President of ARIA Group, Inc.
Topics: action evaluation in theory and practice, win-win / win-lose / lose-lose situations, identity issues
Interviewed by Julian Portilla — 2003
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Q: My first question is can you give me a brief overview of your work?
A: Sure. My work focuses primarily on identity, and I do that through two vehicles. The one vehicle is conflict, and that's when we look at how conflict has been a source of people's threats and frustrations to their identity on the one hand, and on the other hand a source of refining their identity. It has both this negative and positive aspect to it. There's nothing like conflict for people to focus their attention on what really matters to them, if it's worked effectively. If it's not, what happens is conflict becomes something that folks rise up against each other on. "You are threatening or frustrating my legitimacy, therefore I have to overcome you" versus "I'm feeling very threatened, my legitimacy is feeling very threatened and frustrated. Why is my legitimacy so important to me? It's important because of the legacy of my people, it's important to me because of my hopes for the future. Ah, what's so important to you? Well, your sense of control over destiny is important to you.
So it looks like what's so important to us in this conflict is really what's deeply important to us in life." So the conflict can focus us on essentials. My work in identity goes back to looking at conflict from the past. My work in identity also looks at the possibility of creating ourselves and co-creating ourselves with others in the future. So it goes between conflict in the past and visioning into the future. The common theme in both of these and in all of my work is figuring out who people are and what they care about, in this context of conflict from the past or visions into the future.
Q: Can you talk to me about a moment in your work that has been particularly inspiring?
A: I can think of two. One is between Israelis and Palestinians, where I began most of my work and continued to work for about 7 or 8 years. I brought together Israeli and Palestinian young leaders, and one of the Palestinian participants began by telling everybody that he really didn't think he was going to get here. In fact, on his way he had an incident that made him want to give up. He told the story of being on a bus and sitting next to him was an eight-year-old Jewish girl and he was a 25-year-old Arab man, and he said at one point in the bus ride she looked at him, her eyes opened with terror, and she exclaimed to her mother, who was sitting across the way,
"???RV, RV???," and jumped up and ran over to her mother. Which translates into Arab, Arab. And he said, you know, here I am coming to this dialogue with Jews and it's hopeless. If a seven-year-old already has this imprint that I'm an evil other, how are we going to make a difference, how is this going to do anything? An Israeli woman got up and she said that doesn't make any sense. This is exactly why you'd come, because we have to change that pattern. We have to change that attitude. And he sort of slumped down in his chair and said you don't understand. This was in the afternoon. We had sort of an intense introduction coming out of that.
The next morning we came into the room and on the blackboard was written in English, "Jews out of Palestine. If you do not leave, we will kill you." That's how we started the session. And at first there was a joke, someone said you guys wrote that, the facilitators, you guys wrote that. We said, no we didn't write that, and we were very upset. We thought we were in a safe place and we're very hurt for you and offended that that would have happened. We called in the director of the Institute, he said he didn't know who did it. Now the Israeli girl who had got up in the afternoon, saying to this Arab fellow this is exactly why you should be here, said I can't go on anymore. How is it possible that here we are in a safe space trying to dialogue about peace and this kind of violent image comes in and imposes itself on us? She said I don't think I can stay anymore. And now the Arab man stood up and said this is exactly why we have to be here, and this is exactly what I was talking about yesterday and you convinced me that we have to be here exactly because of this. And she sat up, and she said you're right. And the seminar was one of the most brilliant, beautiful seminars, where I could basically just sit back and I was an excuse for them to do their good work. I created a holding place for them to encounter each other. So that was a pretty special moment.
Q: And that sort of relates back to your initial work about what it means to you when your identity is threatened, right?
I mean if they were so threatened by that and realized that that was the exact reason that they had to be there
A: Right. The first knee-jerk reaction is fight or flight. Either get out of here or get engaged in the battle to win. What my work is about is really holding people and creating an engagement. If you can engage this conflict, which is so unpleasant right now, you will gain so much more in terms of an understanding of yourself and your priorities, and of the other, who can begin to join you in that creation of yourself and the world.
I want to talk now about my ARIA conflict engagement work. ARIA begins with "A" for surfacing the antagonism, then moves into the "R" for resonance, why people care. You know, we care to be here to try to make sure that these kinds of things don't happen to us every day. The "I" from ARIA is then inventing ways to do that. So the dialogue then moves forward to how can we make sure we can build a society where an eight-year-old girl doesn't jump up from her seat and where we don't come into a space that's supposed to be safe and get assaulted with words of violence. Finally, after we invent ways to create that future, we come to the last "A", where we plan the action. So that's the ARIA conflict engagement framework.
The other process I have is called the action evaluation process. This came out of an effort to try to build an appropriate technology for the field in evaluation. Evaluation is a real problem in so many fields, and especially so in ours, where success is so squishy and each project is so contextual. How can we define success in ways that are relevant to our projects, but have some generalizability to our field? We began this project of developing a methodology called action evaluation about eleven years ago. It's turned out to be an intervention tool as well as an assessment tool.
And what we do with it is we ask people who are prospectively going to be in some kind of a project to define success as a hypothesis. We ask them three simple questions. What are your goals for this project? Why do you care about these goals? What are your values? And this gets back to the identity question. Who are you that makes your goals meaningful to you, that gives you passion about what you want to do in the world? Finally, given your what and why, how do you think this could happen and what could you contribute to making this effective? So this methodology is also incorporating the participation that's so core to our field, I believe, the sense of co-creation, the dynamism where we are making success be self-fulfilling by articulating what it is that it should become.
So a project that we had was with a foster care agency. Not a conflict project, but a visioning project. It was with Berkshire Farms Institute, one of the largest foster care agencies in New York state, a 15 million dollar agency with sites all over the state. We were doing a pilot 300,000-dollar project over a few years, a teeny little project in the scale of that institute, where we were trying to create a model program for helping the youth in the program transition into independence. It's a very treacherous time for kids who don't have family structures when they max out of the system. They can't stay beyond the age of 21, sometimes 18. So how do we help them do that? How do we help them become adults when they've been dependent kids, and they don't have structures to support them?
So, we used action evaluation, and what we did is we asked the three stake-holding groups to define success. The first stake-holding group was the foundation, and this is one of our theories in practice, is that we need to ask foundations who fund projects to be explicit about what they want, and then we can negotiate with them. If they're implicit and they don't articulate it, then the grant recipients have to always guess. What is it that I have to do to satisfy my funders? If the funders can be explicit, then the recipients can say, well, I appreciate those goals and here's how they match up with mine and I'll do that. Here's how mine diverge, will that work for you? Can I do that? So we have a real value in trying to get everybody to be transparent and explicit about what they want to accomplish in these conflict resolution projects.
So we had the foundation define success, and that was at this point only two people, the founder/executive director and the program officer. They did it independently. Each of them answered our questionnaire online, on our website. Answering what, why, how, up to three answers. We then do an analysis from wherever we are, because it's web-based, and we look for what's shared, unique, and contrasting, in this case between the two members of the stake-holding group. We then come back and we do a feedback session with them where we say, this is what we got from your data, that you two share these goals, you have this unique goal, and here's a goal that you two are going in different directions about, and we want to put this on the table.
You might need to work on it, you might need to just acknowledge it, or maybe I didn't get it right.
Q: Is that the part about surfacing the tension, surfacing the conflict?
A: That's right, and making it available for them to make a decision about, which could be as simple as, "now we know it, let's move on," or "we better not move on until we figure out what we're going to do with this." But it's engaging it, making it so it's in front of us and not in back of us, so it doesn't hit us over the head when we're not looking. So then we did the same thing with the staff. In this case the staff was fifteen people at the foster care agency. What are your goals for this new program? Why do you care about these goals? And how do you want to accomplish them?
Then we did the same thing as we did with the foundation, this time with fifteen people, getting about 45 answers, three from each, using our database to redact them down to a half dozen goals that are shared, a few that are unique, maybe a couple that are contrasting. We come back to a feedback session with them. The first thing we do in the feedback session is we have them talk about their "why" responses. So we are grounding them in their own identities, in their own theories of practice, their own values.
Q: Before you talk about the what, you talk about the why?
A: Exactly, and usually their written "whys" are often times their "whats" in disguise. People are not used to talking about "whys." So there's a lot of coaching here. Why do you really care about that? That sounds to me like what you want, and that's really wonderful. Why do you want that? And you keep asking. One of my stock phrases is, and it's perhaps obvious and maybe almost a silly question, but why do you care so much about the kids becoming independent. It's often tearful, I care about the kids being independent because we've worked so hard to help build them up and I'm terrified that they're going to go out into the world and they're not going to make it. And, they're like my children. You know, it's very passionate, very powerful. And then having done that with everybody, and there's no debate, this is not about debate.
This is about everybody understanding where their colleagues are coming from, and they always learn about each other, whether it's the first time they've been together or they've been together for a decade as staff members. They learn some deep insights and it's real team building. They help me inquire, you know, help me ask questions to understand where their colleague is coming from. You don't have to agree, it's not about that. It's about understanding their reality. So we do that, and then we negotiate the "what" goals.
So I've taken their 45 "what" goals, I've redacted them down to eight or ten categories, perhaps, and then I say to them, now that you've had your value discussions, your why discussions, we want you now to reach consensus on the goals that you all share for this project. I think they came up with about five of them, and after the session they have this real sense of a team, they have a sense of values, and they're unified as the foundation officers are unified. Now we go to the youth, do the same thing. In this case there were ten youth. We do the exact same process.
Q: At this point these are separate meetings? Meeting with the funders, meeting with the staff, and then meeting with the youth.
A: Right, these are intra-group meetings and that's part of our theory about identity, that in order to have any kind of identity encounter with another, we have to have a strong clarity about our identity with ourselves. In this case, the selves is a collective self, the students, the staff, and the foundation. The students did the same thing. During one of the why discussions, one of the youth talked about how he wanted to make sure he was a better father than the one he didn't have. He really felt a lack of a father figure in his life and his goal was to be able to fill that gap in this project.
Q: This is the piece about why it's important to become independent?
A: Well, I'm not sure what his "what" was; when people answer the why, we don't ask them. It's a little bit awkward for some people because they're not used to talking in that way. But when they get it, it's kind of liberating. And then it came back to them having a negotiation about their "whats." His what was, specifically, he wanted to learn better parenting skills. The others made fun of him a little bit, said oh, you know, that's just grandiose, and what are you talking about. So it finally got refined to, we want to fill the gaps of growing up. What did we miss? If we're going to become adults, there are all sorts of things that we missed in our growing up into adulthood.
So when we brought the three groups back together, with each of them having their own separate consensus goals that we've merged together, there was this goal that the youth had that was a unique goal. The staff didn't have it, the foundation didn't have it, the unique goal was something about learning about our own development. The staff saw this, and it's like the scales fell from their eyes. I'm not sure if anyone articulated this, but this was clearly the collective thought. Why has it taken us so long to ask the kids what they need? And this idea, then, sort of became the main idea for what this program was going to be about.
Help the kids fill the gaps so they can go as full, whole people as they become adults, so they're not dependent on us, but they have this inner resource, they have this self-esteem or whatever it is. This was the moment of great dynamism where there was a sense of participation and ownership and the students were now colleagues.
Q: It highlights sort of a great irony, we want them to become independent, but we're not going to ask them what they need.
A: And here we go. That's a pretty mainstream institution and they were willing to acknowledge that, and say wow, what have we not been doing all these years? And now that we have a structure to do this, this is so natural. And the contrasting issue was, we're still responsible for them and they're not yet adults, so how do we help them become independent while they're still dependent on us? Throughout our whole project, three years long, this has been a recurring conflict, but one that we have articulated and said it's a real contradiction, a contradiction that all parents or people in that role end up feeling. Because we named it and because we made it explicit, it was still troubling and it was still confusing and we had some major difficulties about it, but it was something we engaged and effectively handled.
Now the project is coming to an end. It's been a three-year project and that's one thing that's very satisfying for me, to have that kind of extensive project instead of and intensive-only project. It's been a real model. So the rest of the organization, this fifteen million dollar organization, is now being restructured to some extent around this kind of participation of our clients, of our colleagues, of our charges, all of them.
Now this leads directly to Cincinnati in kind of a poetic way, which is that in 2001 a federal judge, Judge Susan Dellade???, began seeing a pattern of proposed lawsuits about racial profiling in Cincinnati from several different sources, and she said to herself and then to these proposed litigants, I was a domestic relations attorney, and as a domestic relations attorney before I became a judge, I was very frustrated that the court was often the absolutely wrong place to solve these deeply emotional issues.
So now as I'm seeing a pattern of racial profiling lawsuits here and across the country, it seems to me that the courtroom is not the first stop. We need to try something else, and then if it needs to end up in the courtroom to ratify it or to consolidate some kind of process or agreement, let's do that. Lawyers, first of all, I want to bundle these into a class action suit, potentially, or propose a class action, a class rather, and then can you guys go find something different? What's a different way that we can handle this than having a win-lose litigation process in court.? I want to avoid the ??? front against the city, the ACLU against the police, millions of dollars, many, many years later, more frustration "
Q: Sounds like quite an active, visionary judge.
A: Very. Really outside the box. One of the lawyers, Al Gerhard Stein???,was a visionary civil rights attorney, and he had sued all these folks for many years and he was tired of it. You know, he said, I sue them and I might win, I might lose, but in the end society doesn't change. Individuals might get money, the city might have to make an adjustment, might get embarrassed, but it doesn't really change things. So he ended up calling Steve Kelban, who is the President and director of this foundation, the Andrus Family Fund that I had done the work with at the foster care agency. He said to them, I see that part of your money is for community relations and community reconciliation, and our community should know this. We're an innovation in that. We've been asked to do something, we're not sure what to do. We know we're going to need some money for it. Would this be interesting for your organization? And Steve Kelban said, very interesting, we're interested in police-community relations, we're interested in alternatives to litigation, and we happen to know somebody who lives 60 miles from you who could be the right person to use a methodology that he's been developing to help you do this.
So, I went down and I started meeting the folks. Met the judge, met some of the parties to the lawsuit, and my first proposal to them was to do an ARIA because what I was seeing is that everybody had a different take on what racial profiling was, and as we know in our field, unless you frame a problem in common, there's no way to solve it. So the police had one definition, the community had one definition, and the ACLU had another definition. So we needed to do a conflict framing process. It made a lot of sense, it was rational, there was a lot of heat there, we'll see what we can do to put some light on the situation.
The police said, you know, Rothman, you've been introduced as someone who can help us solve problems and build collaboration. If you frame this as a problem-framing problem dynamic, we know who's gonna be framed. We're gonna be blamed and we're not interested. If you're gonna do it that way we'll go back to court and we'll win. So, what else you got for us, Rothman? You know, they're starting to get out of their chairs. I said, well, the other side of the coin of problems are goals.
Conflicts are one side and the other side are visions. And yes, I have a process that does that, and in fact, I've just come from a foundation that recommended me because of the work we did together at this foster care agency, and it might be a good parallel for what you guys need. We asked the kids, what do you want for your future and the staff said, now we understand and we're going to work together to make that happen. Maybe we need to do that in Cincinnati. Maybe we need to ask the community and the police, what is it you want for your future, in terms of your interactions with each other, and how can you get that? So we'll move away from the blame game. We're not going to directly address racial profiling right now. We're going to address what's beneath racial profiling which are the troubles in police-community relations. The police loved it. They said sure, police-community relations is a major concern of ours, and if this can help us get to that, then this will have been worth it. The city said absolutely, this is going to help us avoid a lawsuit, and maybe we can get community involvement helping us think about how to do that. Sure, we'd love it.
The Black United Front and the ACLU said, "Well, we're not so sure, because we want an outcome, which is going to hold your feet to the fire, you know. If we come up with an agreement about how the police have to change, then we want to make sure you do it because we don't trust you and we have good reasons not to trust you." And their lawyers said, well, this is going to be sponsored by the federal court. So if we get an agreement, this is going to be overseen and mandated by the federal court. The Black United Front said fine, we'll do it. So we were off and running, and we now had a project modeled after our little foster care agency for all of Cincinnati.
Q: So this was an evaluation process at the outset, I mean it was designed as an evaluation process. You're using it now in the middle of a very deeply protracted conflict.
A: That's right. What it suggests, I think, is that it's not so far from its origins, because before beginning any kind of intervention we have to do a rigorous assessment. And who's the best to do the assessment? The people in the conflict. Now this assessment was looking forward. In the looking forward you're defining conflicts. You're saying, what I want for police-community relations as a youth is I want to be respected. Alright. So that's the reverse side of the coin of problems, but clearly the opposite of the respect you want for the future is the lack of respect you've had in the past. And the police will say similar types of goals, and so forth.
In the end, this group which were to be the litigants, now became my advisory group and they began designing the project. And the first thing they did is they designed a stake holding group notion, which I asked them to do. I modeled the three stake-holding groups that we had in the foster agency. Who needs to be involved in defining a different future, if that future's going to be able to be built and sustained? And they came up with eight groups: youth, African American citizens, business, education, the foundation group was one, white citizens, city officials or leadership, religious leaders and social service agencies and I'm forgetting oneeight groups in all.
Each of these eight groups were invited to share their visions for the future of police-community relations, and they were invited to do it through our website. There was a whole bunch of media. One of the first things we did is we hired a media consultant, and we got her to help us sell this vision to the whole of Cincinnati. I forgot to mention an important thing, which is three weeks after we started this process, a 15-year-old black man was shot by a police officer in a dark alley late at night, and riots broke out. Most people think that our process began after the riots.
Q: I did.
A: That's right. They began before the riots, and this is another thing about how important it is to be proactive, to have some people with vision to say there's something rumbling here, we'd better get a handle on it, which is what the judge did. So, now, that's not to say that the riot didn't propel our work. With the riots and then with our being in place, we therefore were able to really tap into the imagination of the media. We were all over the media. For weeks to start with and then actually for the whole year, we had the front page dozens of times, we were in editorials, we were on the radio, we were on television, and it was very on purpose.
Q: When you say we, it's ARIA group?
A: Well, the whole process. I mean, I ended up being the spokesperson for it, but they would come to our sessions and they would televise the sessions and they'd write articles about them. We had New York Times coverage, we were on NPR. And this was all strategic, because part of what we had to do for Cincinnati was say you can do something different. You know, the whole world is looking at you and saying, Cincinnati, what a backward place. Britain had a travel ban on Cincinnati, or a travel warning, I guess. And all over the country people were saying Cincinnati, you know, a race riot, where are they?
So Cincinnati first of all was feeling pretty defensive about that. We're a nice place, they said, so we screwed up here, but leave us alone. And I said, no, that's not enough, guys. Maybe you're a nice place, maybe you're not, but you've got to be something different, and here's a way to do it. So, Cincinnati can sing. We used some of these flowery metaphors and we got the media to say, okay, not only can Cincinnati sing, but the media can cover some good stuff. We've had a lot of coverage about the riots and about people's antagonisms. Now we're going to have a lot of coverage about the possibility of reinventing ourselves. The media then helped us do outreach. So we articulated the eight different stake-holding groups and on the front page of the media was, share your visions for the future of Cincinnati. Articulate what your goals are for the future of police-community relations, and they gave our website. And same thing on the television, same thing on the radio. We got them to be our advertisers. We had a very small budget, but we got a lot of help.
Q: But now the people who are responding to that aren't necessarily the groups that you mentioned. Or if they don't self-identify do you place them in those groups?
A: They self-identify. They have a choice, and they're told that even though they're members of many groupsOther minorities was the eighth group; Hispanics, gays and lesbians, Jewish community, Asian community, they all were grouped into an "other minority" group. So we had all eight of them and they had the choice of where they would put themselves. A black businessman would have to choose. Am I going to go in the African American stake holding group or am I going to go in the businessperson stake holding group? And that was hard for some people, for all of us because we have so many identities.
But the question was, with this issue of racial profiling, or more specifically for us, the future of community-police relations, what identity do you want to be speaking from? So they put themselves into that. In the end we got 3,500 people to respond. The youth group was the only one that responded differently than the others because we developed a strategy to reach out to them. The others came to us through the website. For the youth group, we hired eighteen field workers and we sent them into the streets. We sent them into the clubs. We sent them into the neighborhoods, very consciously saying, a lot of the youths or the kids in the disturbances or the riots or whatever you'd call it who were so upset, can we give them the opportunity to help create a future they want to be a part of?
Q: When you say youth, you don't mean black youth, white youth, Korean youth, Hispanic youth ?
A: All of them. Very specifically we did target the youth from over the Rhine???, which was the African American ghetto, a very depressed ghetto in Cincinnati where the disturbances were really centered. We also went to Lower Price Hill???, which is a white, Appalachian community. So we did specifically go there, because those are somewhat the disenfranchised kids who more than others might be having run-ins with the police, though we also invited all other youth.
In the end we got 750 youth to respond, meaning they gave us about 2000 goals, because each of them can respond to up to three goals each. And you roll your eyes about how complex that would be or how difficult, I imagine. It's not, because we have this database system that helps us group. It's not a smart database, it can do searches for us. But once we start looking for patterns and we find them, we can tag them. So an initial pattern we saw, and I already mentioned it, was we want more respect from the police, that's our goal. And the "why" would be because we're fed up with not being treated equally or well, and we've seen what happens when people are treated disrespectfully. And "how," you know they come up with all sorts of "how" ideas. By encounters, by having the police walk our streets a little bit more instead of failing to get out of their cars, bicycling on ride-alongs with them, meeting each other.
So they come up with fairly concrete, practical ideas. But the what and the why were very big. So we'd start seeing a pattern for that, we would tag it through our database system, and then we would have a category. So then we'd keep searching through the 2000 goals and it turns out that 200 of the 2000 had to do with respect. So we're done with those 200, and then we go through the others, and by the end of this sorting process, we have about ten goals that will fit all 2000. There might be some outliers, and then we put those in a unique category. So now we have an articulation, or redaction rather, of the 2000 goals that the student youth have given us and we invite the youth back for a feedback session.
The first thing we do in the feedback session, as you heard me tell with the foster care agency, is we have them sit in small groups and talk about their why responses with each another, we give them back their data. One of the things about this whole action evaluation process is the data is owned by the folks that we work with. We're not researchers trying to use it for our purposes. We're action evaluators or interveners trying to use data to help them do the work they need to do to create the changes they want. So we give them back their data, which is all protected and confidential, we give it back to them privately, and say let's go around now and share with each other your whys. Either share back what you wrote, supplement it, go somewhere else because being here changes your feeling, or pass if you're not comfortable doing this.
Q: So you got 750 kids to come in ?
A: No, no. When folks give in their responses, they check a box which says, I'm willing to come back to a session. So we had a couple dozen that came, quite small. But they were there as representatives of the 750 that responded. From our religious social service group, we had 125 that came. It was harder to get the youth to come. But anyway, we had a couple dozen and they were fabulous, really dynamic kids. They sit in their small groups, they have their "why" discussions, which are facilitated by volunteer facilitators. We had 70 that signed up to be volunteers, and we trained them.
On a weekly basis we met with them. And then after they have their "why" dialogue, they select a representative to go into a fishbowl. So of the 30 people that were there, about ten of them were selected to be the representatives to go into the center. You see this is how this is folding in. We have 750 respondents, we have 30 or 40 folks that come back to the meeting and have dialogue, we have ten that then are responsible for reaching the platform of agreement about their goals. So I give them my list of ten goals. I say, I created the first cut of these goals from your 2000. You know, all of us in this field know how to do this, you do this with flip chart paper and it takes a couple hours and it's not very efficient.
There's a sense of involvement, but we've done the front-end work for them. And then we say to them, now, this is just a first cut. It's not meaningful until you decide what's meaningful. So we had a goal for I remember it very specifically We had a goal which said create respect both ways. Because some of the folks said, you know, our goal is for mutual respect from police and community. Some said our goal is for the police to respect us. So we would group those into "respect both ways." The kids looked at that for a while and they talked about it, and they said, actually what we want is to create relationships of respect between the police and the community.
And there's a whole lot of words missing around "the community." Who is the community and how do we create respect. But they got that, and through this dialogue process and their consulting with the others who were in their groups we had breaks for them to talk with their colleagues they had a great sense of ownership of this particular goal, and then they came up with five more. So they took our ten and they redacted them down to their five. And these are theirs. So these ten people representing the 30-40 people in the room, representing the 750 who responded, representing all youth in Cincinnati, had five goals for the future of police-community relations. All eight groups do the same thing separately. We take the database and we then look for the shared ideals across all eight groups, and then we came up with five.
We brought back 60 representatives from the eight groups and then they did a voting process. Are these five goals acceptable as a statement representative of all of Cincinnati for the future of police-community relations in the city? And we got a 58-2 vote. Couldn't get everybody. And in fact we did majority rules here because we had the press of time and efficiency and there's always going to be one or two folks who may not go along. And at this point we needed to move ahead. We had the press of a negotiation that had to happen. So 58-2 is pretty good. We got a lot of dynamism. Again the media was there showing all this, showing it on TV and creating the platform for negotiations to begin.
So now we have negotiations with those who were going to be litigators representing the city, representing the Black United Front, representing the police, and representing the ACLU. I took these five principles that had been articulated by this community and I hired a policing expert and I said, can you tell me how these principles have been developed in other places.
So one of the principles was something about a problem-oriented partnership between police and community.
. And he said problem-oriented policing is the new wave. That's where we're talking about policing being something that helps us proactively identify patterns of problems and then work with the community both to identify those patterns and address them. So we discover that after school on this street there's loitering around this shop. Therefore, let's develop some foot patrols of parents and principals in this shop so there's not drug use and there's not any kind of loitering that's problematic.
Instead of coming down on them after they're there and doing those things, we're going to be proactive and prevent them. And it's going to be a problem-solving partnership between police and community. So my police expert comes back with all of this and together we then write a single text, the single text being drawn from the five principles, building on the best practices from around the country, and we give the parties a 40-page document. And they begin a negotiation process.
The negotiation process begins in January, it ends mid-April, and it wasn't a straight line. Despite the fact that we had built this very powerful collaborative foundation, the lawyers went back to their default mode, which is let's win, not lose. Let's get the best for our clients and give up the least. Now, throughout the process I was constantly reminding them, you have an obligation. You set this process up, all these folks gave you their hope, they gave you their ideals for a collaborative outcome where there are all winners and no losers. So, careful about going back to your default. Of course you have to protect and promote the interests of your clients, but what you really have to do, on top of that, in order to do that, you need to respond to these ideas.
Q: So the lawyers weren't considered a stakeholder at this point? I mean it seems like you had to do some extra work to manage that relationship, and that's not exactly prescribed in the action evaluation.
A: You're absolutely right. Ideally, what I tried to do, and I didn't succeed, is I tried to make them a stakeholder and I tried to actually convince them that they had to model this new dynamic of collaboration. And I only got grudging involvement and only intermittent. You know, they were willing to support this process, but they weren't willing to throw themselves in fully. They were willing to build on it and use the principles and the ideals that we gave them in the single text, but then they moved back into some default modes.
Nonetheless, three months later, after some bloody negotiations, we succeeded in creating a collaborative agreement that has been lauded as a model for police-community relations around the country. John Ashcraft came to Cincinnati and signed this as the model for the future. The ACLU talked about this as a model for addressing these deep problems.
Q: So people are buying from the Left, buying from the Right?
A: Buying from the Left, buying from the Right, that's right.
Q: That's critical.
A: It is real critical, it's real critical, and the city committed to spending five million dollars to implement the agreement. We had an addendum on the agreement which talked about creating a problem-solving center, and the foundation, the Greater Cincinnati Foundation, committed to raising 20 million dollars. As of this time what's the date here ?
Q: April 26th.
A: April 26th. Almost 10 million has been raised, has been pledged. So within the next five years, and the clock started ticking about nine months ago, so four years from now, this agreement will finish. It talks about changes in the way policing has to happen. It talks about changes in the way community has to relate to police. And there's something we call mutual accountability. There will be an evaluation looking at how the youth or the citizens, when they're stopped, treat the officers, as well as, of course, how do the officers treat those they stop. And are they reducing what's perceived to be racially biased policing.
So we'll have a lot of measurements of the impact of these changes in policies. What's more important than the measurements, what's more important, I think, than the change in policies, is the change in attitudes and the change in relationships. Can we really foster problem-solving attitudes and relationships between the various citizen groups and city groups and police groups, officials, so that they really can work proactively and preventively to change the dynamic of crime and the prevention of crime, and build more of a civic society, civil society?
Q: What about the scale-up/re-entry problem? It's a lot different to work with an entire city of so many diverse populations and such a fluctuating population. People come, people go, people change neighborhoods. How do you keep this new document from sort of evanescing into the file cabinets of the legal secretaries?
I mean, the police have a very defined hierarchy and structure, so they can say these are our new rules, this is how we do it. But in terms of securing a commitment from the community to relate differently to the police, when that community is shifting rapidly, how do you maintain that?
A: Great question, and in addition to them shifting rapidly, who holds them accountable? The police have a command structure, they can be held accountable. And in fact, this was a big sticking point in our negotiations. The police said, fine, we're going to change, but are they? And it was a really fair concern. What we did is we created this addendum, even while we were negotiating this main agreement, and the addendum said the community is going to be responsible for its part. We're going to have a mutual accountability. We're going to have these measurements that the youth and the community are going to be asked, and the police are going to be asked. When you stopped them, how did it go?
The ACLU was a little nervous about that, but they went along with it. The police also get to have their say about how they're treated. But more importantly than those specifics is that we committed to creating a problem-solving center, based in the community. I think it will be rooted now in the ANAACP. It will be connected there. And this institution will be forever. You know, we have 20 million dollars, so it's a lifelong institution. Five million dollars is to implement this agreement and bring in experts and a monitoring team and help with implementation and so forth. The 20 million is to build an institution that is forever. And the community will have training, it will have coaching, and it will have outreach.
So, if you're looking on the ground in Cincinnati right now, I can't say it looks real pretty. You know, the first couple years of this thing are going to be real hard. Folks are going to want to jump back to the old way, or they're going to wish they could be in this new beginning. But in fact, using a model that we talk about, that the Andrus Fund talks about, in particular a transition model, everyone's going to be in a neutral zone for a while, which is neither here nor there, and it's uncomfortable and it's confusing. The desire to move back into kind of a blaming mode is really strong. And here's where I agree so much now in hindsight with the ACLU and the Black United Front. If this doesn't end up in the court at the end, it's going to go away.
Like every other good agreement that ends up sitting on the shelf, this one needs teeth and needs to have legs that walk. For a while I was concerned that everything the community was doing was sort of geared toward this eventual legal process, and that felt to me like it was taking away from the ownership of the community. I don't think it did, and ultimately what it ensured is that these great ideas had some great legs, and the judge is there to make sure things are done. Now, as the agreement progresses, the ideal is very consistent, I think, with the conflict resolution ideas. The authority and it's role decreases as the community and it's role begins to increase. The ownership of this project and the success of it is less about enforcement and more about participation.
Q: Sure, a change of cultural norms.
A: That's right. And we need victories, you know, we need pieces of peace, we need increasing numbers of folks who say, hey this worked. So, we hope the media will stay engaged and be able to continue to tell stories about success. Because there have been plenty of stories already about the barriers and the resistance.
Q: We know those pretty well. So, in terms of lessons learned, it sounded initially like you were saying that you would have liked to have had some sort of legal precedent to make sure that these agreements were the standard procedure. But maybe you backed off from that idea at the end of the statement that you just made. I mean, was that a lesson learned, that you would have liked to have had some sort of court agreement?
A: Well we did. I may not have explained that well. In the end the agreement that we got, that was ratified by the judge, and she went through a fairness hearing to make sure that it fit the needs of the class, and so it is now a federally supported agreement, and not only federally supported. The justice department came in, and they had been doing a simultaneous investigation about patterns and practices, abuse of force. And their investigation got woven into our agreement.
So this has a lot of legitimacy and authority to it. I would have liked to have not been always inventing as we were going. We didn't have much of a precedent in terms of whether what we were doing made sense and whether it was going to work. On a small scale I had, you know, 25 people in this foster care agency. I had another couple dozen projects I'd done, but we didn't have any kind of model for this kind of systemic, gigantic project.
Q: What are you going to do differently the next time a big project comes around? Or from an appreciative standpoint, what are you going to do more?
A: Well, everything I did, I'd do more of. The idea of getting some kind of authority that has ultimate responsibility and role in ensuring this thing gets implemented. So, one of the ???, getting to the end and working backwards. So the end would be some kind of authoritative, legitimizing body that says what you all come out with, we'll make sure it works. We're not going to impose it on you, but once you give it to us, we're going to assure it. Secondly, what I would do differently here is I would make sure we had all the money before we started. This thing would have cost about a million. We ended up having a 420,000 dollar budget, and we had to beg, borrow and steal it every moment. You know, we didn't have the success to say to people if you don't give us the money we're going to go away. We had to prove it could be successful, and then each time we proved it we could get a little more money. So that was excruciating.
Another thing I would do differently is, while I was only 60 miles away, I was an outsider. And on the one hand, while it's fine to be an outsider to get this thing started, I would have wished that sooner or later I could have rolled it off to folks who were there and going to stay there. So now this problem solving center is almost starting from scratch. After it gets set up we will feed back into them, you know, our experience and our data so they can use it. But I think this kind of work really needs to have local context, and that our work is more about building capacity than doing it. So that's a major difference.
Working with the media was something that was a wonderful success and I think it disproves folks who are skeptical that the media only likes to tell bad stories, it only likes to perpetuate conflict. But if you work with them and build relationships with the media, their imaginations can be captured too about something that has promise. What else? Well, another thing I would like to do, and maybe this can help, is I was a little bit alone there. I didn't have this kind of a network. Now that it's finished and it's over, a lot of folks are really interested in it. If at the time I could have said to people, I think this is big and I need a steering committee of conflict resolution experts from around the country, and no I don't have any money to pay you, but let's talk on the telephone every other week because I need help.
Q: It's such a tremendous project. You had mentioned developing local capacity. How can people learn to do this in their own local environments?
A: In some ways this whole process is just about systematizing intuition, or systematizing the kind of processes that we all do as conflict resolution people, as facilitators, as interveners, where we ask people, what do you want here? What is the nature of your conflict and what is the nature of the ideals you have for your future? And we've just made that systematic. So, it's not very complicated. We're going to have aspects of it on the Beyond Intractability website. And we're hoping even to have some aspects that will be instructive, where people will start learning how to use this. We expect we're going to start having some training programs, and our ideal is that this will become a methodology that a lot of folks adapt to their processes. And it's very flexible. So that's for the professionals in the field.
A way that we have already started doing it in the communities is, for example, in York, Pennsylvania. They've had a racial conflict there that was re-ignited just a couple years ago after a 30-year-old murder. The sitting mayor was indicted for the murder of a black child when she was 17, 30 years ago. While he was found not guilty, it seems that he had some indirect role as then a former police officer. Anyway, the city of York went pretty crazy and the country was reporting what a bad city it was, same sort of thing as with Cincinnati. They developed something without us called a York Counts Commission, where they invited in a hundred city leaders, civic leaders, community leaders to think about its future, and they divided their future into three areas: education, economics, and community. And then they brought us in and they said, "Can you help us?" using something like what you did in Cincinnati to develop a participatory process for envisioning these three areas of future development.
Instead of us coming in and doing it, we brought their staff to us in Ohio and we trained them for a few days. We said this is how you use this system, and now we're going to come and coach you and support you, but it's yours. So in three months it's theirs and we're out of there. We're no longer involved. You know, we're there to talk with them if they need help or to be supportive. So that's a model for me, that we find some kind of a local organization that's imbedded in the community, that has real legitimacy, that's going to stay. We rebuild their confidence, capacity, we give them some techniques and technology, and then we move out, and we stay around to coach and support and cheerlead, but it's them, not us.
Q: Okay, well, thank you so much, Jay.