Modern day conflicts are complex – they revolve around questions such as whose values are reflected in our society, what is equitable, who has power, and even what is true. If we are to make progress as a society on challenges such as climate change, food insecurity, water availability, or public health, then we need to find ways to collaborate and work across divides. A place where people can ruminate and debate. A place where debate doesn’t turn into conflict. A place where conflict can be resolved. At the Institute, our work is about creating that place for productive dialogue and bridging divides in order to address collective action challenges facing our modern world.

It’s okay to disagree, to debate, to want to go in different directions. What we want to avoid is the conflict that traps us in vicious cycles and stalls progress. “Conflicts are systems, a series of interlocking feedback loops that interact with each other. The forces are complicated and interrelated, like weather patterns. Which means that any change can affect the whole system, not always in ways we predict,” writes Amanda Ripley in her book, High Conflict. Ripley then adds that the loops can be intercepted, and within those moments, we can find opportunities to disrupt the system. Perhaps find a new path forward, beyond conflict.

So how do we find those intercepts? Part of it is recognizing our own contributions, mindset, and emotions. We need to shift the focus away from us versus them. To stop the binary framing of issues as "either/or" and replace with "both/and" thinking. Thoughtful dialogue in a welcoming, inclusive space can also be a path toward preventing or overcoming conflict. But this must be done with intention, a collaborative process, and a goal of finding net advantages for all concerned.

Art can also be a useful way for reflection, connection, and a starting point for understanding. It allows people to find creative solutions to complex issues.  

Todd Siler, a Denver-based artist, has a piece called, History of Conflict Resolution, now available for viewing at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science in the Leprino Family Atrium. Todd’s work explores the nature of the human mind and creative process: how we think, create, learn, invent, innovate, and communicate. This piece, History of Conflict Resolution, represents how connection through art and science can move us through conflict and make sense of our life experiences.

There is no silver bullet for resolving or preventing conflict, but one hopes that we all try.

Kristan Uhlenbrock, Director, Institute for Science & Policy

Watch the artwork installation with commentary from Todd Siler.

Imagine how different our world would be if it were possible to prevent every feud from escalating into chaos, violence, and war. Imagine how much suffering and sorrow this prevention would spare us all, and help keep the peace. Art can connect everything and everyone in purposeful ways. Science can too, so brilliantly and powerfully! Both provide the means and tools to creatively inquire, discover, and build on evidence-based truths. They help enable us make sense of our unique life experiences and share them in productive ways that deepen understanding.

Todd Siler, Artist

Stay in touch.

Sign up to receive The Ampersand, our monthly e-newsletter. We'll also let you know about upcoming events and content launches.

Yes, keep me up to date.