Tag Archives: Alternative Dispute Resolution

What are the Prospects?

Ok so if you read any of my posts you know that next term I’m supposed to graduate, with my second Master’s.  Yes the first was in Journalism and was a while ago.

But what’s next?

For me, that would be a job in the field of Conflict Resolution.  Now before you here look for a list of jobsites, don’t.  You can do that on your own.  And no, I’m not going to tell you the intricacies of what Human Resource Departments look for either.  For that inside look read this very good blog.


I’m going to look at the entire Field of CR and see what’s trending, by heading here, to Indeed.com.  Sure it’s a jobsite but that’s not it’s real power.  What it can show you are industry trends, like this, based on number of jobs.  And for the good industries you wan the graph to slope UP to the right.  Holding steady is ok, but you don’t want to see this, which means a shrinking field of jobs, and more competition per spot.

Another source of job information is here, and is worth a look.

As with any charts pay attention to the scales you see.  Not all are the same so the lines can be misleading, look here for a fuller description.

As for me?  This looks pretty good — but looking closer it doesn’t seem that there are many jobs to start with.  At least it’s not as sporadic as this job is.

But don’t think that staring at your screen will get you that job either.  You’ve heard it all before, get out and make contacts, then try some of these ideas to leverage them into what you seek.  Though I hate to say it, my dad was right, “it’s not WHAT you know, but WHO you know.”  And that’s the trick.

As for me?  Well the future seems pretty good, at least according to this article.

But I have a lot of hands still  to shake…

What do you think?


Studying Peace – Hands on?

Next term is my last in the NECR Program here at Columbia, assuming it all goes well.  And as I gear up for my Capstones, that also seems to have me looking at alternatives and playing “what if.”

“What if I want to learn about Peace, or Conflict Resolution but don’t want (or can’t) to do all the work?”

I was thinking about this (yes really, and it might have to do with working on final papers…) riding the subway from school, and realized there are alternatives.  Sure there are certificate courses that can add value to existing degrees, like the one here on Human Rights this summer.  But what about other approaches?

There is this, an online peace building course based in Washington, DC.  Looks pretty good, right?  It’s a beta-test which is why it’s free for now, but it still seems interesting.

For the more determined peace-keeper there’s this institute that has several courses for the United Nations.  Some seem pretty intriguing, and many are online.

Online.  Peace. Peace Studies. Conflict Resolution.  Online.

For me that all seems a little odd, doesn’t it?  Don’t get me wrong, I like online, after all that’s how I’m writing this Blog.  But shouldn’t conflict resolution and peace studies deal with people?  I think so.

Ok, so I’m airing a bias here and perhaps I’m too old-school, but I believe that if you’re going to engage with conflicts and peace in any way, you have to engage with the people involved.

And that can be hard to do through a computer screen.

Computers are great, I love mine, and was amazed at the power of crisis mapping that was the focus of a class we had  as part of my Conflict & Social Networks course (see post on Typhoon Haiyan).  None of that powerful life-changing help can be done without a computer, and it saves lives.

But at some point, I feel one has to be on the ground, breathing the air, shaking hands and being face-to-face with those involved.

If we don’t know who parties to a conflict are, or what they deal with and experience, how can we have a dialogue or help in any meaningful, lasting way?

What do you think?

Video Advocacy – Using Cameras for Peace

Some of you might know that before coming to Columbia University, I was a television news journalist.  No, not one of the guys on camera, but a producer, the person who makes ALL the decisions about what stories go into the newscast, and how they are treated.  For that hour (or 1/2 hour) long newscast (don’t say “show” it’s insulting) the producer is king.

So with all my experience and drive to stay neutral and get the story “right,” the notion that you can use cameras for peace was a stretch.

Thanks Prof. Perlmutter and our recent class, I learned that it’s a great idea.

Video advocacy is exactly that, using videos to make a point, and in Conflict Resolution  and Peace Studies that means helping the world.  Several groups support this idea, some even have toolkits to help get you started.

One of the most famous is this video about Joseph Kony.  It went viral with a huge number of hits.  But some people had issues with the film.  Kony is still active but is rumored to be in talks regarding his possible surrender.

Did a video do this?  Hard to say, but it certainly raised awareness of who this man is and what he has done.

On the heels of the Kony 2012 video, other groups have started pointing their cameras at things other than house-fires.  Some send cameras and staff to remote parts of the world to help locals, as you see here.

Others produced professional broadcast quality videos outlining human rights abuses close to home.   And after talking with the producers of “Walking Merchandise” it’s make me think twice about Chinese restaurants, and who may be serving or cooking for me.

Most of us have phones, and now that means cameras.  What if we used them for more than selfies?  Used them to make a difference?

It’s an intriguing thought.

What do you think?

Weekend of Capstones

This past weekend I took much-needed study/family time off to go to the Fall NECR Capstone presentations.  I was glad I did.

Though “capstone” has its own definition in architecture, it also means “…crowning achievement…” which is what these projects were.  Here at Columbia the NECR program ends with each Masters’ candidate presenting their study (thesis actually), and that’s the capstone.

Want to know what’s rough about that?  No, it’s not the presentation itself, because students in the program have to do give several.


The problem is that each person has only ten minutes to summarize a whole term’s worth of work, some 70+ pages of material, and only another ten minutes for questions!

Are you kidding me?  How can anyone do that?

Well they did, and they did a great job (though to be honest several ran over the time limit.)  I learned a lot to be sure, from how emotions mattered in negotiation, to specific conflicts like the dispute on the Bakassi Peninsula between Nigeria & Cameroon.  To see highlights of the international topics that were covered, I built a storify recap from live tweets and pictures from the event.

With some 27-odd presentations lasting over two days, there is simply too much material to cover in a Blog post.  But to get an idea of the topics you can check out this schedule of speakers.  They all did a fine job, and after it was over, several could not believe they were done, save finishing their actual paper on their topics.

One thing is certain, I was impressed with what was shared and what I learned.  Impressed and concerned that the bar for next term’s capstones is set too high.


Because it will be my turn…

What do you think??

Building a Cooperative Global Community

In an earlier post I mentioned the Public Forum on Building a Cooperative Global Community moderated by Morton Deutsch.  As most may know, he is considered one of the leading scholars of conflict resolution.

For me it was the first time I’d had a chance to hear him, and that was a treat, as he really is one of the founders of the entire field of Conflict Resolution and Mediation.

The forum was a discussion on how to address some of the important issues facing the world.  Dr. Deutsch listed poverty, injustices to women, racial issues, social inequality and others as problems facing the world, challenging the panel with the question: “How do we move to a world community?”

It’s a provoking question, and one that I struggle with in light of issues surrounding globalization.  There is a tension between understanding that we, as humans on a shared planet, have issues to address together, and the notion that each of us may have a separate cultural history and identity worth preserving.

Each of the presenters on the panel had their own take on Deutsch’s question.

Warner Burke talked about developing cross cultural competence, and that one should be “…clear about your role when invited into another culture and what is expected in that role….”  He also stressed that extended exposure helps, along with knowing your own cultural influences.

Joshua Fisher talked about expanding the scope of community to include all the actors.  And went on to discuss this idea in ecological terms.

William Gaudelli used an example of schools in Thailand eating together as how to live in sync with the planet.  More intriguing was his idea that technology might interfere with this style of living; but don’t we rely on the Internet and computers to even HAVE a global community?  This question stuck with me as the symposium continued.

David Hansen suggested that now is an urgent time for global community.  Cosmopolitanism, he argued, will be an important approach to the idea of global community, a “…fusion of openness and loyalty….”

Lastly, the duo of Victoria Marsick and Connie Watson (AEGIS, Ed.D. candidate at Teachers’ College) gave a presentation on how deep feelings can bring conflict and how transformative learning can help us to look at the tacit things we assume.  Best of all, they suggested several practical approaches on how these ideas might be applied in the classroom.

Did I think this was all thought provoking?  Yes.  But even when we broke up into smaller discussion groups for the next 30 minutes, there seemed to be little idea on how to practically apply some of these concepts or where to even begin.

More than that for me, I have issues with the premise that a cooperative global community is a good idea.  Sure there are large issues like climate change that may need a globally organized response.  Yet I cannot escape the notion that striving for a global community simply ignores important differences between groups.

Cultural differences, religious ideas, social structures and norms, are different throughout the world, and the differences between them are what drive change, what allow us, as a species, to have a chance to develop and grow.  They allow us to test ideas of interaction and community that may or may not work.

Don’t we need social conflict to grow?  And if we seek a globalized world with a single community, which elements will be discarded?  and who decides?

Perhaps it’s like Dr. Deutsch suggested at the end of the symposium:

“…let us maintain the hope that we can improve the world, let us fulfill our hope by actions…we won’t solve the issues all at once…giant things happen because the little things happen.”

What do you think?

The Language We Use…

In looking through some of the blogs I follow, I came across this post that talks about the misunderstandings that can happen in mediation.  Have you ever had that happen in a class, mediation or a dispute resolution?  Maybe in just a conversation?

My guess is you have.

Even if you haven’t, ever notice how many conflicts, big or small happen because one person says one thing and the other hears something else?  Recently that’s exactly what happened between me and my eldest daughter.

Years ago, I did a year of law school and though I didn’t stick with it, (as it really wasn’t for me) the best lesson I learned was in the Contracts  I class.   The professor said “…words to a lawyer are like scalpels to a surgeon, they are the tools that we use…”

Now, as I learn more about mediation in my program and begin to practice with my internship with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission I understand the power of what that professor mentioned all those years ago.  And how it applies to the whole field of  Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)

Sure a quick search of the web can pull up articles like this one that cover the write-ups of mediation language.  But I’m talking more about what happens during a mediation, orally and aurally.

And of course there’s the field of non-verbal communications that can tell you a lot, like this article mentions.

So let me ask this – when you communicate, have a conversation, do you consider how you’re communicating?  Not just the content, but what journalists call the mode of communication?

I never did, not really, not until I took a class here at Columbia called “Intrapersonal Dynamics and Conflict” taught by Barry Sommer.  It opened my eyes to the issue of language in communications, and drove home the point my Contracts professor made.

Practicing all this is harder than you think, and can be a distraction from what you’re trying to say.    But when I help with a mediation it’s always in the back of my mind.

So what do I do if I suspect I’m reaching a sensitive point in negotiations?

I pause, I slow down the speed of my talking so I can think ahead as I talk.  And so far that has cut way down on the misinterpretations and miss-communications.

Like most skills, I find that practicing this verbal awareness helps make it more automatic.  Personally, I never want it to become automatic to the point of learned behavior, like driving.  But the more I think about the mode and method of my speech the easier it becomes.  And the less damage control I have to do after the fact.

But I know I have a long way to go to master this skill set.

What do you think?

Super Typhoon Hiayan — Death, Misery and Conflicts to Follow

The rising deaths and incredible suffering stemming from Typhoon Hiayan has me thinking of the aftermath.  Sure there is a lot of work to be done, and certainly the humanitarian issues will continue to mount with so much death, loss and much of the Philippine infrastructure is destroyed.

But what about after the instant emergency slows and the recovery efforts become a slog and shift into a long-term grind?  With constricted resources one study suggests that conflict will increase, that rapid onset disasters like this typhoon contribute to conflict more than anything else.  It goes on to say that there’s a chance for more sweeping peace-building as long-term recovery efforts continue.  But that these chances for peace-building don’t override what is happening.

So I wonder how to carry out these chances?  Does one wait?  how long?

Until people are in conflict over needs like water, food and shelter?  Or is there a way to structure recovery aid to take advantage of the chance and really build peace?

At the moment no one can argue that instant needs have to be addressed, with several groups like this taking the lead.  Perhaps there’s a chance for peace-building in later stages through economic development as they rebuild and recover?

What about UN departments like this who don’t even mention the Crisis on the homepage (as of this writing)?

With all my conflict resolution training and growing skills (thanks to the NECR Program) I worry about the practical application of these skills.  When people are dead, dying, sick, suffering, needing basics to survive, it can be overwhelming for the Conflict Resolution (CR) practitioner.

What do you think?

Education — a great way to fight poverty

I was surfing through the web and came across this statement that was pretty thought provoking.  According the to the World Bank, there are some 57-million children worldwide who don’t go to school.  And even those that do don’t seem to have the skills they need.

With two girls of my own I know I am determined to find them the best education, to get them the skills they need to be able to function in society, and also in the world economy.  So reading about how more and more skilled labor is required, or will be in the future, and how there are plans out there to really help those children who don’t have access to adequate education was eye opening.  It’s education for an entire planet.

Seems pretty ambitious right?

It is.

But there a groups that are trying to address this issue in smaller ways and even just to get the conversation going.  Take this upcoming event at Columbia, for example, it’s a symposium where the public can hear ideas on how we can promote education for the planet.  (It’s November 2oth at 5:30 and the link above says).  It’s run by the Morton Deutsch International Center for Cooperation and Conflict Resolution.

But taking on the world’s educational issues is a more than daunting task, so where to start?  One place is this website that gives a breakdown of education initiatives by country.  Some are finished like Canada, Turkey and Finland, others like the US and Russia are not.  Still it’s a good jumping off place to see just what the state of education is.

It’s a positive thing to be educating our kids, preparing them for their tomorrows, but with articles like this it seems like we’re sometimes going backwards.

What do you think?

Here we go!

Welcome to the launch of the NECRblog!

As you can see in the “About” page — this blog is attached to the NECR (Negotiation and Conflict Resolution) program here at Columbia University.

I hope to start conversations between any and all who are interested in the topics of Peace Studies, not only on campus, or even in New York, but across the field.

So let me start by asking just a few questions….

Why are you here?  No, not in the metaphysical sense, (I leave that to the Philosophy Department) but on this page?What do you hope to see or gain from this blog?

You see personally, I hope to do two main things, expand the conversations surrounding Peace Studies, Conflict and Alternative Dispute Resolution, and to learn from the comments, events and other things that we will see here.

To get that going — there will soon be links to other websites that blogs that might of be interest.  So why not check them out and see what you think?

Then you can can come back here and share!

Interested in who am I?  check out the “About” page to learn more about me and where this blog might be headed.

As with everything on this site, feel free to comment, reflect on and yes even grouse about what you see here.

It’s all part of the process of NECR!