Managing Conflict workshop
In March 2017, Community Organisers UK were appointed by the Civil Society to recruit and train 3,500 people in community organising. Working with Sneinton Alchemy, Nottingham, I designed and co-facilitated a workshop on managing conflict at the national conference in June. With a conference theme of ‘Building, Bridging and Bonding’, the workshop ran in the ‘Wild Margins’ after dinner on Day 1. Despite a long day and oppressive heat, we avoided too much conflict, and got some good outcomes!
Engaging communities in business improvement tools
As part of the Wild Margins workshop, I outlined how to use tools like Hopes and Fears, Force Field Analysis, the 4Ps, and the Change Curve to identify and manage conflict. We explored the signs and emotions in play. It emerged that most group members encountered and dealt with conflict in their communities on a fairly regular basis. However not all were equipped to proactively identify and address conflict before it escalated.
Using the tools
We used a case study based on a real-life situation where two clothing banks had been combined, and tensions between the two volunteer managers were running high. The group captured hopes and fears then used these to work out forces for and against the proposed change to the clothing bank set-up. I also described tools that would help community organisers to manage the situation. These included the 4Ps, the change equation and the change curve. There is more detail on these tools in my last blog.
The group got involved, testing out and discussing the tools. This approach gave them confidence to ‘have a go’. I emphasised that just using the tool as a vehicle for discussion, would alleviate conflict. A couple of hours later, one community organiser reported to me that the workshop gave him the answers he needed. Great, I thought, he will speak to the volunteers next week. Then he said he’d already spoken to them, using his learning from the Wild Margins workshop. Later on, we all met up to watch ‘Organisers have Talent’. The two clothing bank volunteers dancing together as part of the competition was all the proof I needed that this simple and interactive approach to CI really works.
Early feedback is also reinforcing that this a new and helpful way of managing conflict for community organiser from other regions. They discovered that it’s both desirable and beneficial to proactively manage conflict, rather than tackle it on an ad-hoc basis, and they embraced the tools and the learning accordingly.
The official record and outputs from the Community Organisers’ Conference will be published shortly, and I will share the learning and links as appropriate. I hope to be involved in further work with communities on the many challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. I would welcome feedback and comments – also the opportunity to support other organisations and leaders on conflict management.
About Lose the Box
Maureen Whyman is the owner of Lose the Box, a Business Improvement consultancy based in the East Midlands. Based in Nottingham, Lose the Box blends simple science with creative facilitation, inspiring leaders, managers and teams to leave their boxes, and work much more collaboratively and productively together. This unique approach generates confidence and commitment to change and transformation. As success grows, organisations achieve long-lasting improvement, strengthening well-being, skills, and processes for their clients. See testimonials here.
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