Journal of the Operational Research Society

, Volume 62, Issue 8, pp 1543–1554 | Cite as

Boundary critique and its implications for conflict prevention

  • G MidgleyEmail author
  • L A Pinzón
Theoretical Paper


This paper reviews developments in the theory of boundary critique, which has been used in a number of OR projects to support conflict resolution. The authors argue that this theory (and associated models) is also useful for conflict prevention. It indicates the need to support people in discussing their differences before conflict arises. Potential conflicts can be reframed through dialogue focusing on values, and participative governance can institutionalise fair processes for making decisions in the absence of consensus. Some of the boundary critique models also support people in recognising and countering the systemic conditions that enable stereotyping, stigmatisation and the victimisation of minorities. The paper ends by presenting a new model that was originally developed to inform mediation practice, but also has implications for conflict prevention. This helps explain how different interpretations of a common concern arise, and suggests ways to improve mutual understanding between people and/or reframe the common concern in order to defuse a potential conflict.


boundary critique conflict analysis conflict prevention critical systems thinking problem structuring methods systemic intervention 


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Copyright information

© Operational Research Society 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Environmental Science and Research (ESR) Ltd.ChristchurchNew Zealand
  2. 2.University of HullHullUK
  3. 3.Victoria University of WellingtonWellingtonNew Zealand
  4. 4.University of Queensland, Gatton CampusAustralia
  5. 5.University of CanterburyChristchurchNew Zealand
  6. 6.Universidad de Los AndesBogotáColombia

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