Conflict resolving game
An Alternative to the Traditional Debate
See also Icebreakers and Energisers - click here
The Conflict-Resolving Game is a new and challenging alternative to the traditional Debate. It can be played by adults and by children and by teams of very mixed age groups. Instead of the competitively-based Debate, it uses a non-adversarial approach, with an opportunity for a constructive dialogue which can be on-going. It teaches the skills of being an effective member of any meeting.
In traditional Debate, participants address an issue in order to refute their opponent. The Conflict-Resolving Game asks participants to build on, and add value to, each other’s points. It rewards creative response to another’s statement, rather than opposing it. If only our parliaments ran like this!
Unlike traditional Debate, the Conflict-Resolving Game turns opposition into co-operation. It teaches participants to respond with well-developed reasoning, and design innovative options to resolve difficult or controversial issues together.
In some ways, the Debate and the Game serve similar purposes. Both can investigate facts, focus attention, teach about an issue in depth, and value presentation style, voice projection, appearance, body language and logic.
In traditional Debate, there is a winner only on one side of the argument. In the Conflict-Resolving Game, the win/win approach is stressed and winners emerge on both sides.
Defeat is replaced by a problem-solving partnership.
Guidelines for Playing the Conflict Resolving Game
In the Conflict Resolving Game, participants address an issue with the purpose of resolving some of the conflicts within it.
An additional purpose is to learn and practise the skills of Conflict Resolution in order to use these skills in real life situations.
Choosing the Issue
Choose an issue and word it in a neutral way. Instead of: "Is the government adequately addressing the problems of unemployed youth?" (which calls for a "yes" or "no" answer), use unbiased language like: "What can be done to ease the problem of youth unemployment?" (which leaves it open-ended). Once the issue is well-worded, look for the specific conflict areas that can be raised under it e.g. "training wages", "volunteering", and "what constitutes a decent job".
Some Suggested Issues for Focus
In your choice of topic, undoubtedly you will be influenced by interest and information availability. Try to choose topics in which you know there is conflict. Here are some current issues to consider.
- Personal experience: "Domestic Violence". Specific conflicts emerge around "victims’ right to privacy", "police intervention", and "counselling for offenders".
- Community concern: "Immigration". Specific conflicts emerge around "queue-jumping", "ethnic mix", "refugees" and "rights of asylum seekers".
- Global significance: "Development and Environment". Specific conflicts emerge around "logging", "polluted water", "ozone layer" and "responses to global warming".
The facilitator needs to read this document to be familiar with the guidelines and tools of the Conflict-Resolving Game. (In a classroom situation, the teacher may play the role of facilitator.)
The facilitator’s role could include: coaching, assessing, inviting audience participation, suggesting topics, and referring to relevant Conflict Resolution resources. The facilitator does not need to perform all of these roles, but may choose to adopt one or more.
A facilitator might also assist team preparation and audience involvement by handing out, ahead of time, a list of some specific conflicts within the chosen issue. The facilitator may involve the audience in discussion and question time, between speakers, at the end, or both. The facilitator could follow the evolving problem-solving closely, summarising and seeking clarification of each speaker’s key points. the facilitator might choose to summarise key points on a blackboard or butcher's paper for all to see.
By prior agreement, each player can speak independently or belong to a team.
There are many ways to play the Conflict-Resolving Game.
You might try two teams -
3 players each.
The facilitator could select speakers for each team or some speakers may be able to elect themselves to the team of their choice. The facilitator usually decides which team goes first. Then speakers alternate, one from each team. A good guideline is: "no interruptions, one person speaking at a time".
Each team represents the perspective of one party involved. For instance, in the issue "What can be done to ease the problem of youth unemployment?", one team could represent "unemployed youth", the other might represent "government".
Participants are Conflict-Resolvers
Each speaker will be called a Conflict-Resolver and is addressed by that title throughout the game (e.g. "The second Conflict-Resolver to speak will be ..."; "Analysis of the issue will be done by the first Conflict-Resolver, ...", "Would all Conflict-Resolvers join their own team for five minutes’ strategy conference".) Conflict-Resolvers may speak with or without notes; spontanaeity and preparation are equally valued.
The Conflict-Resolving Game is a new concept of winning. Success is everyone gaining something from the proposed solution(s). Therefore, the Game may be played with or without point-scoring. Individual or team scores may be announced. A well played Conflict-Resolving Game will perform three role tasks, Analysis, presentation of Options, offering of Solutions.
Speakers may be assessed or scored on:
I. Role Tasks - how well they perform their role and/or
II. Fouls - you may choose to have the player lose points for conflict resolving fouls
III. Competency-Based Assessment Criteria - judged by their ability to use appropriate Conflict Resolution skills
The facilitator may be the only person keeping score, or all listeners could have checklists to assess each speaker. The first time a group plays the Game in teams, just Role Tasks only might be issued for scoring.
I. Role Tasks
Use the following for a "two teams - each of three speakers" - variation. If scoring, the facilitator may tick boxes or use a 1-5 grading, scoring the speaker only for the role they should be taking. Note parallels with first, second and third speakers in traditional Debates.
Conflict-Resolver 1: Analysis
- Clearly state the conflicts seen from your team's point of view.
- Clearly state your team's needs and concerns around these conflicts.
- Don't offer solutions at this stage.
Conflict-Resolver 2: Options
Present the options and describe how they meet your team's needs and concerns. Be objective; don't be for or against any one option. Respond as a Conflict-Resolver to the points made by earlier speakers.
Conflict-Resolver 3: Solutions
- Put forward your team's solutions or action plan.
- Say why your suggestions work best for everyone, and deal with any problems.
- Respond to earlier speakers on both teams.
Players may lose points by:
- Stereotyping, Racist, Ageist or Sexist Remarks
- Blaming - making the other person wrong
- No acknowledgement of previous speaker’s key point
- Threatening verbal or body language
- Introducing irrelevancies
III. Competency-Based Assessment Criteria
If scoring, tick boxes or use 1-5 grading. No speaker needs to demonstrate all twelve of the skills. Assess their ability to apply the relevant skills to appropriate contexts:
Potential opponents are treated as problem-solving partners.
Positive attitudes to addressing conflicts are displayed.
Speakers acknowledge the other team’s point of view and add value to it.
- Appropriate Assertiveness
Without blaming or attacking, the team’s own needs are clearly stated.
Where power imbalance affects decision-making, appropriate responses to the inequalities are defined.
The speaker’s emotions are expressed and the other team’s emotions are acknowledged.
Benefits of resolving - for all parties - are developed.
All key parties are identified and their needs and concerns are outlined.
A wide range of options is considered without debating or justifying at this stage.
Fair, just and common sense offers are made.
The option of an impartial and objective third party mediator is presented.
Suggested solutions are presented in terms of how they affect the broader context beyond the issue itself.
- Read this document and discuss it. The Game can be used as a first introduction to the skills of Conflict Resolution or it can be used after some initial training.
If your situation allows you, on an earlier occasion, run a training session before the Game. The skill of Mapping may be most useful to teach. You can find instructions for it in the free-to-download CR Trainers Manual: 12 skills 2nd Edition (Conflict Resolution Network: 2008). The .pdf file for this topic is available at 8. Mapping the Conflict.
- Choose the issue, define the specific conflicts involved, and gather background information.
If playing with a team:
- meet with your own team members to jointly prepare and agree on each speaker’s key points.
- If time allows, rehearse together.
Preparation may be as little as 15 minutes (particularly for experienced players) or several weeks (particularly for an exhibition game). Experiment and note the difference.
About Conflict Resolution Network
The Conflict Resolution Network (CRN) was founded in 1986, then under the auspices of the United Nations Association of Australia. Today, its purpose is to research, develop, teach, and implement the theory and practice of Conflict Resolution at the national and international level. Believing skills and structures for Conflict Resolution are transferable, CRN works with conflict whose nature is personal, community, workplace or global.
It is our hope that participants will learn not only to use these constructive techniques in the Conflict-Resolving Game, but will apply them to their own everyday communications.
Do stay in touch. Share your experiences. It helps to build the momentum.
Website: http://www.crnhq.org Email: firstname.lastname@example.org