Forging a Shared Vision for the Future

What does it mean to forge a shared vision for the future? Members of societies that become deeply divided, whether by race, income or class, are less and less able to live side by side, humanize with the other or make the compromise necessary to function in a shared society. Over time, such societal divisions can be exploited by those seeking power, especially if there is not one shared vision for the future, but competing visions that are threatening to each other.  As we have seen in Syria, Iraq and so many places, leaders and groups will destroy the very thing they are fighting for before they relinquish power or compromise.

Yet the right leaders are able to highlight and articulate a shared vision that benefits all sides. Creating a shared vision is essential for any peace and reconciliation initiative.

Guatemalan Ambassador to the Organization of American States, Jose Maria Argueta, recognized that societal division and exclusion was driving conflict in Guatemala, so he created an organization called ESTNA that “brought together representatives of different sectors of Guatemalan society who had no tradition of dialogue, no mutual trust and no sense of shared responsibility for the fate of their country.”

Over time, and with much effort using an approach they named “Enlightened Dissent,” the groups began to change and open their minds. As he put it, they began to feel and articulate a national interest above their own parochial interests. ESTNA’s efforts helped spread change throughout Guatemala, and, after many years, in partnership with Beyond Conflict, Ambassador Argueta took that approach to other countries, like El Salvador, Sri Lanka, Colombia and Iraq.

The level of conflict has grown so much, exacerbated by folks who actually make a living on producing conflict,” Argueta says. “But it is all caused by the fact that communities are not informed. We need to find ways in which people feel less excluded, ways in which they can actually be part of the decision making process on things that will impact them directly. What is it that brings us together as human beings? What do we have in common?

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