Whenever there is a conflict, there are always at least two sides involved. These are the parties who are directly affected by the conflict and invested in its outcome.
However, these two parties may not always be the only people invested in the outcome, and there may be additional people who need to be included in the resolution process.
The Third Side is an approach to conflict resolution developed by the Harvard Negotiation Project, whose mission is to improve the practice and theory of conflict resolution and negotiation by working on real world conflicts. The Third Side approach looks at the perspectives and interests of those affected by the conflict in the larger community, as well as of the parties themselves. In other words, this approach takes the legitimate needs of the two primary parties, or sides, into consideration, while also considering the needs of the larger community, which is the Third Side in the conflict. The Third Side could be made up of neighbors, friends, bystanders, or anyone else who may be affected by the outcome of the conflict.
The difference between the Third Side approach and party-party mediation is that in the Third Side approach, the additional side's
This is called the triple win, as the the legitimate needs of the primary parties, as well as those of the larger community are being considered.
In terms of the conflict itself, the model for the Third Side is to:
This has the opportunity to work in a variety of circumstances.
EXAMPLEWhen bullying happens in a school, teachers, administrators, and parents can come together to form a mediation program. In Minneapolis schools, there is a program called Peace Circles, which works with students to give them the skills that they need to resolve conflicts in more constructive ways.
The Third Side approach is less about trying to eliminate conflict, and more about transforming how it's expressed.
EXAMPLEMany communities have neighborhood watch programs that allow neighbors to set up a system to get to know and watch out for one another, thus taking back the control of the community.
This is how the Third Side enables the emergent will of the community, and the power of that will in transforming what happens within the community.
This completely disoriented the gang members; they didn't know how to respond to these mothers walking into their territory. But what evolved from this action was more than just a brief lapse in violence. It evolved into a dialogue between the mothers and the gang members in which both groups spoke and were heard. The mothers listened to the gangs talk about the lack of jobs, and the police brutality. The mothers responded by developing a tortilla factory, a bakery, and childcare to allow the gang members to learn skills.
Then out of these developments came a school, and over time, the mothers became more of a neighborhood watch team, reporting instances of police brutality. This began to cultivate a relationship between the police, the mothers, and the rest of the neighborhood. Not all the problems were solved, but it’s clear that the emergent will of the community had an enormous influence on de-escalating the conflict and creating change.
Source: Adapted from Sophia tutorial by Marlene Johnson.