Conflict = Opportunity is the Midlands Mediation Center’s initiative to engage community members in learning and practicing peaceful conflict-resolution skills.
The initiative, which emphasizes community-based efforts to teach and promote communication methods to reduce and resolve conflict, was originally funded through a two-year discretionary grant approved by the Richland County Council, that ended on June 30, 2018.
Active participation in this project develops an understanding of conflict dynamics and the skills necessary to uncover mutual interests and creatively resolve issues, leading to better outcomes for all. Participants have the opportunity to link arms and minds with others in the community who believe people are capable of resolving their own disputes and are interested in becoming more proficient with using mediation and conflict resolution skills in their personal and civic lives.
Here are some of the key highlights from our start-up evaluation:
- We learned that “equipping community builders with knowledge and skills to turn conflicts into opportunities” is more than a multi-faceted task; besides emphasizing skill development, it also relies on an underlying belief on the part of the individuals and the community as a whole that engaging or confronting conflict is often the healthiest approach to growth and positive change.
- We modified our initial three-hour training module, titled Community Conflict Resolution Training content to meet the time and availability constraints of those interested. During the first two years, 433 people received at least one hour of the initial training, and the opportunity to be part of our budding community of practice. Even more were part of mini-introductory experiences. Some of the participants were youth. Some benefited from a weekly, multi-session format used at Transitions Homeless Shelter. It is important that MMC continues offering conflict resolution training to the community to build skills, knowledge and awareness.
- Three community mediation oriented individuals attended our 20-hour Introduction to Mediation training course in January 2018 and they are involved in developing a proposal for a community mediation referral process for the MMC board of directors to consider. We believe that having our transformative style of community mediation as a law enforcement referral option to help citizens resolve early-stage conflict and normalize relationships makes great sense. It also provides some impetus to overcome many people’s conflict-avoidant behaviors. We’d like our linkages with Richland County’s Neighborhood Council as well as Columbia Council of Neighborhoods to generate some similar community mediation “opportunities” as well.
- We embrace the need for MMC to play a central role in fostering and developing a positive mediation/conflict resolution-oriented Community of Practice. “Downtown Improv Game Night” on October 12, and “Speak Your Peace” on June 19th were fun and friendly gatherings where a wide variety of people were able to come together, rekindle their commitment and practice their skills.
- We remain challenged by the significance of our objective and recognize how deeply rooted institutional and community behavior change must be.
Project coordinator: Monique McDaniels. Monique has been engaged in community activities in Columbia, SC for more than a decade. She has held executive level positions with Columbia College, Richland County Government, and the South Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.
For more information or to express your interest in becoming part of this growing Community of Practice, contact Monique McDaniels or Lee Morriss, at (803) 714-1176, or use the Contact Us form.
The mission of the Midlands Mediation Center is to help individuals and organizations resolve conflict, improve relationships and strengthen communities. Our transformational approach to conflict resolution helps build appreciation for differences, respect and responsibility.