Aussie Innovation is Transforming Conflict into Cooperation

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Australian Pip Cornall knows that humans can make peace a possibility with a unique method called Conferencing. Pip, who is the director of Community Peace Making (CPM), says he is delighted to bring conferencing to the Rogue Valley. “Conflict Management is a key business skill for the twenty-first century and conferencing is at the cutting edge,” he says.

Australian Pip Cornall knows that humans can make peace a possibility with a unique method called Conferencing. Pip, who is the director of Community Peace Making (CPM), says he is delighted to bring conferencing to the Rogue Valley. “Conflict Management is a key business skill for the twenty-first century and conferencing is at the cutting edge,” he says.

Conferencing is helping American businesses, non-profits, schools and communities transform conflict into cooperation. Transformation, a key word in conferencing, occurs as participants transform the nature of their relationship from adversarial to collaborative in the facilitated process as they search for the best solutions.

The hidden costs of conflict to US businesses are enormous and include lost productivity, reduced decision making caused by poor communication, power struggles between employees and management, morale and motivation problems, theft, damage, harassment and discrimination, violence or threats of violence, sabotage and undermining. Modern businesses need a conflict management plan which incorporates the latest methods.

Because conferencing transforms conflict it is very cost effective; it can also be used in a preventative capacity; to prevent future disputes from arising, saving money down the line.

So what is conferencing? It is a unique process that deals effectively with conflict among groups of up to 40 people. Developed in Australia and New Zealand it is essentially a facilitated conversation among the community of people affected by a given dispute, communication breakdown, management styles, harassment or other workplace tensions.

In a single session, participants share their views on what has happened and how each person has been affected. They then draw on their personal knowledge of the situation to arrive collaboratively at an outcome. In the process, participants change the nature of their relationships to each other, from conflict to cooperation.

In Australia after September 11 there was a lot of anger against Muslims so CPM facilitated a conference designed to breakdown stereotyping between religious leaders, politicians and communities members in Australia. It was cleansing to acknowledge our biases and we all left the conference feeling lighter. Needless to say this level of truth telling forged many wonderful friendships but at CPM we realized the value of bringing our out into the light and have incorporated this element into conferences when appropriate.

CPM has since expanded the bias and stereotyping methodology which we incorporate in conferences when appropriate. It enables people to move past limiting beliefs and communicate in more authentic ways. This is healthy in a workplace or community group and it has the potential to change group dynamics and workplace cultures in a positive manner

Who can benefit from Conferencing? The application is broad says Pip and in the last ten years we’ve seen the Australian model successfully applied to businesses, industry, government departments, schools and community groups, non-profits, sporting organizations, the Juvenile Justice System and the armed services. More recently years the model has been exported to and adopted widely by Canada and the UK. Pip says, “I gain faith in humanity each time I facilitate a conference because I witness ordinary people attain peaceful resolutions to nasty conflicts."

Community Peace Making, facilitates conferences, mediates disputes, and gives training workshops in Australia and USA on communication skills, gender reconciliation, violence and harassment prevention. Pip, the director of CPM, is a conference facilitator with an Australian Department of Juvenile Justice in their acclaimed restorative justice programs. He presents workshops to high profile athletes (including Olympians) within the Australian Sports Commission and uses conferences to resolve existing harassment related disputes.

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Pip Cornall