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Start Where You Are: Gathering the Data to Analyze

Start Where You Are: Gathering the Data to Analyze

Author: Marlene Johnson

At the end of this tutorial, the learner will understand and be able to apply information gathering strategies for conflict analysis

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What an intervener sets out to do a conflict analysis and mapping process, he or she is going to have to collect substantial information before ever bringing the parties together. So how do you begin? Where does he or she start? Well, I'm Marlene. And today, I'd like to talk with you about that in this tutorial.

So the intervener sets out to collect this information. They can do it through recorded and archival material. And sometimes that can be helpful, and they may need to go to those sources, perhaps, to get to some historical information, something that would be recorded in that way. So that's a valid way to get information.

But the ideal way to get information is through direct communication and to do it through an interview, because an interview, of course, is direct inquiry with the party on the facts as they see them and their feelings about the facts. So whenever possible, that's what the intervener will seek to do. So the intervener will sit down to talk about the facts and perception of facts. Now, what do I mean here? What's the difference?

Well, facts, of course, would be something definable, actual, verifiable. You could read about it in the newspaper. It was a fire on a particular date. It's verifiable. That's a fact.

Perception of facts, however, are how a party feels about things, what they think the motivations, the intentions are about what happened, and their feelings about it. So there's a difference here. And the intervener wants to collect information on both, facts and perception of facts.

So I've written here all kinds of questions. And there's probably more. But you want to find out how they see the facts, then their perception of the facts, where they may disagree with the other party, and then, of course, their interests and their feelings. And you do this through asking questions.

Well, now, we all know about the five questions-- the who, what, where, when, why, and how. So these are good ways to start. Who was involved? What happened?

Where did it happen? When did it happen? And probably you'll get some factual answers that could be verified here.

Then you probably, when you get into the hows and the whys, you're going to get more at the perceptions of facts. The perceptions of facts. And you can ask something straight out for a yes/no answer using any of these questions-- who, what, where, when, how, why.

But when you really want to get at perceptions, interests, and feelings, it's important to listen actively and to use the skills and active listening to get a person to really speak about those things, because it's going to be more than yes or no or short answers. So you want to use active listening. And active listening, of course, summarizing is a piece of that.

When you hear someone say something, you can summarize what they said to make sure that you've got it correctly. This can help you with the facts as well. But if they're talking, perhaps, about a perception or an interest, summarizing can help you there as well.

Feelings, you want to reflect back the emotion that you're hearing to make sure, once again, that you were hearing it correctly and allow them to hear what you're reflecting back, because, oftentimes, when that happens, somebody might adjust slightly what they just said, because it doesn't quite fit what they are really feeling. Paraphrase what you hear them say. So putting it in your own words is another way of rephrasing it, allowing them to hear what they're saying, allowing you to check in again to see if you are understanding correctly any of these things perceptions, facts, disagreements.

Active listening, of course, requires that you listen not only for these factual statements that they make, but that you listen for the feeling and emotion underneath the factual statement. So using the active listening skills to ask the right kinds of questions at the right time is enormously useful in this process.

Now, once again, the process is something that is confidential. I want to mention that again that when you are doing these interviews separately with the various parties, you want to make it clear that everything that you're uncovering from one party and putting into this map is confidential. You aren't going to go share it with the other side.

The only time that would happen, of course, is if there was some agreement upfront about that happening, perhaps, some of this was going to be released publicly for a report. And in some instances that might be the case. Then, obviously, the confidentiality would be waved.

This applies also to people that you might be directed to speak to who are not directly involved in the conflict. Maybe they are not party to the conflict, but they have information about what happened, about the context, and some of the things that you need to uncover in the conflict analysis. Maintaining confidentiality with those parties, as well, is critical to this whole process.

So once again, gathering information primarily from direct communication, some of it from archival, asking questions to get at both the factual statements, as well as the feelings and interests, and perceptions of each party is critical during this stage of conflict analysis. So thank you for joining me. I look forward to next time.

  • Interview

    Direct inquiry with a party about the facts (as the party sees them) and feelings associated with a conflict.

  • Facts vs. Perception of Facts

    The difference between actual, verifiable occurrences within a conflict and the motivations, intentions, or that one or more parties ascribe to those events.