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.

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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 http://www.southparkbusiness.org/contributors/view/34attended 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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SERIOUS PLAY

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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