Executive Summary

Local leaders facing the immediate aftermath of a divisive incident should consider helping their staffs to take the following six steps roughly simultaneously, all discussed in more detail in this document:

  1. Bring in intervenors with experience in volatile community conflicts and conflict resolution expertise to advise your leadership team and begin discussions with stakeholders on a process for solving problems.
  2. Identify and engage stakeholders, those persons who have a stake in the conflict or can be a resource for developing and implementing a durable resolution.
  3. Keep in mind the brittleness of some residents’ trust in their local leaders in the midst of volatile conflict and follow approaches likely to develop or enhance that trust.
  4. Agree to protocols between law enforcement and other local officials so that public officials do not work at cross-purposes.
  5. Develop communications strategies that match the unfolding situation and the variety of interested media.
  6. Identify the factors external to the triggering incident that may have contributed to the conflict and then define and frame the issues, right from the beginning, to reflect the way in which residents view the conflict.

Once the immediate crisis has passed, local leaders should consider longer-term strategies for addressing the underlying causes of the conflict:

  1. Work with intervenors to deepen the collaborative processes established immediately after the conflict began with the aim of developing long-term plans and implementation strategies.
  2. Maintain interaction with the public throughout this extended collaborative process to assure that it is addressing the issues that the community is grappling with.