Destructive Conflict Is As Big a Threat to Human Society as Global Warming. What Can Be Done About It? How Can a Web-Based Learning Community Help?

Broadcast on September 20, 2011
With Guy Burgess & Heidi Burgess

Heidi Burgess

Co-director, Conflict Information Consortium University of Colorado, Beyond Intractability, CRInfo, & Governance Commons

Heidi Burgess earned her Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Colorado in 1979. She then did postdoctoral work at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and worked for two years at an environmental conflict resolution NGO, doing research and assisting as a third party in major consensus-building projects. In 1988, with support from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, she established, with her husband, Guy, the Conflict Information Consortium (CIC), at the University of Colorado.  They have co-directed the CIC ever since.

Dr. Burgess has two primary areas of interest.  The first is how to better understand and transform very difficult, destructive, and intractable conflicts at the public policy, inter-group and international levels. The second is how to best teach conflict prevention, resolution, and transformation skills to as many people as possible, as the widespread dissemination of such skills is one key answer to preventing and transforming the world's most challenging conflicts.

Dr. Burgess has pursued this second goal by joining the faculty of the Peace and Conflict Studies Program at the University of Colorado.  In addition, however, she joined Guy to make teaching better conflict skills online a second major activity.  She and Guy started working on this about ten years ago, and collaborated with about 25 other people to create CRInfo.org--one of the first big websites focused on conflict resolution called the Conflict Resolution Information Source.  That was followed by www.BeyondIntractability.org, which she also co-directs and co-edits with Guy, which brings the expertise of over 400 people together on the web, to teach about better ways of dealing with intractable conflicts. These two websites together get about 150,000 unique users from all over the world each month. 

Dr. Burgess's newest effort, again together with her husband Guy and now with the One Earth Future Foundation as well, is The Governance Commons--www.governancecommons.org which focuses on the need to improve governance to end war. All three of these web projects seek to give ordinary citizens, as well as decision makers, civil society leaders, students, teachers, and third parties better knowledge and skills to empower them to prevent destructive conflicts before they start, and to transform them after they have become a problem into a constructive situation.