Building Conflict-Resolving Community
1. Building Conflict-Resolving Community
Whenever it’s appropriate – and sometimes when it’s not – The Conflict Resolution Network asks people about their vision of a Conflict-Resolving Community (CRC). Here is their interpretation of response.
A Conflict-Resolving Community is where you listen – and are listened to. Because you are confident you will be heard, conflicts are dealt with without concealment or exaggeration.
This leads to a more open society; intervention becomes a resource not a threat.
There can be openness when people have the skills to speak their truth in a space that can contain and even celebrate the different realities of all participants. There is no need to pretend that there is no conflict; no need to feel guilty or ashamed that participants have different points of view and different needs.
The range between the powerful and powerless becomes smaller as CR skills empower those who previously did not believe they had a voice, or were not permitted to participate. Appropriate Assertiveness, Listening, Co-operative Power and Willingness to Resolve are key characteristics of a community that values the contributions of all of its members.
Once these core attitudes and skills are evident, conflict-resolving community will be recognisable in its ability to generate options, to broaden perspectives, to devise creative responses, rather than becoming trapped in polarities of right and wrong, good and bad.
The conflict-resolving community can take a risk; it allows mistakes; it values growth rather than consistency. There is less reaction, and more observation and reflection:
Predominant values are those of freedom of choice, self-responsibility, and promotion of a more just and equitable society; characteristically the CRC is loving, caring, nurturing. The focus of a conflict-resolving community is empowerment, so that as the skills of consultation, choice and participation are developed and integrated, the readiness for participatory democracy is strengthened.
To many such a community provides profound security as here our conflicts are dealt with, without concealment or exaggeration. Freedom and responsibility are more achievable and in better balance linked to another important premise, the responsibility of conflict-resolvers to “each-one-teach-one”. This means taking what you know and sharing it with another, the most effective form of advocacy.
Conflict-Resolving Community needs both goodwill and good skill. Most people believe in the efficacy of nonviolent Conflict Resolution. However, faced with conflict, they may not have the inner options to call on, and turn to withdrawal or aggression. There are many aspects of CR: workshopping, research, counselling, consultancy, meeting facilitation, mediation, provision of resources, advocacy. Within each of these aspects there is scope for teaching and learning and a Conflict-resolving community needs to be a teaching and learning community. In each, habit patterns of CR skills and attitudes are developed that support the values of freedom of choice and responsibility.
Every woman, man and child has a role. We cannot expect our community leaders, be they political, religious or powerful media personalities, to create for us the society which the individual does not understand and cannot put into practice.
CRN is an integral part of a global consortium devoted to building Conflict-Resolving Community: the values, skills and attitudes advocated by CRN are shared by many throughout the global community.
However, it is also a basic premise that the starting place for counteracting cultures of conflict is to handle personal conflict effectively. Personal skills are skills that equally facilitate growth in the global family of humankind, our largest conflict-resolving community.
Conflict Resolution is an enabling and empowering process, supporting the individual in bringing material, intellectual and spiritual values into harmony.
2. Early History, Values and Characteristics
In 1973, the United Nations Association of Australia (NSW Division) fostered the Peace and Conflict Resolution Program. This very soon became a Federal program.
In the busy years that followed, the Peace and Conflict Resolution Program (UNAA) was deeply involved with alternatives to violence and all peace and disarmament issues.
One of the rewarding initiatives of the second half of the 70s was a series of Conflict Clinics, national conferences with overseas visitors where the emphasis was on finding new answers. Their aim was to plan for peace as meticulously as others planned for war.
The Peace and Conflict Resolution Program (UNAA) launched many effective campaigns including:
Ministries for Peace Campaign
Bilateral Peace Treaties Proposal
Summit for Survival
Decade for Peace Register
“Employment as Though People Mattered” Campaign
UN Constitutional Modules
Asian/Pacific Conflict Resolution Group.
An outstanding initiative took place in 1978 with the launch of Media Peace Prize, later Media Peace Award which acknowledges the vital role the media plays in building a peaceful society. Each year, awards and special citations are given to media professionals who present, in their work, positive models for the peaceful resolution of conflict.
In 1983, Peace and Conflict Resolution Network of UNAA began a national initiative to raise awareness of the need for Conflict Resolution. Support was most encouraging, and many of the principles, which now pertain, were established during that period. However, supporters had no process or programs to turn to to further their interest.
At that stage, it was believed that peace and Conflict Resolution teaching must be academically-led. Since 1973, representations had been made to universities to teach in this area. This was not successful; universities did not see this as part of their brief. Indeed, academic CR had to wait till 1988. The alternative available to the NGO sector was, therefore, to start at the level of community adult teaching.
In 1986, to celebrate the UN International Year of Peace, the Peace and Conflict Resolution Program of UNAA established The CRN, an ever-expanding network of people and organisations which aims to research, develop, teach and implement the theory and practise of Conflict Resolution throughout a national and international network.
To manage the enormous growth, in 1993, CRN established nine separate consultancies who work in close co-operation with each other. These are CRN Resources, CRN Community-Based Projects, CRN Consulting Group, CRN Cultural Diversity Program, CRN Professional Facilitators, CRN Schools Development, CRN Special Projects, CRN Training Support, and CRN Workshops.
Characteristics and Values
CRN believes that to have control over the conflicts that affect you is a basic human right (like literacy and numeracy); that freedom, democracy and social development depend on it. The complexities of the end of the century demand that everyone be able to read, write, reckon and resolve.
The years 1986 to 1994 have seen an expanding global network of people and organisation devoted to Conflict Resolution. While in most countries the Conflict Resolution initiative has been led by the universities, with a slow trickle down to the wider community, an essential difference here in Australia is that the movement has been grassroots-led, and firmly established before the later – but very welcome – academic support.
Australia does seem to provide unique opportunities for such developments; not many people help but almost no-one hinders. It is the continuance of the “Fair go, mate” philosophy!
CRN saw CR as: practically effective, intellectually rigorous, and ethically desirable with an harmonious synthesis of these three attributes.
They are also conscious of the fact that this has not been a generally accepted view of CR. In the early ’70s, when advocacy (but not teaching) began, many believed CR to be radical and revolutionary, while at the same time, and within the peace movement, there was a feeling that CR was the path of compromise and unwarranted conciliation.
CRN saw itself as part of a great wave of societal change; old complacencies were fast disappearing; hierarchies were toppling; the will to participatory democracy flourished, and the skills to express it were under-developed. CRN believed it brought an answer, or at least one small part of the integrated response that was needed. They felt, too, they gave voice to the unheard.
Conflict Resolution practitioners still have a lot of explaining to do. They always acknowledged that there are some conflicts where CR is not immediately appropriate. In violence of any kind, the first injunction is to protect the victims. There is little role for CR in current domestic violence. However, there may well be opportunities for the use of CR processes in the prevention of violence or re-establishing relationships after violence.
One objective, as Peter Ustinov asks, is to “live life without a traditional enemy”. Yet the aim has never been to eliminate conflict. On the contrary, CRN endeavours to have conflict seen as opportunity. Conflict can be the signal of a resource – personal or community – waiting to be developed. CRN holds a vision of CR certainly as a rigorous intellectual pursuit, but one readily available to all.
CRN plans its projects very carefully, and each project will probably have mixed support. This usually comes from donor funding (including private and sometimes government sources), participants’ funding (by fee or part/fee for service), volunteer services, and gifts in kind (such as provision of a venue or refreshments).
This mix places a great strain on any management or administration, but – if the organisation can cope – it does mean that you build community solidly supporting the project.
CRN provides paid, low-cost, and cost-free goods and services in proportion to the means available. One needs to be guided by “a passion for the possible”. CRN doesn’t own a “too hard” basket because nothing is “too hard”, some things may just have to go into the “bring forward later” basket.
CR and Ethics
Purpose is ever unfolding.
Like every human activity, CR can be an ethical pursuit and give expression to the most profound spiritual values.
David Ardagh, who teaches “CR and Ethics” at Charles Sturt University, tells his students “a purely behavioural ‘skills/process’ model of CR/ADR subverts the method because according to the founding fathers (or mothers) of the movement, means and ends must be congruent”.
He says: “Since people with justice is the sine qua non of any of the most worthwhile (higher) needs emerging – knowledge, culture, and cultivation, we have an ethical duty to foster such peace. This is not the peace of the cemetery, but the peace where we accept our connectedness and choose to co-create”.
Does it start with the individual? Yes, but it doesn’t finish there. The close ties between the personal and the universal are emphasised in all the great streams of ethics and spirituality. Gandhi said: “We must be the change that we desire”; Christians have long advocated: “transform prayer into action” Jews are admonished: “Tikkun Olam; go forth and heal the world”.
Then – and I quote from Bahai sources: “the shining spark of truth cometh forth only after the clash of differing opinions, abiding by agreements and not quietly subverting them. Techniques alone, however, are simply a means of interpersonal influence. It is the spirit – the attitudes and values -which elevate the process of Conflict Resolution to a means for harmony between people and for deepening the awareness of our underlying unity.”
3. Teaching Programs
An important objective for CRN has always been to take CR mainstream. They did’not want it reserved for an elite, no matter how well-meaning that elite might be. So although they include those who might form such elites -academic, religious, media or top management – they are always aware of the danger of limiting the CR expansion.
This is not easy for a community organisation to achieve with the limitations of finance, resources and personal energy. Their vision turned them into innovative managers doing more with less. They are always grateful for the input of people who brought to CR everything from momentary interest to years of dedicated commitment.
CRN began by offering small workshops in Sydney. The first people to attend were educators and community organisation workers. This stream developed so that by the end of 1989 they organised an Asia/Pacific CR seminar with people from 14 regional countries.
Now the section called CRN Workshops has become a separate but connected initiative which this year gave public seminars and courses in Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth and Singapore. CRN Workshops provide very effective teaching. Because they advertise well, and because the people who go through the courses discuss them with enthusiasm, some get the idea that this is the only way of acquiring CR skills. This is far from the truth.
With the help of ETF funding (Government of NSW), CRN through CRN Community-Based Projects offers programs, first of all in the needy area of Western Sydney and more recently in rural NSW. The obligation to EFT funding was that these programs always have “Train-the-Trainer” content, so that each person who receives training is encouraged to take CR back into their own community, which might be Aboriginal, local government, the health sector or small private enterprise.
Once again, they aspire to have the “process and the product” closely linked. They were influenced by “each-one-teach-one” methods of spreading literacy in Third World countries. Observations lead to the belief that Train-the-Trainer CR programs build Conflict-Resolving Communities.
Many organisations in the corporate sector, public service and community groups prefer to have their CR training “in-house” with a strong focus on the resolution of the conflicts within the host organisation itself. This coalition-building can be another very efficient method of CR delivery. Like CRN Workshops, this is now run by a separate but linked consultancy, CRN Consulting Group.
They help people to acquire low-cost training in CR. Encouraging a local library to stock CRN resources (books, manuals, tapes, and videos) then borrowing them for home study can prove effective.
Another way to encourage low-cost training is by forming study groups – of friends, family and/or colleagues. Facilitation of the study group can rest in the hands of the convener, or rotate among participants. The study groups could well meet at the library which stocks the resources. Or the group may wish to acquire some of their own resources and share the costs.
Many TAFEs, evening colleges, and community colleges offer CR courses. Most frequently, they use CRN resources, often combined and integrated with other material. This integration is dearly valued. CRN offers tools not rules. All CRN handouts can be photocopied and disseminated. (All that is asked is that users include the CRN acknowledgement from the bottom of each sheet).
CRN is not an accrediting organisation. They recommend that those who wish to teach in CRN style do so in their own name stating verbally and in print:
This program includes content developed by:
The Conflict Resolution Network
a network of people with a common commitment to Conflict Resolution, co-operative communication strategies and related skills.
It does not aim to develop gurus, they do not aim to develop disciples, they aim to create partners and partnerships for conflict transformation.
Regrettably, CRN cannot offer scientifically researched and statistically supported evaluation of its work. This is costly and there has never been the means to produce such evaluation themselves or the influence to persuade others to undertake it.
Instead of which they are contemplative, responsive, self-questioning and careful. They ask for individual evaluation from all course participants and the results are frequently heartwarming. They constantly adapt and update teaching material in response to the recipient’s needs, both stated and implied. (This is one of the reasons why manuals are looseleaf.)
CRN does not claim to be the word from on high; they are a resource.
Theoretical basis for CRN teaching
Process: CRN teaching methods and content are influenced by contemporary concepts of experiential learning. Workshops are interactive and, rather than facilitators coming with prepared case studies in hand, participants introduce their own areas of concern.
Content: Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs” is given due consideration, as is Burton’s “Needs Theory” which always considers the basic needs and concerns of all conflictual parties.
It is hoped that each person who experiences CR training will become an advocate, ever widening the circle of awareness. There are risks; some enthusiasts can give the impression of an impenetrable wall of jargon; some can make CR appear as cult, fad or fashion. On the voices it seems the message is getting through.
4. Teaching Through Resources
When CRN started teaching in 1986, they had one book, one resource, that they could put into people’s hands. It was the splendid “Getting to Yes” by Prof Roger Fisher and William Ury of Harvard University. (They still recommend it as good reading, and a valuable introduction to the field.)
When, in the first year, CRN took on the task of developing resources themselves, they felt they were a “lone voice crying in the wilderness”.
In the brief eight years under review, the position has changed globally, indicative of profound attitudinal shift. During this time, CR has moved from being a fringe activity to a mainstream strategy. Now it is seen as an academically rigorous study; it has enormous grassroots relevance. This is reflected in the expanding bibliography, and is visible on library shelves.
In this growing field there has been “differentiation”, a recognition that Conflict Resolution is not an amorphous mass but within it are fields of speciality like CR for early childhood, CR for schools, CR for management, CR and mediation.
In CRN, the development of resources has been a dedication. At its head has been Helena Cornelius, Director of Programs (CRN), who has written much and edited all of the resources CRN has produced. With a background in psychology, counselling and training, she has “maintained the vision” through more than eight years of full-time and dedicated voluntary work, designing teaching programs and creating the resources to support them. Her contribution has been innovative and inspirational.
CRN has produced print resources: books, manuals, the now famous newsletter, posters, broadsheets, and brochures. In audio, there is a set of six tapes made in collaboration with the ABC; in video, a fastly developing field, each production comes with a workbook, thus making a complete study program.
These resources support not only the people who can attend a workshop, a seminar, or a course, but are invaluable for distance education and for home study whether you are working by yourself or part of a small group.
CRN’s key resource is the book “Everyone Can Win” by Helena Cornelius and Shoshana Faire, published by Simon & Schuster. Put it in people’s hands and they’ll have started a never ceasing journey. With its friendly and easy-to-follow advice, entertaining cartoons, and proven techniques, “Everyone Can Win” is an inspirational source book to enter the discipline. Everyone should read it at least twice a year. It has been translated into Russian and Spanish; other translations are on their way. Chinese and Latvian translations are due for publication in 1995. It has disseminated a new vocabulary of CR.
CRN’s 12 skill manual is much in demand as Conflict Resolution is increasingly recognised as a competency skill in every training agenda. It is well categorised, with separate sections devoted to each skill in the CRN’s 12 skill approach and, under each skill, there is didactic material, activities and handouts. These enable each user to adapt to their own particular needs.
Handouts are used as teaching and revision aids for participants.
CRN’s 8 session manual does not provide quite as much choice but it is easier to get into the material quickly.
CRN’s video production has been most interesting. Filming three days of Conflict Resolution Workshop and editing down to l(flA hours of video has -combined with its workbook – provided a very comprehensive resource.
From this has been extracted a Negotiation and Mediation Training Video (33 minutes) and Key Concepts Video (27 minutes).
After 14 months in the making, 1994 saw the launch of CR Essentials Video (40 minutes) produced by Helena and Daphne Brehm. CRN believed in the principle that Australian trainers need videos relevant to Australian contexts. Fortunately, NSW Education & Training Foundation thought so too, and generously supported the project.
CRN is frequently asked for role plays on video to demonstrate key teaching points. They particularly wanted some well-crafted support materials for new trainers and trainers who have only a short time in their program for Conflict Resolution skills. Videos always create a welcome c hange of pace for participants!
A challenge was what to leave out. But the reality is that time for learning CR is often limited. They decided to work up just six of the 12 skills: Win/Win, Active Listening, Assertiveness, Mapping, Designing Options, and Creative Response.
For those skills, they pared it down to the key teaching points that need to be made. Ideally, of course, trainers will he familiar with the back-up information in Everyone Can Win or either of the Trainers’ Manuals: 12 Skills or S Sessions, so they can handle questions confidently.
Certainly viewers can play it straight through, and most students in private study mode will do that the first time. But for in-depth study or for a group, you can stop and start the video at recommended spots. You can easily insert discussion and exercises between segments.
The 50 page Guide that goes with the video has lots of suggestions for a trainer to create additional teaching materials. It even includes a full lesson plan for a half-day program of CR.
It is oriented to the workplace because most people see tertiary training as part of work skills. All the skills are also very easily transferable to other contexts, such as family and flatmates.
CRN’s vision for the future of resources are:
to see them stocked by every public, university, TAPE or special interest library in Australia so that they are freely available to a much wider audience. These could attract their own study groups, making access to CR practically cost-free.
to have CRN resources a major Australian export, a recognisable contribution of overseas aid programs, and a helpful alternative to other security and defence exports.
5. The 12 Skill Approach
Conflict-Resolving Community needs both goodwill and good skill. Most people believe in the efficacy of non-violent Conflict Resolution. However, faced with conflict, they do not have the inner options to call on and turn instead to withdrawal or aggression. CR skilling addresses this issue.
This is one of the many reasons why CRN’s model has, since early 1986, been based on teaching. They appreciate and esteem the many other aspects of CR, research, counselling, consultancy, meeting facilitation, mediation, provision of resources, advocacy. However, CRN is very conscious of the great leap forward that occurred when they changed their emphasis from advocacy to teaching.
CRN tries to make this teaching as widely available as possible. They teach all age groups from pre-schoolers to senior citizens; they go into ethnic communities, sensitive to their cultural differences; they endeavour to be the gentle invaders in education, the health system, religious and spiritual groups, corporate sector, public service, and community organisations.
The aim is to move people through the stages of learning: from unconsciously unskilled to the recognition of consciously unskilled to the wobbly stage of consciously skilled to the confidence of unconsciously skilled.
CRN’s teaching approach is congruent with contemporary thinking on competency-based training. Assessment of competency is based on background knowledge, skills, attitudes and their application.
CRN aims that participants, on the completion of a basic course in CR skilling will be competent to:
analyse conflict situations.
utilise appropriate Conflict Resolution skills in face-to-face situations.
prepare for problem-solving or negotiation of issues.
apply follow-up strategies to manage problems that occur when agreements are not working.
A summary of contents to a typical basic course looks like this:
Module 1. Analysing Conflict
The Role of Conflict Resolution
Constructive and Destructive Conflict
Levels of Conflict
Approaches to Resolving Conflict
Creative Response to Conflict
Broadening Perspectives: Attitude Change
Module 2. Employing Interactive Communication Skills
Module 3. Examining Power Dynamics
Co-operative Power Personal Power
Module 4. Discovering Personal Obstacles to Resolving Conflict
Willingness to Resolve
Module 5. Developing Skills for Analysis of Issues and Negotiation
Mapping the issue
Developing Creative Options
Introduction to Negotiation
Module 6. Explaining the Processes and Strategies of Mediation
Introduction to Mediation.
“If the only tool you have
Is a hammer
You think that every problem
Is a nail.” (origin unknown)
CRN believes that skills in relationship changes who you are and how you deal with your environment. For the sake of convenience, recall and reference, CRN has named 12 areas around which skills are grouped. Inevitably, there will be overlapping and omissions; there is always scope for individual input.
The areas are listed below, each headed by a learning outcome to be achieved and followed by some awareness-raising questions.
Learning Outcome: Change potential opponents into problem-solving partners.
What is my real need here? What is theirs? Do I want it to work for both of us?
2. Creative Response
Learning Outcome: Employ positive attitudes in addressing conflicts.
What opportunities can this situation bring?
Rather than “how it’s supposed to be”, can I see possibilities in “what is”?
Learning Outcome: Identify other points of view and develop them by adding value.
What is it like to be in their shoes?
What are they trying to say?
Have I really heard them?
Do they know I’m listening?
4. Appropriate Assertiveness
Learning Outcome: State your own needs without blame or attack.
What do I want to change?
How will I tell them this without blaming or attacking?
Is this a statement about how I feel, rather than what is right or wrong?
(Be soft on the people, hard on the problem.)
5. Co-operative Power
Learning Outcome: Define power inequalities and analyse their effect on co-operative decision-making.
Am I using power inappropriately? Are they? Instead of opposing each other, can we co-operate?
6. Managing Emotions
Learning Outcome: Express your own emotions appropriately and help others to express theirs.
What am I feeling? Am I blaming them for my feelings?
Will telling them how I feel help the situation?
What do I want to change?
Have I removed the desire to punish from my response?
What can I do to handle my feelings? (e.g. write it down, talk to a friend,
punch a mattress)
7. Willingness to Resolve
Learning Outcome: Develop benefits of resolving -for all parties. Do I want to resolve the conflict?
Is resentment being caused by:
something in my past that still hurts?
something I haven’t admitted to needing?
something I dislike in them because I won’t accept it in myself?
8. Mapping the Conflict
Learning Outcome: Identify all key parties and outline their needs and concerns.
What’s the issue, problem or conflict? Who are the important parties in this?
Write down each person’s needs (i.e. What interests underly the problem? What are the pay-offs from suggested solutions?)
Write down each person’s anxieties. Does this map show common areas? What do we need to work on?
9. Designing Options
Learning Outcome: Design a wide range of options without debating or justifying at this stage.
What are all the possibilities? Don’t judge them yet.
What seems impossible might yield good ideas.
Which options give us both more of what we want? Be creative, mix and match.
Learning Outcome: Propose fair, just and common sense offers.
What do I wish to achieve? Be really clear about the general outcome,
though you may change your route there.
How can we make this a fair deal – all parties winning?
What can they give? What can I give?
Am I ignoring – or including – objections?
What points would I need covered in an agreement?
Would we all save face?
Learning Outcome: Explain what the option of an impartial and objective third party mediator involves.
A. Can we resolve this ourselves or do we need help from a neutral third person? Who could take on this role?
B. Is mediation the best role for me in this? If so: How would I set up and explain my role to both parties? Can I create the right environment for people to open up, understand each other and develop their own solutions? What might help this?
12. Broadening Perspectives
Learning Outcome: Present solutions in terms of haw they affect the broader context beyond the issue itself.
Am I seeing the whole picture, not just my own point of view?
What are the effects of this beyond the immediate issue? (i.e. on other people or groups)
Where might this lead in the future?
Michael Grinder said:
“Once you know
to play with
CR skills are “Tools, not rules”; like tools from a well-cared for toolbox, you choose what is appropriate for any given task.
With practise and commitment, the time comes when you are “unconsciously skilled”, and the choice of the right tool seems almost automatic.
6. The Academic Arm
In 1973, consensus was that introducing Conflict Resolution in Australia would have to be academically-led.
When it became apparent that Australian universities were not ready to follow the lead of Harvard, or join the aspirations of the Peace Studies Department of the University of Bradford in the north of England, CRN initiated CR at the community level in 1986.
However, there was always regret that universities were not involved. The vision was that academe would strengthen the theoretical basis of CR, as well as adding to the intellectual rigour of the discipline.
CRN had close and strong ties with Macquarie University. These had been developed through Professor Hugh Philp and Gary Simpson, who had volunteered magnificent service to Media Peace Awards which, like CRN, was a program of the Peace and Conflict Resolution Program of UNAA.
Long discussions with MU took place, involving Dr Dennis Phillips, Associate Professor Caroline Ralston and Professor Di Yerbury, Vice-Chancellor. This resulted in the establishment of the Conflict Resolution Foundation at MU, the appointment of Dr Gregory Tillett, and the teaching of a full award course in CR at the undergraduate level.
From the high numbers of students enrolled, and the enthusiasm and success of these students, it soon became apparent that there was a great need for academic studies in CR. Further long discussion took place, resulting in 1990, in the establishment of the Centre for Conflict Resolution at MU.
Over 300 undergraduates have successfully completed their CR course, 85 are enrolled right now. 30 students have attained a Graduate Diploma in Conflict Resolution, 40 more are in process. 13 are working on a Masters Degree, 3 on a Doctorate with an additional 4 on a Doctorate where Conflict Resolution is a significant component. Over 100 individual researches have been completed.
The Director of the Centre for Conflict Resolution, Macquarie University, Dr Greg Tillett, lectures to Australian Peacekeeping Forces preparing for overseas and to civilians involved in these missions. This training is being extended to other ADF personnel, such as those leaving for mine-clearing expeditions.
A by-no-means comprehensive list of Australian universities now offering some Conflict Resolution studies includes: Charles Sturt University, University of Melbourne, University of New England, University of Queensland, University of South Australia, University of Sydney, University of Technology Sydney, University of Western Australia, and University of Western Sydney.
It is with great excitement – and some satisfaction – that CRN learns that hundreds of Australian university students are required to complete a Conflict Resolution assignment as part of their studies in fields as diverse as social work, law, education, government, and women’s studies.
7. International Connections
What is CRN’s international influence?
By seeking opportunity through international correspondence, CRN has built up an international network. This process has been developed over 20 years. They used very simple ways: World Federation of United Nations Associations (WFUNA) lists were important in principle and brought modest but tangible response; Australian expatriots have been magnificent (we are such a travelling people). They invested heavily in airmail stamps.
Developing a network needs to be a generous process. A 10% reply to a mailout is often all one can hope for. THEY ANSWER ALL CORRESPONDENCE and try to establish relationships. Where appropriate, they make gifts of resources and are generous with copyrights.
Religious organisations, firstly the Quakers, then Catholics, Bahai, Buddhists, Brahma Kumaris, Judaism, and international associations like World Conference on Religion and Peace have been wonderful allies.
Australians with overseas origins have returned to – or just visited – their country of origin, taking CR training and resources with them.
New Zealand was easy, like a Sydney suburb. PNG was never easy but at least it is close.
Russia is different in that CRN trained in Russian language. Volunteers from Australia, America, England and France travel regularly to Russia conducting these training programs which have been most successful. A Spanish translation of Everyone Can Win is in publishing right now; Chinese and Latvian translations are in hand.
Former Sydney residents teach and disseminate CR in Ireland, a NSW North Coast woman goes regularly to Yugoslavia, an English-born Bahai is teaching Greece’s first CRN course.
CRN Workshops, organisational and educational consultants increasingly travel to Japan and other Asian countries modelling and teaching conflict-resolving skills to government departments, school and university teachers, and private enterprise.
CR colleagues regularly attend conferences overseas, and themselves foster ever- expanding links into international local communities, educational institutions, professional associations and conflict-resolving organisations.
Publications, journals, and letters of both anecdote and request, flow in from all over the world.
CRN has become part of the growing international peace and conflict Resolution structure, with membership and input into such organisations as International Alert.
CRN has nourished links with the UN and its specialist agencies and, in 1988, taught CR to middle level professionals at the UN in New York.
The Network has won an accepted place in the world-wide development in Conflict Resolution, that peaceful revolution which will save the earth for the future generations.
8. The Media
Building the conflict-resolving community is our greatest task. The media can be our most powerful ally.
CRN recognises the vital role the media can play in Conflict Resolution -globally, nationally and locally – and supports journalistic CR-development so that the unique contribution of journalists to problem-solving is increasingly appreciated and commended.
There is some cynicism and disenchantment in the community about the media. A conflict-resolving approach can enhance respect and interest in media reporting and analysis. Journalists benefit from having a conflict-resolving approach to their work.
CRN offers skills awareness for journalists who wish to learn a conflict-resolving approach. The Conflict-Resolving Media broadsheet emphasises that there is a need for CR in the media. The rapidity of profound political, social and environmental change leaves societies in massive and unresolved conflict, while at hand is the underutilised resource of the media, whose help is too seldom sought.
There is a growing realisation in media ownership, management and staff that a new genre is arising where freedom of the media means freedom to be part of the resolution of conflict. The magazine that helps its readers develop more options will increase its circulation. The radio station that provides an opportunity for its listeners to participate in collaborative decision-making will be listened to. The television channels that broaden perspectives will hold their viewers.
Long recognised is the role of the media in bringing us opposing points of view; now added to it is the role of the media in bringing us conflict-resolving points of view.
Media can exacerbate conflict. Sensationalism is quick and easy to produce, and will draw a following. It can also be irresponsibile because of the power of the media to educate and influence.
Media can facilitate. It has the power to bring together sectors of our society previously out of touch with each other.
Media can mediate. Mediation is a neutral, objective process which helps conflicting parties to design their own solutions. The media can give voice to the inarticulate, and provides an audience for the unheard. Mediation is as much an attitude as a function, and can be integrated into all aspects of the journalist’s professional and personal life.
Blame, shame and judgement are each a “tone of voice”. They are styles frequently used by the most compassionate of people. CR is another style that is often more creative and effective.
Key moves for the media person
Media may need to go beyond the fact deliverers: sometimes, with CR prompting, conflict participants can be transformed into conflict-resolving partners.
There are four key moves that media as mediators can make:
Clarify: the facts…the players, the positions, the issues.
Explore options: developed by all the players and from the journalists themselves as they unfold the whole picture.
Move to the positive: Ask questions like:
“What would it take to solve this problem?”
“What is is that you do want?”
“What would make it better?”
“What would make you willing?”
Go back to legitimate needs and concerns: Ask:
“What do you need?”
“Why is that important to you?”
“What would having it do for you?”
“Are you meaning here that you need…?”
(Use this questions to test your assumptions)
“Are there alternatives that would also satisfy you?”
Indeed, there is much evidence that the media is the fastest educator in contemporary society. Once upon a time, we thought that the three R’s were essential; now, when we all need to “read, write, reckon and resolve”, no-one can help us better than the media.
CRN has available a broadsheet called “Conflict-Resolving Media”.
9. The Conflict-Resolving Game
Stella Cornelius and a team of brainstorming collaborators have created The Conflict-Resolving Game. The response from individuals, educators, CR trainers, and the media has been enthusiastic. The CR Game is generating excitement because CR needs skill development, and a game is a wonderful way to learn. In playing games, there is the possibility for lightheartedness, humour, wit. Playing can mean not taking yourself too seriously, and allowing yourself to make mistakes.
In many ways, the Debate and the Game serve similar educational purposes. Both can investigate facts, focus attention, teach about an issue in depth, and develop valuable presentation skills. The CR Game differs from the traditional debate when, unlike the Debate, the CR Game turns opponents into proble-solving partners. It helps participants to respond with well-developed reasoning, and to design innovative options to resolve difficult or controversial issues together.
The Game teaches CR skills. Game-playing is the learning process of children. In this field, where we are all learners, all beginners, it is so wise for us to be game-players. The reasons?
Games let us practise skills: playing this Game will give CR skill training.
The Game establishes habit patterns in a non-threatening way, so skills learned will flow over into the rest of our lives naturally and easily.
It provides a safe place in which to practise taking risks. (Are you brave enough to make an “I” Statement to your boss? If not, you could practise it in the Game? Is it risky to ask your mother to explore some other
options? You might feel more confident if you rehearse within the safety of the Game!)
CR needs not only good will and good skills, but also some structure. The Game provides a structured way of easily getting at CR skills through learning the rules of the Game.
There is value in learning by play – not just for children, but for adults too. This is why from all the names that CRN could have chosen – like exercise, workshop, role play, they have decided to stay with “The Conflict-Resolving Game”. Game-playing is a wonderful, educational process, and it is hoped others will create their own versions and play the Conflict-Resolving Game in their own unique way.
Conflict Resolution Network has available a broadsheet containing guidelines on The Conflict-Resolving Game.
Never pick a fight
With a man of might
Or put to sea
Without a boat
Many are drawn to CRN’s works with the noble desire to become mediators, to make a difference in their own society. The mediator’s role is to facilitate the resolution of conflicts through helping those in disagreement to understand, decide, voice and agree “what sort of boat they each want”, “how much the boats will cost”, and “how to build their boats” so each can put to sea! While a mediator may sometimes assist in the creation of options, they do not advise.
Skillful mediation can become part of everyday life. While not everyone who studies mediation will become a mediator, the awareness generated enables entry into any discussion “in mediating mode”.
A mediator who, from an objective and independent stance, facilitates resolution by the opponents, models a wide range of CR skills: willingness to believe in win/win, listening skills, empathy, appropriate assertiveness, focusing on the issue not the other person, and creative responses to reach agreements that are sustainable. These skills turn opponents into conflict-resolving partners.
Mediation is an impartial, effective, quickly organised, and cost-effective method of dispute resolution. The process can be applied wherever there are conflicts which may be facilitated by an objective outsider?
between employers and employees
between unions and management
between family members, neighbours, accommodation sharers
between teachers, students or parents
regarding environmental issues
racial or sexual discrimination
victim and offender
It is unrealistic to expect that a mediator comes to mediation value-free. Indeed, CRN would hope that mediators are on the side of justice, fairness, and plain common sense.
People approach mediation with prejudices and these need acknowledgement. This openness can be educational and help conflicting parties to face future conflict themselves without outside help.
At CRN, we value the role of the mediator, whether formally or informally appointed. CRN believes that it has a responsibility to maintain trainee mediators’ dedication through serious apprenticeship so that mediators have the skills to establish an atmosphere of confidentiality, impartiality, and appropriate humility that will facilitate the resolution of complex conflicts.
Adam Curie’s magnificent and apt poem follows. His mediation work over the past 29 years has taken him to international and personal situations of great tension, despair, hope, pain and change. He has been involved in problems of Third World development and has held professorships in psychology, education development and peace studies at Exeter, Ghana, Harvard and Bradford Universities.
An easy mistake, I often
Type meditation for mediation ,
And vice versa,
Slightly amused at the difference
The letter T makes to the meaning.
But perhaps it’s not so great;
In meditation we become
More aware of reality,
Escaping from automatism
Of habitual responses
And from enslavement to
Our negative emotions.
Thus freed we live and love with
Greater strength and greater understanding
And so, among other things,
Can mediate with more effect.
We hope through mediation
To purify the atmosphere
Of needless (some’s inevitable)
Suspicion, angry fear and
Misconception that impede accord.
We try in fact to introduce
Reality into the furious
Fantasies swathing both
Protagonists who now see each
Other not as human but demonic.
In this uneasy kinship
That we have with two hostile groups
We strive, as in our meditation,
To bring awareness.
But it is hard.
We only gain the measure of success
Achieved within ourselves –
Not always even that.
Many people will use the mediation skills they have acquired to facilitate meetings. I quote trainer and specialist in this field, Shoshana Faire:
Facilitation skills are about effective communication and enabling different views to blend and become inclusive. They are about problem-solving strategies, planning, conflict-resolving, and making meetings work.
Effective facilitation is needed wherever people come together with a purpose and there is potential for conflict. It can be a critical contribution to teams, workplaces, management, task forces, community groups, negotiations such as enterprise bargaining, community consultation, strategic planning, and policy-making conferences.
Facilitators design and direct processes that free up those involved to concentrate on the issues at hand thereby enabling the participators to concentrate/focus/ direct their energy to the issues at hand.
encourage the free-flowing of ideas by stimulating creative thinking and encouraging everyone to participate.
support the raising and respecting of difference and conflict by using mediation skills.
help groups to get clear on their objectives and agenda, and staying on track with these.
ensure efficient use of time and successful outcomes through the setting of clear and measurable agreements.
Facilitators do not dictate the content of a meeting or try to push it in directions it does not wish to go.
11. Cultural Diversity Outreach
The CRN’s Cultural Diversity Program (CDP) was established in 1991 to assist people from diverse backgrounds to develop ways of working together harmoniously. CDP runs public and on-site programs for staff and management on valuing diversity and building effective communication in a diverse workforce and community. The concepts outlined below have been culled from very ancient traditions and contemporary practices. People using these tools have been able to work more effectively with clients, colleagues and communities with traditions which are new and those that are familiar to them.
The conflict-resolver needs to be ever aware of the culturally-specific, but not overawed by it. There is usually room to move. Sensitivity to differences, to cultural diversity, should not blind us to the even greater areas of commonality we all enjoy, and to a growing acceptance of some international norms (particularly in the field of human rights).
Every culture, every ethnicity is based on co-operation and collaboration. This is the fertile ground from which CR can grow. In each ethnicity there are victims and perpetrators, even if this relationship is only a rare aberration. A good look at the power structures may enlighten. One theoretical basis which informs is Burton’s “needs theory”. If the CR intervener questions the needs behind the words and actions, there is the likelihood that a clear path will emerge.
Brynnie Goodwill, Director of CRN’s Cultural Diversity Program says: “Valuing diversity goes to the very core of conflict-resolving principles. Culture can be defined as reflecting someone’s age, gender, education, profession, geographical region they are from and where they live, skills, family traditions, hobbies, as well as their ethnicity, race and nationality. There is always cultural difference; to understand someone we are dealing with, we must be open to seeing that person as a culture unto him or herself. Beware of steretopying, even at the most subtle levels. Any generalisations which we may have about any aspect of that person, based upon their gender, profession, ethnic background, race, could be completely misleading, confuse the situation, and create a barrier in our interaction with that person.”
“Patience is vital! Speaking from the heart and being clear with our intention is perhaps the most important tool we can use. Often words may fail us and create misunderstanding, while a generous, open heart and clear intention is well understood.”
CRN is frequently asked “Who is the Network?” This is a difficult question to answer and when tens of thousands of people are involved probably a better question is “Who is networking?” …in Sydney? … in Melbourne? … in St Petersburg? … in Addis Ababa?
When you find listed in your Appendix a few dozen potted biographies of networkers, don’t think you have met them all. They are there because they are so closely and frequently involved at the core of CRN that it would be a grave omission not to introduce them.
CRN has tried to create – not a well – but a river. Wells are wonderful, the place you know where you dip in for sweet, clean water. But it can be hidden by a walled garden; you may not know it exists; you may have no access. CRN is a broad, ambling river, convoluted and doubling back on itself, flowing through and nourishing the land.
It is hoped that this picture of one community organisation will provide a model for a way forward, not only for those involved directly in Conflict Resolution but for other NGOs who’s vision, in any of its forms, is peace and justice.
I finish with the words of an ancient Chinese sage:
Go to the people.
Live with them, Love them.
Learn from them. Work with them.
Start from where they are.
Start from what they have.
Build on what they know.
And in the end when the work is done,
the people will rejoice – and say:
“We have done it ourselves.”
About the Speaker
Stella Cornelius, AO (awarded in 1986 for Peace and International Relations), OBE (awarded in 1979 for Commerce and Community Service), FAIM (Fellow of the Australian Institute of Management), long-time peace activist, was initiator of Peace and Conflict Resolution Program of the United Nations Association of Australia, and the initiator and Convener of The Conflict Resolution Network, Media Peace Awards, Bilateral Peace Treaties Proposal, Decade for Peace Register, Ministries for Peace Campaign, and “Employment as Though People Mattered” Campaign.
Stella Cornelius has spent a lifetime in management and now, with energy and commitment, uses these skills in community work, mostly as Co-Director of The Conflict Resolution Network, whose purpose it is to research, develop, teach and implement the theory and practise of Conflict Resolution throughout a national and international network, and which works at the global, local, workplace and personal levels.
The Conflict Resolution Network
PO Box 1016
CHATSWOOD NSW 2057, AUSTRALIA
Phone: (02)419-8500 Fax: (02)413-1148