Back in June of 2002, G8 meetings set to commence in Calgary were jeopardized when security arrangements ran up against lobbying taxi drivers, outraged over proposed changes to taxi licencing. The drivers picketed on the City hall steps, right where the army intended to install security barriers. I was retained by the City to intervene.
Lesson 1) Parties must buy into and participate in a process they themselves helped design.
I chose a “design with not for” (See article here) approach and met separately with the taxi leadership, company owners and the city. This insured the parties felt that they had agency over resolving the conflict, rather than a decision being imposed on them.
Lesson 2) The parties must empower the facilitator to intervene.
Angry shouting and name calling dominated early negotiations. We felt empowered to intervene creatively by providing nerf balls and allowing the parties a few minutes throwing them at each other. This resulted in considerable hilarity. More importantly, it relieved tension, reminded all parties of their shared humanity and refocused on shared dialogue about options for a solution.
Lesson 3) Shift the conversation from the past to the future.
My aim was to remove the picket by bringing the appropriate parties to the table and establishing a dialogue about the future away from the spotlight of the press. This was only accomplished when the parties let go of past grievances and stepped back from the drama of the moment to focus on what they wanted to accomplish moving forward.
At the onset it appeared this local conflict could go on to have global repercussions, demonstrating the importance of reaching a quick and lasting solution. If handled properly, even the most heated exchanges can turn into productive conversations.
Your questions and comments are welcome and appreciated.
David Gould (LLB, QC, C Med) has helped hundreds of lawyers and their clients – business and government organizations, and individuals – in conflict situations to co-create solutions for the future. For more information, contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.davidgouldmediation.com