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Conflict Resolution and Conflict Transformation Practice: Is There A Difference?

Date

2009-02-05T16:30:15Z

Authors

Rhodes, Gloria

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Abstract

This research is a comparative study of professional practice related to two schools of thought in the field of nonviolent conflict intervention: conflict resolution and conflict transformation. The research relies upon a thorough review of scholarly literature related to these two schools and on primary data collected from twenty semi-structured interviews with professional conflict intervention practitioners. The central question that guided the research was: Do practitioners‟ definitions (self-definitions and definitions of the terms conflict resolution and conflict transformation) and theories of practice, including goals, intervention strategies, and criteria for success, depend upon their self-identification with either the conflict resolution or conflict transformation school of thought? Categories of analysis for self-definitions and intervention strategies arose from practitioner reports. Data related to goals and criteria for success were plotted on a framework for evaluating interactive conflict resolution which provided a structure for comparison. The findings show that some practitioners do refer to their practice exclusively as either conflict resolution or conflict transformation. The data provide evidence however, that other practitioners use the terms conflict resolution and conflict transformation contextually for strategic, pragmatic, or philosophic reasons. The subsequent comparative analysis describes the similarities and differences in practice between each of these categories of practitioners. The comparative analysis shows that practitioners across definitional categories look beyond the various schools of thought and share a broad range of goals, intervention strategies, and criteria for success. The research is relevant to everyone interested in research on practice. It will be of special interest to all those in the evolving field of nonviolent conflict intervention where tensions related to professional identity are part of the current discourse in the field. The study encourages consideration of the philosophical and practical complementarity of conflict resolution and conflict transformation, two, sometimes competing, schools of thought.

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Keywords

Conflict resolution, Conflict transformation, Conflict intervention, Professional identity, Criteria for success – evaluation, Self-categorization

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