Monthly Archives: March 2011

Put On Your Own Oxygen Mask First

Mar 29, 2011

On the long drive home from an evening community meeting, after a busy (good but tiring) week I was reflecting on the fact that our work as collaborative leaders and problem solvers can be rewarding as well as stressful, tiring, and emotional.

I reminded myself that to help people solve contentious problems, we need to take care of ourselves first. It can be hard to step back from a drama or a puzzle.

So here’s my own list of how to sustain yourself first, so you can help and nurture others second. This list works for me, if you have other suggestions to add please let us know as comments on this entry:

1) Go outside—being outside can be profoundly spiritual or just a good way to get some Vitamin D– -too much florescent lighting does me in.

2) Keep learning—invest in professional development, learn new skills, read. Take on new challenges—new places, new techniques, or new issues.

3) Eat real food, get enough sleep, and exercise regularly—hotel Danish, late nights, and airplanes cause conflict resolution decay.

4) Let’s sustain our spirits—be in nature, go to religious services, yoga, or meditate regularly. Touching in with what gives us meaning nourishes our practice.

5) Reflect on practice and work regularly— meet with a group of colleagues, write in a journal or build new relationships. We can get stale if we don’t reflect on why we do and say the things we do when we are working.

6) Spend time with people who like and love you (or even a dog). We spend a lot of time attending to others; let’s make sure others are attending to us as well.

7) Play—go to the movies, read a book, go on vacation, do something that is fun. All work and no play makes for dull and burnt out facilitators and mediators

8) Last but not least—lighten up….look for humor in unexpected places, enjoy the moment, the world is going to keep spinning if you take a nap or go bird watching.

- Juliana Birkhoff

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Take a tour of our new website…

Mar 23, 2011

A quick video introduction to RESOLVE’s new website: (Click the photo to launch the video)


- Jason Gershowitz

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From Sackville to Sumbawa

Mar 16, 2011

One of the best things about being an environmental and public policy mediator is the wide range of topics I have to learn about, the great people I meet and get to work with, and the diverse places I get to work. I am constantly challenged by the scientific, economic, and social information and am stretched to figure out how to apply my experience to new policy contexts. My work also pushes my introverted self out of my comfort, to constantly meet and interact intensely with new people. We work on problems with partners everywhere. Sometimes the everywhere is all in one week….

RESOLVE works with an amazing travel agent—which is good. A year ago, a mediator friend in Europe asked me if I could take over her project because she hurt her back and could not travel. I talked to the sponsor—a UN program. They told me the date and location of the in-person meeting. I replied, dubiously, that I would call our travel agent.

“Jerry, this is Juliana, can I get from Winnipeg, Canada on Wednesday night if the meeting ends at 6:00pm to Bangkok, Thailand for a meeting on Saturday morning?”


“Are you sure?”


“Can you try?”

….through the miracle of flight and benefit of time changes, Jerry Feldman flew me from Winnipeg, Manitoba, to Toronto, to Dubai, to Bangkok. I made it to the hotel in time to nap, shower, eat breakfast, and go to a planning meeting with the chairs, country sponsors, and UN staff.

Thanks to Jerry, I have also flown from Vieques, Puerto Rico to Pretoria, South Africa…

The travel, of course, is one challenge. The bigger and more stimulating intellectual challenge is to go from regional infrastructure planning in Canada to financing for chemicals and hazardous materials in the UN system. But through experience, I find that I learn the issues, history, policy and decision-making context, negotiation and collaboration culture, leaders and stakeholders faster now than I did early in my career. I am also much more comfortable beginning projects asking everyone to tell me what I need to know and learning quickly from my key informants. I used to be afraid to let on that I did not know it already. Good mediators do not know everything but they are flexible and can learn in the moment. After many years of experience we also reach a point where we have a deep, rich set of experiences to draw on, allowing us to see patterns that can help our partners find solutions and reach agreements. There is also sometimes a benefit to a fresh perspective. In some circumstances stakeholders need help from a collaborative leader who is also an expert on their issues. In other circumstances, an experienced mediator, with a fresh eye on issues and relationships can see new things and unlock new potential.


On March 24, I will be facilitating a meeting in Sackville, New Brunswick Canada to develop the beginnings of recommendations on the process to revise the Maritime Forest Stewardship Certification standard. Then I fly from Moncton, to Toronto, to Hong Kong, to Bali, to Sumbawa, Indonesia to train community and gold mine staff to improve their conflict management skills.

I will once again suspend my attachment to time zones, let the rich set of experiences, relationships, and interests take hold, and fully expect that what I help stakeholders achieve in Canada will bring value to my partners in Hong Kong, Bali, and Sumbawa.

The really good news here is that our field continues to expand its horizons and will strengthen as its adapts to the needs, interests, cultures, histories, and new approaches of our global partners.

- Juliana Birkhoff

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Internship Opportunity

Mar 14, 2011

RESOLVE is seeking an intern for the Summer 2011 semester. This is a paid internship lasting through August 2011. We are looking for a Masters or Ph.D. student who has completed at least one year of coursework focused on collaboration or public policy, and who has some collaboration experience.

Interested? Please submit your application.


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Wait a Minute – How Do You Know That?

Mar 10, 2011

An administrator from a large commercial insurance company calls you at Y.C.O. “You Control the Outcome” (an ADR organization specializing in mediation). He tells you that his best friend just got divorced. He was surprised that it was not as bad as many other people’s divorces. His friend said it was because they had a mediator who smoothed the process out and helped them both move on without too many hostile feelings. Moreover, his friend bragged about how much money and time his ex-wife and he had saved by mediating their divorce. The administrator (we’ll call him Dave) asks you how would mediation help his firm get faster, cheaper, and better settlements to their disputes. You are so excited you tell him yes, you and your associates specialize in helping organizations resolve their conflicts efficiently and economically. Wait a minute—how do you know that’s true?

This column will help us figure out how to separate the hype from the facts, the marketing claims from the reality. First though, we have to venture into a little bit of philosophy. Then, we’ll come back to what to tell Dave. Continue reading

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Paradigm Shift

Mar 2, 2011

Sustainability today requires something different: support for rapid innovation and collaborative leadership, safe space for risk taking, and partnerships formed across sectors.  This requires the design of new systems and tools that support a collaborative approach.  I call this Sustainability 3.0 and my keynote remarks at the 2011 SME Annual Meeting & Exhibit and CMA 113th National Western Mining Conference “Shaping a Strong Future Through Mining” explore progress and new challenges, for the mining industry, NGOs and society.  Take a look.

Stephen D’Esposito

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