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.
Rose Poton (she/her) is a compassionate and creative Conflict and Dispute Resolution professional that enjoys working on issues involving the health and well-being of all people and environments while applying a community-centered and environmental justice lens.