Experts are of the view that interpersonal relationships fail and crises escalate in society because people have not discovered that Creative problem solving (CPS) skills are a huge resource for social cohesion. This is principally because either problems are not recognised or they identified but are not dealt with appropriately. For peace practitioners, CPS skills are highly sought after as indispensable tools for not only identifying but solving escalating tensions and communal problems.
CPS is a way of identifying opportunities when conventional thinking fails. This is to solve existing problems. It encourages waring parties to find fresh perspectives and come up with innovative solutions to peace. This can be achieved through formulating a plan to overcome obstacles and reach desired goals. It also involves deploying creativity to generate new ideas towards finding lasting solutions to lack of peaceful coexistence.
CPS is based on separating divergent and convergent thinking styles so as to focus on creating, solving and evaluating problems. It entails a clear structure of identifying the problem, generating new ideas, evaluating the options and formulating a doable plan towards successful implementation.
This strategy equips people with critical thinking and other relevant skills needed to facilitate and support peace and social cohesion processes in the community. This skill also empowers members of the society to possess requisite skills that promote peaceful coexistence. Through it, erstwhile enemies are able to mitigate conflict issues they face daily.
This initiative is meant to strengthen social cohesion in the society through community and religious leaders, identify and tackle religious extremism as well as initiate counter-narratives for practical community action. Where there are tensions, it helps to improve communications and interpersonal skills of individuals.
CPS facilitates creative thinking towards finding innovative solutions that engender peace and development. It assists citizens to empathize and bond with one another towards achieving their aims in life. By it, divergent thinking generates potential for solutions through brainstorming at community level. It also facilitates convergent thinking which involves evaluating various peace options and choosing the most promising one.
The core principles of Creative Problem Solving which include ensuring balance, asking questions, suspending judgement and sticking to a big “Yes” instead of “No” guides citizens in getting clarity through identifying a vision for peace, gathering data about infractions to peace and generating crucial questions. This further leads to exploring ideas, formulating solutions and having a doable plan to achieve lasting peace in the community.
This brings us to the various stages of CPS skills – The first stage is problem identification. Here, you have to detect and recognise that there is a problem; then, identify the nature of the problem and define it. The first phase of problem-solving involves thought and analysis. Although identifying a problem can be a difficult task, it involves asking questions like, is there a peace-related problem?What is the nature of the problem and how can it be best resolved?
The second stage is structuring the problem. This involves observation, careful inspection, fact-finding and developing a clear picture of the said problem. Structuring a problem entails gaining more information about it and increasing understanding. Investigation and analysis as well as building a more comprehensive picture of both the goal(s) and the barrier(s)remain crucial especially as it regards more complex problems.
The third stage is seeking for solutions. Since peacebuilding and social cohesion are ongoing processes, peace practitioners across the country need to generate possible courses of action. Part of problem-solving is thinking about possible solutions. It could be getting a small group to brainstorm about the situation. Here, allow everybody in the group to express their views on possible solutions. Since people have different expertise in the community, it is crucial to allow them air their views.
Fr. Justine Dyikuk is a lecturer in Mass Communication, University of Jos, editor of Caritas newspaper and Convener of the Media Team Network Initiative (MTNI), Nigeria.