Global Peacebuilder Shamil Idriss Explains His Approach to Navigating Conflict

As part of Bridgewater’s Distinguished Speaker Series in which changemakers share their expertise, Shamil Idriss, CEO of the global peacebuilding organization Search for Common Ground, joined Bridgewater staff for a conversation that covered the dynamics of conflict, the state of conflict in the world today, and peacebuilding approaches that anyone can apply to their own lives — including at home and in the workplace. The efforts of Search for Common Ground around the world earned it a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2018.

Idriss’s ultimate goal as a global peacebuilder isn’t to end conflict — his goal is to build more resilient groups who are equipped to navigate the inevitability of conflict in a healthy manner. When handled the right way, he said, conflict can unlock a path to more successful dynamics and systems. “Sometimes shared challenges and shared threats can be a wonderful source for new relationships to form,” he said.

While Idriss's organization applies this approach at the geopolitical level, from Burundi to Niger, it can be useful much closer to home, whether in our local communities, at work, or in our personal relationships. With that in mind, Idriss outlined three simple steps to tackle conflict well: incentivize and celebrate collaborative behaviors; build a network of champions across dividing lines and equip them to foster cooperation; and drive that cooperation toward sustainable systemic change.

At the geopolitical level, the current dominance of adversarial approaches is forefront in Idriss’s mind. He maintains that this win/lose thinking has proven itself insufficient when faced with critical interconnected issues like climate change and public health. Faced with the rise of non-state actors, collapsing states, and interconnected global crises, Idriss predicts that we will inevitably evolve new systems. To him, it’s as much an opportunity as an existential crisis: “We’re now at this scary but also exciting time, if we can harness it,” he said, “of needing to make the transition between one world order and what’s going to come next.”

Watch the full conversation, moderated by Bridgewater’s Head of Corporate Engagement, Robyn Shepherd.

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