Tensions, disagreements and conflict are a natural part of being in any relationship or group, and can offer an opportunity to grow as individuals and as groups, if supported well. Often, it doesn’t look or feel like that when we’re right in the middle of a conflict, because it can bring up a lot of intense feelings, including pain, fear, anger and hopelessness, for everyone involved.
Many groups working for social change struggle to work through conflict, and this often limits their capacity. We believe that handling conflict well can actually increase a group’s strength to a greater level than before, and can can help social movements grow stronger.
There are many reasons why conflict happens in groups. Sometimes it happens when some people desire change, and others value how things are currently. Other reasons include how power dynamics are facilitated; communication issues; lack of clarity on shared agreements; and how resources, roles and responsibilities are shared in the group. These issues are all interconnected, and often there may be multiple reasons why conflict is happening in a group.
Conflict can be a sign that a group is trying to grow in some way.
We believe that engaging with conflict can offer a path to creative change, and is a fundamental element of systemic social change. Working through conflict can lead to better relationships, ways forward that work for everyone, and addressing the roots of problems.