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Pax Iam (Peace Now)
Peace Initiative


Regional Collaborative
Problem Solving Center
by Allan Weiss

Conflict is inevitable and necessary for growth and development. Resolving conflict is important; however, it is more important to anticipate conflict, address issues and build consensus before conflicts occur or escalate to a disruptive force.

If the Louisville metropolitan area is to develop as a regional economic, cultural and educational leader, conflict, which will always exist, must be used to promote growth and development. Ignoring or mismanagement of conflict allows it to become a destructive force.

A regional problem solving Center will act as a forum for discussing community issues, either alone or in partnership with other organizations. There is not an established and dedicated forum in the metro Louisville area where individuals or groups can gather to consider community issues either large OL small. It is important, if the community is to grow, that there be a forum to facilitate discussions where everyone can receive respect and have the freedom to express their thoughts in a secure environment.

Conflicts can be avoided or resolved when all of the parties to the conflict have a seat at the table when the issues are discussed. Research shows when those affected by conflicts take an active role in reaching a resolution or consensus the community is better served. When one has an opportunity to be a participant in the discussion, even if the conclusion is not completely to their satisfaction, they have a vested interest in the resolution and will support it. This gives stability to the solution as the participants have a vested interest in its success.

There is a substantial need for conflict management services on a regional basis. This includes Metro-Louisville, and the surrounding counties in Kentucky and Southern Indiana. A regional cooperative problem solving Center would encompass education, research, programs for consensus building, mediation and arbitration services.

The Kentucky Legislature has made it the public policy of the Commonwealth to resolve disputes by mediation, arbitration, and other forms of alternative dispute resolution, KRS 454.011. A regional cooperative problem solving Center could use the public policy of the Commonwealth of Kentucky as the foundation for its programs.

Conflicts are expensive. A regional cooperative problem solving Center should anticipate community wide conflicts and address them before opinions and positions polarize. Community stakeholders must actively participate in the Center for the program to be successful. The Center might use the same geographic and political boundaries as the Regional Leadership Coalition and include the Mayors of Metro Louisville, Jeffersonville, New Albany and Clarksville. It is important for the Center to involve the entire community and include representatives from business, professional and non-profit communities, law enforcement, and neighborhood groups, local, state and federal government.

The Center could function as a forum for discussions of such problems as community development, land use, transportation, bioterrorism, end-of-life care and other issues which have community wide concern and interest. Many of these subjects are already represented by local and regional programs. A regional cooperative problem solving Center could partner with these organizations on projects rather than establish separate programs. Partnering can provide expertise and capitalize on the unique and special expertise of the partners.

A regional problem solving Center jointly operated by International Center for Conflict Resolution and Leadership at Sullivan University, Greater Louisville, Inc., The Regional Leadership Coalition, and Leadership Louisville in cooperation with other regional groups would have a solid foundation for success. Once established on a regional basis, a conflict management Center could address conflict resolution issues on a national and international level. Potential partners for the Center include the International Center for Dispute Resolution, Muhammad Ali Center, Muhammad Ali Institute at the University of Louisville, Coalition for Conflict Resolution, local, state and federal governments as well as individual business and non-profit organizations.

A regional problem solving Center would bring together stakeholders on controversial public policy issues in order to build consensus and reduce partisan contention through public and private meetings. These activities could be either initiated by the Center or the Center and its staff could be used to organize and facilitate the discussions.

The Center would work with local, state and federal government and private enterprise to identify community-wide conflicts and address them before they reached a high level of conflict. Facilitated discussions at an early stage can reduce conflict and result in a savings, both in money and human capital.

The Center could be used as a teaching and research resource by the collages and universities in the metropolitan area. The Center would provide research data and community service opportunities for both faculty and students. The Center should be a living laboratory and provide research opportunities in new areas and explore new and creative uses for the conflict resolution process.

A problem solving Center should work to instill a positive approach to conflict in the community and introduce cooperative problem solving as a new way of managing conflict for the entire community.

The initial investment would involve a director and a part-time administrative assistant, who would coordinate meetings, handle correspondence, and similar administrative duties.

Initial funding might come from governmental and private research grants, and in-kind contributions from partners. The long-term goal is to make the Center self-sufficient through user fees. If there is a decision to partner the Center with other organizations for a specific project, initial funding might be underwritten by the partner to be recovered through user fees.

To be successful, a regional problem solving must have a broad base of support and participants. The University of Texas, Center for Public Policy Dispute has a unique group of Fellows who act as advisors and supporters and are drawn from government and the private community. This is an easy method of engaging the entire community in the program. The advisors work as a unique marketing tool and verify the importance of the Center.

A number of programs can be established with out-reach to the community and partnerships with governmental, public and private institutions. The possibilities are limited only by the imagination of those involved and might include such things as:

Community and Government
- Establish a consensus building and mediation program for community and regional governmental issues. The Center would be a clearinghouse for issues between federal, state and local governments as well as issues between the Commonwealth of Kentucky and the State of Indiana.

Labor and Management
- Labor and management issues might be coordinated between The Labor Management Committee, local labor unions and businesses.

Bridge and Highway Program - As the community begins an interstate highway project expected to last seventeen years, a regional conflict management Center could be the resource for mediation and arbitration of problems which will arise as this project develops. It would be reasonable to expect contracts associated with the bridge to have a provision that all disputes be resolved, either by mediation or arbitration, and appoint the regional conflict management Center as the forum responsible for providing mediation and arbitration services. This is similar to many commercial contracts which call for arbitration of disputes and designate a specific forum for handling mediation and arbitration.

Education - There is a need for instruction and training at an advanced level for negotiation, mediation and conflict resolution.

Research - The coordination of local programs would produce a large amount of raw data available for research.

Family Business - Develop a program of mediation and facilitated discussions for problems unique to family business including such topics as transferring family businesses from one generation to another. This could be done in conjunction with existing programs in the community and expanded to include banks, trust companies, accountants and attorneys.

Health Care - A joint program with the Jefferson County Medical Society to develop a forum for issues associated with health care, bio-ethics, end-of-life care and similar issues.

Law Enforcement - A regional problem solving Center could be formed to handle police and citizen issues.

A regional problem solving Center would have appropriate professional staff to act as facilitators, mediators, consensus builders and arbitrators. The Center could be available as a forum for which a fee is paid or as a free community service when appropriate.

P.O. Box 70118
Louisville, KY 40270-0118
(502) 582-1381

Taking a Risk for Peace
by Tom Williams

Who knows what the world will see in Louisville 50 or 100 years from now? I would imagine we will always be known for the first Saturday in May, but why not for also producing events of even greater consequence in the future by undertaking world-changing challenges?
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