Introduction: What is Elicitive Conflict Mapping?

Elicitive Conflict Mapping (ECM) is an attempt to operationalize the art and skill of elicitive conflict work by bringing the transrational peace philosophy and the elicitive methods of conflict transformation to praxis. 

Transrational Peace Philosophy

It is a relatively new term that results from the inquiry into different perceptions and interpretations of peace in history and culture. At the University of Innsbruck’s UNESCO Chair for Peace Studies, we have found four major groups of such interpretation, called the energetic, the moral, the modern and the postmodern peace families. Each of them circulates around a specific key value: energetic peace privileges harmony, the moral interpretation emphasizes justice, the modern understanding of peace calls for security, and the post-modern approach deals with the question of truth(s). Since none of these values appears isolated in social life, we tried to combine them in a holistic manner and identified the dynamic equilibrium of the four aspects as a larger concept of peace. This we call trans-rational, because it appreciates and applies the rationality of modern science while it transgresses its limits and embraces holistically all aspects of human nature for its interpretation of peace. It is rational and so much more, for example emotional, mental or spiritual. 

Elicitive Conflict Transformation

The adjective elicitive does not appear in any standard dictionaries of the English language. Lederach (1995) derives it from the verb ‘to elicit,’ meaning to bring forth or to evoke. The term was initially used in Gestalt therapy and humanistic psychology as synonymous with evocative; it refers to processes in which therapists provide the frame but not a guideline for their clients’ transformation. This says much about its use in peace studies and applied conflict work. `Elicitive´ suggests in this context that the relational energy of the conflicting parties provides the method and the direction of transformation.  Elicitive conflict transformation, thus, draws out, highlights, and catalyzes existing or communally held knowledge related to transforming conflicts between individuals, groups, and communities, while prescriptive approaches prefer prefabricated models. Lederach’s definition did not simply propose a new label for old techniques and objectives. The term refers substantially to the transrational shift in the understanding of peace and conflict. More precisely, in our understanding elicitive conflict transformation is the methodological consequence of transrational peace philosophy.

The art of elicitive conflict work is based on the guiding principle that elicitive transformation does not develop or offer a content solution for the conflict episode, but it creates a safe space for the parties, in which they can work on changes in their relationships along the horizons of their own intelligibility. In this context, the practical relevance of ECM is not the creation of prescriptive methods or recipes, because transrationality and elicitive work exclude such instruments, but to support conflicting parties in finding orientation and recognizing new and concrete courses of action in their own contexts. While these courses of action are endless in theory, in praxis there are a handful of relevant options for the implicated parties.

Likewise, ECM serves peace workers – including students, researchers and trainers – to orient themselves in the complex reality of the conflict. ECM is useful for sighting the next step in the conflict work and for the conscious perception of the homeostatic flow of the system, for maintaining or recovering the balance and as decision-making support in the selection of the appropriate tool needed for facilitation. 

As such, ECM is not directed at an idealized destination in the far future, but towards the question: In which direction can the next step be taken in order to maintain or recover balance?

Elicitive conflict mapping is not the same as conventional conflict mapping. It is a tool for finding and keeping orientation in applied conflict work. It helps the conflict worker in the analysis of the dysfunctional relations, finding balance in the confusing web of themes, levels and layers of the conflict pyramid.

Just like any other map, ECM cannot be taken to be the same as the territory or the conflict itself. Methodologically, it is rather derived from mind mapping than from traditional conflict- or crisis-mapping. The map has been created by Wolfgang Dietrich and will soon be published in book form as the third volume of his trilogy Many Peaces (Dietrich, forthcoming).

Complete Transrational Model

The starting point for the ECM is the transrational model of themes, layers and levels proposed by Wolfgang Dietrich in the second volume of his trilogy on the Many Peaces, entitled Elicitive Conflict Transformation and the Transrational Shift in Peace Politics (2013), originally published in German in 2011. While we hope that the basic workings of ECM can be explained here online, we encourage researchers, students and practitioners to get to know the original work and, importantly, find in the written academic text ample evidence and systematic knowledge that it might not be possible to communicate here. 


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