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

Strategic Option Identification and Costing

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The principal underlying option inventory and costing is fairly simple.  Parties should systematically  assemble a list of ALL the options which they believe are available for advancing their interests, including ones which they don't usually consider or utilize, but which might be effective in this case  (this includes exchange-based and integrative options as well as force based options).   

They then need to estimate the costs and benefits of pursuing each option.  This requires an assessment of one's ability to implement the option (with or without outside help), the likely costs of implementing that approach, and the probable reactions and response of opponents and decision makers. (Extremely negative or antagonistic responses raise the cost of the strategy.)  

It is also important to try to anticipate future disputes. Options which produce short-term victory may not be very desirable if they also strengthen the backlash effect in ways which increase the number future disputes and reduce one's chances of protecting one's interests in those situations 

Links to Examples

Kenneth E. Boulding--Three Faces of Power`
This is a summary of Boulding's book which sets out the three fundamental power options: threats (force); exchange (negotiation) and love (the (integrative system).
Tony Armstrong -- Principles of Icebreaking
Armstrong begins by noting that all the rapprochement initiatives he studies were cost driven--successful initiatives resulted from a mutual assessment of the costs of continued conflict and the benefits of reconciliation.
Aspen Institute Conference on Intervention in the Post Cold War World
One of the conclusions of this conference was that third parties should consider the costs of NOT intervening as well as the costs of intervention. This is true for parties as well, who need to assess the costs of inaction as much as the costs of action.
Roger Fischer, Elizabeth Kopelman and Andrea Schneider -- Consider the Other Side's Choice
This short essay describes how to build a "table of consequences" that can help in making costs estimates of different options.
William Zartman and Saadia Touval -- International Mediation in the Post- Cold War Era
One strategy mediators often use is to encourage the parties to consider the relative costs of settlement and continuing the conflict.
Chester Crocker -- Lessons on Intervention
This article also stresses the importance of comparing the costs of intervention to the costs of doing nothing.
Paul Wehr--Identifying Strategic Options
Identifying options is critical during the early stages of protest group organization, Wehr points out in this essay.
Paul Wehr--Power Resources Inventory by U.S. Civil Rights Leaders
Wehr illustrates in this article how U.S. civil rights leaders examined and chose their confrontation strategy and tactics.

Links to Outside Sources of Information

Leaping the Bar Overcoming Legal Opposition To ADR in the Developing World - Spring 1998 - Dispute Resolution Magazine - Section of Dispute Resolution - American Bar Association
This article reviews progress made toward adopting alternative dispute resolution programs in the developing world.  Both successes and obstacles are discussed, as well as ways of surmounting obstacles.

Links to Related Treatments

Conflict Mapping

Identify Sources of Power / Power Strategy Mix

Links to Related Problems

Failure of the Parties to Recognize Available Force-based Options

Assuming Force is the Only Available Option

Failure to Anticipate Opponent Reactions and the Backlash Effect


Copyright 1998 Conflict Research Consortium  -- Contact: crc@colorado.edu