If you cannot work with conflict, then you probably cannot create a sustainable town. Conflict is one of the most essential sustainability skills, and will serve you in every walk of life. When you’re in conflict, do you want to fight, flee, or freeze? Do you ever wish there could be a better way? Something that uses conflict to strengthen relationships instead of damaging them?
Most of us were brought up to either ignore conflict, or go in swinging, determined to “win”. As we grew older we may have learned ways to suppress or avoid conflict, or even a few tricks for managing others when they’re upset, in order to reduce emotional intensity. But ignoring or “managing” conflict tends to cause it to go underground, boiling up in tense meetings or undermining team projects.
What if conflict were a secret ally? What if it’s a guidepost, showing us what really matters to us, and how much we care? What if our intense emotions are sources of invincible energy, with the power to build the world we want, together?
People are complex creatures. We think and act in different ways. We live under different levels of stress and oppression, and carry different wounding with different triggers. And we care more or less strongly about different things, have different degrees of self-awareness, and communicate in more ways than anyone can count.
Those of us working to build a more resilient world need to be able to work well with each other in our neighborhoods, nonprofits, Transition initiatives, families, and workplaces. We need to build bridges even when communication is breaking down or tension seems unbearable. We need to be able to use conflict — maybe even welcome it, for its power to bring to the surface what’s really at stake, and to unite people toward a common goal.
But how? What can we do to reduce the chances of conflict arising in the first place? And what does having conflict in a healthy and transformative way really look like?
Join three practitioners from the Foundation for Intentional Community, Gaia Education, and the Rocky Mountain Institute as they relay tips, tools and resources on how to reduce painful conflict and instead use conflict creatively to build connection and community.
Ma’ikwe Ludwig is the Executive Director of the Center for Sustainable and Cooperative Culture at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage, and the Sustainable Communities Director for Commonomics USA’s Materialized Empathy project. She has done sustainability education work for over 25 years, and combines that experience with over 2 decades of intentional community living to create wholistic, practical education experiences.
Maikwe also teaches cooperative group dynamics (including facilitation, leadership and consensus), and is a climate change activist. In 2007, she published her first book, Passion as Big as a Planet, which looks at the intersection between spiritual development and effective ecological activism. She is currently working on starting a new community in Laramie, Wyoming with her partner, Matt Stannard.
Alyson Ewald has spent over twenty years leading environmental and educational programs both within the US and abroad. Alyson serves as facilitator of the social dimension of Gaia Education’s online course in sustainable design, as a teacher of a cooperative homeschool, and as a consultant and trainer for communities working to build their facilitation, decision-making, and conflict engagement skills. She is an avid student of conflict and Restorative Circles. Alyson lived and worked overseas in Russia, Ukraine, Hungary, and Croatia for nine years. During that time she coordinated professional and student exchanges and taught language, leadership, and nonviolence programs. She is now an advisor to The Altai Project, a nonprofit supporting Siberian indigenous environmental groups. She has also served as a Board member for Dancing Rabbit and FIC. In 2005 she co-founded Red Earth Farms, a homesteading community in Missouri, USA, where she lives with her partner and young daughter.
Jacob Corvidae is a Manager at Rocky Mountain Institute with a focus on transforming the residential energy upgrade market through the Residential Energy+ program and launching the Fort Collins pilot. He has worked in sustainable community development for 18 years with a focus on sustainability innovation, program design, community-based solutions, and collaboration building. Previously, Jacob was the Executive Director of EcoWorks, a nonprofit in Detroit, Michigan that leads efforts in energy and water solutions, as well as deconstruction and education. Jacob is also the Co-Founder and former President of the Southeast Michigan Regional Energy Office an innovative collaboration of 26 local governments tackling energy improvements in their communities. Jacob was also a pioneer in the ecovillage movement, actually enjoys public speaking, was an adjunct professor teaching sustainable design at the University of Detroit Mercy School of Architecture, and does work in facilitation and conflict resolution.