Working Paper 89-5, June 1989.

By Guy Burgess Ph.D.


Conflict Resolution Consortium

This paper was written with a small grant from the Conflict Resolution Consortium, University of Colorado. Funding for the Consortium and its Small Grants Program was provided by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. The statements and ideas presented in this paper are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Conflict Resolution Consortium, the University of Colorado, or the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. For more information, contact the Conflict Resolution Consortium, Campus Box 327, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado 80309-0327. Phone: (303) 492-1635, e-mail:

Copyright (C) 1989. Guy Burgess. Do not reprint without permission.

Funded by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and the University of Colorado, the Conflict Resolution Consortium is a coordinated program of research, education and application on three of the University's four campuses. The program unites researchers, educators, and practitioners from many fields for the purposes of theory-building, testing, and application in the field of conflict resolution. Current focus areas include international conflict; environmental and natural resource conflict; urban, rural, and inter-jurisdictional conflicts; and the evaluation of alternative dispute resolution mechanisms.


The Conflict Resolution Consortium working paper series includes a variety of papers written by our members as a part of their research. Usually these papers are in preliminary draft stage and are being prepared for eventual publication in professional journals or books. Other papers record discussions from Conflict Resolution Consortium seminars and plenary presentations.

The purpose of the working paper series is to generate a dialogue about the work presented. Readers are encouraged to respond to the papers either by contacting the author directly or by contacting the Consortium office.


The University of Colorado's Conflict Resolution Consortium has prepared this paper in response to requests from several institutions for advice on how they might best establish a conflict resolution program on their campuses. This document primarily reflects the author's experience concerning the effort to establish the Conflict Resolution Consortium at the University of Colorado.


Here you confront the obvious chicken-and-egg problem. You can't recruit people without telling them the project's substantive focus areas and you can't determine projects' focus areas without knowing who will participate. Obviously, you must consult with faculty members to get their reactions to various program possibilities.

We found that the most successful format for these discussions was a series of one-on-one meetings between program organizers and faculty members who might be interested in the project. In these meetings, we discussed faculty members' personal research and teaching interests and discussed how participation in an organization such as the Consortium might be able to help them further their goals. We were also able to successfully use large group meetings and questionnaires to obtain similar information (though at a more superficial level). Whatever format you use you will probably want to consider the issues raised in the following sections.


You must decide whether you are interested in research, education, and/or application. Large programs might specialize in all three areas, while smaller programs might wish to focus their efforts. Within each of these categories there are a number of more specific options which you may want to consider.


Courses can focus on general conflict resolution theory and practice, or they can deal with specific substantive issues. Options include: 1) a few specialized undergraduate/graduate courses; 2) general interest undergraduate/graduate courses which teach all students the basic conflict resolution skills that they will need in life no matter what career they want to pursue; 3) conflict resolution programs for students training for jobs which will require extensive interpersonal conflict resolution and consensus building; 4) formal undergraduate or graduate degree programs in conflict resolution. Additional courses can also be offered through continuing education and executive seminar programs.

Fortunately, none of these teaching programs would have to be started from scratch. There are a great many universities around the country which have high quality programs in each of these areas. As a result, high quality course outlines, bibliographies and textbooks are readily available.


The easiest projects to get funded are those which apply conflict resolution theory to specific local problems. Such applied research might evaluate an existing alternate dispute resolution program or review the literature in an effort to help design a high-quality new project.

You might also wish to undertake basic research projects which seek to advance the field rather than simply apply existing knowledge. One kind of basic conflict research involves efforts to document, through case studies, local conflicts and conflict resolution efforts. You could, of course, also undertake major national and international data gathering projects. A final option would be theory building and testing projects.


University programs can also apply conflict resolution techniques to real-life situations. These situations might involve the use of conflict resolution techniques to deal with university conflicts through organizations such as an ombudsman's office. Creative new conflict resolution techniques could also be applied as part of an experimental test program. The University could even provide conflict resolution services to the community on a continuing basis much as a consulting firm might do.


A crucial step in the planning of any conflict resolution program is an honest assessment of the current skill levels of the faculty. How many faculty members do you have with the

background and interest needed to undertake major new research and theory development projects which could significantly advance the field? How many people do you have with the background and interest needed to teach specific courses or conduct applied research projects? How many people do you have who have not worked in the area before but would like to develop their conflict resolution skills?

The answers to these questions will in large part determine the kinds of projects which you might wish to pursue. Appropriate projects could include basic faculty skill-building seminars, teaching, program evaluation and case study research, or major theory building and testing projects. The latter projects require participating faculty to have considerable skill and knowledge in the field at the beginning of the project; the earlier projects (faculty skill building and certain teaching programs) would allow the faculty to educate themselves as they go along to a greater degree and therefore are more feasible for new faculty members interested in entering the field.


The most common way of limiting a conflict resolution program's scope is by limiting substantive areas which it addresses. Potential substantive areas which you might want to include in your conflict resolution program are:

ALTERNATE DISPUTE RESOLUTION techniques for improving the ability of traditional legal processes to resolve disputes. ADD: These include negotiation, mediation, arbitration, med-arb, "rent-a-judge" and other hybrid processes that have developed as alternatives to the traditional legal processes.


involving nuclear conflict between the superpowers, regional conflict in Central America, the Middle East, and elsewhere; non-violent tactics for pursuing international justice and human rights; etc.

CONFLICTS OVER HEALTH POLICY including the allocation of scarce resources, privacy issues, treatment of the medically indigent, etc.

ENVIRONMENTAL CONFLICT resolution of disputes between development interests and environmental/community, quality-of-life concerns.

ECONOMIC CONFLICT resolution of disputes which arise as businesses try to re-allocate resources to increase their competitiveness.

PUBLIC-PRIVATE SECTOR COOPERATION to get business and government to work together more effectively.

GOVERNMENTAL COOPERATION resolution of interjurisdictional disputes which arise when different government organizations have overlapping responsibilities.

INTERPERSONAL CONFLICT between husbands and wives, parents and children, landlords and tenants, neighbors, etc.

PSYCHOLOGICAL CONFLICTS which occur as individuals struggle with the competing demands placed upon them.

PURE CONFLICT RESOLUTION THEORY BUILDING development of conflict resolution ideas which cut across substantive areas.


The simplest projects to organize and carry out involve small groups or single individuals. Larger-scale projects do, however, have many important advantages. Interdisciplinary teams can tackle complex projects which are beyond the scope of any individual. Large projects can also undertake activities with significant economies of scale. For example, it is not much more work to look for funding for twenty projects instead of one.

What you need to do is decide what you want to accomplish and then create the simplest organizational structure that will achieve the desired objective. If you get unnecessarily

elaborate, you risk wasting scarce resources on administration.


Conflict resolution is a competitive and under funded-field, and proposals must be well formulated if they are to succeed. We have found that the following principles are useful in obtaining outside funding for conflict resolution projects. For additional information I suggest that you look at a book called Getting Grants by Craig Smith and Eric Skjei.


Many worthwhile conflict resolution projects are inexpensive and can probably be funded through normal University channels. Theory building work can be done using University-funded faculty research time to creatively analyze pre-existing data. Bibliographies of such pre-existing data are available for organizations such as the Consortium. Conflict resolution courses can be financed through university teaching funds by simply adding them to the curriculum. Special courses and executive seminars could be financed with student tuitions.


Don't simply pursue the first opportunity that becomes available. Take the time needed to conduct a systematic search to identify those funding opportunities which most closely match to your capabilities and interests.

There are a number of ways a systematic search for funding opportunities might be pursued. Your institution probably has an Office of Contracts and Grants or some other organization devoted to obtaining outside funding. These organizations or, perhaps, the library will probably subscribe to a variety of publications which contain comprehensive listings of available funding sources. These include philanthropic foundations, government research and education agencies, and opportunities for private or public fee-for-service contracts.

Similar listings can also be obtained using online computer databases. For instance, Dialog Information Services has the Foundation Grants Index and the Foundation Directory available for computer searching; another useful database is the Sponsored Programs Information Network (SPIN). All of these sources will give you lists of funders who fund projects in any of a large number of categories--thus you can use the computer to look for possible funders for any particular project. Beyond giving names, these services generally give program information, application requirements, limitations and restrictions, and application deadlines in their print-outs.


Once you identify likely targets, call for the latest detailed information--evaluation criteria, grant amounts, deadlines, recent awards, etc. Once you get this information, read it carefully and follow it. Funders really do receive more good ideas than they can fund. So, if you give them an easy opportunity to throw yours out, they probably will.


Successful fundraising depends upon achieving a good match between a project idea and a funder's interests. It is, therefore, a good idea to brainstorm for as many ideas as you can and then keep these ideas in mind as you go through information on potential funders.


Most funders would prefer you to make a preliminary inquiry in the form of a short concept paper. If the funder finds your proposal promising, he will then ask you to submit a formal proposal. This process saves you time and allows you to develop more ideas while at the same time making it easier for the funder to screen initial proposals.


You should try not to put all of your eggs in one basket. Instead you should try to develop ideas which can appeal to a variety of potential funders.


There are relatively few organizations which fund conflict resolution per se. Fortunately, there is a much larger group of organizations interested in solving particular social, economic, environmental, or national security problems. These funders can be approached with projects which apply conflict resolution techniques to the solution of particular problems.

Similarly, the relatively dry subject of conflict resolution theory is less likely to inspire faculty interest than program projects which apply these ideas to some of the most exciting and challenging problems which our society faces.

Some individuals may also stigmatize conflict resolution as a left-wing field of study. In these cases it may be appropriate to develop aspects of the field which can make important contributions in less politically sensitive areas.

Graphic images are not included in this file. For information on how to obtain graphics contact the CRC.