Conflict is inevitable but war is not. It’s a highly contingent phenomenon, often dependent on the decision-making of individual leaders. You can easily write a parallel history in which the events of August 1914 did not lead to two massive world wars. Much of the difference between war and peace has to do with the failed or wise decisions of leaders who find themselves trapped in cycles of escalation, miscalculation, and miscommunication.
Top-level decision-making is a key leverage point. When we are not the decision-makers in the conflict, our impact starts with influence. By providing Decision-Makers with ways to act rationally and wisely in their own interest —as well as the interests of their constituencies and the wider world— we can help them make choices that avoid the enormous waste of life and resources incurred by war.
Decision-Makers often need to hear ideas multiple times and from several different sources before it becomes a real possibility in their mind. To do this, we need to build a critical mass of Third Siders that have access, credibility, and trust with Decision-Makers and those they trust.
Pool ACT (Access, Credibility, Trust). You don’t need to have or build ACT yourself. It’s most efficient to acquire it through other Third Siders.
Form a SWARM team. Bring together a group to persuade the Decision-maker to take steps to de-escalate the conflict. Ideally, this group has expertise in different aspects of the conflict and ACT with the main players.
7 touches: Right idea to right person at right time. People often need to hear an idea at least seven times before they will take action. Make sure your idea is something they can actually say “yes” to.
Build a winning coalition. List the winning coalition (who would be in favor of an agreement?) and the blocking coalition (who wants to block an agreement?). Your challenge is to create incentives and negotiate with different people in the blocking coalition to move them step-by-step to the winning coalition.
EPISODE 9: SWARM
We’ve arrived at the final story in our series. As William shares more of his experience as a peace advisor working to end the civil war in Colombia, we witness the power of swarming the conflict—bringing all 9 practices to bear at once. The key is critical mass applied with patience and persistence, bringing together the full potential of the third side. We need something big and powerful to transform conflict. When we swarm, we have that power.