There are many ways we can transform our relationship to conflict and support the development of healthier, interest-based conflict cultures. Some of these are small and nearly unnoticeable, while others are larger and require higher-order skills; some are modest, some bolder, and it is difficult to know in advance which will be most useful. Explore the one(s) that seem right to you.
“Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius, and a lot of courage, to move in the opposite direction.”
― E.F. Schumacher, Small is Beautiful
“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you look fear in the face. You must do the thing that you think you cannot do.”
Some Small-Scale Strategies
1. Engage in small acts of kindness, especially toward those who are being demonized or marginalized. For inspiration about possible acts of kindness, visit Kindspring, a worldwide volunteer-based organization whose mission is to inspire more people to engage in acts of kindness. Their tagline: "Small acts that change the world."
2. Risk engaging in difficult, courageous, bridge-building conversations with your friends, relatives and colleagues over sensitive and divisive issues.
3. Attend a mediation training or conflict-resolution courses. Whether or not you plan on becoming a professional mediator, these skills will make a big difference to your life and the people around you.
4. Focus on skill building. For democracy to succeed, or to achieve peace or social justice, we all need to become more skilled in listening, problem-solving, dialogue, collaborative negotiation, mediation, and similar conflict resolution skills, and these have be built and strengthened from the ground up. Volunteer to speak at local schools, community centers, clubs, religious gatherings and meetings on these topics, and write about your experiences. Rethink the way you work and interact with others from an interest-based, conflict revolution point of view. You can learn more about what this means here.
5. Support your local mediators and mediation centers. Google "mediation" or "conflict-resolution" and the name of your town to get started. See what organizations and people come up. Find out what they do, what they offer, and what they need. Look up local mediators at www.mediate.com and ask if they would be willing to support local conflict resolution initiatives.
6. Support organizations like Mediators Beyond Borders, Essential Partners, Partners Global, the Alliance for Peacebuilding, the Association for Conflict Resolution, the National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation, and other initiatives that are working domestically and internationally to reduce the threat of war, and build people's capacity to dialogue and resolve conflicts non-violently.
Some Larger-Scale Strategies
The strategies below are for both professional and "natural" mediators. As mediators, we are also global citizens and have both a responsibility and multiple opportunities to spread our craft by building conflict resolution capability around the planet. The problems we now face, from global warming to species extinction and nuclear proliferation, cannot be solved by any single nation, but require collaboration, which entails listening, informal problem solving, collaborative negotiation, dialogue, and conflict resolution. This will require us to build a global culture of conflict resolution. This is the mission of Mediators Beyond Borders, which is working person-to-person, from the bottom up, to enhance conflict resolution skills and cultures in the US and around the globe. Every mediator can offer assistance to someone somewhere in the world.
1. Facilitate dialogues in your community. Learn how to design, organize and facilitate "dangerous dialogues and courageous conversations" over politically divisive issues in your community. Essential Partners and Mediators Beyond Borders both offer trainings on how to do that. There are a number of communities of practice that can offer support. You can also watch a webinar I facilitated around this topic in the Fall of 2016.
2. Develop a conflict-resolution initiative that fills an important need. The Citizen Mediator Initiative, for instance, is an initiative started by Ashok Panikkar in the wake of the 2016 elections to mobilize Mediators who want to direct their skills toward the facilitation of community dialogues and strengthening of democracy.
3. Find and fund promising conflict resolution initiatives and leaders. There are many promising projects, initiatives and leaders around the world with wonderful, transformative ideas and little support. Fund projects(s) that inspire you, or fundraise on their behalf. Be an ambassador for their work.
4. Identify "hot spots" and places where there is conflict, and get involved. If you have conflict resolution skills, there are countless places that could use your help. If you lack these skills, enroll in a training, or help those who are already trained connect with people who might benefit from their knowledge and experience.