episode 17

“Our Media & Politicians Prevent Us From Lasting Change” with Heidi & Guy Burgess

episode 18

“We Must Change Our Broken System” with Heidi & Guy Burgess

Listen Now…

Listen Now…

Part 1

“Everybody’s talking, but they’re not listening.”

Duncan welcomes Guy and Heidi Burgess onto the show. They talk about how people have a moral obligation to get involved in solving our problems, and that our current way of thinking isn’t working for us. Climate change and conflict have many similarities, and Heidi explains what they are.

Uncover why our political system simply isn’t working for us, and how we can start changing that. We’re deeply polarized, and our media and politics play into this issue. It stops us from coming together to create lasting change, and we need to fight back against bad actors.

Part 2

“America belongs to everyone who lives here.”

This week, Guy and Heidi Burgess are back to finish their conversation with Duncan.

While it’s important to break down oppressive structures, we don’t have a concrete vision for what we’d replace them with. How can we ensure the replacement system doesn’t continue oppressing others? Duncan explains how important nonviolent protest is for being able to make real change.

Guy and Duncan talk about the importance of treating the “losers” of any political process fairly and respecting their views. We need to be able to empathize with people, even when we don’t agree with them.
We have to open up to new perspectives, and Heidi tells a moving story about the power of bringing different viewpoints together.

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  • Discover how a man in Uzbekistan inspired the Burgesses to make their content accessible to all.
  • Heidi explains the similarities between climate change and conflict. 
  • Guy talks about the issue with watching our favorite news channel. 
  • Understand why it’s imperative we bring people together from different disciplines. (Maybe that’s you!)
  • Heidi calls for people in the field to get involved in teaching people how to deal with polarization.
  • Guy explains why we need to solve problems the same way doctors do. 
  • Uncover why our political system just doesn’t work. 
  • Duncan explains why issues aren’t as simple as yes or no or this or that.

Heidi & Guy Burgess

About this episode’s guests

Guy and Heidi Burgess are a husband-and-wife team of Ph.D. social scientists. They have been studying, teaching, and practicing conflict resolution for 40+ years. They co-direct the Conflict Information Consortium and its underlying project, Beyond Intractability, an online resource library about peacebuilding, strengthening democracy, and conflict resolution. Their current focus is the Constructive Conflict Initiative and The Hyper-Polarization Crisis: A Conflict Resolution Challenge

Connect with our guests

Guest Resources

Beyond Intractability

The Conflict Information Consortium (CIC) directed by Guy and Heidi Burgess, was founded in 1988 at the University of Colorado. It was–and still is–a multi-disciplinary center for research and teaching about conflict and its transformation.

By now it has over 1000 articles, written by over 500 authors, along with over 100 interviews of leading scholars and practitioners who are focused on addressing intractable conflict. 

Things you can do to help


Massive Open Online Seminars (MOOSs)

Conflict Fundamentals MOOS

The full Conflict Fundamentals Massive Open Online Seminar consists of a series of shorter seminars, organized into several different topic areas. It covers the full range of fundamental information needed to understand the fundamentals of the conflict field.

Conflict Frontiers Massive Open Online Seminar Series (MOOS)

The full Conflict Fundamentals Massive Open Online Seminar consists of a series of shorter seminars, organized into several different topic areas. (Available on YouTube & Vimeo)

Constructive Conflict Initiative

We believe that the destructive-conflict-as-usual way in which the U.S.* and so many other societies now commonly address complex, large-scale, intractable conflict represents the single greatest threat to humanity and the planet. 

At this point, we believe that it is incumbent upon those with a background in the many peace and conflict-related fields to start the process of promoting a large-scale effort to address the many difficult challenges posed by destructive conflict. In order to try to initiate such a process, we have drafted what we are calling a Constructive Conflict Initiative (Full Statement) 

Here are the Core Challenges that need to be addressed by this initiative.

    1. Scale –  how to “scale up” the conflict and peacebuilding field’s processes to the society-wide level
    2. Psychological Complexity – A wide range of cognitive biases often lead people to embrace behaviors that are counterproductive.
    3. Social Complexity – Group beliefs about both facts and values arise from the cumulative effects of countless interactions between largely independent individuals.
    4. “Divide-and-conquer” Authoritarians and Plutocrats – Democratic institutions and political actors trying to advance their authoritarian and plutocratic goals using divide-and-conquer tactics.
    5. The “Destructive-Conflict-As-Usual” Industrial Complex – There is a political dynamic in which various companies base their business models around intensifying political divisions and then selling coverage of those divisions.
    6. Absence of a Shared Democratic Vision – We need a shared vision for a 21st-century democracy that most everyone would like to live in and, therefore, be willing to work for.  Such a vision needs at least three major components:
      1. A Commonality That Enables Diversity
      2. A Positive-Sum, Not a Zero-Sum, Economy
      3. A Collective Long-Term Defense of the Commons –
    7. Reconciliation — There may, therefore, be a need for reconciliation efforts that foster a common history that acknowledges the truth of what happened.
    8. Fact-Finding –  How do we cultivate societal fact-finding processes that more closely conform to the characteristics of the “real” world — and are believed by most citizens?
    9. Escalation and Polarization – Escalation and polarization dynamics now commonly divide whole societies into competing, “us versus them” factions that dehumanize one another, and the only goal becomes the utter defeat of the enemy.
    10. Miscommunication, Deception, and Misunderstanding – It is now common for competing social groups to have wildly inaccurate and usually unjustifiable negative images of one another.
    11. Collaboration – The task of actually reaching mutually-beneficial agreements is increasingly challenging because of the complexities of today’s issues, the large number of competing interests, wide cultural differences, deep-seated distrust, and a general reluctance to make the required compromises.
    12. Ineffective Institutions for Adjudication and Legislation – For win-lose decisions cases, the success of democratic institutions depends upon the availability of widely-trusted mechanisms for wisely and equitably making hard choices about who wins and who loses.
    13. Collective Action – Many issues including, especially, the management of the Commons, require conflict-handling institutions that go beyond relatively routine disputes between parties and look at issues in a society-wide way.
    Hyper-Polarization, Neutrality and Oppression

    You are invited to participate in and contribute to an online discussion of  how those with conflict resolution and peacebuilding expertise can do more to defend liberal democracies while also helping them live up to their ideals.

    Begin with this Framing Article.

    A central part of this discussion begins with a critique of The Neutrality Trap, a book by Bernard Mayer and Jackie Font-Guzman. Here are some initial articles in Burgess-Mayer Dialogue:

        Book Cover: The Neutrality Trap

        Omni-Win Resources


        Here are some podcast episodes related to the conversation in today’s episode:

        Videos & Essays

        Here are some essays and videos from the Omni-Win Project YouTube Channel and Substack about topics we discussed in the episode.

        An Essay on Upgrading Democracy

        Topics Discussed in Episode


        Here are some resources on effective communication and active listening:

        About The Omni-Win Project

        The Omni-Win Project is a multimedia effort to raise awareness of the myriad existing and emergent opportunities to improve our democracy and heal our political culture.

        Our mission: facilitating the healing and evolution of our democratic systems and political culture, so that we can co-create a future that works for everyone.

        Meet The Host

        I am omnipartial: I am biased in favor of the success of everyone and the whole. I believe it is possible to improve systems of communication and interaction in ways that will allow humanity to thrive and evolve through our complexity and diversity.

        My purpose in life is to support an omnipartial revolution. How? By helping the world understand the fractal nature of conflict and how we can transform conflict into a positive and inspiring experience. We are all in this together. I firmly believe we can do this complex dance through life with much more grace and beauty.

        I am specifically committed to transforming how we work together in teams and organizations and how we experience conflict and collaboration in our democracy.

        Fractal Friends

        Duncan is also the host of the Fractal Friends podcast. An exploration of our self-similary across our diversity.

        Fans of the Omni-Win project podcast will enjoy this collection of episodes: https://www.fractalfriends.us/transforming-politics about Transforming Politics and Healing Democracy

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