By divided community, we mean a community with conflicts that could potentially polarize its residents, such that people stop listening, tensions simmer, and, in regrettable instances, some “final straw” incident triggers civil unrest and disorder.

No nation, including our own, can escape such tests.  Be they conflicts arising from police conduct, immigration issues, use of public lands, religious clashes or social issues of significant citizen division, our collective challenge is to strengthen our ability to prevent such community interactions from escalating into violence and unrelenting polarization.  Another challenge is to make available avenues to deal with the heart of the issues dividing a community in tranquil times so that these divisions do not as frequently generate civil unrest and more frequently enhance understanding about and consensus on public policies and practices.

Through this project, we hope to synthesize the insights of dispute resolution interveners, advocates, and community leaders regarding the use of collaborative approaches to community division; provide counsel to local leaders based on these insights; and help local leaders translate these principles into practice in local communities throughout the nation, while at the same time working constantly to improve the counsel we provide.

Planning in Advance of Civil Unrest

This document offers points to consider for a community that seeks to develop a strategy to deal with civil unrest before it occurs.   Like the planning processes for dealing with a disaster, such as an earthquake, this planning process makes clear the costs of civil unrest and suggests steps to make it less likely – a preventive strategy.  The document also offers ways to make the community more resilient, to become a community that has processes in place to deal with divisive issues before an incident illuminates them and brings residents to the streets.

Key Considerations for Community Leaders Facing Civil Unrest:

Effective Problem-Solving Strategies That Have Been Used in Other Communities

This document provides a checklist to consider when a community faces civil unrest and when that community begins to build consensus about dealing with the underlying problem.  For each point to consider, this document includes possible action items, illustrations, quotes from those who have dealt with this issue, and resources that could provide more help.