Here is an outline of a training that I recently offered to a group of environmentalists and community organizers.
Building Alliances and Coalitions
Whether you are acting as an individual, an organization, an agency, a community, whatever, below are some things to remember when reaching out to others. And remember: Relationship is equally important as the task you need to get done. Take time to listen, understand, respect and build trust.
Know their landscape
Physical, geographical, natural resources
Cultural, religious, traditional, historical
Economic and social
Power structure, how things work
Show that you have cared enough to learn
(“I don’t care what you know til I know that you care”)
Be clear about your problem or need
Why this is important to you
Listen to their problem or need
Give them plenty of time, make sure you understand
Look for overlapping interests
Offer to help whether or not there are overlapping interests (there may be common causes in the future)
Join them, rather than ask them to join you
Agree how to share leadership
Be focused yet flexible
Be willing to change direction in order to keep coalition together
“I believe the best decisions are made with the right people, at the right time, in the right format, and I am pleased to be part of that process.”
Since the late 1980s I have been a practicing mediator, facilitator, consultant and trainer. My focus has been natural resources and public policy disputes, and clients have included federal, state and local agencies, tribal governments and communities, public interest organizations and industry. The subject of the disputes has been wide-ranging, from water rights and air quality to mine reclamation and endangered species protection. With a strong background in Indian country, many of my cases involve tribal interests and parties.
I have mediated high-level federal disputes, facilitated public meetings of 400, trained EPA staff in “Dealing with Difficult People,” and offered cross-cultural alliance building workshops with Hispanic and Native colleagues. (more…)
As an environmental mediator I am a proud member of the diverse family of mediators, worldwide. We are for the most part a good bunch — patient, good listeners, eager to help people in conflict find a good solution. But the substance of what we do varies widely. There are family mediators who deal with divorce and child custody. Business and commercial mediators handle disputes between building owners, tenants, contractors and lenders. There are school mediators who help students, parents, teachers and administrators talk to each other and seek peace on the playground, in the classroom, and on the bus. Basically, any segment of society – youth, elders, education, health, business, media, the arts – probably has a mediator in the wings ready to deal with trouble. (more…)
Recently I have begun “appearing” as a guest lecturer by Skype or Webex in classes around the country. The undergraduate and graduate courses may be in conflict resolution, mediation, communications, natural resource policy, environmental management, or many more. This is a very cost-effective way to bring a taste of real-life conflict resolution into the classroom – a way to supplement textbooks with stories from the trenches. I enjoy the dialogue with students and am happy to tailor my thoughts to particular challenges appropriate for the class. The lectures are lively, engaging, informal and hopefully provocative – very un-lecture-like.
” With all sincerity and zero attempt to flatter you, I
heard the best feedback I have ever had with any guest speaker in that class over the past 6 years! … this is more
than just another successful guest speaking gig, I think you hit a
chord with them and now you have a fan club.”
Leah Wing, Professor and Co-Director, National Center for Technology and Dispute Resolution,
University of Massachusetts at Amherst
The mediator and the facilitator play different roles, but the practitioner will often move seamlessly from one to the other depending on the needs of the group. It is important to know what to expect from each role, although the participant in the process may not notice the shifts.
For me, mediation involves a conflict that needs resolution, while facilitation requires management of a process where participants have common interest.
A mediator helps those in conflict find their own solution, one that is acceptable to all involved. A typical mediation goes through stages: assessment, identifying the parties, designing the process, gathering information, generating options, exploring solutions, seeking consensus, and finally, implementation. (more…)
I have taken, and given, trainings in mediation and facilitation, and I am always left with the belief that mediators and facilitators are born, not made. You either are drawn to the middle of conflicts and fascinated by differences, or not. This doesn’t mean that I love to fight, or even that I can fight. What I do like is being in the middle, seeing all sides, understanding, empathizing and finding paths for communication. (more…)