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Outline of problem solving alternative dispute resolutions

This is a role-playing exercise, in which you are a conflict resolution consultant. Here is the scenario:

As part of its attempt to be a good corporate neighbor, X-Cell, Inc. (a manufacturer of cell phones that has its corporate headquarters in your home town) donated 50 computers with broadband Internet access to the public library, specifying that they be provided for the use of teenagers. Unexpected opposition to this gift, however, has come from a coalition of conservative clergy and politicians calling themselves CPHTV, the Coalition to Protect Home Town Values. In making the donation, X-Cell referred to "the liberating power of technology" and the "cosmopolitan values" that the city's young people would acquire by being in contact with people and cultures throughout the world, accessed through the Internet. CPHTV spokespersons seized upon these statements, arguing that the city's youth needed protection from immoral and heathen influences, rather than liberation, and that their values needed to be rooted in their family and neighborhoods rather than diluted by contact with people who do not share their religious and cultural beliefs.
Although most people in the city are not yet aware of it, the conflict is heating up. There have been some nasty statements quoted in the local newspapers by each side about the other. CPHTV has formally requested (as required by law) permission to picket the library. X-Cell has expressed its dismay at the negative public relations it is getting and has dropped a couple of hints that it is looking for other sites for its corporate headquarters.

The mayor and city manager believe that this issue taps into divisions in the community that go well beyond the specific flash point of the donated computers. They simultaneously fear that if the issue is not well handled, it could tear the city apart, but that it is an opportunity to deal with deep divisions productively. They have decided to seek professional help in structuring a process that would make a better social world in their community.

Your task will be to prepare a proposal to "design and facilitate a process by which the town can deal with this issue in a constructive manner. The city has no predetermined position regarding the donation of the computers per se; its interest is in enabling citizens of whatever persuasion to participate in a credible process leading to increased social capital, civic harmony, and a decision that all can accept, even if no support.

The proposal must include a description of a process, complete with a description of event(s) and timeline that:

1. Is inclusive of all parts of the community.

2. Deals with the underlying issues as well as with the specific topic of the computers.

3. Leads to increased social capital and community harmony as well as to a specific decision, to which all will assent, on this issue.

Solution Preview

The first element is to appoint and use a facilitator to handle group meetings among the groups, including the city and regular, uninvolved citizens. A facilitator is skilled in listening and asking for clarifications when information is unclear or inappropriate, and identifying escalation indicators before escalation can occur. The facililator would be asked to lead a workshop most likely between the city and the two opposing groups.

The focal point of the meeting would be to allow the city to hear both sides and make determinations on whether it should take a stand on either side. There would be little need for negotiation at this point, since the situation is quickly devolving. After discovering the positions of the two sides, my ...

Solution Summary

An outline to guide a role play using a presented scenario about a community conflict between a company, citizens and local government. The proper methods, poeople, and outcomes are discussed.