RESOLVE President, Steve D’Esposito is invited to speak at the 2011 Canadian Coal Conference

Sep 19, 2011

There are no easy answers when it comes to coal and the environment,  but let Steve D’Esposito tell you why he has been invited to talk to leaders in the coal sector at their upcoming national conference in Vancouver:

“I’ll be heading to Vancouver to speak at the 2011 Canadian Coal Conference—I’ll speak to a plenary session on the morning of September 26thon the topic of “meeting coal’s environmental challenges.”  Why have I been invited?  Because industry leaders want to hear from someone with an outside-the-sector perspective on these challenges and explore the potential to collaborate to find solutions.  There aren’t likely to be easy answers but as long as coal is being mined, processed and burned to generate power this seems like a pretty important discussion to have.”

What do you think? Let us know in the comments.

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The Summer Intern Team; THANK YOU!

Sep 12, 2011

RESOLVE’s senior mediator, Martha Beanwho works remotely from her professional home in Seattle, WA had the opportunity to speak to RESOLVE’s four fabulous summer 2011 interns- Ana, Eric, Maheen and Maya- as they are getting close to the end of their time with RESOLVE and will be heading back to their undergraduate and graduate studies. Through this casual phone lunch with Martha they had the opportunity to ask her questions beyond the typical discussions around their projects. In her own words she describes her conversation and her experience with the interns at the EPA Community Involvement Training Conference in Washington, DC and remotely on a variety of projects throughout the summer.


I had the honor of talking with our interns Ana, Eric, Maheen and Maya at a virtual lunch on Friday August 12, 2011. They asked me questions about my perspectives, profession and work life. And I held forth for much of the hour – they were generous with their time. Here are key things I would like to pass; things I learned in our lunchtime discussions:

RESOLVE’s work environment is one where people clearly *like* and respect each other. RESOLVE’s interns saw up close and personal how important this is, and will seek to work in places that exhibit similar camaraderie. RESOLVE clearly values its interns.

Each of RESOLVE’s interns had the opportunity to work on and learn about a variety of programs, people and issues. It has been interesting for them to watch real collaboration happen through the work of RESOLVE facilitators, mediators and program staff.

RESOLVE interns valued working on challenging, meaningful projects.  They were generally not given busy or clerical work. They noted this isn’t true for every internship out there, and they appreciated that RESOLVE took the time and trusted them enough to have them work on important, impactful projects.

The role of technology is changing how we do collaborative work. Our interns see that they can add value, be creative, and be entrepreneurial by being on the front end of this change.

While collaborative processes are the nuts and bolts of RESOLVE’s work, our interns see that effective collaborative practice has applications across a wide variety of professions and issues.

Might there be a position or another internship in Seattle? Not at this time, I answered. Someday, perhaps – they should stay in touch to be sure!

These folks are great. I heard their praises being sung again at a meeting I attended at EPA Region 10 last week. The lead community outreach person for the Port of Seattle the conference session in DC and was particularly complementary of Maya, Maheen, Eric and Ana. I hope and trust that RESOLVE’s interns will take advantage of the good will and networks they have generated while with RESOLVE to find their future academic and professional ‘homes’.

With gratitude to RESOLVE for the experience of working with these fine folk,

- Martha Bean

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RESOLVE Completes Science Review in Record Time!

Sep 8, 2011

The Forest Service is engaged in developing a new Planning Rule for all National Forests including a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) of the Rule. The Service contracted with RESOLVE to act as a neutral third party and to conduct an external science review of the DEIS. Seven eminent scientists (in areas such as climate change, monitoring, and forest management) were selected by the RESOLVE Science Program staff. These seven then acted as reviewers to evaluate three key questions on scientific caliber, treatment of uncertainty, and comprehensiveness of the DEIS. In order to ensure the integrity and independence of the review process, the identity of the reviewers and the content of their analysis were kept confidential by RESOLVE, including from the planning rule team, until the review was completed. RESOLVE successfully completed the review in record time, resulting in improvements to the final Forest Service document.

For more information check out the Forest Service’s Planning Rule Science Review Website

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Serious Play Demonstration [Video]

Sep 7, 2011

Martha Bean narrates a demonstration of Serious Play.

Get the full story here.

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Aug 16, 2011

Let’s do the numbers: One Tribal Nation. Two active, engaged communities of workers, artists and activists. Three major manufacturers and countless smaller businesses. Five languages. Six government agencies. Seven miles of contaminated river bed. And eleven options for cleanup of Seattle’s Lower Duwamish waterway.

Lower Duwamish Waterway

In this complicated situation with a multitude of languages, perspectives, technical challenges and cultures, how can all be engaged in decision making?

Those affected by the contamination – and by the cleanup – have the right to offer their thoughts, insights and ideas to those who will ultimately decide what will happen. But to be forceful and effective in providing input, people need information. Much of the information about the Lower Duwamish waterway is extraordinarily complex. The models are opaque; the clear answers few.

The scientists and engineers working on the Lower Duwamish cleanup want to be effective, thorough and gracious in their explanations of their work. They want to communicate in a way that allows real exchange and full discussion. All of us know this is very hard to do, despite the best of intentions.

Now throw language into the mix. The scientists and engineers working on solutions are, in many cases, already a decade into their work on the project. They speak their own particular technical dialect with ease. A broad range of languages are spoken in the communities affected by the contamination and the cleanup. And, like most of us, the community members largely don’t speak technical jargon at all.

Here at RESOLVE, we’ve come up with the notion of Serious Play. Pint-size building materials (think Legos®, Tinker-toys®, K’nex® and PlayDough®) are often the most beloved toys from the childhood days of technical professionals. With the advice and encouragement of local residents, we asked our dedicated scientists and engineers to use ‘play things’ to go about the serious business of describing clean up options. The technical professionals were immediately enthusiastic and ready to go with this new approach. Through Serious Play, our engineers and scientists simply, elegantly and accurately explained their thinking and perspectives. With toys as the intermediary, there was a familiarity – and even a bit of whimsy – that emboldened community members. Residents asked questions, probed, challenged and taught their scientist colleagues things they, as locals, knew about the beautiful Duwamish River, its legacy and its future.

Low Impact Development Scenario

Click here to see more pictures of Serious Play from the 2011 EPA Community Involvement Training Conference on RESOLVE’s Flickr account. A video of the demonstration itself will be available shortly.

Let’s do the numbers again: One small – but significant – step toward respect, engagement and understanding among people of different languages, occupations, perspectives and cultures.

- Martha Bean with Maya Breitburg-Smith and Eric Roberts.

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RESOLVE Appoints Three New Senior Mediators Martha Bean, Kate Kopischke, and Robin Roberts

Apr 4, 2011

RESOLVE today announced the appointment of Martha Bean, Kate Kopischke, and Robin Roberts as Senior Mediators.

“These appointments strengthen our senior team and help RESOLVE bring new value to our partners” said Stephen D’Esposito, President of RESOLVE. “RESOLVE bolsters its international capacity, and extends its reach in the Pacific Northwest (of North America).”

Check the press release for the complete announcement.

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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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