Read the local newspapers and check your city’s websites for programs and groups that are addressing conflict, reconciliation and peacemaking. In business, government and nonprofit agencies, we can see the same issues and needs. In The Third Side, Bill Ury (1999) notes that within “many organizations, facilitators are working with cross-functional teams to overcome interdepartmental issues. Managers are learning to mediate among their teammates, their employees, and often their multiple bosses. The success of a company is coming to depend on the ability of its people to resolve the innumerable conflicts that crop up between manufacturing and marketing, sales and headquarters, employees and supervisors, and to seek a ‘triple win’—a solution good for each side and for the company as a whole” (10).
Look for opportunities to get involved, learn some new skills and make a difference. For example, some communities have active restorative justice programs where volunteers are welcomed. Various boards and commissions will routinely surface contentious issues that would benefit from some understanding of the principles of mediation. Faith-based groups are often found working with the less fortunate and raising difficult questions about the inequities that exist. Your business or organization may need to address conflicts or tensions. Volunteer to get something started. Ask for some discussion. Volunteer to facilitate some work in this area or invite in someone else with mediation skills. Below is an example from my work in Northern Ireland.
Hundreds of years of conflict festered and exploded in response to British colonization that took control and exploited the Irish people, their land and resources. Resistance and violence were predictable up to very recent times when the Good Friday Agreement of 1998 offered a pathway to peace through disarmament and various efforts at reconciliation between the Catholics and Protestant overlords.
Creating a local way forward, two carpenters and an office manager tapped into European Union Peace funds to create a new business (1) recycling wood that was headed for the landfill, (2) teaching new “green” carpentry skills to local youth, and (3) putting these former “enemies” together to reduce hatreds and build new friendships and relationships.