ACR Gathering: Defining Our Field and Work in Challenging Times

I’ve written before about the initiative that was started at Point of View/George Mason University in June that is looking at our field, the challenges it faces, and ways to better connect those working to advance conflict resolution and peacebuilding.   At Point of View in June 2017,  50 professionals from organizations were brought together for two days  to consider what we do and who we are.

After the June meeting, it was decided that the process used there would be applied in a more abbreviated way in upcoming professional conferences including the Association for Conflict Resolution (ACR) meeting in Dallas, the Alliance for Peacebuilding meeting in Washington, DC, and the Peace and Justice Studies Association meeting in Birmingham.

At the ACR meeting this week (10/11-10/14), Bryan Hanson, ACR president, and I facilitated a session looking at the field.  The session was attended about 25 professionals at the conference.  Bryan and I , working with D.G. Mawn and Jen Batton, who could not attend, designed a discussion that centered around  these questions:

  • How do we define our work, and who we are?
  • What inspires us about our work?
  • What are the possibilities for our work (including areas we need to focus on)?
  • What are challenges we should focus on?
  • What are challenges that impede our efforts?
  • How can we support each other better?

The discussion was wide ranging.  The audience identified themselves mostly as mediators, and focusing on conflict resolution.  This aligns with the character of an ACR gathering.

The sheets capturing the discussion are below.

This process will continue through June 2018, at which time the initiative, now called the “Mosaic of Networks,” will reconvene at Point of View.



The Hidden Gem is Within You: Exploring Your Career Potential

At the Association for Conflict Resolution  (ACR) Conference (10/11-10/14) in Dallas, TX this week, I had a wonderful opportunity to explore career strategies with Sarah Kauffman and Tracy King.  Sarah and Tracy are young professionals, both University of Baltimore graduates (master’s in negotiations and conflict management), and both working in the field.  Sarah is working for the Maryland courts, and Tracy for the Florida courts.  Our session was titled “Finding the Hidden Gem: Evolving Your Job Search.”  It was a real pleasure working with them!  (They are both now on the ACR board of directors!)

About 15 individuals attended our session: a mix of younger graduate students and older professionals.   Our goal was to have them consider their career potential and find their hidden gem.   We took an elicitive approach in our session: suggesting that the “gem” was within each of us.

We focused first on skills that we bring to the field, including listening and coaching.


One important aspect of the session was the sharing the self-inventory test: The Flower (at the end of this blog) which is a way of considering our own strengths and potential.   It is something that can taken periodically as we pursue a professional life.  The test was developed by Richard Bolles (you can access the test online through the link on the sheet).

The session then focused on asking those in attendance to think about five things:

  • Stories of success
  • “Fields” where we can apply skills
  • Resources in looking for work
  • Strategies for finding work
  • Burning questions that need to be answered!

After those in attendance worked on the lists, we addressed the answers and questions offered.

Right before the session one of the recent graduate students was offered a temporary job.  So she had an immediate success story!  A number of stories focused on the ways in which working in an internship setting  was valuable.  One “field” (or application) that was offered in applying skills was in PTA (Parent Teacher Association) settings.   The person offering it shared about using her skills in a PTA setting and then being offered additional opportunities for work.  In thinking about strategies, we talked about the ways in which LinkedIn can be used to network.  Resources that are useful included Indeed. One burning question focused on addressing the weaknesses in not having experience in getting a job: no experience, no job!   It was suggested that volunteerism and internships can solve that issue.   Students should be prepared to attain meaningful experiences as early as they can.

Pathways to careers in conflict resolution and peacebuilding have not always been clear.  But learning from others’ experiences can provide insight in ways to start a career.  We all have “hidden gems” to offer.

Finding the Hidden Gem Worksheet

4th Annual International Conference on Ethnic and Religious Conflict Resolution and Peacebuilding, New York, NY, 10/31/17

By: David J. Smith, September 26, 2017

If you are interested in issues related to ethnic and religious conflict resolution and peacebuilding you might be interested in the 4th Annual International Conference on Ethnic and Religious Conflict Resolution and Peacebuilding to be held in New York City, October 31, 2017

Click here or below for more information

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