Purpose - This study aims to investigate scholars' roles in resolving environmental community conflict, as environmental community conflict is becoming an increasingly serious problem in contemporary China, and it explored the underlying factors and mechanisms that influence successful conflict resolution. Design/methodology/approach - Based on a combination of three types of sources - interviews, participant observation and existing literature, the study compared and contrasted 35 cases through a two-stage study project with 25 environmental community conflict cases in the first stage and ten non-environmental cases in the second. Findings - Results indicate that scholars serve seven roles in community conflict resolution: identification persons for potential sources of community conflict and supporters for the people who evaluate conflict problems before attempting to solve them; advisers for conflict protagonists; leaders of many knowledge-related activities; organizers of entrepreneurial activities for other community members; information brokers between community members and other stakeholders; representatives of the government, firms, community members and other stakeholders; and self-interested participants. While scholars' participation is important for resolving community conflict, their actions are often not effective. Successful community conflict resolution involving scholars must satisfy eight underlying factors: local scholars' sustained participation; high capacity; improvement on the organizational level of community members; emphasis on high efficiency knowledge and information transmission; effective finding and use of the community's social capital; continual optimization on their action strategies; obtainability of some benefits; and non-local scholars' sustained external support through social capital. The more closely these rules are followed, the more successful scholars' participation in community conflict resolution will be. Originality/value - The findings have practical implications for improving the effectiveness of scholars' participation in community conflict resolution in contemporary China and even in other countries.
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