Why are some conflicts apparently intractable? Why did Brexit and the victory of Donald Trump come as such a surprise?
How can a destructive organization like ISIS successfully recruit youth from many cultures?
There are underlying motivations at play in our politics that we are often unaware of.
In the case of Brexit and Donald Trump, voters feel that elites and the establishment are not representing their values and sense of identity. ISIS is able to attract youth by providing a sense of mission and purpose - but for ruinous ends.
In many cases, conflicts are triggered or continue because certain emotional needs, such as status or legitimacy, are worth fighting for. As one astute observer of the human condition wrote: "The basic human instinct is not self-preservation but preservation of self-image."
These motivations result in fixed mental states that create misunderstandings between conflicted sides. An inability to think more flexibly, and see various perspectives and a broader context, are hallmarks of this condition.
All these underlying drivers are often ignored by decision-makers, policymakers and international relations professionals in favour of more tangible causes. Progressive and liberal thinking tends to overlook these motivations in favour of either economic interests or more abstracted, technocratic management; while some nationalists, extremists and self-serving leaders indulge and manipulate them to destructive ends.
Instead, they need to be well understood and managed constructively. A greater focus on them will improve our capacity to manage politics and conflicts.
More than ever before we need a greater understanding of the fundamental unit of society: the human being. We also need to learn what lies behind our political problems and their solutions: our basic human motivations and needs.
Learning to detach from fixed positions and automated thinking, ideological or otherwise, is a prerequisite for more creative and effective approaches to conflict resolution and the management of politics between and within countries.
This initiative is dedicated to developing a process of long-term education about this approach to improving our politics. We aim to show how these ideas work in the political sphere and in international relations, and to disseminate them as broadly as possible in the policy world as well as to aspiring practitioners of diplomacy and politics.
A guild is the time-honoured name for a group of people dedicated to excellence in their craft. More than ever, we need this sense of excellence in the practice of international relations and politics, and a community that nurtures it, if only to counteract the deterioration we see all around us.