Conflict Coaching: A Needed Tool for Today’s Conflict Resolution and Peacebuilding Practitioner

By David J. Smith, August 20, 2015

For the conflict resolution and peacebuilding practitioner, be they working in domestic or international environments, acquiring a range of skills and abilities to assist those in conflict is important.  All too often practitioners are limited to one or two techniques to bringing about peace.   Today, a variety of abilities and approaches are needed to provide “full service” to those in conflict, be they in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania or Bethlehem, Palestinian Territories.  Practitioners working with those in conflict can benefit from pivoting from one tool to another to effectively promote a peaceful resolution.  As such, not just mediation, but facilitation, consultation, problem-solving, and other proven approaches are called for. An emerging strategy that  provides for flexibility in its utility and allows the practitioner to work with just one party is conflict coaching.

I recently completed a 3-day training course on conflict coaching offered by Dr. Tricia Jones through Conflict Coaching Matters, LLC.   My fellow colleagues in the program were from a wide range of professional disciplines, which only proves the potential of coaching including UN officials, federal ombudspersons, mediators in provide practice, human resources professionals, and military support staff.

Conflict coaching is designed to work with one party in a conflict to better understand the present situation, consider how it has impacted the individual, and most importantly, strategize on a vision for the future.  As Kathey Foskett, one of the trainers pointed out, a conflict coach is a “guide on the side,” rather than a “sage on the stage.”  Increasingly, individuals in both professional and personal situations are in need of a professional who brings both perspective and understanding on conflict, as well as “heart” that can assist the person dealing with the conflict.

As a mediator for over 25 years, I have longed for an approach that can be used in situations where there is the need to work with one party to improve outcomes that are in the party’s best interest. There are a number of good articles on conflict coaching that can be found online at I would recommend this one by Robin Amadei who is based in Denver, CO.

If you are interested in exploring conflict coaching for professional and career needs, or in a personal situation, please contact me at  One of the benefits of coaching is that it can be done in person, but also remotely via Skype or other means.  If you are from an academic institution, particularly community colleges, coaching might be beneficial.  As a former professor and faculty chair, I can see the applications especially in situations where conflict exists between department chairs, deans, faculty and other leadership.

In the coming weeks, I will be posting more about conflict coaching, so keep reading my blog!

CALL FOR PAPERS: Teaching Peace: Education as an Essential Peacebuilding Tool, Conference October 30-31, Park University (MO) and Johnson County Community College (KS), Deadline September 7, 2015

By David J. Smith, August 20, 2015

Teaching Peace: Education as an Essential Peacebuilding Tool

October 30 (1:00-4:00) and October-31 (8:00-4:00), 2015

Presented by Park University and Johnson County Community College

CALL FOR PAPERS-October 30th Half-Day Session

Teaching Peace: Education as an Essential Peacebuilding Tool seeks papers from academics and peacebuilders for presentation on Oct. 30 at Park University. The conference organizers are looking for papers that discuss/analyze/present information on:

  1. Education as a peacebuilding tool
  2. Educational efforts (at any level) designed to teach peace and peacebuilding
  3. Peace education efficacy
  4. Peace curricula and university schools of education
  5. Peace curricula at the primary and secondary levels
  6. Examples of innovative/successful peace education efforts-projects, curriculum, etc.

Academic papers (presenting research), experiential papers (describing peace projects and curricula), and hybrid papers (brief lit review followed by a project/curriculum report) are welcome. Previously published papers are acceptable.


Selected papers will be presented in a short format (20 minute minutes followed by a 10 minute question answer period).

Send a 200-250 word abstract, with presenter name(s), affiliations, and contact information (email and phone) to Steven Youngblood  at The deadline for abstract submission is Sept. 1, 2015.  Presenters will be notified of their acceptance by Sept.  7, 2015.

Note that October 30th (1:00-4:00) is the first day of the Teaching Peace: Education as an Essential Peacebuilding Tool conference. This first day will be held on the campus of Park University in Parkville, Missouri. The second day of the conference, October 31st (8:00-4:00) will be at Johnson County Community College in Overland Park, Kansas.  Both locales are in the greater Kansas City area.

Steve Youngblood
Associate Professor
Park University – Parkville Campus
School of Arts and Humanities
8700 NW River Park Dr, CMB #90
Parkville, MO  64152
816-584-6321 (Office)

Preparations Underway for 3rd Annual National Community College Peacebuilding Seminar, October 23-26, 2015, Northern Virginia Community College, Alexandria, VA

By: David J. Smith, August 18, 2015

Preparations are underway for the 3rd Annual National Community College Peacebuilding Seminar to be held October 23-26, 2015 at Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) in Alexandria, VA. This is the largest gathering of community college professionals who focus on peacebuilding and conflict resolution efforts.   Last year’s program brought together 35 faculty and professionals from 16 community colleges in 12 states.   A equal number is expected this year.  Enrollment  is capped at 40.

Visiting USIP during the 2nd National Community College Peacebuilding Seminar

Visiting USIP during the 2nd National Community College Peacebuilding Seminar

The seminar focuses on examining issues of conflict, war, peace, violence, human rights, and related issues and how they can be addressed in community colleges.   The program has a strong experiential component with participants engaged in opportunities to experience pedagogical models for teaching as well as provided with the chance to develop their own materials and exercises.

The program starts on Friday morning, October 23, 2015, and ends Monday afternoon, October 26, 2015. Friday and Monday of the program focuses on visiting DC area organizations and agencies. Saturday and Sunday are based at NOVA.

Visits confirmed include:

  • U.S. Agency for International Development
  • U.S. Diplomacy Center of the U.S. Department of State
  • U.S. Institute of Peace
  • U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum

Organizations and individuals presenting include:

  • Global Peace Index
  • Truth Telling Project
  • The Peace Alliance
  • Colman McCarthy
  • USIP

In addition,  experts looking at violent extremism, the Confederate Flag/Monuments controversary, and human rights will present.  The film Beneath the Blindfold will be shown on Saturday, October 24. All those attending will receive a copy of Peacebuilding in Community Colleges: A Teaching Resource.

Registration and hotel information can be found here.  The registration fee is $300.  Registration will close on September 28, 2015. For more information contact David J. Smith at

Discussion on “Peacejobs” at International Conflict Resolution Education Conference

By: David J. Smith, June 20, 2015

photo (1)

At the International Conflict Resolution Education Conference held at George Mason University (June 19-20, 2015) I had the opportunity to update attendees about the progress of my book on career awareness and engage in a conversation with colleagues on the importance of focusing on jobs for undergraduates.

In the session, attended by nearly 40 faculty and students, I share about the progress of my book. The PowerPoint presentation that I used is below.   I pointed out the increased focus today on career awareness with undergraduates, and the fact that faculty are often ill-prepared to discuss careers with students.

There was discussion about the importance of advancing “soft skills” including problem-solving, negotation, and effective listening into a range of occupations.  These skills come from conflict resolution approaches and can allow students to  promote peacebuilding in a range of careers.

More information about the book is here.

CRE Peacejobs PPT

Jennifer Batton is Honored as Inaugural Recepient of International Conflict Resolution Educator Award

By David J. Smith, June 20, 2015

The 9th International Conference on Conflict Resolution Education was held at George Mason University in Arlington, VA.   The conference attracted over 250 educators, students, and practitioners focused on international and domestic conflict resolution education and teaching peace.

This year the conference awarded it’s first conflict resolution educator award to Jennifer Batton.  She was acknowledged for her leadership and inspiration in advancing international awareness of conflict resolution education.   Jen established the conference at Cuyahoga Community College in 2006.  It moved to George Mason University in 2014.   She has served as interim vice president of the Sustained Dialogue Institute, a senior consultant for UNESCO, director of the Global Issues Resource Center at Cuyahoga Community College, and director of education programs at the Ohio Commission on Dispute Resolution and Conflict Management.   She is a graduate of Miami University (BA) and Antioch University (MA).

Cleveland’s W.A.V.E. Students Present at DC Conference

By: David J. Smith, June 20, 2015

At the International Conference on Conflict Resolution Education  held Friday, June 19 and Saturday, June 20, over 250 students, faculty, and practitioners met to focus on improving the teaching and learning of conflict and peace.

Carol Close talks about the history of W.A.V.E.

Carole Close talks about the history of W.A.V.E.

I had the opportunity to attend a session where students from Cleveland Public Schools’ Winning Against Violent Environments (W.A.V.E.) program shared about their program. The students led activities that emphasized  building conflict resolution skills and raising peacebuilding awareness. Exercises included the “Chocolate Kiss Game” that focused on looking at conflict in a cooperative way and the “Inside Outside Game” which looked at inclusion/exclusion.   The faculty leaders, Carole Close and Antonio Sanford, talked about the history and benefits of W.A.V.E., but the activities were run by students.

A student leading an activity

A student leading an activity

W.A.V.E. started in 1983 and is the oldest and one of the few district-wide conflict resolution education programs in the United States. The program is written into the school district’s student handbook and the Cleveland Teacher’s Union Contract.  W.A.V.E. trains student mediators in grades 4 to 12, provides program implementation, and networks the school program advisers. The program design incorporates cooperative learning methods and democratic classroom organization theories.  W.A.V.E. staff also provide  workshops for teachers, school staff, administrators, parents and community members.

At the W.A.V.E. program

At the W.A.V.E. program

W.A.V.E.’S mission is to educate young people to teach others life long skills through a process that empowers and enables them to work for social justice and create peaceful and healthy environments in which to live.  W.A.V.E. is a researched based, award winning, internationally recognized program. It has been featured in Instructor Magazine, The American School Board Journal, The Ohio State University’s Theory Into Practice Journal, The New York Times, New Moon Magazine, The Cleveland Plain Dealer, The Washington Post and Baldwin’s Ohio Law Journal.  

Peacebuilding Leadership, Civic Engagement, and College Students

By: David J. Smith, May 19, 2015

CCNCCE attendees consider peacebuilding leadership

CCNCCE attendees consider peacebuilding leadership

The annual international conference of the Community College National Center for Community Engagement (CCNCCE) is currently being held in Scottsdale, AZ.   Over 150 U.S. and international community college faculty are meeting starting tomorrow, May 20 and May 21 for CCNCCE’s 24th gathering.  This year’s theme is “Authentic Leadership Through Service Learning and Civic Engagement.”

Preconference workshops were held today, May 19.  I was invited to host one on “Building Peace and Community Wellness: Service-Learning and Civic Engagement Models.”  I had 18 faculty, administrators, and students from a range of community colleges in my session including from North Shore Commmunity College, Mesa Community College, St. Petersburg College, and Hudson Valley Community College.

My goal was to have participants consider approaches using peacebuilding awareness that can be applied to advance civic engagement with community college students.   I shared with them various interpretations of peace and conflict, emphasizing the importance of peace as “means” and conflict as an opportunity for positive change and opportunity, rather than something that is seen as destructive. Peace “means” relate to specific abilities and strategies that individuals can use to make change including dialogue, nonviolent action, education, and volunteer service.  Civic engagement centers on applying skills, knowledge and values that enable an individual to improve community life.  The model that I proposed was:

Conflict (a specific situation) + Peace (as “means”) = Civic Engagement

Using David Kolb’s Cycle of Experiential Learning, faculty and those working with students can tap students’ individual experiences to build their confidence in taking on leadership roles and advancing peacebuilding.

David Kolb's Cycle of Experiential Learning

David Kolb’s Cycle of Experiential Learning

I demonstrated how this might work by using various conflict based situations that community college students might find themselves in including a male volunteer fireflighter advocating for a LGBT female colleague,  a basketball player supporting a potential team member with a disability, an assistant manager in a diner confronting staff who have not been accepting of new Latino employees, a son confronting his father who is intolerant of African immigrants, and a student government member who argues that college space should be used for a Muslim student group.  The actual scenarios are attached below.

Adapting Kolb’s cycle, the model looks as follows:

1. A student engages in classroom learning designed to prepare him/her to deal with conflict (concrete experience)

2. A student experiences a conflict situation (such as the scenarios) (concrete experience)

3. Faculty/staff debriefs the student to learn about her/her experience (reflective observation, abstract conceptionalization)

4. The student uses this experience to engage in other experiences  including service learning centered on peacebuilding (active experimentation, concrete experience)

5. The faculty/staff member adjusts/modifies his/her course or activity to build in the student’s experience (active experimentation, concrete experience)

This model promotes leadership with college students, particularly those who are “leaders in waiting”- students who have not had the opportunity to engage as leaders.   In addition, it recognizes that students best learn through their own experiences: basic notions of constructivism and experiential learning.




A PLACE TO PRAY, 5.15.15