ADR Youth Initiative: Strategies for Resolving Conflicts in Schools and Communities

ADR Youth Initiative: Strategies for Resolving Conflicts in Schools and Communities

Dr. Barbara Landau, Leslie H. Macleod, & Daryl Landau

An exciting initiative has been launched by the Alternative Dispute Resolution Section of the Canadian Bar Association of Ontario. We are planning to involve students in a dialogue on the benefits of interest-based conflict resolution, including mediation and negotiation. Building on the successes that many schools have achieved with peer mediation programs, we wish to spur creative ideas on how to apply these approaches to communities, schools, families, and beyond.

On 2 separate days beginning in February of 2001, a total of about five hundred students and staff will participate in a conference on interest-based conflict resolution. Morning activities will include dramatic presentations from a high school theatre group and an inspiring keynote speaker. The students will learn the difference between interest-based, rights-based and power-based approaches to conflict resolution. In the afternoon, the students will participate in a brainstorming session on how to apply interest-based approaches to their schools, homes and communities. The students will be selected based on motivation, diversity, and interest. These students and staff, would then return to their schools motivated and supported to implement some of the ideas that they helped develop.

To plan and carry out this initiative we have partnered with 12 school boards from Toronto through to Hamilton as well as 3 police forces, a national youth organization (YouCAN), and the Psychology Foundation of Canada.

Our hope is that this conference would develop some positive approaches to address some of the recurrent challenges facing schools and communities. For instance, violence is an unfortunate part of life in schools, and we need broad and diverse approaches to deal with it. Mediation and collaborative negotiation processes offer a positive strategy that can prevent some conflicts from escalating. Moreover, they require communication skills that are highly valued in the workplace and in interpersonal relationships.

We need the involvement and commitment of young people to address these important issues. To that end, we have geared the conference toward empowering students to create their own ideas as to how conflict resolution could help them and their communities. Moreover, these students will be facilitated by youth facilitators supplied by YouCAN and the school boards.

The conference plan and the many creative ideas produced at the conference will be collected and distributed in a booklet to interested schools and community organizations. The Psychology Foundation of Canada has offered to help produce these booklets.

Indeed, based on positive reactions to this proposal, we anticipate that this initiative will be replicated province-wide. We are using a community-based approach as the model for this initiative. We provide the template, and local communities can adapt the template to their needs. These local communities will be responsible for arranging their own funding and logistics.

Finally, to cap off this conference with style, we are asking that the city of Toronto and the Province of Ontario establish a Conflict Resolution Month. A declaration to that effect could be made at the youth conference. Such a declaration would contribute to building an ongoing relationship between governments at the provincial and municipal levels, the ADR community, and the public, with the common interest of resolving conflicts with efficiency and nonviolence.

With this day as a catalyst, we plan to invite some of the students to report back at a future event about the action plans emerging from the day. Our hope is that this initiative will be the basis for an annual event to ensure a sustained interest in peaceful and constructive conflict resolution.

We have generated considerable enthusiasm for this initiative, which we hope will be a catalyst for a many future events across the province. Corporate sponsors, government and foundations have come forward to donate financial support to this undertaking. We are pleased to have the following sponsors: The Harold Ballard Foundation, Cedric Metcalf Foundation, The Psychology Foundation of Canada along with other supporters. We are more than halfway to our goal, but would love to hear from anyone who is interested in making this dream a reality!

This article is adapted from one that appeared in the October 2000 issue of The Lawyers Weekly. A similar article was published in the Summer, 2000 issue of Interaction.

Note about the authors:

Dr. Barbara Landau, President of Cooperative Solutions, is a psychologist, lawyer & mediator who offers training and conflict resolution for family and workplace disputes.
Leslie Macleod is the principal of Leslie H. Macleod & Associates where she mediates commercial and public policy disputes.
Daryl Landau is an organizational conflict consultant with a Masters in Conflict Resolution from George Mason University.

Note: This article originally appeared in an October, 2000 issue of The Lawyers Weekly.

March 28, 2016
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