Peacebuilding Simulation: Mike Green

By Cate Malek, University of Colorado


Mike Green

Background

Your family has lived in Maren for generations. It sometimes seems the entire Marenese community is related to you. Your earliest memories are of festive parties and long lunches full of friends and good food. But, you also remember how hard your family worked trying to make a living. Your father was almost always unemployed, but picked up odd jobs whenever he could. To make ends meet, your mother ran a Marenese restaurant and did whatever else she could think of: babysitting, sewing and cleaning houses. You grew up swearing that your family would never have to work that hard again.

You went to one of the Marenese universities, which didn't have the greatest reputation, but you studied hard and you've always been a voracious reader. You never aspired towards politics, but when a friend suggested that you run for mayor of Blue River, you couldn't think of a reason not to. You love your job. You aren't married and you spend many nights late at the office. You have plans for Blue River and Maren in general. It's time for things to improve.


Conflict Emergence

Tensions or grievances can persist over long periods of time without resulting in a noticeable conflict. At this stage, the conflict is referred to as "latent." When tensions build enough, or when a "triggering incident" occurs, conflict "emerges." This phase is the best chance to fix things. Once a conflict starts to escalate into violence, the parties may become too invested in "winning" to let the conflict go.

When the Westerners started moving to Maren, you thought it was a gift from heaven. You hoped they would invest in Blue River and jumpstart the economy. But, to your disappointment, the Westerners segregated themselves in the hills. They attend their own schools, run their own stores and restaurants and generally keep to themselves. The influx of Westerners is actually having the opposite effect from what you expected. Because the Westerners ignore the traditional Marenese lunch and keep their shops and restaurants open all day, many people are traveling up to the hills to do their shopping or eat lunch. This is hurting the Marenese businesses. Furthermore, the Westerners aren't hiring Marenese or Mendozans in their shops; they hire immigrants who work longer hours for lower pay. You are frustrated by this wasted opportunity.

Then, to make things worse, the violence started. The Mendozans hate the immigrants, which spurred the resurgence of the Vigilantes, a violent anti-immigration group that has been out dormant for about thirty years. Many of the Trinerean immigrants seem to feel lonely, overworked, exploited, and humiliated. Recently, these feelings have manifested in a series of brutal rapes that were apparently committed by some immigrants, who then returned to Trinereo before they were caught. Then there were the Marenese kids who vandalized that tech firm and who are generally harassing any Western kids coming into town, further polarizing the Western and Marenese communities. The whole thing is giving you an ulcer. You fear that the violence in your community could escalate out of control.

The thing is, you can see all of the different sides in this conflict. You understand why each group is frustrated. But at the same time, you are tired of this story of hate and poverty. It has gone on for years. In your opinion, it's time for the citizens of Maren to stop living out the same old tired dramas that aren't getting anyone anywhere.

Questions:

  1. What can Mike do to de-escalate the conflict in his community? For instance, think about ways to improve the quality of communication between the different groups in Blue River. What besides improved communication might be useful?
     
     
     
  2. What are possible triggering events that could move this conflict from the early escalation phase to full escalation?
     
     
     
  3. Where is the common ground between the groups in Blue River?
     
     
     
  4. Where are the areas of real difference, issues that the various groups will likely never be able to see eye to eye on?
     
     
     

 


Taking Action

The Third Side

"The Third Side is not some mysterious or special 'other.' It is us. The missing alternative to force and domination is in our hands." — William L. Ury

You decide you really need to do something to diminish tensions. You think that if you can get people from different groups together working on projects that benefit everyone, maybe that would help build trust, at least between the individuals involved. In turn, that might help build trust in larger circles over time. You decide to put an ad in the paper offering grants to anyone with an idea for a joint project involving members of different communities working together. You can't offer much money, but you can't think of any better ideas so you decide to try it.

The first person to ask you for help is Emma Thornton, a Western woman who lives in the hills.


 

Emma's Idea

Emma is a Westerner and a teacher. When she came to Maren, she tried to get a job at one of the Westerners' private schools, but was unable to. So she took a job at the public high school in Blue River. Emma wants to start a soccer league. Soccer is very popular in Maren, but there has never been an official league because the schools in town don't have the money for sports. The private school in the hills has the money, but the school is barely big enough to put together a team, much less a whole league. Emma's idea is to use money from the private school and players from the public schools to create the league. You think it is a great idea, but the principal of the private school, Matthew Ballack, refused to invest in the league. He said that with the history of local kids harassing the private school kids, he just couldn't take the risk of funding a soccer league that could put his students in danger.

Questions:

  1. How might Emma's project help to de-escalate conflict?
     
     
     
  2. What are the dangers involved with Emma's project? Could it make the conflict worse? If so, how?
     
     
     
  3. Should Emma try to undertake this project? If yes, how can she design it so that it benefits Maren and doesn't make things worse instead of better?
     
     
     
  4. Should Mike fund this project? Why or why not?
     
     
     

 


Overcoming Opposition

Bridge Building

"A relationship operates like savings in the bank; whenever an issue arises, the parties can dip into their account of goodwill to help deal with it. Often not a discrete activity, bridge building [the act of building relationships] takes place all around us, sometimes without us even perceiving it — at family meals, on school projects, in business transactions, and at neighborhood meetings." — William L. Ury

You are frustrated — though not surprised — with the principal's lack of vision. He's not thinking of the big picture, you think to yourself. You tell Emma that you want to go back and talk to Matt Ballack with her. You love her idea and you will help as much as you can, but the money you have to offer is nowhere near enough for an entire league.

You and Emma meet with Principal Ballack again. You can tell that he is somewhat annoyed to see you. However, he sits and listens patiently to your plan.

When you and Emma finish talking, Principal Ballack sighs and says wearily, "I can see that both of you are committed to this plan. However, many of the parents at my school are very suspicious of the local community, and rightly so. My students don't feel safe going into town. If something were to happen to one of my students because of this league, I would be held responsible. I just don't want to take that risk."

Questions:

  1. What do you think of Principal Ballack's concerns?
     
     
     
  2. Can you think of any ways to address his fears?
     
     
     

You feel a surge of irritation. You take a deep breath and then begin,

"Mr. Ballack, I appreciate your concern and I understand that you are trying to act in the best interest of your students. However, I'm not sure if I have conveyed the seriousness of the current situation in Maren. I view the recent influx of people from the West as a tremendous opportunity for Maren. However, if the residents of Maren remain polarized due to reasons of class, outward appearance and culture, it will only create more tension and violence. That will put your students at even more risk than they are now. By helping build bridges between communities, you would be diminishing the risk to your students, not increasing it! My fear is that this conflict will escalate to the point that you Westerners will pull out of Maren and move back home. I view that possibility as a loss for the citizens of Maren and also for you. In my opinion, the only way to de-escalate this conflict is to facilitate more contact between diverse groups of people. This soccer league would be an ideal way to do this."

Emma quickly pipes in,

"Not only that, but I am also a parent at your school. I have three boys currently attending. Although I realize that many parents will be against this idea, if I am willing to let my children participate in the league, surely there must be other parents who think the same way I do."

Principal Ballack smiles and shakes his head.

"Alright," He says. "I'm willing to give this a try. I'll match your funds, Mike. And if the league is successful, my school will continue to pay for it. However, I warn you that if there is any trouble, I will pull out immediately."

Emma breaks into a grin.

"Thank you so much, Mr. Ballack."

In the car going home, Emma looks pensive. When you ask her what she's thinking about, she smiles at you and says, "This is great, but it is going to be a lot of work."

However, Emma seems up to her task. In the next few months, you hear only good things about the soccer league. There is huge participation from every group in the community. Amazingly, the kids are really good. It may even be possible that they will have a shot at the national championships. If the Maren teams do well in the championships, it would mean so much to the region whose citizens feel they have always been viewed as backwards hicks by the rest of the country.

Questions:

  1. Do you think the soccer project is a good idea?
     
     
     
  2. What problems are likely to arise?
     
     
     
  3. What sources of opposition are likely to arise?
     
     
     
  4. How might they be overcome?
     
     
     
  5. What are some other project ideas?
     
     
     

 


Susana's Idea

The second person to respond to your ad is Susana, a childhood friend who grew up across the street from you. Susana is the daughter of a Trinerean immigrant and is one of the smartest, most hard-working people you know. She went to a university in the West on scholarship, but came back to Maren to help her community. She works for the church now and has put together quite a few interesting projects in the past few years, including a community garden and a network to build affordable houses for members of the community going through difficult times. You are surprised to hear that Susana is responding to the ad you put in the paper. The amount of money you are offering is small and you know that Susana is used to pulling in much larger grants from organizations in the West.

It turns out that Susana's grant won't be renewed unless Mendozans are participating in her affordable housing project as well as Marenese and immigrants. So far, she has had no luck persuading the Mendozans to participate. They tell her they refuse to accept charity from an immigrant. Susana knows many Mendozans who could use an affordable house and that a housing subsidy could make the difference between poverty and a lower middle-class life, but she doesn't know how to reach them. The Marenese and Mendozan communities have always been extremely segregated from each other and Susana would like to reduce the tensions between the two communities, but she's not quite sure how. "I'm not really looking for money," she tells you, "but I am looking for advice."

Questions:

  1. How might Susana's project help to de-escalate the conflict?
     
     
     
  2. What could be done to make the project better?
     
     
     
  3. How might Susana encourage Mendozans to participate in her project?
     
     
     

 

The Provider

Conflict usually arises in the first place from frustrated needs, like safety, identity, love and respect. Providers are those who help others attain such needs.

You are intrigued, because this is actually something you can help her with. During your two terms as mayor, you have learned the importance of equal participation and collaboration. You have found that if you involve Mendozans as well as Marenese in the leadership of a project, then everything tends to go more smoothly. You tell Susana that she should do the same, and you offer to introduce her to some people from the Mendozan community who may be interested in working with her.

Susana forms a committee with three members of the Mendozan community: a nurse named Ann, a man from your administration named Henry, and Evelyn, the owner of the local general store. You are surprised that Evelyn agreed to get involved. She distrusts the Marenese and you strongly suspect that her son Andre is one of the leaders of the Vigilantes. You do have to admit that she gets things done, though. The next time you see Susana, you ask her how the project is going and she tells you things are moving ahead, although there are some challenges working with Mendozans and Marenese together.

A few months later, you hear that Susana and Evelyn have had a falling out. It is unfortunate, but still, the houses are going up as planned, and you're extremely pleased with the project. You hope that if people's basic needs are provided for, they will be less likely to take their frustration out on other groups.

Questions:

  1. What problems will Susana likely face?
     
     
     
  2. What strategies could she have in place to deal with these problems?
     
     
     
  3. What are some ways Mike could help Susana with her project?
     
     
     

 


Keeping the Peace

Peacekeepers

When violence breaks out, the community needs to employ measures to stop destructive conflict in its tracks. The police, parents, teachers and co-workers all can be peacekeepers in their own domains.

You are pleased with the work that Susana and Emma are doing to build trust in Blue River. Your biggest worry now is the return of the Vigilantes. The Vigilantes haven't been heard from for more than thirty years, since you were a child. But, you remember those times. No one in your community would go out at night and even in the day you felt afraid. People would disappear and their bodies would be found a few weeks later. You hated to go to town because Mendozans would harass you and your family. One afternoon, when you were maybe 15 or 16, you were walking home from a friend's house when a car full of Mendozans slowed down and began to follow you. You kept your head down and began to walk faster. You were too panicked to think. You are convinced that the only reason that you're still alive is that one of your aunts happened to drive by just then and hurried you into her car.

You are determined to protect your community from the fear that permeated Blue River during the years that the Vigilantes were at their peak. You have been putting pressure on the police force to give you any information they can on the group.

The police suspect that Andre Hart is one of the leaders of the Vigilantes. Andre is also the brother-in-law of one of the best policemen in Maren, a man named Stephen Pelle. The police chief has asked Stephen to use his position to find out more information about the Vigilantes and Andre's role in the organization. You know it will be hard for Stephen to go against his family, but you also know that he is dedicated to his job and a good man. You are sure that he will do it.

It all happens faster than you expected it to. Stephen gets a lead and finds Andre and some other members of the Vigilantes on the beach threatening an innocent immigrant man. Stephen arrests them and you suddenly have the leaders of the Vigilantes in custody. You are extremely pleased. This is by far your highest achievement as mayor of Blue River.

However, Stephen isn't as pleased. He comes to your office very worried about Andre. He tells you that Andre's family is poor and that with his arrest, his wife and kids are really struggling. He tells you that he's been looking into something called "restorative justice."

Stephen explains, "From what I've been reading, a restorative justice process would require the perpetrator, Andre, to have a dialogue with the victim. Both the perpetrator and the victim's friends and family would also be involved and a facilitator would lead the dialogue. Everyone would decide together what reparations would be best for Andre to make. It seems that this would be preferable to simply locking Andre up and letting his family suffer. At least it would give Andre the chance to see the immigrants' point of view. I think it could work."

You've heard these programs are sometimes good, but there is no way you want Andre to go free. Restorative justice is for teenagers who steal cars, not for people who violently assault innocent people. Does Stephen not realize the severity of what his brother-in-law has done? He is a violent and prejudiced man and you want to use him to set an example. You want to let everyone know that if they choose to deal with their problems using violence, then there will be harsh consequences.

But Stephen continues to argue. "Look, Mike," he tells you. "No one could have predicted that I would be the one to stand up for Andre. I've never liked Andre much and we've never gotten along. But, I have a perspective in this matter that you don't. I love my family, but I can also see some of their faults. They've turned the immigrants and the Marenese into scapegoats for all their problems. By locking Andre up, you're just confirming their view."

You sigh and say, "The Vigilantes are a hate organization. I'm pretty sure they meant to murder that poor man they found on the beach. And you want Andre to sit down and have a heart-to-heart talk with him and then go free? I don't buy it. The Marenese and immigrant communities will never support that outcome and my head will be on the chopping block if I support it."

Stephen looks frustrated.

"Mike, have some vision here," he says. "Look at the long-term. If Andre goes off to prison, his kids are going to get even poorer and even more bitter and hateful. By sending their father to prison, you're just increasing the possibility that his kids are going to grow up to be just as prejudiced as their father. We have a chance to change things right now, to break this cycle."

You are astonished. You remember saying those exact same words to the principal of the private school just a few weeks ago.

"Okay," you say quietly, "maybe this does make sense. Why don't we both talk with the prosecutor, and see if he is willing to drop the charges if Andre goes into a victim-offender mediation program. But I'm relying on you to be the one to set this up and see it through, and if it fails — if Andre or any of the other Vigilantes attack again — you'd better believe I'm going to do everything I can to get the book thrown at them!"


 

Balancing Peace and Justice

Finding Justice

It's common sense that justice is central to any well-functioning society. However, the question of what justice is and how to achieve it is a more difficult matter.

Questions:

  1. Do you think restorative justice is appropriate in this situation?
     
     
     
  2. What are some other possible approaches Mike could take besides restorative justice?
     
     
     

 


Building Trust

Managing Trust

While strong personal relationships alone cannot bring about conflict resolution, they can help to transform the conflict and make it easier to resolve. Relationships between the opposing sides help to build trust, improve communication, and increase tolerance.

Meanwhile, Emma Thornton's soccer league has progressed surprisingly well and they are sending three teams to the national championships for the first time in Marenese history. When they drive out West for the competition, a caravan of families from the Mendozan, Western and Marenese communities drive behind the teams. There are three teams going, one for each age group. The two youngest teams do well, but are beaten before they get to the championship rounds. However, the oldest team seems unbeatable. They play beautifully and make it to second place out of all the teams in the entire country. Everyone in Maren is ecstatic. They couldn't have been happier if the team had won first place. Just knowing that they can compete on a national level is enough to make the citizens of Maren proud.

Even better, many of the kids on the soccer teams have formed fast friendships. Even those who haven't, have developed a grudging respect for each other. And these new bonds have spread to the parents as well who have come together to support their kids. You are extremely pleased with Emma's initiative. It has been an unqualified success.

All in all, you are incredibly pleased with the current chain of events. You feel that for the first time in decades, things in Blue River may actually change for the better. Emma's soccer league was a great success, you have dealt with the Vigilantes, and Stephen's restorative justice project and Susana's housing project may begin to bridge the gaps between the communities in Maren.

Questions:

  1. What can Mike do to solidify the progress he has made? What should his next steps be?
     
     
     
  2. What underlying issues still need to be addressed to prevent violence from flaring up again?
     
     
     

 


The Extremists

Extremists

In large-scale conflicts there are often individuals who take militant, non-compromising, and often violent approaches to the problem. Although they are often seen as heroes, extremists can prevent the de-escalation of a conflict.

You are worried about news you hear of a new underground group forming in the Marenese community. They call themselves the Marenese Defense Association or the MDA for short. They are very secretive, but there are rumors that they are armed. Their goals are uncertain. You have heard that the organization is only meant to protect the Marenese from any resurgence of the Vigilantes, but you have also heard crazier stories that they are planning to fight for independence for Maren. You think that may be the most ridiculous idea you've ever heard. Maren is too small to survive as an independent country and you have enough problems already. You hope that the positive changes in the community will be enough to show the members of the MDA that their organization is unnecessary.

 

Questions:

  1. What are some steps Mike could take to address the problem of the MDA?
     
     
     
  2. What are some effective methods of dealing with extremists?
     
     
     

 


Escalation

Escalation is an increase in the intensity of a conflict. The number of parties and issues tends to increase, tactics become heavier, malevolence increases, and overall destructiveness generally increases as well.

It started as a drunken brawl on a hot July night. In the beginning the fight was between two men, one Marenese and one Mendozan. But from there, the facts get a little fuzzy. Some say the Mendozan had been harassing one of the busboys at the bar, a young Trinerean immigrant man when a Marenese man stepped in to defend the immigrant. Others say it was the Marenese man who started the trouble — that he had a gun on him and he was bragging about it and showing it off.

What is certain is that the fight spread into the streets of Blue River. Some Mendozans used it as an excuse to target Marenese property, breaking windows and spray-painting buildings. Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on your viewpoint, the Marenese community was prepared for exactly this situation. Some members of the MDA, who had spent the last few months training, went home to get weapons and then returned to the scene of the violence. The introduction of weapons turned the already escalating conflict into an all-out riot. When the smoke cleared, two Mendozans had been shot and went to the hospital in critical condition. The police arrested fifteen people, including William Luchard, a professor at the local university.

Here the story gets blurry again. Although it is clear that two men were shot, it is more difficult to say who shot them and why. The members of the MDA say that while they were armed, they never fired their guns. They blame the police for the shootings. When the police conducted an internal investigation that pinned the shootings on the MDA, the Marenese community denounced their findings as a whitewash.

In the weeks after the riot, the people of Maren and the town of Blue River especially, are shaken up. Although Maren has always had its problems, no one ever expected that it would get to this point. A line has been crossed and many people fear that it is too late to go back. The newspaper reports that many people have bought guns for their households, hoping to protect themselves in case the violence continues. The Western community segregates themselves further from the rest of Blue River. There is talk of plans to build several gated communities in the hills. The Mendozans, Marenese and immigrants have withdrawn into their respective communities, avoiding any activities that would require them to associate with outsiders such as soccer practice or going into town to shop. The streets in town are so deserted that you fear the economy will be threatened. The citizens of Maren seem to be holding their breath, waiting to see what is going to happen next.

Questions:

  1. Now that the riot has occurred, what should Mike's next steps be?
     
     
     
  2. What possible problems does he need to prepare for and how should he do it?
     
     
     
  3. What are methods of de-escalating this conflict?
     
     
     
  4. How can Mike deal with the different stories of what happened the night of the riot? How is he going to find out the facts of the situation and how is he going to present them in a way that satisfies the various communities in Blue River?
     
     
     

 


Preventing Violence

The riot marks the first time you actually question whether you are fit to be mayor of Blue River. You had thought that you were on the right track, but then everything blew up in your face. For a couple of weeks, it is difficult for you to get out of bed and you drag yourself to the office where you find you can't concentrate.

"In some respects, the whole field of conflict resolution is about finding alternatives to political violence. People and governments have, of course, turned to war and violence throughout history. However, that does not mean we are doomed to a life of political violence." — Chip Hauss

Your biggest concern is getting the town back to normal. You are pleased to hear that Emma is planning to run another season of the soccer league, despite the fact that she has lost many of her players. Many families in Blue River no longer feel safe allowing their children to play soccer in a co-community league.

Steve Pelle is also planning to go ahead with the restorative justice process for his brother-in-law. You are nervous about how that will go, especially with the increased tension between the communities. But that is what the judge ordered, so there's no choice about that.

You increase police presence in town, especially at night. You also try to put together some town festivals, but you can't get anyone to participate. It seems that despite your best efforts, it's going to take some time before people trust each other again.

Your next priority is to prevent another riot from happening. What scares you most is a "perfect storm" situation that would push Maren from a relatively peaceful place to one of rampant conflict and violence. If things continue peacefully, you feel that the people of Maren will forget the riot and life will return to normal. However, if another crisis occurs, you know that Maren is not strong enough to handle it. Because of its location on the ocean, hurricanes occasionally hit Maren. You can imagine that in the wake of a natural disaster, Maren could dissolve into chaos. You can imagine other worst-case scenarios: an economic recession, a case of police brutality, another racial incident. Really any additional stress would be more than Maren could handle. Your goal is to teach the people of Blue River to work together, so that if the worst should happen they will have some defense against it. You hope that the projects started by Emma, Stephen, Susana and others will act as a sort of immune system for Blue River, preventing further outbreaks of violence.

Questions:

  1. What can Mike do to increase Blue River's resiliency to further problems?
     
     
     
  2. What are some nonviolent methods that oppressed groups can use to get their needs met?
     
     
     

 


Dealing with Extremists

You decide you need to address the MDA, but you realize that you are going to need to act carefully. You don't want to antagonize them. The truth is that you empathize with the members of the MDA in a way you couldn't with the Vigilantes. Like them, you want to protect your community. You've just chosen another way of doing it.

When you were researching restorative justice, you also found a lot of information on mediation. You wonder if maybe it would be appropriate for this situation. Perhaps you could start a mediation process for the members of the MDA and the members of the Vigilantes. The problem is, you aren't trained in mediation and you're not sure if the City of Blue River can afford to hire an outside organization. Until you can solve the problem of funds, you decide to take some action on your own.

You know well who the members of the MDA are. The Marenese community is very tightly knit and not very good at keeping secrets. You decide to talk to some of the leaders one-on-one to see if you can persuade them away from their violent tactics. The first on your list is William Luchard. William is a professor at the local university. His mother is Marenese and his father is Mendozan. Their families were so against their marriage that they moved out West. William came to Maren with his mother during the summers to spend time with his Marenese relatives, but his father's family wanted nothing to do with him. As an adult, William moved back to Maren and joined the Marenese community. He teaches Marenese Studies at the University. His classes have attracted a loyal following of students. You know that William thinks you don't agree with his ideas about how the Marenese have been oppressed for centuries and need to rise up. You do agree with him, but you have different methods than he does. Where William seems to believe that violence is the only way to make people listen, you think that using violence will only marginalize the Marenese more.

 

Questions:

  1. Is Mike taking too moderate a stance?
     
     
     
  2. How could he deal with the MDA?
     
     
     

You visit William at his home one evening. You're not exactly sure what you're going to say to him, but you just dive in.

Humanizing Extremists

"There are two main approaches you can take towards an adversary you are in conflict with. The first is an 'enemy image' approach, which tends to conceal your adversary's humanity. The second approach is to look at your adversary as a human being, what I will call the 'search for humanity' approach." — Juan Gutierrez

You tell William that you have known about the MDA for months and that you have been asking yourself why you never did anything about it. You smile at him wryly.

"I think the truth is, I like the idea of the MDA. I remember only too well the heyday of the Vigilantes and I never want my friends and family to be victimized like that again. But ultimately, the MDA does not fit into my vision for Maren. I have this idea that the best thing for this region would be for the Mendozans and the Marenese to start working together. We're all poor. It's a problem and we need to do something about it. When the Westerners got here, I was overjoyed. With their investment, Maren could develop a viable economy. But with all the violence recently, I'm afraid the Westerners will jump ship before we get a chance to see what they can do for us."

William frowns and says,

"I do see where you're coming from, but it seems a little idealistic to me. This country has deep issues with race and class and we're not just going to all get along overnight because we play on a soccer team together."

You shrug and smile again.

"You're absolutely right. I often do make things too simple. All the same, I don't see how shooting up the town is going to do much to improve these race and class issues you're talking about."

You and William talk for a while longer, but you don't think you made much progress. You are disturbed by something William said about the police investigation that followed the riot. The police did an investigation to try to determine who shot into the crowd — the rioters or the police. The investigation never found anyone to arrest, but it concluded that the shots were definitely NOT fired by the police. William tells you that he thinks the investigation was a whitewash. "Of course they wouldn't implicate themselves. They may be stupid, but they are not that stupid!" he charges. You realize that the relationship between the Marenese community and the police must be worse than you realized. You thought the Marenese trusted the police. Apparently not, you now think. You have so much to do and the situation in Maren has become so complex. You feel overwhelmed.

Questions:

  1. Do you think Mike said the right things to William? What would you have done differently?
     
     
     
  2. What are some benefits and drawbacks to taking the approach to William that he did?
     
     
     
  3. Are there things that other community members could do to take some of the pressure off of Mike?
     
     
     

 


A Viable Third Side

You are not sure what to do, but you call a friend of yours who works in a conflict resolution firm in the West. She suggests you either hire an outside, independent investigator or have a joint fact-finding committee which includes some police and some citizens from all of the different ethnic and interest groups. Since you are interested in getting people from different groups to work together, this seems like a good opportunity to do just that — and it would empower people in the community, rather than again relying on "outside experts."

You begin to recruit members from each community to participate. They will review the existing evidence, perhaps collect more, and then present their findings to the public. So far, William Luchard has agreed to represent the Marenese community. You have also recruited members of the Mendozan community, the Western community and the immigrant community.

Meanwhile, you have been hearing mixed things about how the restorative justice process turned out. The people who participated tell you that Andre was more or less "going through the motions." However, the strange part of it is that Andre's mother, Evelyn, seems to have had something of a revelation. Apparently, she was moved by what John (the immigrant Andre attacked) had to say. After the mediation, she rejoined Susana's housing initiative. As part of his reparations, Andre is working on the housing project as well. You can only wonder what the result of this strange alliance will be.

The good news is that Emma's soccer league has been doing very well and is on its way to nationals for the second year in a row. Despite the lack of players, this year the teams are reported to be even better. Even though it is only a youth league, the teams have earned a lot of attention. The people of Maren have decided that this is their opportunity to prove that they are just as good as the rest of Perades.

You want to use Emma's and Susana's work to your advantage. They have both created successful joint projects, giving people from different communities the opportunity to work together. You ask both of them if they could use their organizations to create a crisis response team made up of small groups of people who would be prepared to respond to violent situations. You hope teams like these may be able to prevent another riot situation. Emma and Susana agree.

The night of the championship soccer games, the bars are packed with people. You are there too, along with a large group of family and friends. There are three Maren teams competing, one in each age group. The two youngest teams play first. They play beautifully and both teams come in first place in the nation. Everyone watching the games is extremely excited, screaming and chanting. The final and most important game is the oldest team. Last year, they came in second place. This year, they are looking to bring home the championship.

You can't believe how well they play. It is surprising to see kids from three of Maren's communities working together so well. The players are tall and short, slender and stout, they have all different accents, but they have learned to play together and have developed a unique style that is nearly unbeatable. You watch as they beat team after team. Finally, it's time for the final game. The game is a difficult one, but the Maren team prevails 3-2. Maren has come in first in all three age groups! It's a miracle!

Question:

  1. Which third sider roles are being played in Blue River and which roles still need to be filled?
     
     
     
  2. Who could fill the needed roles? (You don't need to have names, but rather types or categories of people: bankers, pastors, high-school students, etc.)
     
     
     

 


Limiting Escalation

De-escalation

Conflicts do not escalate indefinitely. Eventually, they reverse direction, decreasing in intensity until they are forgotten or resolved. However, de-escalation tends to proceed slowly and requires a lot of effort.

You expect to at least have a few days for the news of the soccer teams' win to sink in before you have to deal with the conflict between the communities in Maren again, but you are not so lucky. The day after the games you expect the top news story to be the game, but something bigger has happened. One of the men shot in the last riot died in the hospital. All of a sudden the mood of celebration in Blue River turns darker. That night, you head into town to assess the situation. Many people are drunk. Everyone is on edge. You begin to panic. This is exactly the situation that led to the last riot. You haven't had a chance to prepare. There has been no time for mediation or to finish the joint fact-finding process. The crisis response teams are not yet formed. You've had too much to do and you weren't expecting things to turn ugly so soon.

Questions:

  1. What are possible ways you could de-escalate this situation?
     
     
     
  2. How could other community members help you to prevent another riot?
     
     
     

You scan the bar you're in, trying to get a read on the situation. A conversation between a Mendozan and a Marenese man is becoming heated. Their drunken comments have turned aggressive. You can hear shouting outside. You can't tell what they're saying. You didn't even think to increase the police presence downtown tonight. You had thought that after the soccer victory, things would be peaceful.

You catch Stephen Pelle's eye. He is sitting with his wife and her family. Stephen is on his radio calling for backup. You hurry over to their table. Stephen frowns at you, and says,

"Looks bad, doesn't it?"

You nod. You hear the sound of glass breaking outside.

Evelyn Hart stands and says. "I've got to find Susana."

Evelyn and her family head for the door. You see Evelyn consult quickly with Susana on her way out the door. They leave together. Soon you hear Evelyn shouting at the Mendozans out in the street to go home. Although they are softer, you can hear other voices too, breaking up fights and telling people to get out of the streets. It seems that Susana and Emma had gotten farther along on the crisis response idea than you had thought. You see groups of soccer parents and coaches as well as people participating in the housing project taking to the streets trying to prevent another riot.

Outside you hear the sound of sirens as the backup officers Stephen just called come flying to the scene. Your next concern is the MDA. You see William Luchard in the corner talking with some other men who you know are involved in the organization. They are talking intensely in hushed tones. As you are crossing the room towards them you see William pointing outside. He says loudly,

"Look, the police are already here. There's nothing more we can do here. I'm heading home."

Looking around the bar again, you see that it is clearing out fast. You notice that instead of splitting off into their own communities, the people in the bars are helping each other get home safely.

By the time you get out to the street, it is all over. Some police officers are milling around telling the few people still out to go home. The glass you heard breaking was a shop window, but that appears to be the extent of the damage. You find Stephen and ask him what happened. He shrugs at you bewildered.

"It was Evelyn and Susana mostly," he says. "The people coming out of the bars helped out too. They broke up fights and basically shamed everyone into going home. We didn't even have to arrest anyone."

The whole thing is over so fast that you start to doubt yourself. Maybe it wasn't such a big crisis after all. Maybe you're just a little too tense, overreacting a little. But looking at Stephen, you can tell that he was scared too. You say goodnight and follow the crowds heading home.

Questions:

  1. What are some of the underlying causes of the riot that still need to be addressed?
     
     
     
  2. How could you help to resolve them? (See Addressing Underlying Causes of Conflict.)
     
     
     

 


Creating Stable Peace

Over the next few weeks, Blue River seems the calmest it has ever been. In fact, you can't remember the last time the streets downtown were so full of people. Still, you know that the rifts in this community run very deep. You want to use this period of calm to address some of these underlying issues. You decide to hold a town meeting to promote open dialogue about some of the town's conflicts. You also want to announce the results of the police-community fact-finding process. The fact-finding committee has concluded that one of the injured men was shot by a police officer who thought he was going for a gun (he wasn't), but a member of the MDA did shoot the man who died. You are surprised by the results and wonder how the public will react. The night of the meeting, hundreds of people show up. You are pleased that so many people are showing an interest, but are still worried about how they will react to the news that one of the injuries was from a police officer's gun. You step up to the stage to begin the meeting. You start:

Stable Peace

In 1978, Kenneth Boulding introduced the term "stable peace." He defines it as "a situation in which the probability of war is so small that it does not really enter into the calculations of any of the people involved." In order to reach stable peace, the underlying issues that provoked the conflict in the first place must be resolved.

Good evening, everyone and thank you for coming out tonight. I have noticed a profound shift in the culture of this town in recent weeks. I view the simple fact that so many of you have gathered here this evening as a victory. The problem with preventing violence is that there is no way to know how bad things could have gotten if no one had taken action. However, I firmly believe that just a few weeks ago, the city of Blue River was on the brink of disaster. The animosity between the various communities trying to coexist in Maren had reached dangerous levels. Although I know that not all of Blue River's problems are solved, I hope that we can move into the future as one community working together. I also hope that we, as a city, can realize that our true enemy is not each other, but the animosity that divides us. I now want to turn this meeting over to Scott Anderson, the head of the joint fact-finding committee, who will explain their findings.

The meeting proceeds smoothly. People are concerned about what they hear, but they do not appear angry. During the course of the evening, many people step up to the stage to share their concerns and ideas about what should be done to prevent future problems. You are glad that these problems are out in the open, but you soon realize that there are way too many people at the meeting to have a real discussion. You make a mental note to yourself that you will have to research how to facilitate smaller-group discussions. Some of the issues that people are bringing up are far too important to ignore.

One of the most positive outcomes of the evening is Susana's and Evelyn's suggestion that they start a community group devoted to reducing tensions in Blue River. They want to call the group the Maren Citizens Organization or the MCO. You hope this group will solidify some of the positive changes that have occurred in the past few months.

Questions:

  1. What underlying issues still haven't been addressed?
     
     
     
  2. What else could be done to improve the quality of communication in Blue River? (See the Communications Section.)
     
     
     

 


Transformation

Conflict Transformation

Many people believe that conflict happens for a reason and that it brings much-needed change. Therefore, to eliminate conflict would also be to eliminate conflict's dynamic power. In transformation, a conflict is changed into something constructive, rather than being eliminated altogether.

As you predicted, Maren still has many challenges to overcome. In fact, you are busier than ever trying to put out little fires as people from different communities try to work together for the first time. Still, it seems better to have these conflicts out in the open rather than festering under the surface. Susana's and Evelyn's organization, the MCO, attracts a large following and soon, hundreds of people are regularly attending meetings all around Maren. They continue their work building houses and offering food to struggling families. But they also expand their services, offering community mediation and sponsoring a series of public dialogues on problems facing Maren. Emma starts a chapter of the MCO in the Western neighborhood in Blue River. She hopes to educate them about how they are affecting the Maren locals and apparently she does some good because the economy starts to improve. Stephen quits his job as a police officer and starts a restorative justice center in Blue River. The violent incidents decrease to almost nothing. Although Maren is still a poor region with diverse communities struggling to work together, people now seem to have a sense of hope and momentum. You feel like things are starting to change.

Question:

  1. What would you have done differently from Mike in this story?