Dynamical Systems Theory of Practice (DSToP)

Peter T. Coleman, Columbia University

DSToP model imageExpanding his work detailed in The Five Percent, Peter has outlined a Dynamical Systems Theory of Practice that incorporates the theoretical basis of applying complexity science to intractable conflict. In a pending paper Peter explains that the DSToP assumes the following:

  • Complexity matters: intractable attractors operate within a complex network of forces
  • Time matters: both linear and non-linear change dynamics operate in conflict systemsInclusion matters: given the equifinality of these conflict systems, more inclusive practices involving a broad and diverse set of stakeholders are likely more effective.
  • Emotion matters: despite their relative neglect in conflict research, emotions often play a vital role in sustaining and transforming intractable conflicts.
  • The system rules: intractable conflict systems have their own exceptionally strong internal propensities.

With this foundation, Peter expands his DST theory to outline four major change practices that include Systemic Preparation, Systemic Comprehension, Systemic Engagement, and Systemic Learning and Adaptation. These are further detailed through ten guidelines for working and engaging with intractable conflicts.

In concert with Peter, AC4 has begun to incorporate the DSToP in field work, including work with the World Bank Group exploring the role of memory and reconciliation in perpetuating violence and contributing to peace in Colombia. The DSToP will also form the foundation for advanced training in complexity and conflict.

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