When a community or country finds itself in a state of crisis, several human behaviours are triggered, which is what ultimately leads to violence and discord in a broader social society. The physical and psychological response to rapid imposition of change in these instances can often be met with strong resistance or of great need/anticipation depending on the kind of change that is being called. When managing a change process, the understanding of how we as humans respond to change is a vital part in designing interventions and systems that translate the initial resistance to change into more positive, effective actions and responses. Methodologies like the SCARF model, has assisted specialists like to create dynamic, problem-solving interventions that are people-centered and focus on creating sustainable change that people can actively be part of.
When adapting the SCARF model into practice, these are a few observations we’ve managed to garner together when addressing conflict:
The element of power which is related to “status” is triggered particularly within a public domain, prompting individuals or groups to assert control over one another. This is often done with the aid of others. This especially happens in the context of leadership. Yet, when we isolate key actors or members and transfer engagements to a neutral space, it allows the parties in conflict to engage equally without disruption or public involvement.
When it comes to change, particularly in society, the level of uncertainty is much larger as it impacts the day-to-day lives of many. When many individuals are uncertain about the sustainability of their livelihoods or futures, it creates much apprehension and ultimately a resistance to change owing to suspicion and mistrust. When facilitating a change management process of a group or community, it is important to identify the key areas of concern and what drives it. This needs to be communicated to the community or group as it will create a sense of transparency, inviting them to participate in the problem-solving process. A collaborative process of engaging them through and in the intervention options that is designed or crafted for dealing with the concern, allows them to collaborate in cultivating the most beneficial environments for change to take place and promote a sense of ownership of the process.
Our individual and shared freedom or ability to live autonomously is an aspect of human behaviour that has had a great impact on social revolutions all over the world. By restricting an individual’s ability to develop themselves autonomously or taking ownership away from their ability to make decisions, can create a great deal of internal and external conflict. Simply put, imposition leads to opposition and impacts every single element identified in the SCARF model. When entering discussions hinged on freedom and autonomy, it is important to be mindful of the language used when discussing options for resolution, encourage engagement around the kind of change they would like to see and allow those involved to determine how they would like to adapt these going forward.
Engagements based on compassion and empathy, be it from an emotional or value-based perspective are key characteristics of dialogue that help shift people from a space of entrapment or “stuckness” to a space of opportunity. Particularly in a conflict environment, parties need to feel that their experiences are acknowledged or validated and understood. Reflective listening or paraphrasing is a dialogue tool used in facilitation and negotiation to highlight and contextualise the deeper areas of conflict, as well as provide one wholistic context for all parties to engage in and relate to one another with. It establishes a sense of trust and unity despite the current differences.
Building a fair and just system or society can often be more difficult in practice. In a litigious process and complex conflict scenarios, the triggers of behaviour stemming from very personal experiences of parties are often not unpacked thoroughly enough to determine the crux of conflict. This can result in the perception that justice has not been exercised or distributed fairly and in turn create a perception of an unfinished or misaligned process, despite the need for resolution of the issue or the crisis. When building a system based on fairness, it is important to define and identify the rights and needs of all the parties and then propose interventions that are designed for win-win outcomes. Amicable outcomes are more sustainable and create a deeper sense of stability. It also creates a better opportunity for sustainable relationship-building and cultivates new opportunities in a broader social context.
In closing, responding to change is inherently complex and impacts the lived and shared experiences of everyone in society. By understanding what drives an individual on a basic level, we can begin to understand the collective experience in response to widespread change, ultimately informing how we adapt to it, embrace it, and embed it into our daily practice.