Core Principles

core principles

Through decades transforming conflicts from destructive to constructive, we’ve learned some lessons along the way. Read about our philosophy of conflict and why our approach works to end violent conflict.

our philosophy

conflict is normal and resolvable

Our differences – beliefs, values, and backgrounds – lead to conflict. These disagreements are natural. It’s when we respond with anger, fear, or even hatred that we’ve started down a destructive path. But violence is not inevitable. Disagreements are opportunities to learn new perspectives. Conflict is a chance to work together and find a solution that addresses everyone’s needs.

We’re not saying that it’s simple or easy to respond constructively. It takes courage. But everyone can do it.

Common Ground is not Compromise

Often when people disagree, they eventually have to meet in the middle, where everyone gives up something that’s important to them. We don’t ask people to compromise. We propose a new vision of the future together, one that meets everyone’s deep-seated concerns and values. This is a common ground that people can aspire to and are willing to work towards. Finding it often takes creativity and a sense of basic safety, but we believe it leads to long-term solutions for the most people.

Conflict Can Be Transformed

We are not trying to make people sign a piece of paper to stop fighting. Our goal is much broader. We want to transform conflict from violent to cooperative, to change the everyday interactions between people in conflict from destructive to constructive.

Transforming conflict can be as simple as “reframing” a situation – creating a new context in which people attack common problems, rather than each other. A win-lose, you-or-me mindset just perpetuates violence because it disregards the fact that the people involved still have to co-exist after someone “wins”.

Peace is a Process

There’s no instant cure for violent or destructive conflict – it’s a process, not an event. To shift a conflict situation, we have to make a long-term commitment to work in partnership with local people from various sectors of their society. Read more about our process below, under “Why it Works”.

Humankind is Interdependent

With rapid globalization, it’s clear how much we impact and depend on each other, from economic booms and busts to security threats. These days, it’s hard to buy a piece of fruit or a t-shirt without participating in a web of global relationships.

Whether we like it or not, we’re in this together. Our best hope is to solve our global problems together. To do so, we must approach each other and our differences with respect and a constructive mindset.

why it works

1. We make long-term commitments.
We avoid parachuting – dropping into a conflict for a short period to mediate or resolve it. Because peace is a process, we need a continuous presence to develop relationships on all sides of the conflict, understand the deep concerns of all parties, and gain the trust needed to enable a shift towards safe, constructive, and creative problem-solving.


2. We use an integrated approach.
For society-wide change, we work simultaneously on multiple levels – from leaders to grassroots – using multiple tools.

3. We get engaged to see the possibilities.
Conflicts are extraordinarily complex, and it takes profound engagement in order to understand them. Although we conduct assessment missions before undertaking any new program, we also adapt to the changing environments in which we operate.


4. We are social entrepreneurs.
We look for problem-solvers and creative thinkers who, from a shared vision, can develop finite and achievable projects. We continuously develop new tools and approaches.

5. We are immersed in local cultures.
We work with and build on individuals’ and communities’ knowledge, wisdom, and creativity. Partnering with local peace-builders is crucial to strengthen their ability to transform their own conflicts.


6. We practice cooperative action.
Dialogue is a necessary but insufficient means to change attitudes and behaviors. Wherever possible, we work with people in conflict to help them not only understand their differences, but also act on their common ground.