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  • PROJECT SPONSOR Mediators Foundation

Training and Practice of Mediation


The field of mediation needs to evolve to the next level to deal with what is happening in the world today. Natural Bridge is promoting the cutting edge of mediation through online courses and innovative virtual “conflict transformation labs” with participants around the world using Zoom video conferencing.

The Project will support the development of course material essential to teaching mediation. A key resource is Project Director Bruce Allyn’s forthcoming book Natural Bridge,which brings home in a very personal way the key capacities we all need to transform conflict in our own lives and on the global level. The book includes gripping stories and specific lessons of mediation work in global hotspots that have shaken our world in recent history, including in the former Soviet Union, Cuba, Chechnya, Libya and others.

The Project will:

  • Empower people to develop skills and practice mediation so they can surface and transform the deeper elements of conflict that lead to deadlock in relations, in “negative repetitions” of past conflict dynamics.This includes both stuck patterns in our own personal lives and the repeating of history we see in international relations, as in U.S.-Russian relations today—the U.S. is back in an arms race with Russia. It is all too familiar and we can change this dynamic.
  • Work with parties in conflict to generate innovative mediation processes that produce new vision, “moments of light,” when all sides see new possibility, potential ways forward to achieve a concrete agreement.
  • Catalyze and engage what negotiation expert William Ury calls the “Third Side,” a way of looking at a conflict not just from one side or the other, but from the larger perspective of the surrounding community. You can have natural sympathies for one side or the other and still choose to take the “Third Side,” which means actively inquiring to know both sides of the conflict, encouraging a process of cooperative negotiation, and supporting a wise solution —one that fairly meets the essential needs of both sides and the larger community. For elaboration of Third Side mediation, See


The Project will provide online courses to a wide public and to key players in current conflicts in the U.S. and internationally.  A focus will be to mobilize the Third Side to further cooperative negotiation in the current conflict in U.S.-Russian relations.  For application of Third Side mediation processes to U.S.-Russian relations, see Bruce Allyn’s featured articles in the international affairs magazine The National Interest:  The Project will explore the potential for productive engagement in other conflicts, including the possible development of a Third Side mediation process in Chile.  The Project will engage key players in these countries to work together to build local capacity in mediation, catalyze effective mediation processes and develop specific recommendations that further peaceful and constructive dialogue leading to concrete agreements.


Along the way, the Project will offer educational programs to serve the local community, providing free mediation and conflict transformation sessions with young people and children, in Moscow, Santiago and other locations.



To receive updates on Project work, stories and videos from the field, see the Project website There will also be live Zoom conferences from around the world with current participants in mediation training and Track Two citizen diplomacy.  All are invited to be part of the Third Side to bring greater peace to our world.




Bruce Allyn is a Senior Fellow and Affiliated Faculty at the Harvard Negotiation Project and former director of the Harvard-Soviet Joint Study on Crisis Prevention. For three decades, Allyn has taught negotiation and mediation and served as a strategic advisor and negotiation trainer to national and state governments, corporate leadership teams, and nongovernmental organizations in the field of peace and global security.

A highly-respected mediator, Allyn worked with President Mikhail Gorbachev’s government on negotiations to reduce nuclear risk and reform foreign and domestic policy in the 1980s, and played a key role in bringing together top decision makers from the 1962 Cuban missile crisis for a series of unprecedented face-to-face dialogues in Cambridge (1987), Moscow (1989), and Havana (1992). He is a participant in the Working Group on the Future of U.S.-Russia Relations and the University Consortium, and has held positions as associate director of the Harvard Strengthening Democratic Institutions Project, Program Director of the Conflict Management Group, Partner at Monitor Group, and consultant to NBC and ABC News. 

He received his Ph.D. from Harvard in Political Economy and Government, an M.A. from Harvard in Soviet Studies, and an M.A. in Political Philosophy from Oxford.  He received his BA summa cum laude in Government and Russian from Dartmouth College.


Selected publications

  • With James G. Blight and David A. Welch. Cuba on the Brink: Castro, the Missile Crisis, and the Soviet Collapse. Pantheon, 1993.
  • The Edge of Armageddon: Lessons from the Brink. Rosetta Books, 2013.
  • With Graham Allison and William Ury. Windows of Opportunity: From Cold War to Peaceful Competition in US-Soviet Relations. Ballinger, 1989.
  • With James G. Blight and David A. Welch, eds. Back to the Brink: Proceedings of the Moscow Conference on the Cuban Missile Crisis, January 27–28, 1989. CSIA Occasional Paper, no. 9. Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University, 1992.