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Track Two

An Institute for Citizen Diplomacy

Track Two is a nonprofit born from Esalen Institute and the Center for Theory & Research. Its mission is to advance positive relationships between countries in conflict by convening experts and influencers from these countries to spawn peace-building networks.

We offer the representing experts the space and tools they need to challenge their entrenched perceptions, shift perspectives and embrace cooperation, collaboration and friendship. Within the landscape of Esalen and Big Sur, CA there is space and safety to develop collaborative cultural, educational, environmental, scientific, and related endeavors together through these collective networks.

Track Two and Esalen envision a future where people across borders find common ground and work together to build a peaceful, thriving world.

We believe there are humane and diplomatic avenues to coexistence. These avenues must be explored to mutual benefit. When we arrive at these with deliberation, we can continue work essential to preventing the end of life on this planet.

Citizen diplomacy is vital. We should not make enemies when we and our world so urgently need friends. Friends can deter nuclear mishaps. Friends can work together to move climate actions. Friends can limit cyber risks. Without friendship across borders, humanity has no chance.

More than ever, it is incumbent that we be acutely aware of the disinformation campaigns orbiting the globe. We must offer support to those who need it most.

Track Two does not believe violent conflict or war are valid means to push political agendas. Today, threats to our existence from nuclear arms, climate catastrophes, diseases and cyberattacks are intensifying. All people, of all nations, have a right to peace, meaningful work, shelter, and food. Collective work must be done to ensure our children and grand-children can live full lives in a habitable world.

Track Two is a nonprofit born from Esalen Institute and the Center for Theory & Research. Its mission is to advance positive relationships between countries in conflict by convening experts and influencers from these countries to spawn peace-building networks. We offer the representing experts the space and tools they need to challenge their entrenched perceptions, shift perspectives and embrace cooperation, collaboration and friendship. Within the landscape of Esalen and Big Sur, CA there is space and safety to develop collaborative cultural, educational, environmental, scientific, and related endeavors together through these collective networks.

Track Two and Esalen envision a future where people across borders find common ground and work together to build a peaceful, thriving world. We believe there are humane and diplomatic avenues to coexistence. These avenues must be explored to mutual benefit. When we arrive at these with deliberation, we can continue work essential to preventing the end of life on this planet.

Citizen diplomacy is vital. We should not make enemies when we and our world so urgently need friends. Friends can deter nuclear mishaps. Friends can work together to move climate actions. Friends can limit cyber risks. Without friendship across borders, humanity has no chance. More than ever, it is incumbent that we be acutely aware of the disinformation campaigns orbiting the globe. We must offer support to those who need it most.

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Treading where diplomats cannot.
Track Two Website

Track Two Origins

Established in 1980, Track Two: An Institute for Citizen Diplomacy has convened influencers from countries in conflict through immersive workshops and conferences. These retreats stimulate discussions, forge relationships and activate networks. These networks have in turn established formal partnerships in healthcare, peacebuilding, space exploration, literature, journalism, and the visual and performing arts.

This work has brought successful practices in conflict resolution, collaborative communications and emotional and psychological development to countries and regions in conflict — with the US, and with each other.

Cruising on the Volga River 1981 with two American psychologists and three Soviets.

Established in 1980, Track Two: An Institute for Citizen Diplomacy has convened influencers from countries in conflict through immersive workshops and conferences. These retreats stimulate discussions, forge relationships and activate networks. These networks have in turn established formal partnerships in healthcare, peacebuilding, space exploration, literature, journalism, and the visual and performing arts.

This work has brought successful practices in conflict resolution, collaborative communications and emotional and psychological development to countries and regions in conflict — with the US, and with each other.

Cruising on the Volga River 1981 with two American psychologists and three Soviets.

Dulce Murphy and well-known Russian writer, Viktor Erofeev. Late 1980s.

Esalen launched the Soviet-American Exchange Program during the height of the Cold War, with a series of gatherings organized by Dulce and Michael Murphy and others. While attending these meetings hosted by Esalen, Joseph Montville, a former State Department lead conflict negotiator, coined the phrase “track-two diplomacy” — a now well-recognized diplomatic practice.

Track two diplomacy refers to informal, non-governmental, private-sector collaboration between members of groups or nations in conflict that seeks to devise strategies, coordinate human and material resources, and influence public opinion to help resolve these conflicts. Alternatively, it is called "Citizen Diplomacy." It does not seek to replace or obfuscate traditional, official “Track One” diplomacy between governments and leaders, but rather strives to complement it.

The term “Track Two diplomacy” first appeared in print in a Foreign Policy column that Joseph Montville co-authored with psychiatrist William D. Davidson in 1981-82.

“Track Two diplomacy is unofficial, informal interaction between members of adversary groups or nations which aims to develop strategies, influence public opinion, and organize human and material resources in need for leaders to be, or at least to be seen to be strong, wary, and indomitable in the face of the enemy.

Track Two diplomacy is a process designed to assist official leaders to resolve or, in the first instance, to manage conflicts by exploring solutions out of public view and without requirements to formally negotiate or bargain for advantage. Track two diplomacy seeks political formulas or scenarios which might satisfy the basic security and esteem needs of the parties to a particular dispute. On its more general level, it seeks to promote an environment in a political community, through the education of public opinion, that would make it safer for political leaders to take risks for peace.”

Michael Murphy and Dulce Murphy in Red Square. Late 1980's.

A Partial Timeline

Over the last 45 years, Track Two has traveled, as citizen diplomats, to Russia almost every year and completed numerous projects binding Russians and Americans in lifelong collaborations and friendships. Traversing many fields including space, psychology, the arts, literature, economics, the esoteric and others, Track Two convened influential Russians, Europeans and Americans in intimate circles that helped the participants witness their likeness, their shared responsibility and their hope for a better way forward.

Through these undertakings, Track Two has coalesced a network of brilliant and optimistic influencers of all ages who continue to work each and every day to build a broader and longer-lasting peace, despite the vicissitudes of politics and less than rational leaders.

1980 – 1989

Track Two work led to the first Spacebridges in 1982, which enabled Soviet and American citizens for the first time to speak directly with one another via satellite communication. 

Track Two also brought together Russian cosmonauts and US astronauts. Discussions began in 1982 when the Murphy's visited Russia with former US astronaut, Rusty Schweikart. As a result of these discussions, The Association of Space Explorers was formalized in 1985 and continues to operate today.

In the late 1980's, Track Two worked with the USSR Union of Writers to bring contemporary Russian literature to the western world. The group was invited, through Track Two's work, to join the International Pen Club in 1987 which monitors government censorship and freedom of expression around the world. Track Two sponsored Russian authors including Tatiana Tolstoy, Vladimir Karpov, head of the Union of Writers, and Mikhail Zhvanetsky, the most famous comedian in the USSR at the time, on a US tour where they met Norman Mailer, Susan Sontag and Kurt Vonnegut, among other US authors.

1990 – 1999

In the 1990's Track Two led the creation of the Soviet Union's first library of psychological literature in English, populated almost in its entirety through Track Two's efforts.

Track Two began work with Abrahamic groups in the middle east to support peacebuilding between Israelis and Palestinians. Gatherings and projects ensued and leaders of these efforts credit Track Two with inspiring their work and deepening their personal understandings while connecting them to one another to leverage and increase the impact of their work. 

2008 – 2016

Track Two's North Pacific Rim project held a series of eight conferences, titled Potential China, on modern-day China and its role in the future of global relationships. Topics included the environment, technology, culture, psychology among others, and invited Chinese participants to shed light on the rapid evolution of the Chinese society.

2016 – 2019

Just before the rise of the global pandemic, Track Two concluded its Whom Do We Trust program: a gathering of college-aged students from Russia and the US held in St. Petersburg, Russia. Over its three-year time frame, more than 100 young people spoke with the Track Two network of experts, elders and enthusiasts about the greatest global threats of our time and worked together to design solutions to mitigate these threats, some of which are in operation in the world today.

2020 – 2023

Since the pandemic and inspired by our Whom Do We Trust conferences in Russia, Track Two is focusing on specific global threats. In 2021, we explored the intersection of cyber and nuclear threats — how misuse of one might catalyze the use of the other. In 2022, we turned to climate change and included Russian and Ukrainian marine biologists and non-state negotiators for Oceans 2022, a conference on the conservation of the Southern Ocean and Antartica. This global convening continued despite the Russian invasion of Ukraine. We collectively gathered fellow influencers at Esalen Institute to explore long-term solutions for the future of both nations. This discussion continues through online meetings and an in-person conference scheduled for April 2024. Since the outbreak of war, we are providing our network and followers with a weekly newsletter — a resource on both the Russia/Ukraine war and now the Israeli/Hamas war.

Track Two Article Archive

Learn more at:

Track Two Website