Introduction to working with conflict

Every group and relationship experiences conflict, regardless of whether we are trying to bring about an anarchist revolution or play dominoes on the street. It’s simply part of being human, it’s also a particular feature of living in a world which is more mobile. Humans used to live in largely homogeneous groups, whereas today many different world-views and cultures are present in our communities.

However, we haven’t yet developed the skills to successfully hold this diversity. Add to this the fact that you probably grew up in a capitalist society, where you were taught that to do well, or even just survive, you need to behave competitively. Phew! So it’s really no surprise that so many of us struggle to collaborate with each other to find a healthy way through conflict. Conflict is bound to happen while we un-learn old habits, and develop new skills and awareness to work co-operatively and challenge oppression.

This guide is aimed at people and groups working for social change who want to develop an understanding of conflict and how to deal with it. There are sections on what conflict is, the benefits of addressing it, and tools to work though conflict and maintain healthy and effective social change groups.

Throughout the guide you’ll find short exercises to help you learn skills and tools. The more involved we are with our own learning, the deeper the learning goes. So if you really want to learn this stuff, give yourself the time to try out the exercises.

This guide is based on Working with Conflict in our Groups: A guide for grassroots activists, written by Seeds for Change with material from the Conflict Resolution Network and the Center for Nonviolent Communication, and produced by European Youth for Action.