Consortium on Negotiation and Conflict Resolution
Mandated implementation without buy-in has ramifications.
The Regents’ Blue Ribbon Committee, although peopled with individuals interested in ADR from across the System, did not include a representative from every institution; nor does the Advisory Committee. While the decision to structure the committees in this way was made with good reason, it creates challenges in ensuring commitment from stakeholders at every institution. Looking back, we would attempt to find ways to involve stakeholders in the initial development or ongoing support of the Initiative.
Too much flexibility in design principles can overwhelm designers.
Hoping to allow the unique characteristics of individual institutions to drive the development and implementation of their conflict resolution systems, the drafters of the Initiative provided only general guidelines rather than detailed directions on dispute resolution system design. ADR liaisons and committees were provided a guidebook and resource manual including references to books and other materials on dispute systems design. Instead of turning to these materials for their education, the designers, many of whom had little or no knowledge of or experience in conflict resolution, preferred training as an introduction to conflict resolution.
The CNCR elected to use basic mediation training as the introductory course. Mediation training provided a strong foundation of knowledge and skills for participants; however, it also tended to narrow the thinking of system designers, overwhelmed by the broad concept of ADR, who appear to have adopted mediation as their definition of conflict resolution. As a result, many institutions have designed their dispute resolution systems around mediation, automatically incorporating it into their grievance procedures and offering mediation on their campuses, ignoring other potentially appropriate prevention and resolution tools. The CNCR is responding to this lesson by providing training in dispute systems design as an integral part of training in evaluation.
Institutional readiness for culture change should be assessed.
Even in the best of circumstances, culture change is extremely difficult for a large, complex organization. Georgia’s Initiative was implemented across the system without regard for the environment, or readiness for cultural change at individual institutions. At some institutions, factors such as leadership changes, implementation of other initiatives requiring significant resources, etc. made it difficult, and in some cases impossible, to embrace the conflict resolution initiative.
Unfunded mandates create numerous obstacles.
As previously discussed, leaders within the university system have history dealing with unfunded mandates. They have learned from experience that unfunded mandates are not always permanent. They are loath to commit valuable resources to implement an initiative which may not be a priority the next year. Recognizing this, the Advisory Committee to the Chancellor’s Office has recommended offering matching grant funds to institutions which submit compelling proposals for program development and implementation. The Chancellor’s Office is in the process of estbalishing this program.
Systems have a tendency to implement without adequate planning and assessment.
Of the six system design steps, assessment is very possibly the most important. Still, most of the institutions in Georgia which have designed and implemented conflict resolution systems did so with little or no assessment. Whether this is the result of lack of knowledge about assessment, or the belief that mediation is the only conflict resolution tool available, is unknown. The CNCR plans to address this “Ready, Fire, Aim” phenomenon by focusing more specifically on dispute systems design in future education and training.
Education and training is a key to maintenance.
Many of the lessons outlined above can be addressed through education, training and continuous sharing of information. Stakeholders need to be made aware that high level administration recognizes the long term value of implementing the Initiative. Those responsible for designing and implementing a conflict resolution system need education on the phases of system design including assessment, design, incorporating tools and techniques other than mediation, implementation and evaluation. As systems are designed and implemented, individuals need to be trained to provide the services offered by the program. Establishing a strong education and training infrastructure to meet these needs on an ongoing basis is critical to the success of an Initiative such as this one.
Develop data collection systems beyond initial stage of implementation.
The Initiative has been in place for years, and the time has come to begin evaluating its effect, not only at the individual institution level, but also at the System level. The CNCR is encountering difficulty in performing an evaluation because ongoing data collection systems were not established as institutions developed and implemented their systems. As a result, no baseline exists for comparison in evaluation. Given the opportunity too start again, the CNCR would develop and disseminate sample data collection systems to ADR liaisons and committees in the initial phases of the Initiative.