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?”

“No”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes”

“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.

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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. (more…)

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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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Update from South Africa [travel]

Jan 13, 2011

Hello RESOLVE and RESOLVE-y people:

Finished yesterday at noon facilitating the United Nations Environment Program meeting. The meeting was to develop options to finance international chemical and hazardous waste conventions. The delegates worked hard to understand and improve all the options and came up with a good approach to collect more information that can inform a future approach.

Really interesting to transition between local-to-national-to-international organizations and problem solving. I’m used as a facilitator with a chair, but very few people had worked with a chair managing content and a facilitator managing process so I could not do as much as I can in North America. It was interesting to learn the strengths and weaknesses of the chair/facilitator model. (more…)

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Coming in 2011…

Dec 21, 2010

As 2010 comes to a close, the RESOLVE team is reflecting on the past year and planning for the year ahead. In 2010 RESOLVE launched the Solutions Network – which is still in development and growing with a variety of innovative projects. Check out this link in 2011 for more info on specific Network projects. We’ll be launching our new RESOLVE website in 2011 and wanted to give you a sneak preview. The site is the result of great logo design and conceptual work by Leo Burnett, the brand guidance of Chuck Pettis and the creativity and dogged work of Michael Brumm at Ascent Coalition. Check it out and stay tuned for the launch in early 2011.

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Record Attendance at NWCC Wildlife Research Meeting

Oct 19, 2010

NWCC Meeting
Over 300 academics, federal and state officials, NGO representatives, and industry professionals are convening this week in Denver, Colorado for the National Wind Coordinating Collaborative’s (NWCC) Wind Wildlife Research Meeting. The conference is the eighth in the series and will feature 65 poster and live presentations on research findings on the interaction between utility-scale wind turbine development, birds and bats, and their habitats. The full NWCC Wildlife Research Meeting Agenda can be found here, and more information about the NWCC can be found at www.nationalwind.org.

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NWCC Co-hosts Transmission Policy Institute for State Lawmakers in Denver, CO

Aug 25, 2010

NWCC Colorado
The National Wind Coordinating Collaborative (NWCC) and the National Conference of State Legislatures hosted the Transmission Policy Institute June 17-18 in Denver, Colorado. Public utility commissioners, representatives from the U.S. Departments of Energy and Interior, and other experts provided State Lawmakers with foundational knowledge of the technical aspects of transmission planning, siting, cost allocation, energy integration, and smart grid technologies. (more…)

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De Morgan Facilitates Ultimate Win

Jul 12, 2010

RESOLVE Senior Mediator Paul De Morgan and his Ultimate Frisbee team “Troubled Past” ran an undefeated path to become the World Ultimate Club Champions, 2010 Masters Division. We were with Paul in Prague (site of the tournament) in spirit and online (via live streaming) for the Championship Game as he threw 1 goal and helped facilitate the offensive side of the team. Throughout the week-long event (10 games) he racked up a total of 15 points between goals caught and thrown. (more…)

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Collaboration and Technology Discussion Series – The More Things Change the More They Stay the Same

May 11, 2010

What makes for a good conversation? A seemingly simple question, but it reminds me of the importance of the basics as we venture into new terrain opened by technology.

I am having so much FUN exploring technological tools for public engagement! The process certainly looks different at times, which is part of the fun. And, yet, I keep coming back to the basics. What do we know about what makes a good conversation in person, and how do we translate that into a new setting, whether it be a web dialogue or a collaborative modeling process? (more…)

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