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Community Dispute Resolution Through Outside Intervention

NCJ Number
Peace and Change Volume: 8 Issue: 2/3 Dated: special issue (Summer 1982) Pages: 91-104
R A Salem
Date Published
14 pages
This article explores the stages typically involved in an effort to resolve a community dispute, the range of strategies available, and the skills required for intervention, based upon the experiences of the Federal Community Relations Service (CRS) in dealing with community disputes.
CRS, a division of the Department of Justice, has 60 conciliators and mediators who respond to hundreds of cases each year, most of which involve citizen grievances against community leaders perceived as having the power to remedy the grievance. The nine stages of CRS activity are alert, entry, assessment, reassessment, conciliation, technical assistance, mediation, closure, and followup. CRS normally goes through the alert and assessment stages before making a full-fledged response to a dispute. CRS promptly verifies each alert. The decision to intervene is based on the presence or potential for violence, the number of people affected, and several other factors. Although the ultimate goal of intervention is to resolve the dispute to the satisfaction of the parties, it is sometimes necessary to settle for other objectives. Once objectives are set, CRS intervention can take the form of conciliation, mediation, technical assistance, or some combination of the three. The stages in the dispute may overlap. The intervenors need listening skills, problemsolving skills, knowledge of human behavior, understanding of the dynamics of organizations, and the ability to analyze the environment of the conflict. Intervenors are not neutrals, but are people committed to justice. Success criteria include the achievement of agreement, the substance of the settlement, and the contribution of technical assistance. References and an appendix presenting the stages of the process are supplied.