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Conflict Resolution Quarterly, No. 2, 2001

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Conflict Resolution Quarterly, Volume 19, No. 2, 2001

John Wiley & Sons

John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-7879-5813-1

Chapter One


Themes of Integration We begin this issue with three articles that challenge assumptions in particular areas of conflict practice. Ilan Gewurz questions the assumption that power imbalance reduces the utility of mediation. Jessica Katz Jameson challenges the belief that organizational members perceive the effectiveness of organizational dispute system design components as the designers intended. Tom Fisher discusses whether mediators operating under professional sanctions to provide advice to clients must simply comply or not.

Gewurz addresses the complex relationship between negotiating power and mediation practices. After reviewing the nature of power in conflict, and clarifying underlying dimensions of mediation, he articulates an initial model suggesting when power imbalance can be addressed in mediation.

Research on employee perceptions of interest-based, right-based, and power-based strategies in organizational conflict management offers valuable insight into why employees may not access and use conflict resolution options as they were intended. Reporting on a broad survey of MBA students representing a variety of industry types, Jameson concludes that organizational conflict management practitioners should attend more carefully to "marketing" conflict management options if they want them used andhope to see them contribute as desired to the organizational culture.

What is a mediator to do when mandated by professional codes of conduct to provide advice to clients but is uncomfortable with that mandate? Fisher tackles this interesting question by suggesting how prevalent the problem is and indicating three strategies that mediators can employ to offer guidance and impart advice indirectly.

In the last issue as well as this one, we have had the opportunity to read the thoughts of some of the most prominent scholar practitioners in our field on what they see as promising areas in integrating theory, practice, and research in the conflict contexts with which they are most closely involved. In volume 19, issue 1, J. Kevin Barge discussed affirmative communication for community building, E. Franklin Dukes addressed the need for collaborative research in environmental and public policy arenas, and Janet Rifkin argued for theory and research about online dispute resolution. Three new articles in this issue, by John P. Conbere, Sandra V. Sandy, and Martha Weinstein, attend to the contexts of organizational conflict management, conflict resolution education, and community mediation.

Conbere presents a thorough review of models for conflict management systems in organizations. As he notes, the field of organizational dispute system design has developed rapidly and impressively. However, we are now at a stage where we need better research to establish the adequacy of these models and to help us extend the theory underlying the models. Using Dubin's model of theory building as an analytical foundation, Conbere assesses promising areas of research and theory that continue to inform organizational conflict management practice.

Sandra Sandy reflects on current efforts in conflict resolution education (CRE) and social emotional learning. She emphasizes that CRE cannot be divorced from the larger issues of social and emotional development of children. As she suggests, CRE experts must draw upon the array of theories that help us explain these developmental processes. Moreover, in the learning environment, we need to emphasize integrated learning opportunities that present this information in a relevant manner, one that speaks to the lives of the children. Many challenges in the educational environment, including the need to "teach to the test," increase the difficulty of accomplishing CRE goals.

Martha Weinstein argues forcefully that community mediation efforts must be grounded in social justice ideology and engage socially relevant research so as to uncover injustice and examine effective mechanisms for overturning injustice. Weinstein suggests that the mere existence of a mediation program can transform a community by offering a new set of values and opportunities for problem solving.

There are many other voices that can and should contribute to this dialogue, but these six authors, in the previous issue and this one, suggest and collectively argue for some common themes that we should take to heart:

Theory and research should be conducted in light of the underlying ideology of our efforts and how it affects our theory, research, and practice (for example, how social justice ideology motivates community mediation activity; how educational ideology motivates CRE efforts). We can and should articulate our values and beliefs and how they inform our work. We can do this within and across a variety of conflict management and resolution orientations, contexts, and methods. As we illuminate motivating values, we also need to encourage ourselves to challenge deeply held assumptions by conducting quality research. We want to see our work as accomplishing something but are often blind to its inability to do that. Examining our successes requires equal and undaunted scrutiny of when our work does not achieve the hoped-for outcome.

There is a strong call for sensitivity to systems orientation in our work. We need to appreciate the systems that create and reflect the conflict we are explaining, studying, and influencing. We need interventions that integrate with the entire social system (community policing structures and community mediation; integration of CRE into existing educational structures, school cultures, and curricula; relationship of communication technology to the network of communication infrastructures; and so on). We also need complex theories and models of multiple delivery systems-thinking of CR not as an intervention but as a system of interventions. This suggests operating more from a systemic and strategic orientation than a targeted and tactical one.

Our work needs longitudinal perspective, attending to long-term implementation of conflict resolution efforts with clear emphasis on action research and process evaluation models as the foundation and context for outcome or summative evaluation. Our theories are singularly lacking in terms of their ability to explain the protracted process of change that occurs, whether on the individual, social, or institutional level. Part of this longitudinal perspective is the realization that the direct and indirect impact of conflict management and dispute resolution work may appear only after a long time. We need incremental theories and incremental research that inform incremental practice.

We need a serious look at power and transfer of power to achieve constructive contexts for management and resolution and to overturn social injustice. All of the authors discuss and grapple with issues of power and social influence. They argue for work that unpacks the meaning of power and its practice in a social context, that examines the power implications of the presence or absence of a conflict management method; they argue as well that assessment of power relations is fundamental to conflict practice.

We need to use good practice as a resource for theory development, highlighting the importance of grounded theory in the sense that the best models and theories are often the result of reflection by seasoned practitioners (as in the case of models for organizational dispute system design).

We need a broad orientation as to what constitutes the "success" of our endeavor. Our basic goals for conflict resolution work should be examined in light of numerous possible indicators of success. Thus we should be cautious about overemphasizing objective indicators of success (rate of agreement, student performance on standardized tests, reduced rate of recidivism, and the like) to the exclusion of other measures. We should also promote theory and research that considers success to be fluid, changing throughout the life cycle of the conflict and the conflict management work. Tricia S. Jones Editor-in-Chief


Excerpted from Conflict Resolution Quarterly, Volume 19, No. 2, 2001 Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Themes of Integration.
(Re)Designing Mediation to Address the Nuances of Power Imbalance (Ilan G. Gewurz).
Employee Perceptions of the Availability and Use of Interest-Based, Right-Based, and Power-Based Conflict Management Strategies (Jessica Katz Jameson).
Advice by Any Other Name . . . (Tom Fisher).
Theory Building for Conflict Management System Design (John P. Conbere).
Conflict Resolution Education in the Schools: “Getting There” (Sandra V. Sandy).
Community Mediation: Providing Justice and Promoting Transformation (Martha Weinstein).
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