Conflict Transformation

What is Conflict Transformation?

It is common to view a conflict as a disruption to the natural flow of our lives, in other words, a nuisance; something to be “resolved” or “gotten over with” as quickly as possible so we can get on with our lives peacefully.

However, the Conflict Transformation (CT) approach views conflicts as both “a natural part of human existence” and as an important “motor for positive change”[1]. This means that rather than trying to get rid of the conflict, we embrace it and turn our attention to it to learn about the deeper needs of everyone involved in the conflict, so that building a new reality may be possible.

Conflict Transformation is focused on constructive change processes rather than a “quick fix” approach of “conflict resolution”. Rather than lose ourselves in the details and emotions of a particular conflict event, CT invites us to “zoom out” and look at the bigger picture – what kind of relationships and social and cultural structures are underlying this conflict?

When applying the CT approach, rather than asking: “how can we end this conflict?” we might ask questions such as: “How do we see ourselves and others? What kind of relationship do we want to have?   What expectations, hopes and fears do we have? What kind of communication would we like to have?” etc.

Thus, the CT approach invites us to delve deeper into the underlying issues, to look at the conflict through different lenses: personal, relational, structural and cultural. We search for change processes that will address both the immediate needs of all parties, but also the long-term processes needed to sustain healthy relationships in the community.


Exercise for Facilitators: think about some conflicts in your own life, both on the personal level and on the social/global level. How do you feel about these conflicts? Would you prefer them to “just go away”? Would you be willing to explore the deeper meaning of these conflicts in your life and the way in which they can serve as “a motor for positive change”?

[1] “The Little Book of Conflict Transformation” – John Paul Lederach

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