Thomas Battles to Lead DCP’s Bridge Initiative

Effective in February 2020, Thomas Battles joined the Divided Community Project as the Lead Mediator of the Project’s Bridge Initiative @ Moritz.

Mr. Battles recently retired as a regional director for the Community Relations Service (CRS) division of the United States Department of Justice. The unit was established by the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to serve as a “peacemaker” in communities with tension from race, color and national origin-related conflicts. It is the only federal agency dedicated to working with state, local officials, and community groups in, “restoring racial stability and harmony” in regions impacted by racial tension. In 2009, the agency’s mission was broadened to include hate crimes related to gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion and disability.

Mr. Battles became a regional director in 2003 — overseeing eight states including Florida — after working more than two decades in a front line role in Miami, Florida. As a director, he was responsible for mediating racial and ethnic disputes. His unit gained national attention in 2012 during the racial unrest that erupted in Sanford, Florida, after an unarmed black teenager, Trayvon Martin, was shot by a neighborhood watch volunteer, George Zimmerman.

Harvard Podcast features DCP

Release on March 10, 2020, DCP is featured on the Harvard Negotiation and Mediation Clinical Program podcast Thanks for Listening.  Titled “Listening for the Divide“, podcast hosts Sara del Nido Budish and Neil McGaraghan interview Becky Monroe and Bill Froehlich about DCP’s work.  The podcast and an accompanying transcript are available on HNMCP’s website.

This description is pulled from HNMCP’s website:

Welcome to the sixth episode of our podcast, Thanks for Listening!

What can communities do to bridge divides and address simmering tensions before they boil over? Our guests on this episode, Becky Monroe and Bill Froelich, ask this question each day in their work at the Divided Community Project, based at the Moritz College of Law at Ohio State University.  As we heard in Episode 3, facilitated dialogue helped communities in MN heal in the traumatic aftermath of the killing of Philando Castile. The Divided Community Project supports communities seeking to reach across divides and engage tension before it boils over, and builds their capacity to engage when a crisis does erupt.  Join us in this episode as Becky and Bill describe the origins of the Divided Community Project, the challenges of surfacing underlying and long-standing tensions, and how they engage with communities to “listen for the divide.”

DCP Hosts Second Academy Initiative

On March 1, 2 and 3, 2020 DCP hosted the Project’s Second Academy Intiative in Chicago, Illinois.  Working in partnership with the ABA Section of Dispute Resolution, DCP used its reports, case studies, simulations, and tools to train diverse leadership groups from four communities:

  1. Bloomington, Indiana
  2. Charlotte, North Carolina
  3. Indianapolis, Indiana
  4. Midwest City, Oklahoma

Funded by the AAA-ICDR Foundation, the Academy is desinged to

  1. Strengthen conflict resolution-related planning and capacity building.
  2. Support and strengthen the development of a local ‘core’ leadership convener group for four communities.
  3. Provide planning opportunities for each core leadership group.

Second Edition of Core DCP Reports Released

First published in 2016, the Divided Community project is proud to announce the release of the second edition of its core documents, Key Considerations for Leaders Facing Community Unrest and Planning in Advance of Community Unrest.  Both documents were updated with The Ohio State University’s Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity.

The second edition of Planning in Advance

. . . distills lessons from recent experience with community unrest that can be useful to those who want to have a plan in place before turbulence occurs. Each community can adapt these general lessons as its leaders prepare a plan tailored to their community and the reasons for division within that community. The planning suggestions offered in this document can be used to assess and improve the resilience of a community, to identify issues and create ways to address them before they cause an eruption, and to be prepared to deal constructively with unrest if it occurs.

The recommended strategies do not stifle the public expression of concerns and emotions in large group settings. Indeed, the strategies recognize the key role protest and unrest play in a  democracy. Rather, the message offered in this document
reflects the conclusions of experienced mediators, public  officials, and advocacy group leaders that communities with division need not become polarized communities with groups that have stopped listening to opposing viewpoints, have demonized those who subscribe to them, and are prone to destructive and violent community unrest. Instead, communities can develop effective ways to solve problems even in the midst of differences and avid advocacy for change. They can also gain by being ready in the event that community unrest occurs, either as the result of local concerns or outside groups
seeking to use a local event to express concerns about a national issue.

The second edition of Key Considerations

. . . addresses key considerations for leaders faced with these difficult situations.  The first section provides suggestions leaders can employ to help their communities handle the immediate aftermath of a divisive incident. These considerations include: bringing in skilled mediators to help mediate the conflict and assist in developing strategies at every step; working with law enforcement, key stakeholders, and the media; defining and framing the issues; and building trust. The second section deals with longer-term strategies for addressing the causes of conflict. The goal of the strategies is to facilitate the constructive expression of concern and to guide this advocacy to enduring resolutions rather than to violence and deeper bitterness.  Each of the suggestions includes some possible strategies for implementation and an illustration of the strategy in practice. The Appendix lists resources for securing additional information.

DCP Hosts Convening Targeting Campus Division

Approaches by college and university leaders that seemed constructive a few years ago when conflicts or divisive incidents occurred on campus may meet different reactions today.  Intensified conflict and increased hate incidents on campuses parallel the increasingly rancorous national political debate.  Some portions of society, and therefore of the campus community, may feel disrespected and under attack.   Some students may become further alienated if others, those who are neither targeted nor most directly affected, seem dismissive when these students speak out.  Students advocating a progressive agenda for change are more likely today to spark a conservative counter movement, and vice versa.  To add to the challenge, information, including false information, now travels swiftly on social media, and events unfold at a rapid pace.  Though most of this activity is entirely peaceful, the obligation to protect the safety of students and others understandably looms large in the minds of administrators.

While these changed dynamics present challenges, they also create new opportunities for higher education leaders.  Campus conflicts provide teachable moments, a time to encourage students to engage in the issues of the day and learn to advocate, negotiate, facilitate and understand each other.  Students become motivated to understand the relationships between democracy and constitutional rights.  If offered counseling and other support, they may grow in character and compassion.

Given the heightened challenges and opportunities, and the importance of getting it right, it may be helpful for college and university leaders to learn from the experience of their colleagues at other institutions. Experience that these leaders have can provide insight into additional alternative strategies, including those that allow for both learning and safety, for both inclusion and freedom of expression, and for the development of future leaders.

On January 10, 2020, the Divided Community Project convened nearly four dozen leaders (in person and via ZOOM) to listen for sound strategies that leaders facing division have found useful or wish that they had tried and sharing their valuable experience with other leaders.  Thanks to support from the Kettering Fundation DCP anticipates developing two reports providing guidance for campus leaders:

  1. Key Considerations for Colleg and University Leaders When Conflcits and Divisive Incidents Arise
  2. Key Considerations for University Leaders: Preparing the Campus at a Time of National Polarization

DCP anticipates releasing both reports publicly in late March.

OSU’s Lantern Highlights DCP’s Work

On October 17, 2019, Ohio State University’s student newspaper, The Lantern, featured the Divided Community Project.  The article highlighted how the JAMS Foundation’s recent $300,000 commitment to the project will enhance and sustain the Project through the 2021 calendar year.

DCP Director Becky Monroe is quoted saying, “Our mission is to help local leaders strengthen community efforts to transform division into action.” Deputy Director William Froehlich highlighted DCP’s connection to Moritz’s top-ranked Program on Dispute Resolution, “We take mediation concepts and skills we teach in classes here and apply them to communities with division and tension.”

Take a look at the full article here.

JAMS Foundation Announces Sustained Support for DCP

From the JAMS Foundation website

JAMS Foundation Continues Support of Divided Community Project with $300,000 Grant

October 03, 2019

Two Join DCP Steering Committee

The Divided Community Project welcomes Chief RaShall Brackney and Kyle Strickland to the project’s steering committee.

Chief Brackney was appointed Chief of Police for Charlottesville Virginia in 2018 and comes to DCP with decades of police experience as the former Chief of Police of the George Washington University and the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police.  Dr. Brackney is a recognized expert in the areas of harm reduction, procedural and restorative justice practices, and community-police relations. Dr. Brackney earned Bachelors and Masters Degrees from Carnegie-Mellon University and a Ph.D. from Robert Morris University.  Her complete biography is available here.

Kyle Strickland is the Senior Legal Analyst at the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race &Ethnicity at The Ohio State University.  His work focuses on local and national civil rights issues, criminal justice reform, fair housing policy, and equitable access to education.  Kyle earned his law degree from Harvard Law School, where he served as Student Body President. Kyle, a native of Columbus, earned his B.A. in Political Science from The Ohio State University.  His complete biography is available here.

For more about the Divided Community Project’s steering committee, click our “project designers” tab.

DCP Secures Grant to Host 2020 Academy

The AAA-ICDR Foundation announced that the Divided Community Project – working in partnership with the American Bar Association Section of Dispute Resolution – will receive $45,000 to host a second Academy Initiative in March, 2020.

In March 2019 DCP conducted an inaugural “Academy” for four selected ‘core leadership’ groups from Memphis (TN), Portland (OR), Charlottesville (VA) and Kenyon College.  Build on the inaugural Academy the AAA-ICDR grant enables the project to

  1. Strengthen relevant training materials, pedagogues, and resource materials.
  2. Expand network of local leaders, sharing lessons learned in strengthening local resiliency.
  3. Host a second Academy in March 2020.

Additional information about the Academy Initiative is available here.

Project Publishes American Spirit Storytelling Guide

For the complete document “Hosting American Spirit Storytelling Conversations,”  click here.  Here is a short summary pulled from the report: 

This storytelling initiative builds on the work of a diverse group of Americans who were convened by the Ohio State University Moritz College of Law’s Divided Community Project late in 2018 and came to a consensus on some over-arching aspirations that Americans share and value deeply — an American Spirit. They agreed that Americans seek to be innovative and a positive, “can do” people and to unite in our determination to be inclusive and to appreciate individuality. We have not achieved our goals yet, but that is no reason to abandon them.

After all, the preamble to our Constitution acknowledges that we are not perfect and should try to improve constantly in its statement that we are in the process of becoming “a more perfect union.” Polling indicates that people agree with these goals. Sharing compelling stories that illustrate those who embody these goals in their daily lives will bring these goals alive not only for those who attend but also for others who hear the stories. For an explanation of the historical groundings of this spirit and more detail on pertinent polling results, see the American Spirit website.

This guide is full of ideas for prompting creative storytelling by a gathering of neighbors and friends, but it is a guide only. A special part about this storytelling is that you have the flexibility to complete what works best for your group!

For more on the American Spirit, take a look at the American and Community Spirit website,