Conflict, Paradox, and Public Engagement in an Election Year: A Conversation with Sharon Press and Bernie Mayer
1 PM GMT
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Elections provide an essential vehicle for citizens to engage in a constructive conflict engagement process about the most important issues of our time. But as with all significant conflict engagement efforts, elections are at best an imperfect vehicle. They are theatrical, polarizing, and often indecisive. They encourage diatribe more than dialogue, simplification more than sophistication, and division more than community. But they also provide an important opportunity to frame issues, to consider choices, and to hold leaders accountable for the decisions they have made.
The challenge for conflict professionals is both conceptual and practical. How can we bring our understanding about the nature of conflict to bear to make sense of the conflicts that are generated and unearthed by the election process? How can we help promote dialogue, communication, and community engagement to help people reach across the divisions that the elections often exacerbate?
Sharon Press and Bernie Mayer will discuss these issues, focusing in particular on the paradoxical nature of conflict as outlined in Mayer’s book The Conflict Paradox: Seven Dilemmas at the Core of Disputes. The Conflict Paradox explores what lies at the root of effective conflict work. In this creative and yet deeply practical book, Mayer outlines seven key dilemmas that conflict practitioners face every day. The Conflict Paradox challenges all of us, disputants and interveners alike, to adopt a new way to think about the choices we all face in conflict. It provides a valuable lens through which we can look at the issues at play in this election.
Press and Mayer will discuss in particular how the competitive nature of elections is in fact an expression of a fundamentally cooperative framework, how the political process promotes both community and separation, how politicians must prepare to compromise while insisting that they will always act on principle, and how they must offer a visionary sense of what can be accomplished, but one which is only believable if grounded in a realistic appraisal of what is possible. They will also discuss the practical steps that we might take during this year to promote a constructive conflict engagement effort.