Interning as a Project Manager on the Oregon Water Futures (OWF) and Healers project so far has been focused on building relationships which involves getting to know the different teams and working dynamics, communities OWF works with, attending related workshops, finding new connections, and planning for work involving community engagement activities and events. Connecting my internship work to my graduate program housed in UO’s School of Law, Conflict and Dispute Resolution (CRES), I learned early on in the program the significance of relationships through coursework focused on topics that included: conflict across cultures, negotiations, psychology of conflict, philosophy of conflict, and mediation. Relationships are important.
Many CRES courses I’ve taken viewed relationships in conflict from a different lens but a common theme found in these courses is the significance of relationships and the influence it has on conflict progress and outcomes. Positive interactions that account for power dynamics to help create and ensure equality, supported by social and institutional authorities, intergroup cooperation, and group work towards common goals can create favorable conditions when approaching conflicts. Below is a brief discussion and pictures related to my first time facilitating a simulated environmental conflict for my Environmental Conflict Resolution course I am currently taking. I try to incorporate what I learned during my first year in the CRES program, the importance of prep work ahead of time and the significance of building trust and relationships. It wasn’t a perfect simulation but it was good practice and I was able to see areas I need to improve.
On Friday 10/22 I volunteered to facilitate an environmental conflict simulation called Cabbage Mountain (CM) where I designed a facilitation process with input from participants which were role played by colleagues and my professor. I appreciated the space and participants for allowing me to practice my facilitation skills for complex environmental conflicts. In thinking through the facilitation process I sought to illustrate my appreciation and initiate a relationship with participants by sending an email to all participants with the same message and attachments. My hope was to open communication and begin to build trust and relationships. I also wanted to learn as much as I could so I can anticipate group needs and mitigate any potential negative interactions. The goal was to facilitate a respectful conversation to work through issues and see if the participants can develop a “shared vision” (common goal) for CM. Participants were invited to add items to the agenda ahead of time and another opportunity to add or change it before facilitation officially began. A survey was offered to all participants to express their concerns and needs in the initial email. I sent out another global email a few days before the facilitation with materials for the planned activities and a draft of a proposed agenda incorporating input from participant responses and another prompt to amend or add to the agenda and inviting questions about the facilitation process and the activities planned. To help create a more welcoming atmosphere and ease any tensions that already existed I offered light refreshments to the participants and inquired ahead of time if anyone had dietary restrictions. Mini goodie bags were assembled which included leaf shaped post-it notes for our Tree Exercise and a heart shaped rose quarts to draw in positive healing energies, express my positive intentions and dedication to the group and to help build unity.
Do you ever think about the future and dream of a world that is more equitable and just? I dream about that nearly every night. I wonder what that future world will look like and how do we all get there? At Pacific Northwest Just Futures Institute for Racial and Climate Justice (JFI), questions like this and many others are being explored.
JFI is made possible in part from a $4.52 million dollar grant awarded to the University of Oregon (UO) in January 2021 from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation along with contributions made by many people including my current mentor and advisor, Dr. Alaí Reyes-Santos. I am currently an intern at JFI and work with Dr. Reyes-Santos and a team that is diverse in both skills and knowledge. This internship meets my Masters in Conflict and Dispute Resolution (CRES) program requirements at UO School of Law in addition to helping me answer those important questions of what a “just” world looks like and how do we all get there?
My role on the JFI team is Project Manager for two projects our team is working on, Oregon Water Futures (OWF) and Healers/Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK). I also serve as a liaison between OWF and Oregon Health Authority (OHA). As part of my OHA Liaison role, I attend planning meetings on a conference that is being planned for January 2022 and share input from the OWF team and help our team stay updated related to this work.
There are many moving pieces involved in my internship due to the multiple projects and the many people and organizations involved in moving the projects along. For example, OWF is collaborating with multiple partner organizations including: Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste (PCUN), Chinook Indian Nation, NAACP Eugene-Springfield, EUVALCREE, and Unite Oregon. The OWF team is composed of Verde, Oregon Environmental Council (OEC), Willamette Partnership (WP), Coalition of Communities of Color (CCC) and University of Oregon Indigenous, Race, and Ethnic Studies Department. All this to say that when we imagine what a just future world looks like and we think about how we get there, we must include everyone's perspectives and ensure that everyone's voice is heard.
The effort to create a more equitable world is not done alone but together.
Thank you for taking the time to read my post. Future blogs will include topics related to my work at JFI and my CRES program where I am working on becoming an Environmental Conflict Specialist.
Wishing you all the best, Rose.
I am a Graduate Student at the University of Oregon (UO) School of Law studying Conflict and Dispute Resolution. I did my undergraduate work at UO majoring in General Social Science with a concentration in Globalization, Environment, and Policy.