Transition Port Angeles Conflict Resolution Methodology
This governing document is the methodology of conflict resolution for all of Transition Port Angeles. Due to the important nature of this methodology, we expect it to undergo significant evolution and elaboration. This will become especially true when Working Groups* begin to form. Because of this, it is imperative that the methodology be kept as fresh as possible, incorporating positive developments from both inside and outside Transition Port Angeles.
*Working Groups are defined in the governing document Working Groups Form and Process.
In developing our conflict resolution procedure, we found few theories and methods which head off conflict before it has become entrenched or intractable. Allowing conflict to rage destroys mutual trust and prevents the development of positive, forward-oriented group dynamics.
Consequently, we decided to create a conflict resolution methodology aimed at resolving conflicts early on. Our methodology is designed to keep groups whole, facilitate a collaborative evolution of group process, help reconcile conflicting parties to that evolving group process, and use the friction between different ideas to spark new and better ideas that interest and excite all participants.
The fundamental assumption of our approach to conflict resolution is to insure that all parties in conflict want the group itself to remain whole in order for a process to proceed. This is roughly analogous to an essential issue in marriage or partnership counseling: If one party wants out of the basic agreement, no matter what, then proceeding further is pointless. If any conflicting parties refuse to participate in a process, or are not interested in seeing a group remain whole, this issue needs to be addressed immediately.
Just as the trust and cooperation necessary for a marriage or partnership to operate successfully can’t be sustained if one partner constantly threatens separation or divorce, this methodology should be part of a group’s ongoing process. It is not a fire extinguisher to be pulled out in case of an emergency, but rather an intrinsic and inseparable component of consensus-based group functioning.
What Conflict Resolution is Not
Conflict resolution is not avoiding conflict, managing conflict to avoid controversy, or creating scapegoats for problems within group dynamics. Conflict is a expression of energy that can spark surprising creativity, moving everyone involved in amazingly unexpected directions.
Most importantly, conflict is not resolved by one party imposing its will over another, either by numbers, assertiveness, or more covert tactics. One reason why we explicitly reject majority rule is that it inevitably creates a sense of lingering schism. Having been overruled, tricked, or dominated – however subtly – leaves scars. Their cumulative effects are destructive.
What Conflict Resolution Is
Conflict resolution is a positive process. It involves:
- Aiming for collaboration;
- Moving away from personal or interpersonal issues to focus on the principles, ideas and issues;
- Collaborating in generating new ideas and alternatives that prove to be better than what any one individual would have thought up;
- Sparking the creative genius of groups;
- Generating experiences that create respect and appreciation for ways of growing stronger and clearer though conflict;
- Creating a group norm of openness and creative exploration, rather than defensiveness;
- Creative problem solving;
- Keeping shared goals in mind; and
- Accepting compromise only when necessary.
Problems with Compromise
Occasionally a compromise might be a useful expedient. For example, spending the time and group energy seeking the perfect or ideal creative collaboration might consume excessive resources, divert its focus and send the group off-mission. However, our conflict resolution methodology aims to foster deeper and more energizing collaboration that resorts to compromise reluctantly and only when all other options have been exhausted.
Most unaddressed conflicts do not quietly go away. The parties to a conflict may temporarily silenced by a compromise, in the interest of keeping peace or going along to get along. But until an underlying issue is addressed, it my resurface at any time – which usually happens at the most inopportune time, in the most awkward possible circumstances.
Types of Conflict
Resolving conflicts requires getting to the core issue, which may not be apparent at first glance. Facts, values, procedures, relationships, and behaviors all potentially give rise to conflicts. Here is a brief summary of each issue:
Conflict over facts occur when Party 1 believes Facts A, Party 2 believes Facts B, and in the group process, Facts A and Facts B are in conflict.
Resolving such conflicts requires discovering the common ground between Facts A and Facts B. That overlap provides the space where collaboration between Party 1 and Party 2 can be built. Bringing in more relevant information beyond Facts A and Facts B can serve to enlarge the field of focus, expand the conversation and open up the possibilities for collaborative effort.
Consider the problem with compromise in a conflict over facts. If a compromise is built around accepting and adopting Facts C, both Party 1 and Party 2 will agree that Facts C are incorrect and therefore inapplicable to resolving the conflict between Facts A and Facts B.
Conflict over values occur when a decision conflicts with the values or principles of participants in a consensus process. Values A and Values B, as held by Parties 1 and 2, might first appear to be in conflict. A deeper exploration often reveals that both Values overlap to some extent, providing space and ground for collaboration between those who hold Values A and adherents of Values B. Solutions for the conflict between Party 1 and Party 2 arise out of this overlap.
Again, if Values C are introduced as a compromise, Party 1 and Party 2 will be left feeling that the supposed resolution is based upon alien, artificially imposed or contrived principles. The conflict between Values A and Values B remains unaddressed.
Conflict over procedure arises when participants have differing interpretations of a process or an unfamiliar way of doing things. Most of these conflicts can be resolved by looking to the Charter and other Transition materials for the spirit of those documents – which is as important, if not more important, than the actual language. Other conflict over procedure can also be resolved by considering what traditions have been established by evolving process of the group itself.
In such conflicts, the consensus process cannot be compromised or sacrificed in order to suit individual tastes or make individuals feel more comfortable. It is imperative in resolving conflict over procedure that conflicting parties be reconciled to the evolving process of the group, and not the other way around. To do so would seriously undermine the process itself and deprive all participants of the opportunity to learn.
Conflict over relationships and behaviors arise between individuals, and therefore are unrelated to the consensus process. Such conflicts are best addressed by taking people aside, or even setting up conflict resolution time outside of group meetings to avoid squandering group resources.
Nevertheless, all participants in the group need to take ownership of the importance of addressing all interpersonal conflicts, whether or not they are personally involved. It does not serve the group to have members silently aware of unspoken conflicts, withdrawing their participation from the group’s efforts. Being fully present and participating is an intrinsic aspect of the consensus process.
Affirmation of this Document
In the spirit of the future we wish to facilitate, we affirm our whole-hearted support of this constituent governing document of the Charter of Transition Port Angeles by our signatures:
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