. June 1, 2020
From the Colleague Activities Blog:
- Cultivating Change Amidst Collapse -- For a time of ever increasing chaos, concrete ideas for strengthening the gigantic and enormously complex social system upon which we all depend. - 6/16/20
- Our Common Purpose: Reinventing American Democracy for the 21st Century - A powerful video introducing a major new effort to strengthen US democracy so we really can work together to solve common problems. 06/15/2020
- New Era of Public Safety: An Advocacy Toolkit for Fair, Safe, and Effective Community Policing - For those who want to get down to the serious business of addressing the problem of police violence, toolkit from Obama.org - 06/01/2020
- Values-Based Conversations - We assume our "friends" share our values while "others" don't. That often is not the case. 6/01/2020
- The Power of the Powerless - As struggle with the 21st century threat of authoritarianism, it's worth reflecting on what Havel taught us about bringing power to the powerless. - 05/31/2020
- Complicating the Narratives: How we’re moving this work forward - A look at an effort to replace simplistic us-vs-them narratives with the kind of complicated understanding that leads to real problem-solving. 05/26/2020
- Facing the Pandemic with a Peacebuilding Stance - This is our opportunity to heal much more than those who catch COVID---we can start to heal the earth and our societies too. 05/25/2020
From the Beyond Intractability in Context Blog
- The United States Promotes Democracy Abroad. Now It Needs to Promote It at Home. -- A welcome call for the United States to recognize its own hypocrisy and practice the best of what it preaches---this time at home.- 6/16/2020
- Becoming worshipers at the altar of ‘Science.’ Bad for our health, bad for science, bad for society. -- An irreverent, thought-provoking, persuasive, and practical exploration of the phrase "trust the science." - 6/8/2020
- Crumbs for the Hungry but Windfalls for the Rich -- A reminder that police violence is not the only injustice that desperately needs attending to. 6/3/2020
- De-escalation Keeps Protesters And Police Safer. Departments Respond With Force Anyway. -- A reminder about what we have long known about protests (and human interactions, more generally) – violence begets violence.- 6/3/2020
- How to Make this Moment the Turning Point for Real Change -- President Obama shows us how leaders can respond to crises in ways which bring us together in a spirit of real problem-solving. 6/3/2020
- What the news doesn’t show about protests in Minneapolis and Louisville -- An excellent primer on how to not be misled by media coverage of ongoing George Floyd protests. 5/28/2020
About the MBI Newsletters
Every few weeks, we will compile BI/MBI/CCI news, along with selected the new posts from our various seminars and blogs into a Newsletter that will be posted here and sent out by email to subscribers. You can sign up to receive your copy on our Newsletter Sign Up Page and find the latest newsletter here on our Newsletter page. Past newsletters can be found in the Newsletter Archive.
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