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

Clear Rules and Procedural Expectations

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Processes are much more likely to be successful if all participants have clear and consistent expectations concerning the structure of the process and its purpose. (Here we are using the term "process" to refer to the way in which efforts to deal with a particular dispute are organized.) In some cases the process will be largely determined by the structure of legal and political institutions. For example elections, legislative votes, and criminal or civil trials all require the parties to follow  precisely defined procedural rules. In cases where a dispute is being approached through negotiation and consensus building, however, the parties have a great deal of freedom to choose how they want to structure the process.  Once procedural decisions are made, they should be followed or renegotiated--not just ignored. If promises are made regarding who will participate, what issues will be discussed, how personal attacks will be avoided, how the costs of participating will be supported, when meetings will be held, these need to be followed.  If the process does not meet expectations, participants may decide to drop out, fearing the process will work against their interests.

It is also important that process organizers not make promises which they cannot keep and that parties have an accurate image of what a decision making process can and cannot do. If the parties expect the process to do something that it is not intended to do, then disappointment is inevitable. If different parties have significantly different expectations, some level of disappointment is very likely to occur. It is, of course, appropriate for organizers to state their hopes for the process with the clear understanding that they will only be achievable if participants do their part.  In general, it makes sense to establish preliminary expectations as a basis for recruiting participants and organizing the first few meetings. At this point participants can develop all future procedures. Here it may be useful for a facilitator to provide examples of processes which have been successfully used to address similar issues in other places or in the past.

Links to Examples of Procedural Rules and Expectations

Old mistrusts wilt in Minnesota as ex-foes reach pact on herbicides
Establishing clear rules and procedural expectations was critical in the success of this consensus-building initiative.

Links to Related Approaches

Consensus Rule Processes

Administrative Decision-making Processes

Pre-negotiation/Negotiation of Process Issues

Deliberation Requirements

Conflict of Interest Rules

Public Participation Mechanisms

Links to Related Problems

Excluded Parties

Strategic Delays

Rushed Decisions

Lack of Clear Goals

Meaningless Public Involvement

Complexity Muddle

Unfulfilled Expectations

Vested Interests


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