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close this bookCommunity Participation in Problem-Solving: Managing Conflict (UN Habitat - United Nations Centre for Human Settlements )
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentGuidelines for the trainer
View the documentIntroduction
View the documentA statement of principles
View the document1. The sources of conflict
View the documentII. Styles of conflict-management
View the documentIII. Choosing a style
View the documentIV. Practising assertiveness and co-operation
View the documentV. Exercises in handling conflict
View the documentBibliography


Training Module

United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (Habitat)

Nairobi, 1989

HS/161/89 E ISBN 92-1-131083-0

Guidelines for the trainer

These guidelines (blue) are intended for the trainer only. They explain the rationale for the module and offer some suggestions for using it in training workshops.

This module is one of a series of three on:



Ideally, the three should be worked through in sequence; but they are also designed to be used independently, depending on the knowledge and experience of a particular group of trainees.


The first module sets out the basic framework for problem-solving and decision-making. It introduces a number of key concepts related to analysing problem-situations and preparing action plans. It presents a three-stage process of problem-solving and decision-making, which is made up of eight operational steps.

The second module focuses on the problems and potentials of leading project staff members and community groups through problem-solving and decision-making activities.

The third module concentrates on the conflicts that are bound to occur in coping with the problems of human settlements projects.

The models of problem-solving and decision-making that are described in all the modules are drawn from a variety of fields - industry, counselling, community development and social work but they are related to the specific context of the development and improvement of low-income human settlements.


There is a progression in the kinds of task contained in the three manuals.

Since the first manual was mainly concerned to introduce some basic concepts and processes related to problem-solving, the tasks were mainly short reflective ones - designed to highlight a point or test out the participants' understanding of what was presented.

The second manual was focused on leadership, so it introduced some fairly brief role-plays, to give practice in the techniques of facilitating group problem-solving activities.

This manual deals with conflicts that can arise in project work, so it contains sustained and elaborate simulation exercises. These would form the core activities of any workshop based on the text.


Three or four days

(If the participants have not already worked through the first two manuals in the series or if there is a significant time-gap since completing the first two, four days would be necessary.)


If you are not experienced in running such participatory workshops, you might find chapters VII and VIII of Community Participation A Trainers' Manual particularly useful.

Day One

1. Introduction - outline of the objectives and methods of the workshop.

2. Presentation - a review of the problem-solving techniques contained in the previous two manuals.

(This will be a reminder of the main considerations affecting participatory problem-solving: the eight-step procedure for problem- solving and decision-making; the characteristics of effective leadership of problem-solving groups; and the values expressed in the "statement of principles".)

3. Activity - Task 1: The "speak out" exercise

(An issue-identifying activity, designed to expose some of the common barriers that prevent community participation. It should help to identify the main sources of conflict which occur in the interplay of agencies and residents engaged in human settlements projects. It is a special kind of introductory brainstorming exercise which encourages participants to express a range of attitudes which will have an important bearing on the way they approach the workshop and their fieldwork. You will find a full description of this exercise in the Toolkit section (Chapter X) of A Trainers' Manual.)

4. Discussion - a follow-up discussion on task 1, concentrating on the questions raised in step 6 and the ideas contained in the Review section.

Day Two

1. Activity - Task 2: The "unequal resources" game

(This exercise is usually played out in a way which demonstrates the ease with which groups move into conflict positions when they are faced with an unequal distribution of resources that are needed for the completion of a task. There is a description of the exercise in the Trainers' Manual.)

2. Discussion - follow-up of task 2, taking up the "points for discussion" listed at the end of the exercise and the issues raised in the Review section.

3. Activity- Task 3: The "broken squares" game

(This exercise should highlight some contrasting factors to what happened in the previous exercise - because the focus is now on co-operation rather than conflict. Again there is a description of the exercise and some likely outcomes in the Toolkit section of A Trainer's Manual.)

4. Discussion - follow-up of task 3, taking up the "points for discussion" and the Review section.

5. Activity - Task 4: Discovering your own conflict-management style

(This exercise is designed chiefly to identify the five conflict-management styles which become the framework for the themes and activities contained in the rest of the manual. It might be important to point out that, since this is only a "one- shot" indicator of an individual's response to conflict situations, it does not have a definite validity.)

Day Three

1. Presentation - Conflict-resolution styles

(A review of the five styles described in chapter 11 of the manual.)

2. Discussion - Choosing a style

(An opportunity for participants to comment on the ideas presented in chapter 111, in relation to their own experience of human settlements projects.)

3. Activity - Task 5: Measuring assertiveness

4. Discussion - comments on the results of the questionnaire and a discussion of the issues raised in the Review section.

5. Activity- Task 6: Measuring co-operation

6. Discussion - comments on the outcomes of the reflective exercise and a discussion of the issues raised in the Review section.

7. Activity - Force field analysis

(On their own, participants try out a force field analysis on one of the ideas they have worked on in the previous exercise.)

8. Presentation and discussion - Handling conflict

(The purpose of this session is to clarify ideas contained in the introductory section of chapter V - especially the concept of the "dramatic triangle". This should prove a particularly useful analytical tool in the critique discussions of the role-plays that are to follow.)

Day Four

1. Activity-Role-play: "Interrupted business"

(The model-building step is an unusual one, but its purpose is to help participants get into the role-play. It ensures that all participants are involved; allows them to identify with one or other of the characters; and makes the selection of the actual role- players a much easier task than normal. Also, when the role-play is over, and the models are then revealed to the whole group, it often provides very interesting material for discussion. For instance, each model serves as an explanation as to why a particular character entered into the role-play with certain feelings or tactics. Sometimes, it demonstrates that the event turned out quite differently from what was expected.)

2. Discussion - based on the questions suggested in the review section.

3. Activity - Simulation: Either "Parties and pressure groups" or "Priorities"

(Which of these similations is chosen - or whether both are included - will depend on the experience and interests of the training group. If the group is a large one and time is available, both - or others designed by the participants themselves - might be tackled, in order to give as many participants as possible an active role in such simulations.)

4. Discussion - based on questions raised in the review sections.

5. End of course review and evaluation


"When tempted to fight fire with fire, remember that the fire department usually uses water"

S.I. Hayakawa

Problem-situations are conflict situations. Decisions are conflicts. Problem-solving and decision-making are processes of managing the kinds of conflict that occur whenever there is a choice to be made between alternatives. The first two manuals in this set on Community Participation in Problem-solving and Decision-making have presented certain procedures and techniques for encouraging group interactions in problem management that are rational and cooperative. The eight-step problem-solving cycle, described in the manual on Basic Principles, assumes a logical and systematic approach to analysing information; the techniques for leading groups in problem-solving activities, to be found in the second manual, depend on a harmonious and supportive atmosphere. However, what can so easily and so often frustrate this rational, collaborative process is the existence, in the group or in the community, of conflicts - sharp differences of motives, values or goals.

Conflicts happen when someone thinks that someone else is about to frustrate his needs or concerns. Given the potentials for real or imagined frustration of needs or concerns in the planning and execution of housing projects, conflicts will inevitably and frequently occur. The objectives of this manual are to explore the kinds of conflict that arise in settlement-improvement schemes and to consider whether there are conflict-management strategies that harmonize with the problem-management strategies so far recommended.

In other words: what are the ways of fighting fire with water rather than with fire?

A statement of principles

The recommendations on problem-solving and decision-making procedures to be found in this manual are based on a number of basic assumptions:

1. The most productive act In problem-solving is to become aware of problem.

This is the central paradox of all development work: starting off by trying to change conditions often complicates and increases the problem, whereas seeking first to understand the problem begins the actual process of solving it.

2. Every problem situation can be seen as a field of forces psychological, social, political, economic and cultural forces - in a state of tension.

To solve a problem - to effect productive change - we must first identify what forces are at work and how they operate. Then, rather than seek for the one "cause" of the problem, we must explore to find those places where we can most effectively intervene in the field of forces in order to change the state of tension.

3. Effective decisions depend on valid information.

'Valid' means both accurate and complete. To make a comparison, the process of problem-solving is like a recipe for cooking a meal; the recipe depends on having the right ingredients. In problem-solving, the ingredients are the facts and knowledge that make up the information.

4. Working with others - especially those who are most affected by the problem - can improve the problem-solving process.

Therefore, it is important that project staff members and community leaders be sensitive to factors that influence the performance of a group and be able to use the recommended procedures in group settings.

5. Achieving good results from the implementation of a valid decision requires that those who are implementing the decision both understand it and are committed to it.

A decision might be technically sound but politically unacceptable. Those carrying out the decision might be uncommitted to or ill-prepared for action.

6. The community worker, as "change agent" or "facilitator", must develop a supportive environment.

The people who are experiencing the problem should share in the making of decisions for change. Those who are involved in the problem-solving process should be able to communicate openly about the problems they are experiencing. However, change often generates conflict - about methods and objectives and resources. Therefore, it is vital that project staff members and community leaders be sensitive to the causes of conflict in human settlements projects and possess skills of conflict management which harmonize with the principles of community participation.

Thus, effective problem-solving In human settlements projects must, itself, be a process of community participation.

1. The sources of conflict

TASK 1 The "Speak out" exercise


This activity is designed to identify some of the barriers that might prevent community participation and, in the process, identify a number of sources of conflict that can occur in the interplay of agencies and residents involved in low-income housing improvement. It is a brainstorming exercise of a kind which encourages your colleagues and you to expose attitudes and feelings which might not often be expressed but which can strongly affect the success of projects.

There is general agreement that the involvement of residents of low-income housing projects in the formulation, Implementation and management of their own settlements improves a project's chances of responding to their real needs and of achieving lasting results. Such community participation is only possible, however, when a partnership between the authorities and the residents can be established. Both parties have to agree on how responsibilities and duties will be shared.

The exercise invites you to explore the reasons why the authorities on the one hand and the residents on the other do or do not co-operate with each other.


1. Divide your group into four clusters.
2. Each cluster takes one of the following questions:

- Why are authorities interested in co-operating with low- income residents?
- Why are authorities NOT interested in co-operating with low-income residents?
- Why are low-income residents interested in co-operating with the authorities?
- Why are low-income residents NOT interested in co-operating with residents?

3. Each group brainstorms and makes a list of reasons.

It might facilitate contributions if you ask yourself first:

What does my head tell me are the reasons; and then:
What does my heart tell me are the reasons?

Include, also, what you think are the thoughts and feelings of others - the sorts of remark you hear in casual conversations with staff members of housing authorities or residents of settlements.

4. On flipchart paper or newsprint, compile a list of your group's responses which you can display and discuss with the other participants.

5. In the large group, review the responses from all the groups and compile four agreed lists after discussion.

6. In a further discussion session, in the light of participants' experience of projects, consider measures that might be taken to:

- Overcome the barriers to collaboration the "restraining forces";
- Stimulate or reinforce positive attitudes to collaboration - the "driving forces".


Engaging in the "Speak out" exercise should have helped to establish the context for this exploration of how conflict affects our work in housing projects. On the positive side, those of you who are working in countries where governments have made a commitment to community-participation strategies will have identified "driving forces" related to both the ideologies and the administrative structures of those organizations which exist to promote dialogue between authorities and residents. A strong lead from the top will have influences right down to the local levels of administration.

However, even in those countries where community participation is an agreed and established policy, there will be a number of reasons why barriers to its implementation occur. No doubt you will have identified some of the following:

- Highly centralized administrative systems which are not suited to the development of partnerships with communities at the local level;

- Local authorities who are not staffed with officers or technical personnel with necessary participatory skills;

- Low status of community-development departments;

- Bureaucratic attitudes of officials who might be unduly concerned with the maintenance of building standards and the meeting of strict time schedules or, less worthy, the maintenance of personal position and the keeping of personal authority.

As far as residents are concerned, you might have identified such factors as:

- The lack of confidence and skills;
- A mistrust of officials and official procedures;
- The lack of appropriate organization within the community;
- The existence of competing organizations within a community.

All such "restraining forces" set up barriers and, hence, are potential sources of conflict when a project seeks to maximize participation and to build a working partnership between authorities and the people they are serving and servicing.

Effects of However, so far, conflict has been talked of as if it is wholly or always conflict negative. This is not so. it can be either constructive or destructive. In the previous manual, which was concerned with leadership in problem-solving groups, we have seen how conflict can be used constructively to:

- Introduce different solutions to a problem, by using the force field analysis technique;
- Stimulate creativity, by using the brainstorming technique.

Also, by recognizing and sensitively exposing conflicts, a skilled group leader can bring emotive and non-rational arguments into the open and encourage the "safe" expression of long- standing tensions. This exposure of interpersonal problems can "free" a group for harmonious and productive work.

Conversely, if conflict is destructive, it can:

- Impede progress towards the identified goal, by various subgroups pursuing subgoals;
- Induce individuals to use defensive and blocking behaviours;
- Stimulate "win-at-all-costs" attitudes, where emotions win out over reason;
- Lead to the disruption or, even, disintegration of groups and projects.

To explore further the consequences of conflict, especially of intergroup conflict, consider what happens when you engage in the following simulation.

TASK 2 The "Unequal resources" game


To raise awareness of how groups use resources that have been unequally distributed and how they negotiate to obtain the resources they need.


The game is played in clusters of four groups. The groups will need packs of the following materials:

Group 1: Scissors, ruler, paper clips, pencils and two 8-cm squares of red paper and two of white.

Group 2: Scissors, glue, two sheets of paper, (white and blue paper) each 17 cm by 22 cm.

Group 3: Felt-tipped markers and two sheets each of green paper, white paper, and gold paper, each 17 cm by 22 cm.

Group 4: Sheets of paper, 17 cm by 22 cm - one green, one blue and one purple.

Task sheets

Each group has a task sheet with the following instructions:

"Each group is to complete the following tasks:

- Make a 6 × 6 cm square of white paper;
- Make an 8 × 4 cm rectangle of gold paper;
- Make a T-shaped piece, 6 cm wide and 10 cm high in green and white paper;
- Make a four-link paper chain, each link in a different colour;
- Make an 8 × 8 cm flag, in any three colours.

The first group to complete the task is the winner. Groups may negotiate with other groups for the use of materials and tools to complete the task on any mutually agreed basis."


1. Form the groups - ideally each group should have three or four members.

2. Appoint two observers who will focus on the tactics of negotiation and the problem-solving techniques used by the groups - the styles of leadership that emerge.

3. The groups should have bases far enough away from one another that negotiations can be carried out without being overheard.

4. Each group receives and studies the task sheet and its allocated materials.

5. All groups start the exercise at the same time.

6. A winner is declared when one group completes all the tasks to the satisfaction of the appointed "referee" or "judge".

Some points

1. How were the negotiations conducted? for discussion

2. What different styles of leadership were observed - and what was their effect?

3. How - and how successfully - did the groups go about problem- solving?

4. To what extent did competition or collaboration emerge - and what were the consequences in terms of group cohesion?

5. What can be learned from this exercise about such matters as "deprivation", "sharing", "negotiating" - and the relationship between power and conflict?

Review More often than not, the "Unequal resources" game is played out at a high pitch of competition, partly, perhaps, because of the way it is set up - that there should be a clear "winner". However, it should have highlighted some of the consequences of both competition and conflict - because competition and conflict are not always easy to separate. Competition can be seen as a pre-condition for conflict.

One way of looking at the game is to see it as a vying for power - either within each group, as certain individuals make bids for a dominating kind of leadership, or between groups, as they compete against the other groups for the power position of being the winner. Whether such competition becomes destructive or constructive depends, of course, on the context certain kinds of competitive behaviour, found acceptable in sporting contests, would not be found acceptable in other spheres of life. The "game" you have just played might have revealed a variety of behaviours which could be called destructive in non-gaming contexts, e.g.,

- One group holding back information from other groups;
- Lying - a deliberate distortion of the facts;
- Aggressive or hostile behaviour between groups.

Consider, also, whether what happened in your groups reflects what research has shown usually happens in what is called a "win- lose" conflict:

- Each group tends to become cohesive, as members close ranks against the other competing groups;

- Each group becomes task-oriented;

- In each group, task-oriented leadership begins to take over from maintenance-oriented leadership;

- Each group tends to become structured and demands increased loyalty and solidarity;

- Emotion rather than reason begins to determine group decisions.

With regard to the other competing groups, each group:

- Creates a distorted picture of the "enemy";
- Becomes increasingly hostile towards and decreases contact with the "enemy".

The "Unequal resources" game has focused our attention on competition and the way in which assertiveness can slide into aggression. Now let us turn our attention to an activity which demands collaboration and co-operation.

TASK 3 The "Broken squares" game


To raise awareness of what happens in an activity that depends on co-operation and to explore feelings that occur in a "helping" rather than a competing situation.


One set of "broken squares" for each team of five players.


1. Form groups of five, with an observer for each group.

2. Each group will receive a set of pieces of card. The task of the five members of each group is to make five perfect squares. The task is not finished until each of a team's members has in front of him a perfect square of the same size as those of the other four players.

The rules of the game are:

- You cannot speak;
- You cannot signal to another member to give you a piece;
- You can, however, give pieces to other team members;
- The observer will be watching to ensure that the rules are not broken.

3. All groups begin the exercise at the same time.

4. When one group finishes or when all groups finish - or at the end of an agreed finishing time (allow at least 20 minutes) - call a halt to the game.

5. Discuss what happened with the other players and with the observers.

Some points

1. What were the feelings of the participants when they saw the unequal for discussion distribution of the "resources"?

2. Were people unwilling to give away their own pieces?

3. What were the reasons for people breaking or wanting to break the rules?

4. What were the feelings of those participants who had to be shown how the pieces fitted together?

5. How do the feelings and frustrations of the game relate to the problems experienced by leaders working in community-participation projects?

6. What connections can be made with the difficulties communities have in working in a cooperative manner?

Review This highly symbolic game mirrors some of the difficulties we face whenever we are constrained to suppress our desire to "tell" or "show", when we think we have the solution to someone else's problem. Once, when this game was played in a workshop for community-development officers, one participant was so intent on completing his own square that he was totally engrossed in collecting pieces for himself. Despite attempts by other members of the group to signal that he was supposed to share pieces so that all members could complete a square, he went on blindly collecting almost all the pieces on the table. Eventually, he realized that everyone else was watching him in amused disbelief. He learned something about his own directing and competing inclinations! Many participants - even experienced workers in community-participation schemes - find it hard to resist moving someone else's pieces around when they think they have the answer to the other person's problem. The conflict here Is an Inner one - how, in an activity that calls for co-operation, to supress our desires to assert ourselves?

II. Styles of conflict-management

Driving forces

The experience of the preceding two games should have helped us to identify two crucial factors - two driving forces - which will determine how conflict situations are played out:

ASSERTIVENESS: the extent to which we attempt to satisfy our own concerns; and

COOPERATION: the extent to which we attempt to satisfy the concerns of others.

There are a number of ways or "styles" in which individuals or groups manage conflict, but each style can be understood as a combination or, rather, interplay of these two driving factors.

No one style will be right for all occasions. However, before we go on to discuss the appropriate-nesses of each style, perhaps it would be best to identify the range of available styles, by reflecting again on your own approaches to conflict resolution.

TASK 4 Discover your own conflict-management style

This questionnaire is designed to help you identify your preferred style of conflict resolution

Choose from 30 pairs of statements the one in each case which best fits your preferred style in handling differences between yourself and others:


1. I usually stick to the pursuit of my goals.
2. I like to make clear all my concerns and views from the outset.


1. I put all my cards on the table and encourage the other person to do the same.
2. When conflicts arise I do my best to win.


1. Once I take up a position I defend it fiercely.
2. Rather than argue, I prefer to look for the best solution possible.


1. I sometimes give in to the wishes of the other person.
2. I think that differences are not always worth worrying about.


1. I would rather accept the views of others than rock the boat.
2. I avoid people with strong opinions.


1. I like to co-operate with others.
2. I feel that most things are not worth arguing about: I stick to my own views.


1. I try to find some compromise solution.
2. I usually stick to the pursuit of my goals.


1. When conflicts arise, I try to win.
2. I look for the middle ground.


1. I like to meet the other person half-way.
2. Once I take up a position, I defend it fiercely.


1. I feel that differences are not always worth worrying about.
2. I try to find a compromise solution.


1. I look for the middle ground.
2. I avoid people with strong views.


1. I feel that most things are not worth arguing about. I stick to my own views.
2. I like to meet the other person half-way.


1. I usually stick to the pursuit of my goals.
2. I sometimes give in to the wishes of the other person.


1. I would rather accept the views of others than rock the boat.
2. When conflicts arise, I try to win.


1. Once I take up a position, I defend it fiercely.
2. I like to co-operate with others.


1. I try to find a compromise solution.
2. I sometimes give in to the wishes of the other person.


1. I would rather accept the views of others than rock the boat.
2. I look for the middle ground.


1. I like to meet the other person half-way.
2. I like to co-operate with others.


1. I feel that differences are not always worth worrying about.
2. I stick to the pursuit of my goals.


1. When conflicts arise, I try to win.
2. I avoid people with strong opinions.


1. I feel that most things are not worth arguing about. I stick to my own views.
2. Once I take up a position, I defend it fiercely.


1. I like to make clear all my concerns and issues from the outset.
2. I feel that differences are not always worth worrying about.


1. I avoid people with strong opinions.
2. I put my cards on the table and encourage the other person to do the same.


1. Rather than argue, I prefer to look for the best solution possible.
2. I feel that most things are not worth arguing about. I stick to my own views.


1. I like to make clear all my concerns and issues from the outset.
2. I try to find a compromise solution.


1. I put my cards on the table and encourage the other person to do the same.
2. I look for the middle ground.


1. Rather than argue, I prefer to look for the best solution possible.
2. I like to meet the other person half-way.


1. I sometimes give in to the wishes of the other person.
2. 1 like to make clear all my concerns and issues from the outset.


1. I put my cards on the table and encourage the other person to do the same.
2. I would rather accept the views of others than rock the boat.


1. I like to co-operate with others.
2. Rather than argue, I prefer to look for the best possible solution.


The questionnaire consists of statements related to each of five different conflict resolution styles. Each statement is paired in comparison with one statement from each of the other four styles.

The score sheet on the next page below shows you how to work out your score.

A, B. C, D and E represent the five conflict-resolving styles:


So, for instance, if you chose the second statement of the first pair then you would score 1 for E. If you chose the first statement of the second pair, you would score another 1 for E, and so on.

The maximum score for any mode is 12.

The total aggregate score is 30.

A score of more than 6 on any mode indicates a preference for that mode.

However this is a one-shot, one-point-in-time indicator of your response to conflict and therefore it does not in itself have any definite validity.

Nevertheless, you might like to take the self-exploration further, by reflecting on how you usually react in conflict- situations - and see if your memory of recent significant encounters bears out the result you have just come up with. However, the main purpose of the questionnaire was to introduce the notion of five distinct styles and to give you a clear idea of their different natures.


Conflict- resolution styles

The five styles identified in the questionnaire are arrived at from a balancing out of the two basic forces or dimensions of conflict situations. In any conflict between two individuals or two groups, the way resolution is sought will depend on:

ASSERTIVENESS - how assertive or unassertive each party is in pursuing its goals; or

CO-OPERATION - how co-operative or uncooperative each party is in pursuing the goals of the other.

The two dimensions define a model of conflict-resolution which gives us a usable framework for describing various conflict- management behaviours and for assessing their relative strengths and weaknesses.


The competing style

Competition The competitive style is both assertive and unco-operative. To compete is to try to meet one's own needs and concerns at the expense of the other party. To achieve this desired outcome, a competitor will use whatever power is available or acceptable - all the sources of power discussed in the previous manual:

Status: Using position or rank and exercising whatever authority has been given, to achieve the goal by legitimate means - within the rules.

Punishing: Using whatever sanctions are available or, even, physical force.

Rewarding: Distributing gifts, whether monetary or otherwise, to "buy" support.

Personality: Relying on one's popularity to gain acceptance of one's own ideas and wishes.

Informing: Trading on established experience and special knowledge to give weight to one's own policies;

Using, sometimes manipulating, any particularly relevant items d knowledge to further one's own position.

The statements from the questionnaire which characterize this style are:

"I usually stick to the pursuit of my goals", and

"When conflicts arise, I try to win".

So, the competitive style is a power-oriented style. People using it try to gain power through direct confrontation or through manipulation. No attempt is made to adjust to the other party's goals or concerns.

Sometimes, if the stakes are high enough, the only restraint on a person's or group's use of power is some external force such as the law or strong social customs. In some contexts industrial relations or civil rights, for Instance some people argue for a competitive style In all conflict-situations. Others say that such a style should always be condemned, because it inevitably fosters a win/lose outcome.

However, a competitive style is not in itself necessarily "bad". It all depends on the circumstances. In situations where life Is threatened, there might be a need for the quick and decisive action of a power-oriented competitive style. Sometimes, it might be necessary to compete just in order to protect oneself from those who are ready to take advantage of those who do not compete. Also, it is possible to compete without hurting the other person or destroying a relationship. In group exercises like "brainstorming", for instance, a competitive element is used constructively to generate creative ideas.

Strengths A competitive strategy might, then, be appropriate when:

- Quick, decisive action is vital;
- An unpopular action needs to be taken;
- There is no doubt about what is the right course of action;
- Defensive measures are urgently required.


After years of surveying and negotiating, an expectation has been created that a certain squatter settlement will be upgraded and a "sites-and-services" scheme established for those residents who will be displaced by the improvement project. Then a sudden announcement is made by an official of the city authority that the settlement Is to be demolished to make way for a new inter- city highway. In this case, a speedy, competitive action might well be necessary - a strong representation to the authorities which counters the announced move with the established case for upgrading. A reluctance to use a competitive style can actually lead to a group or a project not tapping all available resources within its midst. It can also confirm a group in vulnerability, when external forces are totally uncompromising or uncollaborative.


If opportunities for compromise or collaboration exist, competition can result in lost opportunities, if it degenerates to what amounts to stubborn opposition. People tend to give up arguing with stubborn competitors.

The accommodating style


At the opposite pole from competition is accommodation - unassertive and cooperative behaviour. Accommodation means putting the other party's needs above one's own even if one has very strong needs and concerns related to the situation that has produced the conflict.

The representative statements from the questionnaire are:

"I sometimes give in to the wishes of the other person", and

"I would rather accept the views of others than rock the boat".


Accommodation is an appropriate strategy to use when:

- One party is not as concerned as the other;
- One party is clearly "in the wrong";
- Preserving harmony is the most important consideration;
- Gaining goodwill and credit is the most important consideration;
- There are opportunities for learning from the other party.


The residents of a squatter settlement have entered into an agreement with the city authority to provide the labour for a road-widening scheme which is to be funded by the authority. However, at the stage when materials and transport have been provided, nothing has been done to organize the voluntary labour and the residents' committee makes a bid to the authority for it to undertake the work. In this case, when challenged by officials of the authority and reminded of the agreement, the appropriate action by the residents' committee would be accommodation - withdrawing their bid and organizing the labour.


The overuse or inappropriate use of this style can lead to:

- A reduced influence, respect and recognition, inasmuch as the accommodator will be expected always to "give in";

- People, either external agents or subordinate project staff, begin to take advantage of perceived weaknesses.

The avoiding style


This style is characterized by unassertive and un-cooperative behaviour by both parties. Those who use it simply do not address the conflict, acting as if indifferent to others needs and concerns. It is a matter of evading the issue, withdrawing from the discussion or not bothering to press for a resolution - apart from what time itself might bring.

In the questionnaire, the style is represented by the statements:

"I feel that differences are not always worth worrying about', and

"I feel that most things are not worth arguing about. I stick to my own views".


A project officer requested a subordinate colleague to submit invoices, to substantiate claims that had been made for expenses relating to a training course that had taken place two months previously. The colleague promised to send them but, despite repeated requests, failed to do so. In tact, he had either lost them or never had them and, rather than admit his fault, he kept hoping the matter would be forgotten. The project officer suspected this but declined to challenge his colleague openly and merely covered himself by sending the occasional reminding memo.


Avoidance can sometimes be employed effectively as an interim strategy:

- If discussion becomes overheated, it might be advisable to allow a "cooling-off" period;
- On occasions when a conflict-situation should be avoided to allow time for information to be gathered or for a close analysis to be made;
- If the issue is relatively unimportant;
- When there is not enough time to come to a resolution;
- If the issue is identified as only a symptom of a substantial and extensive problem that should be dealt with later.

The only case for total avoidance might be a situation where it is clear that others are far more competent at resolving the issue.


An inappropriate use of avoidance procedures can lead to:

- Communication breakdowns, as people who are themselves "left in the dark" stop taking initiatives;

- Reduced effectiveness, as decisions are made by default;

- Conflicts persisting and then flaring up dramatically at a later stage.

The collaborating style


This style involves the maximum use of both assertiveness and cooperativeness. A high assertiveness aimed at reaching one's goal is balanced with a high concern for the needs of the other person. In fact, those using a collaborative style seek to satisfy the needs of both parties.

The representative statements from the questionnaire are:

"I put my cards on the table and encourage the other person to do the same", and

"Rather than argue I prefer to look for the best solution possible".


A city authority was concerned about the unsightliness, the unhealthiness and the vandalism associated with a particular inner-city slum. Some youngsters from the area just wanted a clean, dignified place to live. They negotiated a project with the authority, whereby they themselves took on the renovation of properties and the authority provided the cost of the materials.


Collaboration is the best way to develop consensus solutions to problems and a consequent commitment to the agreed solutions. Neither side feels it has lost out. In fact, this has been called the "win/win" strategy.

It is most appropriately used when:

- The needs and concerns of the parties are sufficiently important to warrant the time and energy it takes to collaborate effectively;

- It is essential that both parties be committed to the solution;

- One desired outcome Is the growth in confidence and skill in one or both parties that comes from engaging in the rigorous processes of collaboration.


Since this is the most time-consuming and energy- consuming style of all:

- Certain relatively unimportant matters might get too much attention;

- Cumbersome procedures might get established, which lead to frustrating delays in taking urgent action.

The compromising style


Compromise is an intermediate strategy - in a midway position between competition and collaboration, avoidance and accommodation. The approach is to find an acceptable solution to a conflict that partly satisfies both parties.

Therefore, moderate amounts of assertiveness and co-operation are required to effect a compromise.

The style is characterized by the well-known phrase "splitting the difference", and the representative statements from the questionnaire are:

"I look for the middle ground", and

"I like to meet the other person half-way".


The planning for a road-improvement scheme became log-jammed when the city authorities were insisting on minimum standards as expressed in the municipal bye-laws which would have resulted in project costs well above the community's ability to pay. Finally, the authority accepted a compromise solution recommended by the project staff that the house-access roads should at least be wide enough for a stretcher to be carried during funerals and that each plot should be within 50 m of a main road where a fire brigade vehicle could pass - the length of a fire hose being 50 m.

The result of compromise is that more aggregate needs are met than would be met through competition, yet fewer than would be met by collaboration. More issues are confronted than would be confronted by avoidance, yet less thoroughly confronted than they would be by collaboration. Though the compromise solution is mutually acceptable, it only partly satisfies each party's needs or wants.


Compromise solutions are often appropriate and effective when:

- Temporary solutions are sought for complex issues or when the time for decision-making is short;

- When the goals of both parties are fairly important but not worth the effort needed for collaboration;

- When the parties are strongly committed to mutually exclusive goals, and there is little chance that one party will gain an advantage over the other.

Risks If compromises are made too readily or casually:

- The value of an enterprise might be belittled;
- Important principles might be disregarded;
- The trust and commitment of colleagues might be undermined.

III. Choosing a style

To be in harmony with the spirit and practices of community participation, the collaborative style is the ideal to aim for. This would hold true whether you are in a one-to-one relationship with a colleague, trying to work through a difference of opinion, or a facilitator of a residents' group, trying to establish a housing plan with a city authority. For the style implies interactive, participatory modes of communication in problem- solving and decision-making.

However, which particular conflict style is appropriate will depend on the specific situation. To be an effective leader or facilitator in conflict situations, you need to be able to use any of the styles and have a sense of which is appropriate at any given time. However, what tends to happen is that individuals and groups become "locked into" one preferred style and use it in most situations. The consequence is that they neglect other styles that could be effective in reaching their goals.

One of the purposes of this manual is to introduce the full range of styles in such a way that you will have the chance to extend your repertoire and have some guidelines for making a choice. What follows is a brief review of the potentially negative consequences of either overuse or underuse of the five styles described above.


People who habitually use a competitive style might well find that other people react against being perpetually forced into win/lose situations. Also, competitors often are pressured to express anger and aggression, when they are frustrated in getting their way. When this occurs regularly, people tend to avoid them, choose not to give them information. So the consistent competitors can cut themselves off from interaction with people. However, people who never or rarely compete might also, suffer adverse consequences: when encountering competitors, they might feel powerless.


To use the accommodating style to excess is to run the risk of convincing yourself that your own ideas, needs and concerns rarely get the attention they deserve. Accommodators tend to be very reserved and quiet; they are such that they often are not noted or even heard when they do make a contribution. In group interactions, they might well lose respect and influence. However, those who rarely use accommodation might be seen as unreasonable. They might fail to make good relationships with people, because they never gain the goodwill that accommodation can bring.


Some people assume that there are no negative consequences associated with the avoiding style. They consider that, if you do not engage in conflict, you cannot experience negative outcomes, but this is not so. The very avoidance of conflict can create problems for both parties. The person who refuses to participate in making a decision will have a low commitment to it. The decision will be made without that person's input, and the result can be low levels of commitment by both parties and poor implementation.

Never to avoid conflict can also bring adverse consequences. Those who confront every conflict situation head on are likely to stir up hostilities and hurt others' feelings: selectively avoiding conflict is a wise tactic to employ. This calls for the ability to weigh up every potential conflict situation in terms of its importance and of whether engaging is likely to do more harm than good.


Those who always compromise never have the experience of having all their needs met. Also, they might become so caught up in the tactics of negotiation that they lose sight of important purposes, principles and values. However, those who never compromise do not give themselves the chance of developing necessary negotiating skills for those situations where compromise is ethically appropriate or realistically inevitable.


The processes of collaboration are more demanding of time and energy than any of the other styles. Some issues do not merit the expenditure of the time and energy necessary to ensure consensus - some conflicts are so minimal that they are not worth the trouble of actively seeking to resolve them. Collaboration is being overemployed if it is tapping and sapping energies that could be better employed on other issues (one would not, for instance, call a meeting to decide whether a meeting should be called).

However, creative ideas about ways of solving problems are most likely to come from collaborative approaches. Strong commitment to decisions are most likely to come from collaborative approaches. Those people who never use collaboration deny themselves innovative ideas and solidarity in implementation.

Of all the five styles, collaboration most fits the rational, three-stage procedures of problem-solving:


1. Acknowledging that there is a conflict.
2. Identifying each party's needs, concerns and goals.


3. Analysing solutions and their consequences for each party.

4 Selecting the solution that seems to offer the best resolution - that best meets the needs and concerns and achieves the goals of each party


5. Implementing the decision and evaluating the outcomes.

However, there is nothing necessarily right or wrong with any of the conflict-management styles - each will be more or less appropriate depending on the nature of the problem and the characteristics of the parties involved. We all have access to all the styles. What we need to do is develop our skills in executing any of the styles. One of the crucial skills is the ability to explore the conflict situation and choose the most appropriate way to deal with it. However, our ability to respond flexibly will depend on our sensitivity in expressing either or both of the two main determinants of style assertiveness and co-operation. The next chapter explores these two factors in turn and asks you again to engage in some reflective exercises.

IV. Practising assertiveness and co-operation

Assertive behaviour


In training for community participation, assertiveness is a key quality that is sought. It is something that the people of poor communities need to have, if they are to stand up for their rights and organize themselves to enhance the conditions in which they live. It is an essential, basic quality for anyone who is a leader of poor communities - as a representative in negotiations with authorities, as a facilitator of residents' groups or as a project worker.

What is assertiveness and how is it different from aggression? An illustration might help to make the distinction.


Andreas has been patiently standing for a long time in a shop queue. Just before he reaches the counter, a man comes and stands in front of him. What does Andreas do about it? He might be too embarrassed to do or say anything, so he avoids any kind of conflict by keeping quiet, or his anger might so much get the better of him that he blurts out something like, "Who do you think you are? Get in the queue like everybody else!" He might even lay his hands on the offender to push him out of the way. This angry, violent response is aggression. Otherwise, he might control his anger but firmly intervene with something like, "Excuse me, but do you realize that there is a queue here and some people have been waiting a long time?" His refusal to be unjustly treated and his intervention are an example of assertion.

The distinction between the three choices open to Andreas will be brought out in the next reflective exercise in which you can learn about your own habitual responses in similar situations.

TASK 5 Measuring assertiveness*


To identify the nature of assertiveness and to give you an opportunity to explore your preferred style of operating in conflict situations.


In the following questionnaire you will find six sets of three questions, e.g.,

I am a person who:

(a) Does not achieve my goals_______________
(b) Achieves my goals without offending others_______________
(c) Achieves my goals at the expense of others_______________

We all behave in all three ways some times. The method of scoring tries to take account of this fact by asking you to allocate 10 points across the three responses according to how you think they balance out in your case.

For instance, if you consider yourself someone who often fails to achieve your personal s to achieve your personal goals and who takes great care not to give any offence to others, your score might look like this:

(a) Does not achieve my goals


(b) Achieves my goals without offending others


(c) Achieves my goals at the expense of others


If you consider that you try to achieve your goals at all costs, even if it means the domination of others, your score might come out as:

(a) Does not achieve my goals


(b) Achieves my goals without offending others


(c) Achieves my goals at the expense of others


Now complete the questionnaire, making sure that your allocation of points always adds up to 10

I am a person who:


(a) Does not achieve my goals_______________
(b) Achieves my goals without offending others_______________
(c) Achieves my goals at the expense of others_______________


(a) Allows people to take advantage of me _______________
(b) Stands up for my rights _______________
(c) Takes advantage of others_______________


(a) Lets other people choose for me _______________
(b) Makes my own choices _______________
(c) Chooses for other people_______________


(a) Is shy and withdrawn_______________
(b) Is open and expressive_______________
(c) Is competitive and aggressive_______________


(a) Is anxious and inhibited_______________
(b) Is quietly self-confident_______________
(c) Is loud and boastful_______________


(a) Expects not to achieve my goals_______________
(b) Tries to find ways of achieving my own goals and those of others_______________
(c) Is not concerned about the goals of other people_______________


The questionnaire is based on a model that sees assertion as a "happy medium" between two undesirable extremes - passivity and aggression. To work out how you think you stand along this dimension, add up all your scores for each of (a) passivity, (b) assertion and (c) aggression It is always easy to distinguish between assertiveness and passivity but not easy always to distinguish between assertiveness and aggression. However, the distinction is a real one - as the exercise should have demonstrated

The first step in learning how to be assertive is to identify what assertive behaviour entails. The second step is to get an idea of your own way of behaving. The exercises in this manual should have helped you to do this. Feedback from others is important too; it can be very revealing to ask a colleague or someone who knows you well to give you his estimate of how you would score on the above questionnaire. Then you can compare it with your own rating.

It all depends on practice. The role-plays included in this training manual are designed to give you the opportunity for such practice, in simulations which mirror the conflicts you are likely to experience in your work situation. Beyond that, to work on your ability to be assertive, it might be helpful to take note of how you react to particularly problematic situations. Keep a kind of diary in which you record significant events. What kinds of situation bring out a passive or assertive response in you? What sort of people give you difficulty Why is this so? What can you do about it?

Cooperative behaviour


At the other pole from assertion is co-operation - the ability to work with and accept the ideas of other people. The collaborative model of problem- solving and conflict-resolution has been advocate as the ideal for participatory project co-operation - the ability both to express your own ideas and tellings yet, at the same time to recognize and use the ideas and feelings of others.

All of us wilt have had occasions to remember when, in a subordinate position, we have had ideas ignored or rejected by someone in authority over us, but the following exercise asks you to remember those occasions when you have been in a leadership position and have done the same to others

TASK 6 Measuring cooperation


To identify the factors that can block the acceptance of another person ideas and to give you the opportunity of exploring your own behavior.


1. Think back to situations when you have turned down someone else's idea or proposal.

2. Select just one of these occasions and recall the circumstances and the encounter in as much detail as possible

3. Then, make a list of all thereasons - on any occasion - that you might reject an idea.

Be as honest with yourself as you can.


Your list might well have included such reasons as the following:

- The idea is too expensive;
- It is impractical;
- It is politically unacceptable;
- It doesn't come up to minimal required standards;
- He hasn't thought it through enough;
- The costs will never be recovered;
- It challenges my own pet idea;
- I don't like the face of the person who Is putting the idea forward;
- There Is a history of disagreement between us;
- The idea would undermine my own authority;
- It would push my own ideas aside;
- It would mean admitting I have made a mistake;
- It would cause me a lot of extra work;
- I don't want the other person to get the credit;
- It would damage my relationship with someone with whom I want to keep on good terms;
- It challenges my own values.

If reading this list prompts you to think again, add new items to your own list.

Now, go over the reasons you have put down. Think about them. Put yourself in the position of a "cross-examiner" who Is challenging them. Ask yourself some very hard questions:

"How do you know the idea Is impractical? Have you tried it? If not, why not? If there are Impractical elements, what modifications could be made to make them less so?"

"What do you mean by 'politically unacceptable'? How do you know? At what level? With which people?

Have you given the chance of 'selling' the idea?

"Are you convinced that you are not rejecting the idea because you do not like the person? If you find you nearly always oppose the ideas d a particular person, what exactly Is it about him that bothers you? Have you tried to get on good terms with him?"

Finally, you might try out a "force field analysis" on any particular idea you have rejected.

(This decision-making technique Is described In Problem-solving and Decision-making (1): Basic Principles)

How does this exercise effect your thinking about your original decision?

What you do after such a self-examination depends of course on its outcome, but, if you have come to recognize that your reasons for not co-operating are sometimes irrational, superficial or status-oriented, you could make a particular effort to work on your own responses in the real world of work, adopt a co-operative style when this is called for.

V. Exercises in handling conflict

Dealing with feelings

In most conflict-situations, the problem between two or more people will have both a rational and an emotional component - both a "thinking" and a "feeling" aspect. For instance, in the queuing illustration discussed in the previous chapter, Andreas would have thoughts about the unfairness of someone jumping a queue and feelings about being personally slighted. The resolution of such interpersonal situations is usually only achieved when both aspects of the problem have been dealt with. In fact, in disputes between people when the emotions are "flying", the feeling level often needs to be treated first.

Imagine someone charging into your office, very upset and angry because he believes you have mistreated him. Maybe, he is a subordinate member of your project staff, and you have turned down his request for a new piece of equipment - say, a camera for recording his project activities. Merely to restate your reasons for the refusal might be no help at all in reaching calm agreement between you. First, the emotions need to be recognized and dealt with.

Imagine the conversation going something like this:

"Paulo, I think I can understand why you are upset abut this matter. I know you have been trying to acquire a camera for the project for a long time. You think it would be a great help in many of your publicity and training activities. Isn't that so?

"Yes, that's right."

" I appreciate that you feel angry with me because I haven't agreed to the budget allocation. I do, however, accept that it would be extremely useful and that you would make good use of it. The paper you wrote made good sense, and, as I said when I read it through and discussed the idea with you some months ago, if the money were available, I should support your claim fully. Now, can we think together about the priorities we need to work out, given the limited amount of money at our disposal?"

"OK. It was lust that I didn't think you were taking the request seriously. Sorry that I have barged in here, but I was feeling very strongly about it."

"No, that's fine. But let me explain the problem...."

Notice what happens here. Instead of ignoring or being ignited by the anger of the other person, you recognize the feelings and actually diffuse them by accepting them. You express your understanding of why the other person feels the way he does and, when this feelinglevel rapport is established, you are able to engage in a discussion of the reasons or the "facts" of the case.

The dramatic triangle

There is a very helpful model for analysing such interpersonal conflict-situations. It involves the DRAMATIC TRIANGLE:

The idea is that, in conflict situations, we tend to take up the victim role whenever we feel "discounted" in any way - belittled, ignored or slighted. We see the other person as either persecuting us (being critical, dominating) or rescuing us (patronizing us, being oversolicitous of our welfare), as in the following example of dialogue:

Trainer: (observing a trainee make a mistake in some operation): "No, that's wrong! Give it to me. This is how you do it."

Trainee: "I'm sorry. I don't think I will ever get the hang of it."

The trainee perceives the trainer as first critical and then, in "doing for", taking away his own agency. The effect of both responses can be to put the trainee into the victim position. If someone resents being forced into the victim role, that person can easily react from the position of the persecutor - and, so, begins a row.

Let us imagine another scenario for the "camera" episode:

Paulo: (having felt victim but now going into the attack as persecutor) "Look, what do you mean by turning down my request for a camera yet again?"

Pedro: (resenting being made Paulo's victim and returning to the attack as persecutor) " What do you mean by barging into my office like this?"

The scene is set for a chain of interchanges where the two protagonists oscillate between the victim and persecutor roles. Then, all that has been said about rational problem-solving approaches in this and previous manuals goes out the window. The aggrieved feelings just block off the channels of calm thought.

In the first camera scenario, one of the parties chose not to get into the triangle - by emotional control and by paying attention to the feelings of the other. We see someone who is able to be assertive without offending or hurting the other, thus becoming neither persecutor, by reacting with anger and criticism, nor being tempted into the rescuer role, by unreasonably giving in to Paulo's demands.

Of course, it is best if neither party gets into the "dramatic triangle" kind of conflict in the first place. The key is how we react to what we feel as a discount - the sense that someone is trying to "put us down" in some way. If we neither give nor accept discounts, feelings do not arise that can so easily escalate into a row.

In the case of the camera, Paulo felt his idea had been unreasonably rejected. This might have been avoided if he had been closely involved in the first place in the dialogue that established the budget priorities. We are back to the point that group problem-solving might be a slow process but that it can prevent such grievances and misunderstandings - and increase commitment to the decisions that are made


To be active agents in the participatory process - to be "subjects" in a community rather than "objects" - we need to be able to assert ourselves in such a way that we give neither hurt nor offense to others. As community leaders, we need to develop sensitivities to the needs and concerns of others - and to encourage these sensitivities in those with whom we work. Only then shall we be able to co-operate with others from a position of strength.

One of these strengths will be an ability to practice collaborative methods of conflict management - and to choose another method when collaboration is neither desirable nor possible.

What follows are some role-plays and simulations that are designed to highlight the concepts and problems treated in this manual - and to provide groups of community workers and leaders with material for practicing the skills of conflict management.

These are only suggested scenarios. You might find it productive to create your own dramatic events and critical incidents, by drawing on your own work-experience.

TASK 7 Role-play: "Interrupted business"


To sensitize participants to what happens in interpersonal conflict-situations and to give them the opportunity of experimenting with conflict- resolving styles.


The problem involves a dispute that occurs between a Building Liaison Officer, Rajah, and a homeowner, Kumar. It Is the officer's task to ensure that no activities occur in a sites-and- services scheme which are in violation of the City Council's housing regulations. In fact, the house- owner is violating these regulations by conducting a small business on his non-commercial plot. He is selling self-made oil lamps and other products from recycled tins. The matter has been reported to the Building Liaison Officer. He goes to investigate and discovers Kumar selling his products.


1. Divide your group into two subgroups.

2. Each subgroup undertakes to explore the situation of one of the characters.

3. The task of each is to build a model - of any objects lying around - which represents the thoughts and feelings of its character. The model should express how the character feels about the problem he faces and the encounter that is to follow. What pressures? What hopes? What does he think of the other person? How will he tackle the conversation?

This task should take about 20 minutes. The model-building should take place in separate rooms, since the models are not shown to the other subgroup until after the role-play.

4. One person is selected from each subgroup to engage in a role-play of the conversation.

5. When the role-play is finished, the models are described and discussed, in relation to what they reveal about the motivations and Intentions of each party as he moved into the conflict encounter.


The building of the model should have helped to establish a dearer identity for each of the two characters, Rajah and Kumar, and also enabled the participants to "get under the skin" of one of them. How the role-play would proceed cannot be predicted - it would depend on the personality and skills of each party - but the follow-up discussion could profitably focus on such points as:

1. What styles of conflict management were used by each person? How successfully?
2. How effectively was the emotional component dealt with?
3. If a resolution came, how was it achieved?
4. If the conversation ended in stalemate or a heightened conflict, why was this?

TASK 8 Simulation: "Parties and pressure groups"


To raise awareness of the problems involved in intergroup conflict situations and to provide practice in the skills of leadership and negotiation.


Gem Settlement lies on the edge of the capital city of a "typical" developing country. Gem was formed when some 250 families "invaded" private land in 1981. It now contains over 850 families.

The country is a parliamentary democracy. The National Party currently forms the government, having won a substantial majority over their main rivals (the Democratic Party) in the elections, so forcing them from power. New elections are to be held next year, and the Democrats have already begun to mobilize support in the irregular settlements.

A year ago, a donor agency expressed an interest in part- financing a squatter-settlement upgrading programme. Gem was one of the settlements selected. Responsibility for the project has been given to the local government. It has drawn up a plan for land regularization and the introduction of water-supply and drainage systems - both points having been stipulated by the donor agency as a condition for involvement.

Adequate finance has been provided, but the water-supply supply and drainage installations require the active participation of the residents who are expected to provide labour. Therefore, a policy decision has already been taken to generate widespread community participation in the scheme. However, no decisions have been taken as to the exact nature of the participation and how it should be organized. It is realized, though, that such participation can only be determined according to local conditions.

A baseline survey undertaken in Gem has revealed the following important factors:

An agency calling itself "Legal Title to Plotholders" (LTTP), which was established under the Democratic Government and has been inactive for some time, is now energetically trying to encourage participation in a land-regularization programme in Gem. So far, it has enjoyed lisle success, largely because of the high cost of the programme to residents and the internal inefficiences of the organization.

Four years ago, another agency, called "Rehabilitation", attempted to remove 88 families from a low-lying area in Gem which was subject to frequent flooding. The plan was thwarted when strong opposition was mobilized by a local doctor. The agency's idea was dropped when the change of government occured.

There are now two factions in the settlement with the following characteristics:

John Apple's group

John Apple is an almost illiterate ex-union organizer with a reputation for land captures and forceful - sometimes violent - action. He has some 520 families in his group who give him support. However, this support is waning, because of his recent inactivity, his blatant corruption and because of the alternative offered by the doctor.

He is not reluctant to maintain his influence by force if necessary but he does attract a degree of respect and loyalty, because it was he who distributed the lots at the outset. In fact, he continues to sell lots illegally. For this reason, he is opposed to a wholesale legalization programme.

Although John Apple is not overtly political, he gave his nominal support to the Democrats with whom he still maintains cordial relations and he is an enemy of the doctor whom he condemns as a "Nationalist lackey". His current community action consists of two things the creation of a football field in the low-lying area where the families who support the doctor live and the introduction of water standpipes. His supporters are not formally organized, though he has a group of henchmen whom he uses to gain support for his ideas.

Doctor Mango's group

"Doe" is a professional. He lives in Gem, where he also has his medical practice. His support base is made up of the 100 or so families he defended from eviction earlier and it is steadily growing.

He is strongly political and an activist for the National Party. He has denounced John Apple for his "Mafioso tactics".

His priorities are water supply and a primary school. Doc created a formal committee with affiliation to the National Party. Residents in the area participate, but the doctor, although respected, suffers from the image that he is "not one of us", since he is certainly much better off than the majority of the people.


1. Form three groups to take part in a role-play:

- Representatives of the donor agency;
- John Apple's group;
- Doctor Mango's group.

2. The three groups operate from separate offices.

3. Negotiations are opened by the donor-agency representatives.

4. Each group adopts the behaviour implied by the background information already given. The groups will or will not negotiate with one another and will adopt tactics which are designed to reach their individual goals.

5. Appoint observers to pay attention to the styles of conflict management that are employed and to note particular successes and failures in the attempts to reach resolutions.


Such a simulation can produce many and complex opportunities for group interactions, but the following questions should be explored:

1. How successfully did the donor-agency representatives go about opening up dialogue with the existing pressure groups in the area?

2. Which of the conflict-management styles were identified? How appropriate were they to the occasion? How successfully were they employed?

3. What were the main barriers to communication and conflict resolution?

TASK 9 Simulation: "Priorities"


To sensitize participants to intergroup and interpersonal conflict-situations and to give participants an opportunity to experiment with conflict-management techniques.


Representatives of different interest groups living in the squatter settlement called Taipou are meeting to discuss the construction of a dispensary in their settlement. Before the meeting, there has already been some disagreement about the most suitable place to build it. In fact, no serious attention has been paid so far to the merits of the scheme.

Taipou is located In a moderately prosperous town along a main road with regular, though not heavy, traffic. The settlement is situated five kilometres from the centre of town, beyond an industrial area. On the other side of the settlement, across a river, there is only undeveloped land. Most people have small vegetable gardens on their plots.

Along the main road are a police station and the Party's branch office. There are also two churches of different denominations: both are active in undertaking socio-economic projects in the settlement. There is a six-classroom primary school in an old dilapidated building that barely meets the present needs: the school is run by an active, albeit poorly funded, ParentsTeachers' Association. The police station and the school are the only buildings connected to water.

When the market was built five years ago, the project was undertaken as the result of an agreement between various interest groups. Each group provided labour and materials. At that time, there were differences of opinion as to whether each group gave its fair share of effort, but, despite considerable delays, the project was finally completed. The general view is that the market has served the people well.

There are about 1000 people living in Taipou of various geographical origin. Most people of similar origin live in the same neighbourhood, although there is some degree of mixing. Four such neighbourhoods, identified as A, B. C and D on the map, have recently become Party Branches.

Before the meeting concerning the dispensary is convened, it is common knowledge that the Parents-Teachers' Association would give priority to having the old school upgraded, while three of the chairpersons of the four Branches would be interested in having the dispensary. In fact, they have already approached one of the church leaders for help in raising money for the project. They have also invited an official of the Ministry of Health to discuss the possibility of governmental support. The Parents- Teachers' Association has also tried to get governmental support, but the Ministry of Education has told them that no financial help could be made available in the for seeable future.

The roles

School principal

He is very concerned about the shape the primary school buildings are in. As the chairperson of the Parents-Teachers' Association he is fully aware that the parents want the building to be repaired and improved. Since the Ministry of Education has not been able to provide money, the Parents- Teachers' Association has been considering other ways to achieve its goals. The principal has asked the church leaders in Taipou to contribute towards the improvement of the school buildings.

Church leader

He is heading one of the two churches that have existed in Taipou for a number of years. The other leader is absent and cannot attend the meeting. However, the two leaders have consulted and both are not particularly committed to contributing for either the school or the dispensary. This is not because the leaders are not interested In the development of the community, but both churches are already heavily involved In their own community projects. Both are also surprised that the churches have been asked for assistance when the projects could get support from official sources.

Chairperson of Branch A

He is very interested in having a dispensary in Taipou and he would like to have it in his neighbourhood. When the market was built five years ago, he exerted considerable pressure to get It situated near his place, and the people in the neighbourhood have been very grateful for this initiative. He is expected to advocate the building of the nursery next to the market. in fact, this is a possibility, because there Is a piece of vacant land adjoining the market. This was originally meant for a market extension, but this was never built because of financial constraints. He has a great deal of respect for the Chairperson of Branch C who originated the idea of the dispensary but he normally pursues his own interests as much as possible.

Chairperson of Branch B

He sees in the meeting an opportunity to bring some improvements in his area. He is interested in having a dispensary rather than having the school repaired. First, the school is not in his area, so any improvements will not bring him any credit among the people in his branch. Secondly, he does not think the buildings are in such a bad shape: classes are being held normally, and the roof is not going to fall on the pupils' heads. Moreover, he has great respect for the chairperson of Branch C who is the originator of the dispensary project. He has already expressed the view that this project would be in the interests of all.

Chairperson of Branch C

It was his idea to build a dispensary in Taipou. He was inspired by a visit to another large squatter settlement where the people had succeeded in building a simple clinic with the participation of the whole community. The Ministry of Health had committed itself to providing a nurse and some basic equipment if the building project was completed. He believes that the same thing could be done in Taipou.

He has, however, made his concern known that the dispensary will be built on the site next to the market, simply because the ground is readily available. It would again favour that part of Taipou, while the lower part of the settlement has received no such development so far.

He is likely to support the construction of a dispensary only if a site near his Branch is chosen. He has already said that, since his people have to walk so far to the market, it would not be fair if they have to go so far to the dispensary as well.

He has a good contact in the Ministry of Health, whom he has invited to the meeting. He has also approached the church leaders in the community to ask for their support in raising money for the project. Their direct response to him has been non-committal.

Chairperson of Branch D

He has expressed some scepticism about the idea of a dispensary. The health centre in the town is already providing a reasonable service. Although it is five kilometres away, public transport is available. He has questioned how the dispensary would be staffed and financed. Yet he has been active in drawing attention to the plight of the school - its need for repairs and the provision of classrooms.

The Official from the Ministry of Health

He has been invited to attend the meeting by his friend, the Chairman of

Branch C. He is aware that a dispute has already arisen about the most appropriate site. However, the position of the Ministry is to be concerned about whether the community can reach its own decision on the matter, finance the project and carry it out. Only then will the Ministry consider support for the project, in the form of staffing and equipment.


1. All participants study the background information on Taipou and the established positions of the people who will be attending the meeting (10 minutes).

2. Participants are selected to take on the roles and they are given time to consider how they will approach and engage in the forthcoming meeting (15 minutes).

3. Observers are appointed and given time to reflect on the points they will look out for, when the meeting takes place (15 minutes).

4. The meeting begins with the election of a chairperson.

5. The declared objective of the meeting is "to discuss the construction of a dispensary, in Taipou" (a minimum of 30 minutes should be allowed for the conduct of the meeting).

6. When the meeting is successfully concluded - or time runs out - discuss the outcome and the processes that have been witnessed

Some Points for Discussion

1. In terms of effective problem-solving approaches, how realistic were the solutions reached?

For instance, if the meeting agreed to tackle both the dispensary, and the school projects, was sufficient attention paid to the demands these would entail - in terms of both time, and money?

2. What restraining forces were identified that impeded the smooth path to reaching agreement?

3. What conflict-management styles were identified?

How appropriate were they and how successfully were they employed?



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