Dealing with conflict
Conflict in Transition Initiatives - unavoidable, but not necessarily terminal
Dealing with conflict isn't easy - Transition Network has witnessed the painful demise of one initiative and is aware of one or two others that are finding themselves in sticky situations on account of unresolved conflict.
Our collective challenge is initially to get good at dealing with conflict so that it doesn't inhibit the progress that initiatives might otherwise make. Beyond that, we're convinced it's possible to take advantage of conflicting positions and use them to generate energy rather than soak it up - and when we find a group that's figured out how to make that happen, we'll let everyone know!
Below are some recommendations for prevention and a draft protocol that we intend to invoke when we see an initiative that's in crisis because of conflict. We think it's a few steps in the right direction and we'll keep this page updated as we learn more.
As you read through, you may think that some of the provisions are a bit extreme for situations you might envisage. Our intention is to make sure it's robust enough to cover most circumstances.
What Transition groups can do to prevent a crisis:
· constitution - use "Consent" rather than "Consensus" as your decision-making process
§ "consensus" typically means EVERYONE SUPPORTS a proposal, it's very time-consuming and requires huge commitment to the concept. Because of the time element, it often causes people to "drift away"
§ "consent" means that NO ONE IS BLOCKING the proposal with a "paramount and reasoned objection". It's faster, and demonstrates collaborative compromise. "Paramount and reasoned" are excellent criteria, and quite difficult in practice
· constitution - include a robust expulsion clause in your constitution. Transition Initiatives are open but not open to abuse.
· constitution - consider a "preventing meltdown" protocol in your constitution covering the bit between running smoothly and dissolution. This may invoke higher standards of behaviour that people have to adhere to (and equally, lowers the barriers to expulsion), and could include:
§ agree not to exacerbate the situation by sending out any potential accusatory or inflammatory emails to their own mailing lists, or making any accusatory or inflammatory blogs on any websites. It's also smart to avoid bringing the conflict to public or wider meetings.
§ agree not to start up any competing initiatives while the resolution process is in motion
· skilling up - consider training courses as noted below
What Transition Network is planning to prevent crises occurring:
· Make recommendations - establish this protocol and set of recommendations as a common element for initiatives
· Constitutions - provide examples of eg expulsion clauses that have been shown to work well
· Constitutions - provide information about the precise legal status of an unincorporated association and the consequences of that status
· Troubleshooters - a network of Transition Troubleshooters who are experts in resolving conflict
· Training and materials - establish trainings that cover eg working with conflict, running successful meetings and non-violent communications, such as this one that has received outstanding reviews.
· Establishing partnerships - there are plenty of groups out there who provide assistance in this domain, with training, resolution services, prevention measures. Transition Network will be creating a well-signposted resource pool to help in this area.
When you're "in conflict" and need to involve Transition Network
If you go into a high conflict situation and need Transition Network's involvement, here's how we'd like to work with you.
If you go into a high conflict situation and need Transition Network's involvement, here's how we'd like to work with you.If it's clear after an initial discussion that there's a significant impasse and no quick fix, Transition Network will:
· not play arbiter role - we will make it clear that we will NOT get involved in the argument, our job is to help you facilitate your own resolution
· the constitution - request a copy of your up-to-date constitution to help identify problematic clauses and alert others
· email/contacts - request at least 3 contact names and email addresses from the initiative representing different "positions" who can be our key contacts during this process. We'll only engage in emails that include all key contacts (ie no side conversations). All contact needs to come through a single Transition Network person
· website - put your Initiative Profile on the Transition Network site on ice by temporarily revoking editing permissions and references to other external locations (eg websites). We'll also include on the profile a hidden note added detailing the changes we made so we can restore to original. We'll remove any inflammatory or contraversial text from the profile. We'll scan for and remove any inflammatory forum postings
· resolution - encourage your initiative to formally invoke their "preventing meltdown protocol" if they have one (see below)
· resolution - encourage the initiative to seek independent facilitation to get a resolution in either a small group meeting or a larger EGM. We can help by pointing the initiative to the facilitators who have self-identified on the Transition Network site
· resolution - we'll await to hear from the key contacts regarding next steps, which could be:
§ (Transition Network) - resetting permissions, contacts and website links on the Initiative profile. Writing up an anonymised account of the conflict and resolution. We'd want to see minutes from the conflict resolution meeting or EGM to validate your instructions to us, and those minutes will need to come from the three key contacts noted earlier.
§ (Initiative) - either continue in new-found (relative) harmony, wind up, continue hobbling nobly along while taking training as advised and continuing along the resolution path.
Lastly, it's really important to note that none of the above is written in stone - as we learn together we'll share the wisdoms we acquire.