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You can’t have good policy without good ‘soft skills’

The local environmental activist community is pretty policy-centric. That’s not a problem as long as folks possess sufficient “soft skills” to work through difficult interpersonal situations. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case.

I suspect that we all could come up with our own lists. For example, I’ve observed repeated sexist comments made to a female environmental leader that have gone unresponded to by the group she is part of. Yes, calling out that behavior can be difficult, particularly when there is a meaningful power imbalance. However, the recent burst of national news about sexual harassment illustrates how it’s important to quickly and firmly put a halt to behavior that crosses a line. Mediation skills can be helpful here.

Fortunately, we have in our community a Dispute Resolution Center. In addition to mediating disputes — which some activist groups could benefit from more than they recognize — the center also offers a variety of trainings. As a case in point, on Dec. 6-8 the center will offer “Multi-Party Mediation Training.” This course “provides an introduction and basic foundation in the concepts, processes and skills for designing and facilitating group conflict resolution meetings.”

In order to take that class you’d need to have completed their 40-hour “Professional Mediation Training.” Go here for details on the center’s full range of training.

I have heard rumors of a foundation investing money into local environmental activist infrastructure. I hope that part of those dollars go toward better training our leadership in soft skills. Go here and here for further discussion.

— S. Salmi

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