Tag Archives: NECR

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.

No.

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?

Swimming in a Sea of Conflict? Microaggressions.

For a recent class project for Advanced Mediation, I had a chance to role-play a Hispanic woman.  Writing the reflection paper afterwards (yes you will do a lot of those here) and compiling the readings and my thoughts I stepped outside my Self….

No I didn’t go anywhere, but had a chance to look at the racial issue from the outside.  There I was, a white male, trying to play the part of a Hispanic female; did I do that effectively?  Not a chance.

Did it open my eyes?  You bet.

With all the readings and exploration of cultural issues, I got it.  I finally got a peek into a world where WHAT you are creates a different landscape of existence.  And if you’re a minority that points to a very different reality and existence than mine.

Mind blowing.

So what might I be doing, that I might not be aware of, that contributes to the existence of these different realities?  these different life-landscapes?

Microaggressions.  Small interactions between people of differing races, genders or cultures that can be seen as aggressive.  And many may be unconsciously performed or reacted to.

Dr. Derald Wing Sue here at Teacher’s College says that “racial microaggression” can be  an “…everyday insult, indignities and demeaning messages sent to people of color by well-intentioned white people who are unaware of the hidden messages being sent to them” (See the full article here).  He also gives several examples in this interview.  For others check out this post.

Critics of Wing’s idea say his theory inhibits interactions between the races rather than a more candid approach (see here).  And there are those who expand on the idea, suggesting microaggressions happen within other groups as well (like here).  Or happen all the time.

Is it a big deal?

This group says it is, and is addressing that question.

As for me, I feel I’ve peeked through a window into something vast, sobering and potentially ugly.  Yet my faith in human nature refuses to believe that we all live in a world full of unconscious put-downs, insults, jabs and conflict.

Then again, perhaps we do.

Either way I’m going to meditate, practice my self-awareness and self-reflection; at least I can change myself.

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.

No.

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.

Why?

Because it will be my turn…

What do you think??

Losing a Shining Light

“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.” — Nelson Mandela (1918-2013)

December 5th, Nelson Mandela, chief architect of the successful anti-apartheid movement, and first black South African President died.  Throughout his life, even when he was jailed on Robben Island for 27 years, he preached non-violence as the solution for South Africa’s racist polices of apartheid.

I recall taking an undergraduate class at Oberlin (don’t ask the year) that discussed whether companies should disinvest from South Africa to send a message, or should follow a policy of constructive engagement.  People were split on the issue, I was split on the issue.  Debates raged and protests where held at Oberlin’s campus, sometimes by both sides.  There were no easy clear answers.

There was, though, this popular song that was played everywhere and I danced to more than once.  (And if you just clicked the link to listen, perhaps I have dated myself).

Methods and songs aside, everyone agreed that apartheid was wrong and had to be addressed.  (For a good timeline of apartheid look here.)  Finally in December 1993  the first interim constitution was ratified granting South African blacks the right to vote.  And on May 10, 1994, Mandela was elected President of South Africa, without a war.

But Mandela was not always a saint in the eyes of the United States.  In the 1980’s President Reagan had the African National Congress (ANC) declared a terrorist organization.  Mandela was a member of the ANC for most of his life, and a past president.  As late as 2008 the ANC was still on the terrorist watch list, according to this article.

But through his determination for freedom and equality, there can be no arguing that Mandela helped free his country from institutional racism and oppression.  And on his passing several notable professors here at Columbia reflected on his life and legacy.  Including our own Morton Deutsch.

But perhaps it can best be put this way:

Mr. Mandela was more than one of the greatest pillars of our time,” United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in his speech at the [memorial] service. “He was one of our greatest teachers. He taught by example. He sacrificed so much … for freedom and equality, for democracy and justice.”

What do you think??

Playing Games for Peace

Ivy League?  Me?  If you had suggested that I’d be attending an ivy-league school two years ago, I would have laughed.  And honestly?  I’d have thought you were crazy too.

But here I am, and the newness has yet to wear off.

Entering this program I expected to be stuck in classrooms frantically taking notes, or living in the library researching and writing papers.  Call me a traditionalist but that’s how I saw the oncoming classwork for the NECR program.  Though a lot of that has come true, I never would have thought that playing games would be a teaching tool.  But it can be as we learned in our Conflict and Social Networks class.

Peacemaker is a game that puts you in the middle of the Middle East, and has you try different techniques and strategies to try and solve the Palestinian/Israeli issue.  It let’s you play as either or both sides, attempting to solve what has been a protracted conflict.  Be warned, playing this game can eat up several hours before you know it.

Not wanting to bring peace to the Middle-East?  Then perhaps saving Darfur is more your speed.  Here you get to worry about 2.5-million refugees and keep the camp functioning.

What about civil disobedience?  Does it work?  Now you can find out  here, without having to make posters.  Though, ironically you may have to pay to play.

Struggling with your finances?  Columbia isn’t cheap as we know, but financing that may not be as challenging as trying to live on a minimum wage.  And now you can try to do just that.

Regardless of topic, using games is an effective method to expose people to some complex conflict issues.  They can help make the situations more “real” than just reading a news article or seeing a story on TV.  All of these games, and most other similar ones, highlight how there are no easy solutions or answers.

Discussion in our class brought out that organizations create these games to educate and elucidate an issue, but also to suggest a point of view.   And game design limits some of the elements and factors in a real life scenario, but users can expect to be exposed to main themes that may defy simplistic solutions.

And players may leave the game with more than a higher-level character, or a virtual house in the Hamptons.

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!