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Conflict Transformation

Conflict transformation is a perspective that views conflict situations as vital starting points for change processes that positively impact all parties through mutual respect, nonviolent communication, and collaboration. Based on the work of John Paul Lederach (2014) this paradigm views conflict scenarios as constructive and as life-giving opportunities for growth, rather than as problems to solve or issues to manage.

Conflict transformation is a philosophy that emphasizes both short-term and long-term strategies for change. Unlike conflict management or resolution, conflict transformation seeks to engage underlying issues consistently over time, rather than trying to solve or eliminate them. The practice further takes aspects of identity and the ways in which they impact our experience of conflict into account. This perspective sees change as a series of processes that are not linear, but rather go through cycles of moving forward, stopping completely, moving backward, falling apart, and moving forward again. Thus, change is conceived as a process that takes time and mutual commitment to collaboration in order to increase peace and justice for all parties.

ROCKET combines expertise from various fields, including Peace & Conflict Studies, Intercultural Communication, Academic Writing, Role-playing Game Studies, and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. The project aims to develop methods to help learners train vital skills in engaging with conflict productively. While many people view conflict as rare crisis points of intense escalation, conflict transformation views issues related to human needs as always present, whether underneath the surface or visible. This view is particularly important when considering issues of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. These concerns are not temporary “problems” to be “solved” and forgotten, but rather call for an ongoing commitment to progressive change. This in turn requires the training of key skills to help learners practice ways to best engage with conflict for the benefit of all by addressing the roots of an argument rather than its surface characteristics.

ROCKET uses role-playing games as vehicles for learning skills in conflict transformation. Role-playing is an ideal method for engaging with conflict, allowing learners to explore the complexity of issues through character engagement in fictional scenarios and post-game processing. Rather than conveying content solely in an intellectualized or theoretical way, role-playing allows for embodied practice in which the interests, feelings, and needs of the characters are centered. Learners can engage in conflict in a lower-stakes environment and even experience failure in the fictional setting. As a result, they can observe the responses of others, process their experiences during the debrief, and distill takeaways to infuse into their daily life.