4 Tutorials that teach Getting It On Paper: The Analysis Process
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Getting It On Paper: The Analysis Process

Getting It On Paper: The Analysis Process

Author: Marlene Johnson

At the end of this tutorial, the learner will understand the concept of and uses of conflict analysis and mapping.

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Typically in a conflict resolution process, both parties meet with the conflict intervener to share their perspectives about what happened and their interests, their needs, their goals. But some conflicts are just too complicated for that. And the intervener needs to do a little information gathering first. I'm Marlene, and today I'd like to talk with you about getting it on paper, the conflict analysis process.

So what is conflict analysis? Well, basically it's a process that an intervener can use to go and gather information and look more closely at the conflict, who's involved, what happened, what's the history, and then create a model. And the model is really a symbolic representation of all the information that the intervener gathers. It could include things like worldview, events, concepts, facts. And the intervener then creates this model and can share it when the meeting takes place with both parties.

But the conflict analysis is done separately with each participant. So the intervener would meet with one party and then with another party. If there's multiple parties, there might be several different parties that the intervener meets with. Now, once the model is created, it typically takes the form of what's called a conflict map. And this is all of the information taken. And instead of putting it in text form or writing a document, the intervener takes this information and translates it into some sort of graphical information, or could be a chart or a graph, something that will be easy to look at and share with both parties.

So that's the process of conflict analysis. Now, when is it used? Well, typically in conflicts that are very long term, international conflicts, political conflicts, these kinds of conflicts would require this kind of analysis up front, or multi-party conflicts. You might have this in a neighborhood. Say there's a high rise that's going up, and people in the neighborhood are objecting to this. There may be multiple parties involved. And it would be helpful for the intervener to meet and gather information before bringing the parties together. Could be something that's just intense and complicated, long term, like an environmental issue between parties about land use. Or it could be organizational within a company. So in any of these situations, this conflict analysis could be appropriate.

So exactly how does it work? Well, one of the goals is for the intervener to identify the issues, the opportunities, unacknowledged parties upfront, so there's a better chance of selecting and designing the best process to solve the conflict. And there's a variety of information that the intervener will want to collect depending on the nature of the conflict. Of course, international conflicts can get quite complicated. I've listed a few of the items that are typical.

So here are some of the factors that typically would go into a map. History and context, when did it start, what are the origins, what are some of the major events here? Context, where is this taking place? That could be geographically, it could be time, it could be within organizations it might have to do hierarchically. So what's the context here for the conflict?

And the parties, now this could be both primary parties, secondary parties, are there any third parties involved, such as peacemakers that have already come into the conflict historically. Goals, interests, and then causes and consequences, now sometimes it's difficult to tell the difference between what was a cause and what was a consequence, particularly if the conflict has been spiraling for some time. Dynamics, and this refers to what has happened. Is there polarization? Has it spiraled, de-escalated then escalated, and gone back and forth in spiraling like this for some time?

So these are just a few of the elements that could be very helpful for the intervener to think about as they create the map. Now, I've mentioned the map here is graphical. All this information is taken and put into what's called a conflict map. And there are a variety of ways to do this. And, of course, it does depend on the nature of the conflict. The intervener might decide to put it into a chart form. So here's an example of what that might look like. And I've just put a few of the elements into this chart, parties, interests, issues, impact, and you can see there's a space to fill in for each of the parties. In this case we have three parties.

Or you might want to do it graphically a little bit differently. I'll show you an example here. The intervener might decide you have a conflict and there are issues and the issues might be talked about a little bit differently by each side. So you may decide to draw a circle here for party A. We might say if we're going to look at our neighborhood dispute here, these are the neighbors who live in a neighborhood here that's been very quiet, and they've had great views, there's a park available.

And they're in a dispute with a company that's wanting to build a high rise that they object to. So here they are. They see the issues a certain way. And you might gather information from them about their perceptions, their goals, their interests. And you would put it around this circle. So whatever it might be, you begin to fill it in. And then when you meet with the other parties, we'll put another party here, perhaps it's the developer who wants to build the high rise.

We'll call that party B. You gather information from that party. What are some of their goals, interests, their perceptions, how are they seeing this issue? Do they agree on it? Are you going to be defining this a little bit differently based on these two parties? And then, of course, somewhere in the middle here you want to come to resolution. I'll just put R there for resolution. Now, this is a very quick and a graphical form of how you might represent the information that you've gathered in any conflict.

Now, I've done this quickly here just to give you an idea of how you can create one of these maps. And, of course, how you create it, the structure you use will depend on how complicated the conflict is and how much information you are gathering. So once again, in a very intense conflict, complicated, multi parties, it's very useful for the intervener to gather information up front, create a model, translate that model into a conflict map, and then prepare for the joint meeting.

Now, the joint meeting is where the intervener will meet in person with both parties and then share this conflict map. It could be very useful in that context. And, of course, before that point the intervener will have checked with each party separately on what he or she has put together to see if they see it as accurate from their point of view. So by the time you arrive in the joint meeting, both parties are familiar with what has been gathered and have had input. So thank you for joining me. I look forward to next time.

  • Conflict Analysis

    A process (and associated product) of looking at a conflict's participants and history, creating an easily consulted model of the conflict.

  • Conflict Map

    A conflict analysis translated into graphical (chart, table, etc.) form.

  • Model

    A symbolic representation of a system, including concepts, worldviews, and events.

  • Joint Meeting

    A meeting between parties held in person with a conflict intervener present.