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

Meeting Design

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Having a good structure and process for meetings is critical if the desired outcomes are to be obtained.  Important questions to consider include the following:

1)  What is the purpose of the meeting?  The meeting organizer should be clear what the goals of the meeting are, and should make these clear at the outset.   Often the initial goal is simply getting people together and allowing them to become familiar with each other and more trusting of each other.  As this goal is accomplished the meeting participants may work together to develop further joint goals for the initial or future meetings.

2) Who is to attend the meeting?  If the critical parties are not represented at the meeting, no decisions can be made until they are consulted.  This makes the meeting a waste of time for the people who are there.  Yet sometimes it helps to exclude people or organizations from meetings, if they are likely to be obstructionists.   Deciding who to include when is often a difficult decision.

3) When and where should the meeting be held?  Facilities need to be comfortable and convenient.  Often a neutral location is superior to having a meeting on anyone's "home" ground.  Even decisions about the shape of the table can have significant impact on the meeting's outcome.  Square or rectangular tables which allow each side to stick together and face the other can create a more adversarial atmosphere than round tables or other seating arrangements in which everyone is scattered or otherwise seated together, rather than in opposing groups.

4) Are observers and/or the media to be allowed?  Often private meetings will yield more fruitful discussions than ones which are open to the public or the media, although the public's desire to know what is going on in meetings that affect them must be accommodated in some way.

5) What procedural ground rules are to be followed?  All meetings need to have some ground rules--about who sets the agenda and how, who moderates the meeting, who speaks when and about what,  etc.  Often the person convening the meeting will suggest an initial set of ground rules, which can be altered by those in attendance if they all agree.

6)  Who enforces the ground rules, and what happens when they are broken?   Often a gentle reminder from the meeting facilitator or another meeting participant will be sufficient to get ground rules followed, but procedures need to be designated if this does not work.

Links to Examples about Meeting Designs:

Prenegotiation Decisions
This is a short essay, but it highlights some of the ways decisions about meeting process and structure can greatly influence meeting success.
Susan L. Carpenter and W.J.D. Kennedy--Handling the Human Side of the Process
This and the next two articles all have information about ways to make meetings work productively.
Susan L. Carpenter and W.J.D. Kennedy--Guidelines for Making the Program Work
    See Carpenter, above.
Susan L. Carpenter and W.J.D. Kennedy--Removing Roadblocks
  See Carpenter, above.

Links to Outside Information on Meeting Design

Guidelines for Planning and Conducting Systemic Interventions in the Sociopolitical Arena
Part of Creating Systemic Interventions for the Sociopolitical Arena by Richard Chasin, M.D. and Margaret Herzig, The Public Conversations Project - This article has a wealth of procedural advice for running dialogues and related processes successfully.

Links to Related Approaches

Meeting Facilitation

Negotiation of Process Issues (Prenegotiation)

Clear Rules and Procedural Expectations

Links to Related Problems

Procedural Problems


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