Newsletter #32

Newsletter # 32 — May 11, 2020

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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. 

Planned topics:

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: 

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: 

From the Colleague Activities Blog:


From the Beyond Intractability in Context Blog

All CC-MOOS Posts


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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