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Beyond Intractability Knowledge Base

Beyond Intractability is a free and comprehensive system for accessing the peace and conflict resolution field's cumulative body of knowledge on the nature of difficult and intractable conflicts, as well as strategies for reducing the destructiveness of these conflicts.

Overview of Beyond Intractability

Efforts to limit the terrible destructiveness commonly associated with intractable conflicts ultimately depends on the ability of people in a full range of conflict roles to successfully play their part in a broad peacebuilding effort. Though each circumstance is, to some degree, unique, there is also much to be learned from others who have solved similar problems before. The goal of the Beyond Intractability (BI) system is to make such knowledge more widely and freely accessible, so people aren't forced to "reinvent the wheel." To the extent we can all contribute to a knowledge base on better ways of approaching and transforming intractable conflicts, the closer we can come to limiting the destructiveness of these situations around the world.

The project does not advocate or teach one particular approach. Rather, it provides access to information on many approaches which can then be adapted to many different situations. Our goal is to give people new ideas to think about and new hope. As a free Internet service, BI provides information that is much more affordable and accessible than traditional training programs or hard-to-find books. BI is also constantly growing and changing, making the breadth, depth, and potential of the peacebuilding field more clearly visible.

The Beyond Intractability Knowledge Base

Initially created by a team of more than 200 distinguished scholars and practitioners from around the world, the Beyond Intractability Knowledge Base is built around an online "encyclopedia" with easy-to-understand essays on almost 400 topics. These essays explain the many dynamics which determine the course of conflict along with available options for promoting more constructive approaches.

The "executive summary" level material provided with each essay is backed up by several thousand citations to recommended sources of more in-depth information from printed books and articles and other web pages. Over a hundred hours of online interviews with more than 70 leading conflict scholars and intermediaries are also available.

Examples of topics addressed include: conflict stages, causes of intractable conflict, de-escalation strategies, principles of justice and fairness, ripeness, scapegoating, cognitive dissonance, suicide bombers, war crimes, dehumanization, humiliation, extremists and spoilers, third siders, revenge and the backlash effect, empowerment, coalition building, cross-cultural communication, face, rumor control, dialogue, truth commissions, theories of change, trust, zones of possible agreement, transformative mediation, reality testing, buffer zones, Track I/Track II cooperation, envisioning, election monitoring, and cease-fires.

Version II

After years of extensive development, the first major upgrade of the BI system, Version 2, is now available. In addition to a much more attractive and efficient "look and feel," the new system includes an expanded collection of essays and interviews. Also added are online summaries of several hundred key books and articles, a system for searching worldwide newspapers for current news articles on more than 60 intractable conflict-related topics, an editorial section where experts present provocative new ideas, links to a number of interesting projects undertaken in affiliation with Beyond Intractability, and improved browse and search capabilities.

Still, the biggest improvement associated with the new system is the creation of the substantial and growing list of BI gateways, which enable us to tailor the system to focus on the needs of people in specific conflict situations. Currently available gateways include:

  • Conflict Advice Checklists — These checklists highlight things that people should think about as they look for more constructive ways of approaching difficult conflicts. Links are provided to Knowledge Base resources on each checklist topic. These checklists, which are available for both adversaries and intermediaries, address peacebuilding situations, public policy conflicts, as well as workplace, organizational, and interpersonal issues.
  • Annotated Case Studies — We now offer a number of case studies, examining compelling and often emotional stories of instructive, real-world conflicts. Available case studies address, for example, truth and reconciliation in Chile, Darfur, and the "Red / Blue Divide" in the United States.
  • Special Editions — We have also started to add special editions focused on the needs of people in particular conflict roles and situations. For example, editions are currently available for journalists, peacebuilders, and each of Bill Ury's ten "third sider" roles.
  • Educational Resources — The system now includes a free, build-your-own, virtual textbook program that allows instructors to build primary or supplementary texts using BI resources. Other teaching tools include simulation exercises, distinguished "virtual guest speakers," and a student contributor program.

Resource Link: www.beyondintractability.org

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