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.

Reality Reconstruction Workshops

Paul Wehr

Among the first experiments with getting opponents to question their perception of a conflict reality were Burton's "controlled communication" workshops (1969). He brought representatives of nations and societies in hostile interaction to a program of intense examination of their perceptions of "objective" reality and of one another. He would use a range of exercises, including optical illusion graphics, to get participants to question their beliefs about what was "real."  Herbert Kelman has brought together young academicians and diplomats representing opposing sides in a conflict. His work with Palestinians and Israelis (1982) is especially well known. An emphasis in his approach has been to sensitize participants to the problem "realities" faced by, especially the constraints on, their opponents.   Mitchell and Banks (1996) have reviewed these "scholar-practitioner" approaches whereby social scientists have applied theory in conflict intervention. A central theme in all of them has been to produce for the participants at least a partially reconstructed reality. "Hopefully, [they] return cold and sober, as enhanced realists. They know with greater clarity the nature of the situation that their parties mutually confront." ( p. 145)  Reality reconstruction workshops have a special problem; reentry from the workshop setting into the conflict situation participants temporarily left behind. There will be an inevitable disconnection between the reality reconstructed in the workshop and the unreconstructed reality to which they return. Even their participation may be seen as "fraternizing with the enemy," which may place them at personal risk, as was apparently the case with some in the Doob (1974) intervention in the conflict in Northern Ireland. Such intervention by those who are external to the conflict carries the same risk. They rarely suffer what might be negative consequences of their intervention. Representatives they use in such programs always have constituencies to whom they must answer, whose realities may remain quite "unreconstructed." 

Supporting Literature: John Burton, (1969) Conflict and Communication , London: Macmillan; Leonard Doob and W.J. Foltz, (1974) "The Impact of a Workshop on Grass Roots Leaders in Belfast," Journal of Conflict Resolution XVIII: 2; Herbert Kelman (1982) "Creating Conditions for Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations," Journal of Conflict Resolution 26: 2; Christopher Mitchell & Michael Banks (1996) Handbook of Conflict Resolution London: Pinter.

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