Practical Details in a Complicated Situation

Silke Hansen

Senior Conciliation Specialist, Community Relations Service

Interviewed by Julian Portilla, 2003

This rough transcript provides a text alternative to audio. We apologize for occasional errors and unintelligible sections (which are marked with ???).

A: Part of it was creative thinking and coming up with ways of matching what was being offered to what was needed. Can we get more fresh vegetables to replace the dried beans? And that kind of thing.

In many cases, like with the Small Business Administration, and not just with them, a big issue was just finding the right documents that were needed to get some of the grants and loans because some of them had been destroyed in the fires that had resulted or whatever had happened and so on. So what other kinds of documentations would be acceptable? Another piece that came out of that was that SBA subsequently provided workshops for potential applicants for the process of applying for small-business loans and things like that. So a lot of it was really how to improve communication between the two.

Q: It sounds like a lot of the practical details.

A Yeah,

but by being aware of some of the shortcomings and what some of the logistical problems were they could then brainstorm about how to handle that. As I said in some cases, SBA had some follow up, not so much mediation sessions, but sessions with key leadership about how to most effectively make use of what the SBA had to offer.

Q: Does working on small practical details like this diminish tension?

A: It does because it relieves frustration and it gives people the impression that we really do want to be helpful. As the guy from the SBA put it so well, "I'm here to make grants, not to avoid grants. Or I'm here to make loans not to avoid loans." And I think just getting that concept across and have people believe that was huge. Because so often the impression is that it's your job to make sure I don't get it. So coming from the perspective that I want you to get the loan, let's see what we can do to make that happen, was a shift in how that organization was seen by the community. It changed the relationship, but it also began to change the climate in the community from one of total frustration which generates more conflict, to one of well at least here is a piece where we can get some help that we need and that made a big difference.