Tomorrow’s Peacemakers: How to Encourage the Next Generation of Conflict Management Professionals

Ask Luis Moreno-Ocampo, chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in The Hague, how he thinks we can make the world a better place, and he’ll answer without hesitation that we must teach young people how to deal with conflict better.  In a conversation with us earlier last year, he spoke about our obligation to foster a generation of global citizens equipped to create value and improve relationships within families, across organizations, and among nation-states.

We believe the best way to fulfill this obligation is to encourage passion, teach theory, develop skills, and provide real-world opportunities through a multi-pronged approach involving combined classroom-clinical curricula, internships and jobs with clear professional development plans, and innovative customized experiences such as fellowships.

Blending Classroom and Clinical Education

Conflict management education requires the development of blended classroom-clinical curricula. It should begin as a fundamental component of youth education and continue through higher levels of academia. We need to move toward creating school-wide workshops, after-school international conflict management organizations, and negotiation competitions.

One of the few systematic efforts to develop children-oriented curricula was embodied in the 1993 formation of the Program for Young Negotiators.  The program developed a curriculum that was selected in 1996 by the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice as a model program for school-based violence prevention.  To survive and compete in the global world, it seems logical that one needs to understand the basics of negotiation and effective communication as much as algebra and history.

Innovation at higher levels of education is also instrumental.  Assistant Professor Robert Bordone of Harvard Law School’s Program on Negotiation, for example, has recently spearheaded new learning opportunities through the Negotiation and Mediation Clinical Program.  This program approves only those clinical experiences rich in hands-on efforts with direct application to the real world.  Projects include partnering with organizations and individuals working in the field to help clients prepare for upcoming negotiations, design and deliver negotiation curricula, or conduct assessments and produce recommendations for the development of institutional dispute resolution mechanisms.  Also, the University of Oregon Masters Program in Conflict and Dispute Resolution has enriched graduate study in the field by giving practical skill-building equal status with theoretical exploration. Such inclusion of experiential and practice-based learning in affiliation with traditional educational curricula at all levels of education is essential to the development of future conflict management professionals.

Professional Development Plans

Professional development plans must be designed in connection with conflict management job opportunities.  Internships and jobs are few, and demand is high.  As a result, organizations often can trade free or inexpensive labor just for a work credential and the opportunity to observe those in the field.  We should instead be looking for ways to make trades on a wide range of interests, investing time in determining how an internship or job experience can best be customized to further an individual’s development.

An intern, for example, could provide a day of administrative tasks for an hour of coaching from someone developing their skills as a communication coach.  This idea could also be applied to professional development plans.  Helping interns and employees articulate their interests— the reasons why they are interested in the field or in a specific opportunity— naturally leads to identifying the kinds of activities they could undertake  This practice can help identify points of entry into conflict management careers, and will identify those most likely to further the individual’s interests and objectives.


Where do you start if you want to design a conflict management fellowship designed to foster passion, teach theory, develop skills, and provide field experience?  Excellent opportunities centered on research are available for those seeking fellowships.  For example, Harvard Law School’s Program on Negotiation Graduate Research Fellowships facilitates entry into the negotiation and dispute resolution fields. Another academia-driven experience, the Kabak Fellowship in International Conflict, brings one individual per year to the University of Pittsburgh to study international conflict and conflict resolution.  Eligibility is limited to individuals from a country experiencing notable political or economic conflict.

Research fellowships also are available outside academia.  The United States Institute of Peace grants a Senior Fellowship for research through the Jennings Randolph Fellowship Program.  Each year, about 12 fellows are chosen and awarded up to $80,000 for 10 months work with USIP in its D.C., offices.  Their tenure culminates in a written report on the topic of their research, ranging from opportunities for peacemaking to security strategies for regions of geopolitical importance to the U.S.  Additionally, the Asia Foundation William P. Fuller Fellowship in Conflict Resolution provides funding for research in conflict management.  Fellows are chosen from nominations made by representatives of the Foundation in its Asia offices to work through various American institutions to address conflict in the Asia-Pacific region.

Our organization, Insight Collaborative, formed the Insight Fellowship Program in 2005.  The one- year program provides individuals an unusual opportunity to design a year of study and practice under the guidance of conflict management professionals.  The purpose of an Insight Fellowship is to “further the practice and study of effective conflict management while pursuing related humanitarian contributions and self-development.”  The first three months of each fellowship are spent in the offices of Insight Partners and Insight Collaborative, where fellows study conflict management theory. For the second placement, the International Criminal Court in The Hague currently allows fellows to intern in the Office of the Chief Prosecutor.  Other placements are arranged by the fellows directly with support from Insight.  Fellows must provide periodic journal entries and present a final written work on a conflict management theme of their choosing.

Alternative Approach to Funding

Three key challenges in creating fellowships involve decisions about money and eligibility.

While the easiest way to make a fellowship program financially solvent would be a generous benefactor to establish an endowment, the reality is usually a long hard process of seeking individual donations and grants.  One new approach to funding has been innovated by the Insight Fellowship Program.  Funding involves two phases:  Fellowship seat creating (pot formation); and Fellowship seat sustaining (pot refilling).  Applicable donations to the fellowship adding up to $25,000 create a new fellowship seat.  Each Fellow then sustains the seat for the future by “refilling the pot” through generating an amount equal to the portion of the $25,000 allowance used during their year.  This “pay forward” approach provides a practical financial solution while instilling the values of sustainability and non-profit entrepreneurship.

Guiding Principles for Fellowship Programs

In the effort to take identification of capable future conflict management professionals to a new level, our experience with the Insight Fellowship Program has made it clear that it is time for the conflict management community to engage in a conversation about global standards to create effective conflict management learning experiences.

Time is what aspiring conflict management professionals need most from those currently in the field.  Mentorship, content training, skill coaching— all are time intensive.  The solution might be three-fold.  First, to select individuals with the drive, independence and interpersonal skills to reach out to those around them and solicit the necessary attention they need.  Second, to draw on the generosity of senior professionals willing to donate their time to allow workshop observations, provide volunteer opportunities, and think creatively about how to use a fellow’s presence in the field to further their own research.  Third, to expand opportunities for others in the world to contribute to a fellow’s development.  Allowing observation opportunities, attending fundraising events, or making financial contributions toward seat-creation or fellowship placements—are all are time-unintensive ways to support the development of future conflict management professionals.

We must leave the next generation with the passion, knowledge, skills and experience to prevent and handle the conflicts of the future.  It is essential to develop multi-pronged approaches that include classroom-clinical curricula, professional development plans, and customized fellowship opportunities.  Framing these experiences with the purposes of furthering the field, helping others and developing self is essential to producing conflict management professionals and good global citizens.  Tomorrow’s peacemakers depend on today’s vision.

As Co-Founder and President of Insight Partners and Insight Collaborative, David Seibel uses his broad base of expertise to help individuals and organizations articulate their key interests and find creative options to meet them. He is an attorney, conflict management consultant, mediator and professor in the fields of effective negotiation, communication and mediation. Specializing in commercial and family contexts, Mr. Seibel's conflict management practice includes well over a decade of public and private service.

Insight Fellow Julia Gegenheimer graduated from Yale University in 2006 with a B.A. in Political Science and History. As an Insight Fellow, her experience included working:  with professors in Cyprus to assess causes of failed local reconciliation and reunification efforts; in Cambodia with a local NGO on grassroots efforts to educate youth about human rights activism; with the Office of the Co-Prosecutors at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia; and in the Office of the Prosecutor at the International Criminal Court in The Hague on developing conflict management awareness education for Uganda’s youth.  Ms. Gegenheimer is currently a second-year student at Harvard Law School.