The Onion

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The method is based on the analogy of an onion and its layers. The outer layer contains the positions that we take publicly, for all to see and hear. Underlying these are our interests-what we want to achieve from a particular situation. Finally, at the core are the most important needs we require to be satisfied. It is useful to carry out this Onion analysis for each of the parties/person involved.

Time 1 hour

Material room, wall, paper, colored markers

Group Size 10-25 people

Keywords conflict transformation, analysis, needs, interests, critical thinking



The Onion Tool: Needs in the center, semi-hidden interests and visible positions on the outer skin

This is an actor-oriented method. The aim is to rise up the real needs of conflicting actors, which usually can be hidden under the position of the actor.


1. list all relevant actors who can significantly influence on conflict 2. draw up three rings each of them should be inside of other, like the rings of onion is. 3. name each ring, start from the outer layer and go to inside; position, interest and needs. 4. write down for each actor his/her position, interest and needs in certain conflict.


1. What interest do they have in relation to the conflict, and how do these interest influence the conflict? 2. What are the relationships between the various actors? 3. What capacities do they have to negatively or positively influence on conflict? 4. Do the actors have an interest in peace? What kind of peace do they want? What kind of steps did they do for it? 5. What kind of incentives could be offered to them to choose the peace?


Working with Conflict: Skills and Strategies for Action by S.Fisher, D.Ibrahim Abhi, J.Ludin, R.Smith, S.Williams, S.Williams, Zed books, London, 2000

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Anna Zakaryan

Expert and facilitator for conflict management, project manager at Creative Armenia.