The University of Colorado Conflict Information Consortium, directed by Guy and Heidi Burgess, was founded in 1988 with a grant from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. It was–and still is–a multi-disciplinary center for research and teaching about conflict and its transformation. (It was originally named the Conflict Resolution Consortium, but we changed the name when we started focusing on intractable conflicts, which are seldom resolved.)
The mission of the Consortium reflects the convergence of two long-standing streams of work. The first is an interest in conflict resolution education, particularly, the exploitation of the unique abilities of Web-based information systems to speed the flow of conflict-related information among those working in the field and the general public. The second is an investigation of strategies for more constructively addressing intractable conflict problems — those difficult situations which seem to resist any and all attempts to resolve them.
While much of our work is applicable to small-scale, tractable disputes, our primary focus is on large-scale conflicts which divide organizations, communities, societies, and nations. We believe that the enormous complexities and destructiveness associated with these conflicts requires a new approach — one which melds complexity and systems theory with conflict theory, and works to “scale up” existing “table-oriented processes” to include whole communities or societies, Since this is a huge endeavor, it suggests the necessity of involving intermediaries, adversaries, and bystanders at all levels of society. Therefore, a key part of our mission is making basic conflict information available to as many people as possible, helping them become aware that there are options available that are far superior to the continuation of destructive and often violent confrontations. Given these two interests, most of our work has entailed the creation, maintenance, and growth of a number of large online knowledge-bases, which are described below.
The first such knowledge base was CRInfo: The Conflict Resolution Information Source. Started in the late 1990s–in the very early days of the Internet– this site originally sought to bring all the online information about conflict and its resolution together in one place. That is no longer possible, of course, but CRInfo still exists as part of our next project (Beyond Intractability) and is widely used as a source of information about conflicts and their resolution at all levels from interpersonal (family, workplace) to international, both tractable (i.e. resolvable) and intractable.
The second knowledge base, started in the early 2000s, is Beyond Intractability, the website of the Intractable Conflict Knowledge Base Project, or BI. This project has over 1000 resources–encyclopedia-type essays on particular conflict topics, case studies, book and article summaries, interviews, peacebuilder profiles, and practioner reflectsions. These were contributed by over 400 different authors–all conflict resolution scholars and practitioners with a particular expertise in difficult and intractable conflict.
Beyond Intractability is now being upgraded and supplemented with a third large online project called the Moving Beyond Intractability. This website contains two online seminars, one on “Conflict Fundamentals,” which draws primarily from updated BI essays,and another on “Conflict Frontiers” which examines issues at the frontier of the peace and conflict resolution field that are leading to the continuation, and in some cases worsening, of many intractable conflicts around the world. MBI also contains several blogs, one the Things You Can Do To Help Blog written for general audiences who wonder what they, personally can do to make conflicts they care about better. A second is the BI in Context Blog that presents news stories that highlight the impact of intractable conflicts around the world–and things (both constructive and destructive) that are being done to address them. A last blog is the Colleague Activities Blog which highlights things our colleagues are doing which relate to topics covered in BI and MBI.
The Consortium has undertaken a number of smaller projects as well, two of which still have an online presence and contain useful information that is not available in the comprehensive CRInfo-BI-MBI stie.
One is an online tutorial on interpersonal conflict called “Stop Fighting.” With a conflict skills quiz and short readings to annotate answers, this tutorial helps people involved in relationship conflicts think through how best to handle them.
The second smaller project is an oral history project on the Community Relations Service. The Civil Rights Mediation Oral History Project website contains transcripts (no audio–it was done before audio was easily placed on the web) of 100s of hours of interviews with Community Relations Service mediators who have mediated civil rights conflicts since 1964 under the auspices of the U.S. Department of Justice. We were particularly interested in doing this project because we’d been teaching for years that “intractable
The Consortium is housed at the University of Colorado, Boulder, CO. We were primarily funded by the Hewlett Foundation until the early 2000s. Since then we have received contracts and grants from the One Earth Future Foundation, the JAMS Foundation, the Conflict Transformation Fund, and individual donors. Currently, however, our funding levels are very low, so further donations are very much appreciated.