(Berlin, October 24th - 26th, 2012)
The participants familiarised themselves with the fact that conflict, at a very basic level, arises from people’s needs and desires. During the first exercise, known as “The art of dividing a pumpkin”, three participants were asked to divide, in a democratic way of course, a pumpkin which they all found at the same time. Only through creativity and communication did they manage to solve the problem peacefully and democratically.
“The chairs exercise” was the second conflict scenario presented to the participants. The group was divided into two but each subgroup was asked to use the same resources (the chairs in the room). It was not long before a real sense of competition developed between the two groups. This was a key factor in their failure to solve the conflict situation. However, as soon as they were asked to be creative and leave aside their assumptions and prejudices they realised that there was in fact no conflict.
The exercises facilitated analogies with real-life conflicts. Not only did they increase the participants’ ability to understand the mutually exclusive interests but also an ability to differentiate and coordinate different perspectives.The most important teaching aims of the exercises were to sensitize the participants to conflicts and the causes of conflicts; practice democratic communication and to look for democratic ways of resolving conflict situations.
The “fun factor” in achieving these aims was that, during the exercise, the participants became competitive and made unnecessary assumptions which deepened the conflict situation and only afterthe exercise ended did the actual democratic dialogue begin. They realised there might not even be a conflict. This is explained by the fact that the exercises create an inter-role conflict, in which people play formal and informal roles in relation to each other and bring their assumptions and prejudices to the table. The assignment or adoption of these roles can be a source of friction and only through peaceful dialogue, creativity and unprejudiced attitudescan democracy can prevail. During the exercises participants noticed that it is not the conflicts themselves which are a problem,rather it is the way that people react to them that counts.