Today is International Conflict Resolution Day. In recognition of this day, a variety of organizations at the University of Colorado, Boulder, put together a day of workshops on the topic of conflict resolution. I took the day off work in order to attend five of the six workshops, and it was well worth it. Here is a short summary of the workshops I attended (I may write additional posts with more detailed thoughts on some of them):
- Communication and Conflict: In this workshop we learned about active listening, “I” messages, framing, and anticipation as four techniques to use during conflict. None of this was new to me, but it is always good to be reminded about these things and it was fun to have the opportunity to do a few partner exercises.
- Constructive Confrontation: This was focused on the concept of intractable conflicts, ones that may never be resolvable. The presenters talked about techniques for making these conflicts constructive rather than destructive. At the end we had the opportunity to work in groups to discuss how we would advise the president to approach various current domestic topics within this framework (the economy, the environment, and the war in Iraq).
- The Basics of Dialogue: This workshop presented the techniques to foster dialogue. The goal of dialogue is not necessarily resolution of a conflict, but simply for each party to reach a deeper understanding of the other parties. The woman who gave the presentation works at the university and gave some examples of how they have used the dialogue process. It was very interesting and motivating.
- Debriefing of 10-14-08 “Un-Debate” Event: On Tuesday evening they had held a debate between the candidates for congressperson, with the goal being to make it a productive discussion rather than a traditional debate. The discussion today was about how that went, and it was interesting even though I did not go to the un-debate itself. I had watched the presidential debate last night and we talked about that some of the time as well.
- Restorative Justice Demonstration: In this workshop we all participated in a mock restorative justice victim-offender circle. It was an interesting experience, and I also made some connections that may lead to new volunteer opportunities and/or mediation or facilitation trainings.
Overall, the day was even better than I expected because not only was the content of the workshops interesting, but I also had the opportunity to talk to other people who are interested in or actively doing this sort of work. It was very inspiring to meet these people and see hard proof that I am not alone!
I also found out about some possible ways I can get more involved. In particular, I could volunteer as a community representative for the Community Accountability Board conference that the University restorative justice program holds. With experience doing that, I could then go through their training to become a facilitator. They will also be offering a mediation training in February. Another place I could potentially volunteer is at The Conflict Center in Denver; I talked to a very nice and friendly woman who works there (it is a bit far, unfortunately).
Finally, two other interesting people I talked to were an Economics professor from Georgia who has always focused on peace issues and is currently on leave in Boulder starting a new organization related to peace, and a woman who currently works as an electrical engineer but is also getting a master’s in peace and conflict studies.
All in all, it was a very motivating day!