Conflict is part of the human experience. Many of us hear the word conflict and think of the stress and harm of “us versus them” dynamics, what Amanda Ripley calls high conflict. This sort of conflict can destroy relationships and communities; other forms of conflict, however, are not just essential but desirable. As John Paul Lederach describes, conflict can be a gift. Conflict helps keep relationships and social structures honest, alive, and responsive to human needs and aspirations.
For scholars, the field of conflict transformation (CT) explores how destructive conflicts can change and become relatively constructive. Importantly, it also involves the study of how people conduct themselves to foster such changes (Kriesberg 2009). The transformations that emerge might happen at the personal level (a change of heart), the structural level (a change in power), or somewhere in between.
As an area of practice, conflict transformation encompasses a wide array of work, from mindfulness and interpersonal relationships to international mediation and peacebuilding. We can each participate in conflict transformation if we start in the places we already inhabit.
The Kathryn Wasserman David Collaborative in Conflict Transformation seeks to learn lessons from this vast community that can be adapted to the issues and questions that are most pressing for Middlebury. The work we do—at the College, the Middlebury Institute, Bread Loaf, and Schools Abroad—will help build new networks and expand our ability to transform the world around us.
We are developing a library of resources to inform this work. See a curated list here.
Learn more about CT at Middlebury .