Identify Issues and Causes Worksheet

Identifying the Conflict

A conflict is a serious disagreement, argument or struggle, particularly a protracted one. To work collaboratively on a conflict, you must define or describe the conflict constructively. For example, in a situation where citizens are protesting the proposed route of a highway, you could describe the conflict as:


How to get the decision makers to move the proposed road;


How to get the citizens to accept the proposed route for the road.


However, neither of these descriptions is constructive; both indicate bias towards a particular outcome.


Instead, the conflict could be described more objectively:


How to develop a proposal for the road site that meets everyone’s interests.


Assignment: watch the You Tube video about the Albert V Norrell School in Richmond. What is your objective definition of the conflict?

How to resolve the issue of the physical location of the Norrell School in a way that meets every party’s interests.


Identifying the Potential Causes

Conflicts can have one or many causes. Conflicts can be caused by:


Facts: In trying to answer questions, conflicts can emerge over what data to use, or how to interpret the chosen data.


Interests: People have different interests, goals, or needs; real or perceived incompatibility of goals can lead to conflict.


Relationships: Historical or current personal, social, or political relationships affect how people view interactions. A negative historical relationship can predispose individuals to view current interactions more negatively than they otherwise would. Conversely, positive historical relationships can lead individuals to give others the benefit of the doubt.


Identity: Negative beliefs, discrimination, or oppression can cause individuals to feel their identity is in question. Identity is often more important than issues, and conflicts over identity are often more costly.


Values: Important religious, social, or cultural values can lead to conflict with those who have different values. Culture also shapes whether people think there is a conflict and how they address it.


Structures: Unequal or destructive institutional, economic, or social structures can lead to conflict. Structural conflicts often occur when individual’s basic human rights or needs are unequally acknowledged or met.



Assignment: Use the above list of conflict types and the sphere of conflict on the following page to identify the potential causes of this conflict.

Relationship: socio economic and possibly racial prejudice

This is a very emotional issue for the protestors

There is a negative environmental history as well. The school was closed in 1975 and again in 2006 due to environmental concerns.


Data: Protestors are not accepting data the city and school board are providing showing that environmental quality is good.


Structural: this relates to relationship conflicts where the kids going to Norrell are from a lower socio economic class and there are complaints that if this was a school for kids from a higher socio economic status, they parents would have more influence and their children would not need to go to a school built on a dump.


Value: protestors value the way they feel and their indignity at their children having to go to a school built on a dump. City and school officials value the environmental tests that say there’s nothing wrong with the school.