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

Constituent Communication

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Most dialogue, negotiation, and consensus processes involve a relatively small number of people, who may be acting on behalf of a much larger constituency. As the small group works together over time, they often develop a level of understanding, trust, and an image of the problem that differs considerably from their constituents, who have not been involved in the small group process.

Then, when the representatives come back to their constituents with a proposal which seems reasonable to them (as they understand the constraints under which it was developed), the constituents may react very differently, because they don't have the understanding of the process or the substance of the ongoing discussions. (Some scholars refer to this as the "re-entry problem,"--negotiators or dialogue participants must "re-enter" their old groups, but when they do so they find they are not welcome, but rather are shunned, and their work denounced, not applauded.)

One of the causes of this problem is inadequate communication with the constituent groups as the small group process is going on. Although it is impossible to have everyone involved in the negotiation or dialogue, if the results of the process are to be transferred to the larger population, the representatives should frequently check back with their constituencies to make sure they understand what is happening in the small group process and, in the case of negotiation, feel as if they have adequate input to it. Without frequent communication with constituents, the risk of a re-entry problem and the rejection of any ultimate agreement increases significantly.


Links to Examples of Constituent Communication Processes

Mediating the Oslo Accords on the Middle East
In the Oslo agreements between Israel and the Palestinians, one of the negotiators acknowledges that the re-entry problem was a factor that had to be considered in this case. This was especially true, since the Oslo negotiations were kept secret while they were occurring, and communication with constituencies was highly limited.
A Conversation On Peacemaking With Jimmy Carter  
In this article, Carter reflects on his peacemaking work, including the Camp David negotiations between Egypt and Israel.  One of the important factors in that case was the communication between the leading negotiators and the constituencies  in the Middle East.
Susan Carpenter and W.J.D. Kennedy -- Constituencies and Public Information
This is a summary of the advice of two leading mediators of environmental disputes in the U.S.
Christopher Young--The Role of Media in International Conflict
Often the media is used as a means of communicating with one's own constituency.   For example, this article suggests that Saddam Hussein's gulf Crisis speeches were directed primarily at the Arab people in an effort to develop a stronger constituency on his side.



Links to Outside Sources of Information

Communications as Engagement - A Report to the Rockefeller Foundation
This report summarizes a number of projects in U.S. cities, designed to improve communication between community members through dialogue, collaborative problem solving, and conflict resolution in an effort to resolve issues that had divided and polarized those communities.

Links to Related Approaches

Media Management

Public Information Strategy

Public Participation Mechanisms

Confidentiality Rules

Constituent Involvement Strategies


Links to Related Problems

New, Poorly Informed Participants

Constituent Communication Problems

Lack of Communication Channels/Avoided Communication

Excluded Parties

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