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 conflict resolution materials such as Seeds For Change "Working with Conflict" - which also has a great resource list at the end