Measuring Community Support

 

Silke Hansen

CRS Mediator, Denver Office


[Full Interview]

Question:

Do you have any routine assessments or anything you do, where you go into communities and try to figure out how long these fuses are, or how quickly they are burning, however you want to use your metaphor? Do you go in and assess the situation without being called in?

Answer:

Well, I do try to find out how much support there is in the community for a particular perspective and for a particular perception. I do that partly to get a better view of what's going on, partly for practical reasons I mean, if we are supposed to be dealing with community issues and it is really just the Hansen family that doesn't like the way the local police captain is handling things, it is going to be difficult to handle that as a potential mediation or as a community conflict. So, just to see whether there is, in fact, a real community entity that wants to deal with this issue, because if there isn't, it is very difficult for us to do anything. So, it's really just to evaluate the depth of support and willingness to engage. I might find that everyone I talk to whether in the local restaurant or at the local Post Office or wherever agrees that such-and-such is a problem but no one really wants to do anything. Then my hands are tied, too, because if I don't have two parties with which to mediate, there isn't a whole lot that I can do. And in meeting with the institution... Now if that institution recognizes that there is some problem in their relationship with the community, they might want some training or some facilitation meetings, or some examples of how to do things, or approaches they might use with the police department or the school. And of course, we would be willing to do that. But, it's difficult if there isn't a critical mass, and it doesn't have to be a large mass, but there needs to be some core community base which wants to bring about the change. And the other reason that that "critical mass" is important is that those people are going to need to keep things going after CRS leaves. If changes are made in a community only because the Justice Department recommends them, there's a real risk of the changes falling apart once the Justice Department is gone. Unless you have a local body that is going to hold the right people accountable, there isn't a whole lot that CRS is going to be able to do in the long run.