The leader’s role does not end when the immediate conflict subsides. Building solutions involves dealing with the heart of the community division that was illuminated by the triggering incident. Collaborative decision-making helps to establish solutions embraced by the community as a whole, engages those who might feel disenfranchised, and establishes a pattern of working across past divides to solve problems. Leaders need to demonstrate on-going commitment and support to addressing the problems.
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. Public officials will make some decisions as the need for change becomes apparent but often need to involve a broader group in plans and actions to bring about deeper change. By collaborating with those who have concerns, leaders can offer a constructive way to express concerns, thus reducing the potential that conflict gets escalated in order to gain attention. They can help establish constructive patterns to deal with future division. They can ensure the continuing involvement of the broader community, not just government, in solving the problems. They can develop consensus on public policies and practices.
A FEW RESOURCES FOR COLLABORATIVE PROCESSES
- Susan L. Carpenter & W.J.D. Kennedy, Managing Public Disputes: A Practical Guide for Government, Business, and Citizens’ Groups (2001).
- Dean G. Pruitt, Jeffrey Z. Rubin, & Sung Hee Kim, Social Conflict: Escalation, Stalemate, and Settlement (3rd ed. 2003).
- Louis Kriesberg & Bruce W. Dayton, Constructive Conflicts: From Escalation to Resolution (4th ed. 2012).
- Michelle Maiese, Limiting Escalation / De-escalation, Beyond Intractability (Jan. 2004).
- Susan L. Podziba. Civic Fusion: Mediating Polarized Public Disputes (2012).
- Continue to use the intervenor engaged at the beginning of the conflict. The CRS intervenors may have had to move to other communities by this time and therefore the local intervenors may take on greater roles.
- Provide staff and logistical support on an on-going basis.
- Establish task forces for particular problems.
- Set up bridging groups for consultation over the long-term.
- With more time, expand the group of persons involved in resolving the issues. Consider adding additional experts, depending on the nature of the issues, to provide background on, for example:
- The economic realities of the community (What is the unemployment rate? Economically, where do residents fit on a continuum between an overall sense of confidence in their future and an environment of desperation?).
- Community resources (How are public funds allocated among police, education, code enforcement and other local functions? What would it cost to pursue various options being proposed and what would be changed to secure those resources?).
- Community history (What prior conflicts have arisen and how were they handled? What is the history regarding this particular conflict?).
- The social realities of the community (What is the high school graduation rate? How is the health care system? Are we meeting the basic needs of our residents?).
- The political realities (Are the political representatives actually representative of the community they serve? Are residents being heard?).
- The legal/law enforcement realities (Do people have equal access to justice? Do people respect the justice system?).
- Data regarding the underlying issues related to the subject matter of the incident.
- Use the collaborative process you established to deal with issues that arise over time. For example, an informal outdoor memorial to a violence victim with stuffed animals and toys may eventually need to be moved. The group might help find a respected place for some of the items, dispose of others, and confirm with those upset the careful consideration given to the decision.
- Establish accountability measures to ensure continuing implementation of solutions reached. Accountability measures might take the form of a review commission created to address a specific grievance, a specific change in a local government policy, or benchmarks with periodic reports back to the community.
- Celebrate accomplishments as they happen to keep participants motivated and engaged. This might take the form of a press conference with representatives of different groups in the community taking part or a lunch to publicly thank different members of the community for their efforts.
- Plan ahead for future unrest while people still appreciate the costs of not doing so. The Divided Community Project has another document to help with that planning, Planning in Advance of Civil Unrest (2016).
“BRIDGES, an acronym which stands for Building Respect In Diverse Groups to Enhance Sensitivity, is a successful partnership between federal law enforcement agencies and leaders in the Arab American and Middle Eastern communities in the metro-Detroit region. It is the outgrowth of an alliance formed shortly after September 11, 2001, when John Bell, then the special Agent in Charge of FBI-Detroit, and Imad Hamad, Regional Director of the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, gathered together government and community leaders to address backlash against the local Arab American and Middle Eastern communities. From this alliance evolved BRIDGES, which now meets on a regular basis to provide a forum to address issues of mutual concern and to foster better understanding. BRIDGES addresses issues such as border crossings, no-fly lists, charitable giving, cultural sensitivity, hate crimes, law enforcement policies and procedures, and immigration. The Detroit BRIDGES model has been touted by at least one academic who studied it as the ‘gold standard’ for law enforcement partnerships with the Arab, Muslim and Sikh Communities. The success of BRIDGES has inspired other districts to form their own chapters.”
CRS had to withdraw its strong resources from Sanford, Florida over time and Andrew “Thomas helped facilitate conversations about changes in Sanford. The community would remain divided until residents believed that the police would act justly toward all residents. A community-wide resident group conducted a review of the police department. In response to that group’s report, the department began making changes, reporting progress publicly every few months. For the first time in memory, residents participated in a significant way in the choice of a new police chief. Regular discussions began about other changes in Sanford.”
– Andrew Thomas in N. Rogers, When Conflicts Polarize Communities, 30 Ohio St. J. on Disp. Resol. 173 (2015).
“After using dialogue to address poverty and build prosperity, residents of the rural town of Wagner, S.D., realized that there was something holding them back from making real progress: they needed to address the long history of racial inequity and tensions between the white people living in the town and the American Indians living nearby. The racial tensions run deep, spanning many generations. In 2008, they began the first of many ongoing rounds of dialogues to address divisive issues in a peaceful manner. Eliminating racism and unpacking historical trauma won’t happen overnight, and Wagner residents are committed to achieving their vision a unified community. Subtle changes can be seen throughout the town: Some American Indians have invited white people to attend traditional events and ceremonies. A movie theater owned by a white person displays a ‘Thank you’ sign in both English and the local native language. And, more American Indians are moving into town. Study circles have been implemented in the school system as well. As a result, teachers are more intentional about creating inclusive curriculums. Native symbols and ceremonies are now being incorporated into school functions. More American Indians are attending school events typically viewed as ‘white,’ such as prom. Efforts are being made to build relationships beyond the study circles through book clubs, film screenings, and informal gatherings of study circles alumni. Wagner residents can point to many larger successes including:
- The establishment of a small business incubator. Half of the board members are American Indian, and half are white.
- The redefinition of the Secretary of Indian Affairs [was initially housed in the department of tourism but was redefined] to a liaison between the state government and the American Indian community.
- A significant increase in graduation rates of American Indians, which is now 30%. Before the program, very few American Indians graduated high school.”
– Everyday Democracy, http://www.everydaydemocracy.org/stories/path-unified-community #.VXpADSiov8E.