Leaders Learning to Negotiate Seminars Teaching Conflict Resolution

Article excerpt

The school system was in crisis. Its leaders were divided.

Desperate, key players huddled yesterday in a Southside

Jacksonville office, groping for common ground.

This time, effort mattered more than results.

The school system was imaginary, and negotiators were

roleplaying.

But the people learning those roles may play important parts in

a growing campaign to defuse community disputes in Jacksonville

through deliberate, patient dialogue.

"This community has collectively done a stunning job," said Bob

Evans, a South Africa-based mediation consultant whose

Plowshares Institute has held half a dozen conflict resolution

seminars in Jacksonville since 1994.

More than 200 community leaders, from church deacons to judges,

have completed the two-day workshops organized by the

Jacksonville Community Council Inc.

Graduates have been involved in mediation efforts for a series

of local disputes, from Duval County's school desegregation

debate to conflicts involving siting of new housing.

The basic goal, seeking agreement between parties at opposite

sides of a dispute, has hit a nerve in some people.

"I come strictly from politics. …