What moves people to work with each other rather than against each other when locked into destructive, long-term conflicts? Ripeness theory has been a useful starting point for understanding such motives, but has limited explanatory power under conditions of intractable conflict. This article is the first of a two-part series presenting the findings from a study that explored various methods of eliciting constructive engagement from stakeholders through interviews with expert scholarpractitioners working with protracted conflicts. A grounded theory analysis was applied to the interviews to allow new insights into constructive conflict engagement to emerge from the data. Our objective was to develop more robust theories and practices. A dynamical systems synthesis of the findings is presented, and its implications for reconceptualizing ripeness are discussed.