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

Dealing with Uncertainty

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Because of society's enormous complexity, is impossible for scientific and technical studies to fully and accurately predict the consequences of pursuing alternative strategies for resolving a dispute. This does not, however, mean that the experts know nothing or that formal and scientific studies of available options are useless. They key is to separate what is known (or can be found out) from questions that cannot be accurately and reliably answered.

For example, experts might be able to determine that a particular area will never be subjected to flooding. They might also be able to determine that another area has somewhere between 1 chance in 20 and 1 chance in 200 of being flooded in any particular year. With additional research they might be able to to reduce this risk to the point where the chance of flooding is, for example, somewhere between 1/60 and 1/80.   But they will never be able to say, "this area is flood-safe."

The next step is to successfully incorporate strategies for dealing with uncertainty into the dispute resolution process. In general the key to dealing with uncertainty is to retain as much flexibility as possible.  Rather than locking oneself into a course of action which might  prove disastrous, try to make decisions that can adjust for changes in the environment or knowledge which occurs in the future.   An alternative approach is insurance, which compensates people who get harmed by an unexpected or unlikely occurrence.  Insurance programs might, for example, be set up to assist victims of any flood.  Risk avoidance is another approach.  People might, for example, decide to reduce flood risks by not building in the floodway or by constructing buildings on stilts capable of resisting floods.

Links to outside information on dealing with risk and uncertainty:


Links to Related Approaches

Impact-Study Requirements

Joint Fact-Finding

Links to Related Problems

Inability to Deal with Uncertainty
Analysis Paralysis/Delay-Default
Complexity Muddle

Links to Examples:

Peter M. Sandman--Explaining Environmental Risk
This article explains that the public assesses risk and uncertainty very differently from experts.  It then suggests ways in which risk can be explained to the public so that they can make informed decisions.
Roger Fischer, Elizabeth Kopelman and Andrea Schneider -- Consider the Other Side's Choice
This short essay illustrates a method to assess the consequences of various actions.   Had this been used by Saddam Hussein in the Gulf Crisis, the authors argue, the uncertainty about choices would have been clearer, and perhaps the war could have been avoided.
Curt Brown - Handling Confrontation: Negotiated Adaptive Management
This paper contracts the legal/regulatory model of environmental management with a more flexible, negotiation-based model for managing resources and making environmental decisions.

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