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Conflict management

Last edited: January 03, 2012

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Since each actor in a campaign maintains its autonomy and its own agendas, conflicts are largely inevitable as the campaign progresses. They can be a natural, healthy part of cooperation, however, since ultimately, they demonstrate that people feel strongly about the work they are doing. Managed constructively, conflicts can be an opportunity to strengthen a campaign team or alliance and enhance the effectiveness of its work. Conversely, conflicts that are hidden or played down may weaken the campaign, as opposing positions may become entrenched and emotional responses may block solutions.

Common sources of conflict

Factors that may lead to conflicts in teams or alliances are outlined below (adapted from GTZ, 2009). For each factor, the alliance needs to find the balance that supports its campaign most effectively.

  • The number of alliance members:  Coordination and negotiations are more complex when a large number of actors are involved; dissident groups and “free riders” (i.e. members that benefit from the alliance without contributing their resources) may appear.
  • The composition of the alliance: In a highly diverse alliance, differences, e.g. in the degree to which alliance members are gender-sensitive, may generate misunderstandings and conflicts. On the other hand, in a homogenous alliance, competition between members may create difficulties.
  • Dominant members (e.g. those who hog resources, or who are overly concerned with promoting their own visibility) may hamper effective collaboration where structures and decision-making processes are not clearly defined and respected.
  • Growth in membership creates potentially stressful shifts in the power balance, especially when it comes with a change in the makeup of the alliance, but stagnation in membership may stifle creativity.
  • A lack or excess of procedures: a lack of straightforward procedures can create or fuel conflicts, while excessive, confusing bureaucracy is likely to generate frustration among members.
  • The degree of consultation: members who feel excluded from decision-making processes may lose their motivation. People affected by multiple discriminations must be empowered to participate equally.
  • The time horizon: Maintaining momentum over several years is challenging, but a necessity in campaigning to end VAW, as the individual and policy/institutional changes needed to end VAW take time and follow complex patterns.
  • Resources: If some alliance members must contribute an amount of time, money and other resources they consider excessive or that may conflict with the needs of their own organization, tensions may arise.