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.
International Online Training Program On Intractable Conflict
Conflict Research Consortium, University of Colorado, USA
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Conflict resolution training is often used as either a conflict prevention or a conflict management technique. It is almost always better to teach people to deal with their own problems than to come in as an outside third party, act as a one-time mediator to get the parties through the initial crisis situation, and then leave again, without doing anything to help them deal with future problems on their own. For that reason, many intervenors prefer to train or educate people about a variety of conflict resolution techniques than to mediate a specific conflict.
Training varies greatly in nature and content. Most training is still done on a face-to-face basis. Sometimes it is done before any serious conflicts break out--hence being one form of conflict prevention. Other times it is done after a conflict has developed, but before it is so escalated that mediation is absolutely necessary. At still other times, it happens in conjunction with mediation.
Some mediators will train the parties before the mediation starts (especially about communication and negotiations skills and the mediation process itself); others will train as they go. Even if training is not explicit, one of the benefits of mediation is that the mediator usually models good communication strategies (such as active listening and I-messages); integrative, interest-based, or needs-based reframing; and a host of other techniques which the disputants can use to their benefit in future situations. This is why many mediators see mediation as being an empowering experience--it teaches the disputants how to do it themselves next time as well as helping them solve the immediate problem.
Advocates of transformative mediation, however, charge that problem-solving mediation is not empowering, but rather is disempowering, as the mediator tends to exercise a strong amount of control over both the process and the outcome, and the disputants don't learn much, if anything, about how to solve their problems themselves. Transformative mediation emphasizes the goals of disputant empowerment (for all sides) and mutual recognition as being more important than the settlement. Hence there is much more emphasis on helping people learn how to deal with the conflict effectively themselves. However, transformative mediation assumes that every disputant is capable of making good decisions for him or herself. Therefore, the mediator will likely refrain from any overt training during the mediation process. Rather, they will ask questions and restate things in ways which emphasize opportunities for empowerment and recognition, and gently encourage the parties to follow those leads if they feel comfortable doing so.
Training can also be transformative in nature, or it can be more problem solving oriented. Transformative training, in a sense, is similar to what John Paul Lederach refers to as elicitive training. Rather than coming in as an expert who has all the answers, Lederach helps people work through a series of exercises to figure out answers for themselves. Thus, he elicits from them their own knowledge and skills about effective means for handling conflicts. Elicitive training is especially useful as both a training tool and an intervention tool. If people learn how to handle their own conflicts, using their own techniques, these are most likely to be applicable to future conflict situations they are likely to encounter.
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