I begin with Thanksgiving 2010.
I was invited by a good friend of mine from my conflict resolution program to have Thanksgiving dinner with her and her family and friends. There was great food, great discussions, warm atmosphere, and laughter. At dinner, each person shared their interesting, eclectic life experiences and worldviews as so many dinners with newly acquainted friends do. When the conversation got to me, I attempted to articulate what I was studying and future plans I had in mind after I graduate. I failed miserably.
Minutes of the dinner (and I paraphrase):
Bardia: “Based upon my experience and knowledge of conflict resolution so far, the majority of people in my field pursue a career in an NGO or government agency. These organizations, though beneficial, often lack the resources and synergy to create ‘real’ change in the world. Furthermore, people in my field often find working with private organizations as anathema to their ideals, as they are often the culprits of producing much of the systemic problems in the world. However, while many private firms have pursued wrong or illegal policies, many firms do not. Furthermore, greater public scrutiny and access to information has pushed many emerging firms to fall in line with “positive goals” for image is often key to a company’s success.
With the turn of the twenty-first century and the awareness of global climate and environmental problems, we see an emergence of companies pursuing “green” ventures and investors desiring to invest in “green” or socially constructive projects. Now more than ever good ideas are getting funded in order to pursue these problems.
Therefore, I desire to start a business that provides “green” and socially conscious solutions and services to the public. The main product would be green produces and solutions such as urban farming plans and green construction. It would be interconnected with local communities that work in these projects to help spark field education and experience, along with opportunities for entrepreneurship–creating a sustainable venture…”
Mom at table: “So what would your role be?”
Bardia: “Bring the necessary elements together to pursue such goals. Acquire engineers, business administrators, project managers, social workers…”
Mom at table: “So what is it that you offer at the table?”
Bardia: “Being able to see the intersection of problems that need to be addressed for positive social change.”
Mom at table: “Couldn’t you have done this with any other background or degree?”
Despite my excitement of having come to a relative conclusion of what I want to pursue in my life and how much it made sense to me in my head, I realized that my “elevator talk” has serious holes. Therefore, this blog – while not necessarily starting out with a bang – is to document my dilemmas, depressions, optimisms, and overall thoughts as I pursue a field that – to the perceptions of many (not necessarily the mom in my story, for she had very valid questions) – has no real distinctive value. I hope to change that perception/perspective by perfecting my “elevator speech” and improve my role in collaborating with others that might find insights and/or benefits from this blog.
Perhaps an adequate response:
“What does it take to create a good government or society? It takes a number of factors. Having functional and stable markets, law and order, education, political systems, defense, avenues in which people can improve their daily lives, etc. Who do we turn to for consulting in improving these systems for good governance and society? Academics and experts in economics, law, politics, military strategy, sociology, psychology, and the list goes on. However, why do we fail time and time again in addressing system domestic and global problems keeping over a billion people in penury and violence with another few billion on a shaky foundation? Because academics and experts in each field see the world in a unique way and speak a unique language that is dissonant with academics and experts in other fields. If these consultants and the public that attempts to understand them fail to understand each other – which their collaboration is a fundamental requirement for good governance and society to work – it creates conflict.
This crossroads in collaboration is where conflict analysts and resolvers can find themselves: by being the keystone that unites all the different fields, viewpoints, and language together. How? Because conflict analysis and resolution requires their students to learn as many different, complex fields as possible and find unique ways to bridge the conflict in language, viewpoints, and understanding. The curriculum includes economics, law, politics, international relations, sociology, psychology, and a multitude of other fields that require its students to decipher and make sense of this crossroads, or in other words, conflict.”
Perhaps this is what I could have said, and hopefully this makes more sense. I hope that somebody can poke holes in this conclusion to make my goals and ambitions clearer and better. All-in-all, this is an interesting journey in conflict analysis.