First Unitarian Society in Newton

Conflict Project Timeline

Conflict Project Timeline


FUSN Conflict-Transformation Training and Dispute-Resolution Project

Background: This past fall, the FUSN Operations Council approved a proposal that students from the Harvard Negotiation and Mediation Clinical Program (HNMCP) consult with us to develop a dispute-resolution system and a conflict-transformation training curriculum both tailored to FUSN’s needs and UU values. This project addresses a Board of Trustees priority set almost two years ago. An ad hoc Support Committee was recruited to support the students’ work with FUSN, consisting of Barbara Bates (chair), Alan Cody, Clare Kastner, Jon Reusser, and Holly Zeeb—with historical support as needed from archivist Gayle Smalley and former UUA religious educator Jacqui James.

In late January 2011, two students, Kate Van Akin and Rose Yan (3rd year and 2nd year Harvard Law, respectively) were assigned to work with FUSN under the supervision of a Harvard Law instructor. So far these students have been focused on gathering information and reading about congregational systems and conflict.

Rose and Kate have tapped Mass Bay District resources, the Harvard Divinity School Library, and their own professors to gain valuable frameworks for thinking about congregational conflict, dispute resolution systems, and conflict transformation training. They are also completing interviews with lay leaders (such as FUSN Board of Trustees and Operations Council folks, both current and past members) and staff including our minister Erin Splaine.

Project Time Frame: The students’ work must be completed by the end of their semester in April 2011, so we’ve scheduled their activities with this in mind. FUSN’s Operations Council and Leadership Development Committee (charged with seeing that the training is delivered) will, most probably, be doing more work after April and into the fall of 2011 to complete implementation of this conflict-resolution project.

We hope to complete all the interviews by March 4 and several Listening Circles to gain insights from members of the congregation by March 7. So far, Kate and Rose have interviewed 24 people and held one Listening Circle for 11 members of the congregation. After analyzing the data they have gathered, they will begin their design phase. If all goes well, their support committee will see a draft of the dispute resolution process and the conflict transformation training as early as the end of March.

Listening Circles on March 6th—Rose and Kate are facilitating two more Listening Circles for congregational input on March 6 from 11:45 a.m to 1:15 p.m. To participate in one of the circles, contact Barbara Bates (617-964-6119 or B [dot] L [dot] Bates [at] rcn [dot] com).

These Listening Circles are not about problem solving, finding answers, debating, or discussing. The circles are designed to gather information about people’s perceptions of conflict and its effects at FUSN by gathering thoughtful responses to three questions. These responses will be recorded anonymously and analyzed for themes. We only have room for 22 people in these two remaining Listening Circles run by the students, so please sign up soon if you wish to participate. You may, of course, share your thoughts with Barbara Bates or anyone else on the Support Committee at any time.

Ad Hoc Support Committee, March 2011