Friday, May 27, 2011

A Collection of Tools / Approaches to Preventing and Resolving Conflicts in Community Groups

Vision, Mission, Principles, or Basis of Unity:  Clearly defining the purpose and common ground for your work is a huge step towards preventing and resolving conflict.  This can help to increase clarity and understanding and can also serve as an important reference point and grounding point to put a conflict in perspective.

Procedural Documents:  Bylaws, Policies, and Procedures can help to minimize procedural injustices –contributing to conflict prevention - and can help break-down conflict into manageable parts when it arises.

Safer Space Guidelines:  Clearly defining a list of the qualities and behaviours that will keep your space safe as well as a list of qualities and behaviours that are considered unsafe is a critical tool for conflict prevention.

Self Check:  Developing and encouraging a culture and practice of critical self-reflection one of the most fundamental tools for preventing conflict.  Literally pausing for a few seconds and checking yourself before reacting to something can prevent a majority of conflicts from ever occurring.

Daily Direct:  This refers to the importance of constantly encouraging a culture of direct communication in your work.  If you hear somebody triangulating –talking to one person about their issues with another person – try talking to them to see if they have any options for taking those issues directly to the source and cutting across the triangle.

Buddy Check:  If your buddy pulls you aside and explains a conflict situation that they are upset about, then you need to think carefully and critically about your role.  Focus on listening to and acknowledging their experience, while at the same time critically engaging with them about the process of how the conflict is unfolding and options for how it could be resolved.

Iceberg Check: In group meeting and work situations we frequently have the sense that the tip of a much larger emotional issue has entered into the group space and is not being recognized.  Developing the practice of recognizing these iceberg issues and proactively dealing with them either in the group or one on one is an effective way of bringing a latent conflict to the surface or keeping conflict from escalating.

Calling People In: This is an approach in contrast to the practice of ‘calling people out’ in which oppressive or inappropriate behaviour is called out in a group setting and often in an accusatory manner.  ‘Calling people in’  involves holding that critical awareness until a moment when you can invite the person with the behaviour into a careful conversation in a one-on-one setting.

Conflict Point People: Try identifying people in your work that are respected and trusted by your group as ‘conflict point people. ‘ People in this role invite others to approach them about conflict at any time and make a commitment to support the person and resolve the conflict.

Non-Escalation Agreement / Guidelines: This involves proactively developing a set of guidelines or points of agreement that can help to diffuse or de-escalate a conflict.  This agreement can help to contain a conflict in a way that minimizes the potential of trauma for the individuals and groups involved.

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