Roundtable on Conflict Resolution

Summer Roundtable on August 12, 2015.

The summer Roundtable is always a special learning event. YANA member Caroline Packard led our summer Roundtable on conflict resolution and mediation for nonprofits. Frank Raffaele and COFFEED provided a magnificent setting and a delicious supper at COFFEED’S new location, New Leaf Restaurant in Ft. Tryon Park, near the Cloisters.

Introductions, real life discussions exercises and sharing and sharing of information filled the evening.

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Caroline reviewed the steps of the problem-solving process, sharing information and experience. Roundtable members engaged in open and frank discussion of particular experiences and ways of resolution.

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You can find Caroline’s book, “The Mediator’s Handbook” on Amazon

Introductions (go-round). Participants introduce themselves, including “One thing I’d like to learn about resolving conflicts in nonprofits is….”

Review agenda, relate to participants’ learning objectives.

Warm-up talk. Examples of conflicts in nonprofits among board, staff, volunteers, constituencies. Typical causes and friction points. Role of conflicts in organizational learning. Why some conflicts persist or escalate. Impact of unresolved conflicts. What is conflict resolution? When is it helpful? How effective is it?

Demo role play: the basic core of the conflict-resolution process (10”).  Two participants volunteer to role play teenage siblings arguing over use of a drum set, invasion of privacy, and annoying friends.  RT leader, as Mom, intervenes.

Large group debrief (5”)

Focus on skills: What did you notice Mom the Mediator doing?  Not doing?

Focus on role: What aspects of her role as their mom might make it easier or harder for her to be effective, compared with a stranger?  What if Mom had her own agenda about the drum set?

Short presentation (5”):  Review the steps of the problem-solving process.  Could the teens learn to follow this process without a mediator? Does the answer depend on how intense the conflict is? How to tell if you need a mediator.

Focus on key skill: Reframing complaints as joint problems.

Trying it out role play (small groups). “Albie and Britt: Office Sharing.”  In groups of 4, decide who will play Albie and Britt, and who will be the mediators. (5”) Mediators try to walk Albie and Britt through the process and to find a few points of agreement (10”). Disputants give mediators feedback in small group. Large group debrief: could you tell whose side your mediators were on?  What was hard/easy about mediating? What happens when you give disputants advice v. asking them how to solve it? (5”)

Conflict analysis. In groups of 4, take turns describing an organizational conflict you’ve been in or wanted to help with (no identifying details needed): what were the issues, who were the stakeholders and decision makers, what was tried, what was the result, what do you wish had been tried? Together, note any common themes among your conflict stories. (20”)

Large group debrief.  Based on your small group discussion, what resources or practices tend to support nonprofits in moving effectively through conflict, and which attributes or practices tend to make it more difficult?  Which of these obstacles to conflict resolution do you think would be easiest to reduce? (10”)

Reflections on the work. Any surprises, learnings, satisfactions, or dissatisfactions arising from the work you’ve just done? (5”)

Loose ends: Key elements of organizational conflict resolution not covered today include: how to persuade people to participate in the process; when and how to structure a series of sessions involving different combinations of participants; how to facilitate large-group sessions when participants’ differences are entrenched and intensely felt; best practices for designing organizational conflict management systems. Handouts on these topics will be provided. (5”)

Closing go-round:  Participants say their name again, and “One strength I bring to resolving conflicts is…” (5”)