Team Collaboration Tools & Resources
Here are recommended team collaboration tools and resources that dive deeper into facilitation and mediation topics related to our practice areas.
The Confluence Collaboration team compiled these resources to describe how conflict management can work and give examples of different types of collaborative practice strategies and outcomes.
We’ve also included a brief glossary to clarify and hopefully demystify some of the industry jargon commonly used, along with links to some articles for further reading. You can also read our case studies to see how we’ve helped clients manage conflict.
A Brief Glossary of Conflict Resolution Terminology
Mediation is a method of conflict resolution often used as an alternative to litigation, which can typically be more complex and costly. In the natural resources industry, parties might want to mediate a dispute to avoid going to the press, a local government board, or the state legislature. A neutral third-party mediator aids in the negotiation process between two or more disputing parties.
The mediator’s role is to help the parties communicate effectively, analyze the dispute, weigh their options, and develop a mutually acceptable solution. A mediator is there to guide the process but is not expected to be a subject matter expert in the disputed topics.
In contrast to arbitration, where the arbitrator makes a decision, a mediator has no decisional authority but instead helps the parties arrive at their own conclusions about whether and on what terms to settle.
Facilitation is a form of assisted negotiation like mediation. As with mediation, the facilitator focuses on the agenda and flow of the meeting, the negotiation process, and keeping the parties on track. Facilitation is typically used for multi-party meetings or consensus-building processes within one organization or across many organizations and parties. Facilitators are expected to have some familiarity with the topics under discussion, but are not typically expected to be subject matter experts on the content of the proceedings.
A facilitator works with the parties to:
- Make sure that all appropriate parties are at the table;
- Foster open discussion consistent with agreed-upon ground rules and agenda;
- Keep an accessible record to help the parties focus on the agenda and see areas of common ground;
- Ensure through active listening that each speaker feels understood, and every participant has a chance to speak; and
- Help interested parties understand the issues and pursue potential areas of common ground.
Stakeholder Engagement is a process where an organization includes individuals with an interest (or “stake”) in the outcome of its decision-making processes. Input from stakeholders helps the organization decide and act. A stakeholder is an individual or organization which will likely be directly affected by those decisions or will have an impact on how decisions made by the organization will be implemented. This method includes identifying stakeholder groups and their representatives, systematically collecting and incorporating feedback, and reporting that information to all stakeholder groups.
To read about what this looks like in practice, read our case study about how a proposed highway access ramp impacted a Maryland community.
Policy Dialogue opens up discussion, improves mutual understanding, and assesses the degree of consensus and conflict concerning public policy disputes. Policy dialogues typically do not address siting disputes, where multiple stakeholders (parties with an interest or “stake” in the problem or issue) discuss the site of a facility such as a landfill or gravel pit. These dialogues frequently uncover shared interests, values, and points of consensus among stakeholders that were previously obscured by the adversarial rhetoric characteristic of escalating policy controversies like water rights disputes.
While reaching a resolution is not the objective of many policy dialogues, the examples discussed on our website typically lead to consensus-based action, such as this urban planning case study involving a debate over whether and how to allow McMansions in established urban neighborhoods or this case study about attempts to secure a “Wild and Scenic” designation for a river in Maryland.
Consensus Building is a multi-step group decision-making process that calls for near-unanimous agreement rather than a majority vote. Also commonly known as collaborative problem-solving, consensus building is useful in complex multi-party disputes, including environmental and public policy contexts.This method allows various stakeholders (parties with an interest or “stake” in the problem or issue) to work together to develop a mutually acceptable solution.
To see an example of consensus building, read our case study of a multi-party effort to mitigate water treatment plant discharge into the Potomac River.
Collaborative Learning isa group discovery approach to adaptive management and consensus building through learning together. A term of art used by Daniels and Walker in a book about environmental and natural resource policy, the collaborative learning method is useful in decision-making that involves complex subject matter, such as forestry or watershed management. This method operates on the assumption that no one party has all of the knowledge required to make a decision. By engaging in a group fact-finding and learning process, collaborative learning helps parties better understand one another’s perception of the natural resource situation and make decisions based on what they learn during the process. The goal of collaborative learning is to make progress on complex science-based issues without seeking complete or enduring resolution.
To see this approach put into practice, read our case study about how members of a church congregation decided whether to split into different factions or remain together.
A technique that is similar to collaborative learning is called stakeholder collaboration. To see how stakeholder collaboration works in practice, read our case study to see how three separate parties resolved a water rights dispute.
In terms of the work we do, public engagement is a process designed to encourage members of the public to learn about and engage in discussions about proposed public decisions that may impact their community. Successful public engagement efforts depend upon people skilled at identifying potentially interested parties, conducting outreach to those parties, and coordinating meeting times and places for those parties to attend and learn more about how these proposed changes that may impact them. Public engagement is an effort to obtain substantive input beyond what is gained from a public hearing through meetings designed for public input, polling, surveys, and focus groups.
To see what this approach looks like practice, read our case study about a county’s proposed revitalization plans affecting two urban neighborhoods.
Read more about our public engagement experience and processes.
General Conflict Resolution Resources
Mediation Basics and How It Works
To learn more about mediation, FindLaw offers a good basic overview of the mediation process.
Facilitation Basics and How It Works
To learn more about how facilitation works, here’s a Facilitation 101 article from Beyond Intractability.
Sources and Uses of Power and Power Frameworks
Power is an important dynamic to understand in any conflict resolution process. For a good overview of the types and uses of power, we suggest reading pages 10-15 of this 58-page handbook – Power: A Practical Guide to Facilitating Social Change by Raji Hunjan and Jethro Pettit, published by the Carnegie UK Trust (.PDF, 3.8MB).
Common Negotiation Styles Used by Parties in Conflict
Did you know there are a few commonly used negotiation styles? Calum Coburn summarizes five of them in this blog post for Negotiation Experts.
Types of Conflict and Some Useful Leadership Skills for Managing Conflict
In this chapter of the book Leadership in Healthcare and Public Health, Fadi Smiley explores common types of conflicts, different negotiation styles, and leadership through conflict.
Cognitive Biases, Motivational Biases, and Other Dynamics of Negotiations
There are often many complex dynamics underlying negotiations, including cognitive biases and hidden motivations. Read a succinct overview of decision-making perspectives in negotiation by Steve Smutko and Richard Alper, which is based upon an article by Chia-Jung Tsay and Max Bazerman in Negotiation Journal (.PDF, 205 KB).
Integrative or Interest-Based Negotiation and How It Differs from Win-Lose Bargaining
Not all negotiations are based on one party winning and the other losing. This is especially true in mediation, facilitation, and other types of alternative dispute resolution. To see the difference, read this handy chart at Beyond Intractability compares positional (“win-lose”) to integrative (“win-win”) bargaining.
Managing Conflict Effectively from a Project Management Perspective
Mediators aren’t the only professionals who need to understand how to manage conflict in their work. This article from the Project Management Institute contains helpful diagrams and good definitions related to conflict management that apply to many professional contexts requiring conflict management.
Tony Blair’s 10 Principles for Conflict Resolution
In an excerpt from his memoir, the former U.K. Prime Minister shares conflict resolution tips based on his work negotiating the nearly intractable peace process in Northern Ireland (.PDF, 754 KB). Note: This article is provided by permission of Negotiation Briefings. To purchase individual or group subscriptions to this publication, contact Adam Goldstein at firstname.lastname@example.org or (703) 905-8000.]
Conflict Resolution Skills
This Help Guide offers good advice about self-management during a conflict. It also includes some good tips on managing conflict in broader contexts such as mediation.
Collaborative Learning and Stakeholder Collaboration
The Stages of Collaborative Decision-Making on Public Issues
This chart from the Center for Collaborative Policy at California State University, Sacramento outlines the five stages of collaborative decision-making on public issues (.PDF, 12KB).
This overview of stakeholder engagement from the MIT Science Impact Collaborative offers a good discussion of the different types of stakeholder engagement and when to apply them.
A more in-depth read about stakeholder engagement, this case study about groundwater sustainability on the Water Diplomacy blog also offers helpful visuals to better understand the dynamics involved.
Negotiating When Values and Beliefs Are Central to the Parties in a Dispute
Lawrence Susskind writes a guide to understanding the difference between interest-based negotiation and values-based negotiation in Harvard’s Program on Negotiation newsletter (.PDF, 758 KB). Note: This article is provided by permission of Negotiation Briefings. To purchase individual or group subscriptions to this publication, contact Adam Goldstein at email@example.com or (703) 905-8000.
Understanding and Facilitating Multi-Party Negotiations
Learn how to make the most of multi-party negotiations in this post, also written by Larry Susskind, on the Harvard Business School blog.
A Water Rights Case Study Illustrating Multi-Party Conflict Management Strategies
Case studies are useful ways to learn how the conflict management process works. Read a successful multi-party water rights mediation regarding Maine’s Allagash Wilderness Waterway at Mediate.com.
A Nutrition and Wellness Case Study Illustrating How Policy Dialogue Leads to Action
This case study about improving nutrition and wellness for Americans by the Convergence Center for Policy Resolution is a good example of how policy dialogue works. You can either read the summary or download the full report at the link.
Tips for Encouraging Public Engagement
This colorful and popular chart from the International Association for Public Participation (IAP) (.PDF, 82 KB) illustrates how to improve the impact of public participation when collaborating to determine new policies.
Read Examples of How Public Engagement Works
This case study published in the journal Resources Policy takes an in-depth look at a public dialogue around mining in Alaska (this summary page links to the full .PDF of the case study, 623 KB). The Pebble Mine dialogue illustrates how public engagement can delay or cancel a project and what stakeholders and facilitators can learn from this process.
A Portland State University public engagement case study about a flood control system in Oregon (.PDF, 1.7 MB) found that public engagement gave a clear sense of the values and beliefs of people impacted by a proposed flood control system.
We Are Here to Help You Manage Conflict
We hope these resources are helpful to understanding some of the strategies and interpersonal dynamics involved in the most common types of conflict management and collaborative practice methods. If you or your organization are locked in a situation that feels unresolvable, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 240.275.7776 to ask about how we can help facilitate your process.