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Ethics of Intervention in Community Disputes (From Ethics of Social Intervention, P 205-232, 1978, by Gordon Bermant, et al)

NCJ Number
J Laue; G Cormick
Date Published
28 pages
The nature of community disputes and community dispute intervention, the multiplicity and complexity of intervention roles, and an ethical framework for assessing this type of intervention are discussed.
Community disputes as a form of social conflict are defined, with descriptions of the power and resources bound up in such disputes and the role racism plays in them. A typical case is then presented to further illustrate the dispute definition. A model of intervention is developed with explanations of five roles intervenors in community disputes may play: activist, advocate, mediator, researcher, and enforcer. The nature and problems of the mediator role are then addressed, focusing on the ethics of intervention in community disputes, with the core values to be defended and promoted outlined as freedom, justice, and empowerment. Ethical principles are identified that might guide intervenors in making decisions about intervention (e.g., contributing to empowerment of the powerless, promoting weaker parties' ability to make their own decisions, defining the intervenors' stance, or advocating resolution of conflict through a process of joint decisionmaking). The decisionmaking process is explored as the translating mechanism between principles and action. Illustrations then apply the ethical principles identified to difficult decisions faced by intervenors in actual dispute situations. Such decisional dilemmas involve allocating power, improving the ability of the parties to make their own best decisions, dealing with intervenor neutrality, understanding the realities of power and racism, coping with the inappropriate application of intervention models, and developing intervenor relations with antidemocratic groups. Finally, consideration is given to goal setting, target group participations, and intervention consequences. About 32 references and 13 footnotes are provided. Several diagrams are also included.