OTPIC Officially Retired

As of December 2, 2005, the Online Training Program on Intractable Conflict (OTPIC) has been officially retired, and is no longer open to new registrations.

The successor to OTPIC is a course called Dealing Constructively with Intractable Conflicts (DCIC). The new curriculum is built around one of our major projects, Beyond Intractability, and offers a much more extensive and informative set of learning materials than that available through OTPIC.

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International Online Training Program On Intractable Conflict

Conflict Research Consortium, University of Colorado, USA

Program Overview

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This website contains a set of materials designed to help people better deal with difficult, long-lasting, and resolution-resistant conflicts. Some of the materials are theoretical--they discuss the nature of conflicts and conflict processes, and they discuss what conflict theory tells us about ways conflicts can be most constructively approached. Other materials are practical. They discuss typical conflict problems and potential solutions. While the practical material draws upon theory, it is largely based on practical experience and is designed to provide solutions to particular problems.

This overview is organized into the following sections:

Also available is a Peaceworks article on the system.


Summary of System Features

This system provides a low-cost supplement or alternative to international travel-based training programs for disputants and third parties, and provides FREE online consulting to people who want quick answers to specific problems. Key program features include:


The Ways in Which This Program Can be Used

This program can be used in a variety of ways. It can be searched quickly to find a solution to a particular problem. Or it can be studied in some detail--to learn more about resolution-resistant conflicts in general and how they can be most effectively approached. The program can be used by itself by people who have little or no experience in conflict management. It can also be used, however, to supplement other conflict management training or reading. Since we take a somewhat different approach to conflict management and resolution than is common among our colleagues, the material on this website is likely to give users a new perspective and additional ideas about how best to confront difficult conflict situations.

All the information on this web-site is available for free. Users can study as much or as little as they wish without incurring any costs (beyond computer access costs). However, a certificate of completion and/or university credit is available (for a small fee) for those who want to work through the formal course material and complete the assignments. For more information on these options, choose one of the items below.

On Your Own:   Problem-Solution Essays
Users who just want a quick answer to a particular problem can use the problem and solution sections to find essays on common conflict problems and possible solutions or treatments.  Each problem and solution essay is linked to related problems, solutions, and examples, so users can follow "strings" (suggested paths) through the system to get as much or as little information as they would like.  Users who want a more thorough understanding of intractable conflicts in general should read the training and education section, below.
Online Training and Education
The training and education option is available for people who want more information about a broader range of topics.  In addition to the problem and solution material discussed above, people wanting more extensive training or education should read the background theoretical essays, as well as the examples which are linked to the problem and solution essays. Users who want college credit or a certificate of completion must also complete a set of assignments and pay the appropriate fee.  This fee will pay for instructor feedback, and a final certificate and/or college credit. However, people who do not need feedback or credit are welcome to use the system on their own.
 
The core training program consists of ten basic units--one on introductory theory, and nine others, each focusing on a particular category of problem. Each unit has a overview section and a number of more specialized sub-sections describing common problems and potential solutions.  Examples give more information about particular problems, or how solutions have been applied in different situations.  Assignments ask students to apply some of the ideas from the essays to situations they are familiar with.
Intended Audience: Intermediaries and Adversaries
This program is designed so that it can be used by both adversaries and people in intermediary roles (such as mediators or facilitators).
Examples of Settings in Which This Training Program Might Be Used
This short section gives three fictional scenarios that illustrate how this material might be used.
Program Limitations
Crucial to using this training program effectively is an clear understanding of what the program's many materials are and are not intended to do. 
Quick Tour
To take a quick tour of the training program features.

The Theoretical Ideas Underlying This Program

The approach we take to deal with difficult and resolution-resistant conflicts draws ideas from several fields. It draws heavily from the new fields of conflict resolution and peace research, utilizing the wisdom of practitioners as well as scholars. It also draws ideas from experts in advocacy, community organization, and nonviolent direct action. Unlike those who seek resolution for the sake of resolution, we seek justice, fairness, good decisions, and good solutions. Sometimes this means working to resolve a conflict, while sometimes it means continuing the conflict, but doing so in a more constructive way.  The following papers provide additional information the history of the field of conflict resolution (which puts our work in its contexts), and about the approach we call constructive confrontation.

The Development of Conflict Knowledge by Paul Wehr

Constructive Confrontation: A New Theoretical Approach by Guy Burgess and Heidi Burgess

Related Theoretical Essays


Support Services for Program Users

Multilingual Capabilities
Although all of the material is now available only in English, we have tried to write in a style that we hope will be understandable to people with limited English skills. An online dictionary provides definitions of specialized terms which may not be found in standard translations dictionaries. We are also including multilingual program descriptions. As a further translation aid, we have included a link to AltaVista's free online translation service. While this is primitive and should be used with caution, it may still be useful.
Online Discussions and Listserver
An online discussion and listserve is being established for this program.  Links to other listserves of interest are also given.
Access Options and Suggestions for Using this Program More Efficiently
Access options area available for people with a high capacity internet connection, a low capacity internet connection, computers without an Internet connection, and for those without a computer. This section contains technical notes on how to get the most out of the system in a variety of settings.
Glossary
This glossary contains short definitions of terms that are used in ways that differ from common English usage, or for some other reason might not be easily understood.
References and Further Reading
        This is a list of books and articles that we have found useful in our study of intractable conflicts.
Useful Links
Many of the problem and treatment write-ups have links to outside sources of information (on the Internet), but this is a short list of World Wide Web Sites which have a great deal of information which relates directly to the topics we are dealing with here. A longer list of sites of varying degrees of relevance to intractable conflict can be found at http://www.colorado.edu/conflict/othersites.htm
 

The People and Organizations Who Developed and Funded This Program

University of Colorado Conflict Research Consortium
This program has been developed by the University of Colorado Conflict Research Consortium, a university-based research program in the United States, specializing in improving the understanding of and ability to handle resolution-resistant conflicts. In addition to focusing on intractable conflicts, the Consortium has worked for many years to assemble what we consider to be the core knowledge of the conflict resolution field and to present that knowledge in a format that is readily accessible and understandable to the general public. Earlier efforts to do this involved development of conflict resolution bibliographies, and an Encyclopedia of Conflict Resolution, written by Heidi Burgess and Guy Burgess and published by ABC-CLIO in 1997.  The Consortium also maintains one of the most extensive web-sites on conflict resolution available on the World-Wide Web  (http://www.colorado.edu/conflict).
The People Who Developed This Program
This program has been developed by Guy Burgess, Heidi Burgess, and Paul Wehr. Guy Burgess and Heidi Burgess are Co-Directors of the University of Colorado Conflict Research Consortium, a university-based research program specializing in improving our understanding of and ability to handle resolution-resistant conflicts. Paul Wehr, a professor of Sociology, is also a founding member of the Consortium and has been an active member of the Intractable Conflict research program for many years.
The Organizations Which Funded This Program
This development of this program has been funded by the U.S. Institute of Peace, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and the University of Colorado.

Call for Partners and Contributors

This training program is a huge undertaking which we have only begun.  There is much that we can learn from the activities of others working in the field and from people who use early versions of this system. If you have an idea or story to add, or a suggestion about how we might improve this system, please click here to read more about our Call for Partners and Contributors

For More Information

Program Organization

Quick Tour

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