group conflict facilitation

For five or more people to reach understanding, healing, agreement, repair, or transformation of a conflict within or across groups.
Image by James Wainscoat
Group conflict facilitation can be about...
understanding: we want a facilitated opportunity to hear from each other about our experiences, visions, and ideas. maybe we sense that there's some discord in the group, maybe we have a big decision we need to make, or maybe there's been a specific incident or disagreement that we need to form a collective understanding around, in order to move forward.

celebration/gratitude: we want an opportunity to show love, care, respect, and celebration for one another; a facilitated space for each person and group to be affirmed and validated would help us to reward the collective as a whole and subvert individualization.

decision-making: we need support in making a complex or divisive decision, where all voices are heard, creativity and imagination are encouraged, we are able to weigh options based on our values and goals, and make final decisions that are mutually beneficial to the collective/cooperative.

healing/repair: we want a facilitated process for hearing from people impacted by a particular incident or a specific form of structural violence, so that we can process harm, learn what is needed for healing, and generate support for that healing, repair, or amends to take place.

transformation: we want a facilitated process for identifying underlying causes of conflict, harm, or discord in our group(s)/communities, and a process for developing ideas and goals for making lasting change to our relationships, structures, systems, or culture.
I have more than a decade and a half of experience with organizations/affinities in the racial justice, economic justice/mutual aid, and anti-oppression space as an organizer myself, and half a decade as a facilitator of conflict processes within and across those groups.  I believe that we must begin to develop processes for addressing conflict before crisis occurs and tears our organizations apart.

​Below, you'll find all kinds of important information we'll need to figure out together before we start a process. Please review before reaching out and ask me any questions you have during the intake process.

To begin group facilitation, have someone who can serve as an internal coordinator (knowledgeable about the people and concerns involved, able to help coordinate meetings) schedule a free 15-minute intake (held virtually on zoom) or email me.

what you can expect

Fees
Sliding Scale Fee: $75 - $200/hour for in-session time
You are charged for in-session time (whenever we are meeting either as a whole group or smaller groups), but those funds also cover the out-of-session work such as planning and responding to questions.  
Lower end for organizations without consistent funds.
Higher end for NGOs, 501(c)3s, and for-profit groups.
If funds are a problem, please let me know. I am willing to negotiate.
Details
A process is shaped by the goals you have for the process. After intake, I will design a process composed of sessions that will help you to reach those goals. While no conflict process is the same, we'll generally follow this pattern with some or all of these components:
Initial Intake: You reach out to me, we discuss your needs, and determine whether we're a good fit.
Coordination: If we're a good fit, we work together to determine logistics about communication, timelines, & participants. This step involves the Coordination document and Group Conflict Readiness Assessment (downloads below). 
 
Group Intake: Direct participants are invited to share their perspective on core issues, incidents, context, and goals, typically via a form or survey.
In sessions:
Understanding + Framing: We hold one or more sessions where participants are invited to share information, experiences, feelings, and perspectives on the conflict, so that the group has a collective understanding of many vantage points, impacts, and insights. For some organizations, this session is all that is needed to conclude our work together, as their primary goal is for collective understanding.
 
Brainstorming/Visioning: We hold one or more sessions where participants are encouraged to think creatively and out-of-the-box about how the organization can move forward toward collective goals (e.g. remedies, solutions, ways to make things right, next steps). For some organizations, this session concludes our work together, because a shared vision becomes obvious or the primary goal was in dreaming/imagining possibilities. 
 
Weighing options: If there are decisions to be made, we hold one or more sessions where participants share factors they want others to take into consideration when making decisions and then we discuss the pros, cons, benefits, and risks associated with the groups' options. Using this method we will narrow down options to the most viable. 
 
Making decisions, agreements, conclusions: If final decisions are to be made in these sessions, we hold a final session where the remaining options are presented and the group makes a decision based on their previously decided decision-making practice (majority rules, rank choice, consensus, etc.).
Scheduling
Time is often the greatest barrier for groups who want to have a complex process (something that involves structural change or entrenched conflict). There are typically three ways to hold these components: 
  1. A series of shorter sessions (~2 hours ea.) over the span of several weeks or months.
  2. A retreat of full-day sessions over the span of a weekend or a few weekends.
  3. A hybrid of shorter sessions and a concluding retreat.
 
Your group should have a sense of what time you can dedicate to the process (taking into consideration the time lost to the conflict if it is not addressed). When deciding between these options, it's important to consider your organization's capacity, timeline, and most importantly the accessibility of these options for those who need to participate. Each option has its pros and cons.
Group Conflict Coordination 
The coordination document is the list of questions and details we need to work out beforehand. I will talk through these with the coordinators and include the documents here for your reference, if you want to prepare in advance.
Group Conflict Readiness Assessment
The readiness assessment provides me with a sense of participant understanding about what the conflict process will demand from them emotionally, physically, and relationally, as well as their own assessment of their readiness or willingness to participate. I will ask all participants to complete the individual assessment and then to input their final answers into an online, anonymous form. 

example processes

Circle Process is a collective, consensus-based process found in indigenous communities around the world (including Tlingit, Ojibwe, Navajo, and Maori cultures), in which a facilitator guides participants toward healing, understanding, and problem-solving based on deep listening.

Fishbowl is a dialogue format where a portion of participants are speaking while the remaining participants are listening or witnessing.

Community Conferencing is a restorative or transformative process that invites impacted participants to identify issues, propose solutions, and generate support and resources toward addressing shared concerns or problems.

Consensus Decision-Making
is a process where all participants seek alignment on a problem or issue; participants are invited to create ideas or proposals and those are shared, tweaked, negotiated, defended, merged, and transformed until the group comes to an agreement on one or multiple ways forward.

Spokes Model is a form of organized problem-solving, in which a large group of participants agree to break into smaller groups (spokes) that will be trusted to independently try to solve different aspects of a collective problem, then bring their solutions back to the larger group for agreement.

Which of these scenarios is most like yours?

Remember that each participant requires dedicated time to speak/share, so the more participants the more time. There also needs to be time for the facilitator to introduce and explain the process, summarize, and for breaks, reflection, and planning logistics/next steps.

Image by Gemma Chua-Tran

Small

A few folks (<10) are struggling over one or two issues (e.g. how to divide rent and chores) or incidents (e.g. a party got out of control).
A short planning period followed by a couple of sessions adding up to 5-6 hours.
Image by Christina @ wocintechchat.com

Medium

A mid-size organization or team (<20) is struggling over a few issues (e.g. decision-making, capacity, values) and/or incidents (e.g. disagreements, violations of agreement).
A slightly longer planning period, with several sessions adding up to 15 - 20 hours.
Image by MD Duran

Large

A membership organization (>100) is struggling with major issues (e.g. structure, power dynamics, resource dedication) and/or incidents (e.g. systemic harm, discrimination). 
An extensive planning period, with many sessions adding up to 20 - 30 hours.

important considerations

who has a seat at the table?

Your role

Whose input is needed?
There may be people within or outside your group who hold relevant information or experience, but who won't be involved in the conflict sessions. You'll need to identify those folks and form a plan for how you'll get the information/input you need prior to or between sessions.
Who will be directly involved in our sessions?
These are the people who will share their experiences directly, participate in brainstorming/problem-solving, and provide feedback or information. You'll need to make sure they are informed about when the sessions will be and how to access them.
Who is empowered to make decisions?
Whether it's coordinating the sessions themselves or meeting the goals of the process, you'll need to identify who can make which decisions. Participants in the sessions may be working together to come to a collective decision, or the sessions may be informing a decision that another group will make (whether that be a smaller working group or leadership team, or a larger membership group who have voting rights). Let me know early who these people are and how they're involved.
What do these groups need in order to fully participate?
Understanding and communicating the group's accessibility needs (language, physical space, materials, transportation, time/scheduling, childcare, nutrition/food); working with me to meet those needs to best of our abilities.

My role

Providing space for many insights and perspectives to be shared.
I will make time in sessions for important information and perspectives to be shared; we can work together to do this creatively. 

Creating accessible, welcoming, brave spaces. 
I will listen to your accessibility and capacity needs and design sessions to meet those needs to the best of my ability. I will create an environment where people experience respect, dignity, agency, and affirmation (at least from me). Ensuring that there is time for everyone to fully participate is a core value that I will enact in planning and facilitating.​

Respecting your organization's policies, structure, values, and ways of working together.
I will take into consideration and incorporate your pre-existing frameworks, while pushing for anti-oppressive values where I notice inconsistencies with my own principles. ​

Communicating with you about these pieces of the puzzle, to form a plan that is inclusive and realistic.

goals and logistics

Your role

(If relevant) what is the group's decision-making process?
There may be people within or outside your group who hold relevant information or experience, but who won't be involved in the conflict sessions. You'll need to identify those folks and form a plan for how you'll get the information/input you need prior to or between sessions.
What are your goals and/or motivations for engaging in this process? 
Early on, you'll have to let me know what we're working toward. Whether that's coming to a mutually beneficial solution to a collective problem or healing after harm, the purpose of the process will shape the process.
What do you have the time and capacity for?
Organizations often come to me with many issues and a short, urgent timeline. Conflict work, done well, takes a considerable amount of time. If time and resources are limited, it may be necessary to prioritize our time to focus on the most timely, impactful, or pervasive issues/concerns. ​Let me know your timeline early, so we can work together on a plan that reduces stress and is more likely to be successful if people aren't burned out or overburdened.

My role

Designing a process that centers your goals and desired outcomes. 
I have no stake in the outcome of your conflict and will not judge, advise, or suggest what your goals should be. I will design a process that works toward your explicitly stated goals. ​If I see where an approach or aspect of our work doesn't align with your goals, I will communicate with you directly and honestly about those misalignments.
Designing a process that is within your boundaries, capacity, and timeline. 
I will challenge urgency when I think other values (inclusion, accessibility, listening, mutuality) are being sacrificed to meet a deadline, but I will work within the material constraints that your group exists within. If the work cannot be done within your constraints, I will be transparent about that and provide alternative resources that might be better suited for you. ​