One of the highlights of the recent National Conference on Dialogue & Deliberation was Grande Lum’s speech on the final day of the conference. Grande is director of the Department of Justice’s Community Relations Service, an extraordinary program that was established 50 years ago as part of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Known as “America’s Peacemaker,” the Community Relations Service (CRS) has worked with thousands of communities over the years, many of whom came together in crisis and emerged stronger and more unified as a result. CRS delivers four critically important services to communities facing intergroup conflict: mediation of disputes, facilitation of dialogue, training, and consulting.
See our August 25th blog post at www.ncdd.org/16015 for more details on the vital work that Grande and CRS do.
At the end of his speech (which we’ll be posting soon), Grande committed to holding a meeting between NCDD members and CRS staff at each of CRS’s ten regional offices. Grande is excited to move forward on these meetings, and we have been working with CRS to make these meetings happen in January!
This is an exciting opportunity on many fronts. For one, you will have the opportunity to start a productive relationship with staff of an important government agency based in your area — people who really “get” the importance of process and know what it’s like in the trenches. (As a CRS staff member told me on the phone the other day, “we’re in the same tribe”!)
CRS’s Regional Directors are highly trained professional mediators, facilitators, trainers, and consultants who are experienced in bringing together communities in conflict to help them enhance their ability to independently prevent and resolve existing and future concerns. Regional Directors oversee the regional conflict resolution teams in the development of customized and proactive local solutions.
This is also exciting for the NCDD community as a collective. We often talk about how we can be more responsive during times of crisis that call for dialogue. Developing relationships and making ourselves available to CRS regional directors whose mission, in part, is rapid deployment during crises, can only strengthen our work and increase CRS’s capacity in the process. We also often lament the gap between dialogue and deliberation practice and government, and this addresses that concern as well.
The 10 regional offices are located in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Kansas City, Denver, Los Angeles, and Seattle. Their four field offices, where we may also be holding joint events, are located in Miami, Detroit, Houston, and San Francisco. The regional and field offices increase the availability of CRS services to rural communities and aid in rapid deployment during crises.
We have been working with CRS to coordinate meetings at each of these cities in late January. All NCDD 2014 attendees and supporting members of NCDD whose dues are in good standing are welcome to attend. Please send an email to NCDD’s office manager, Joy Garman, at email@example.com, if you are interested in taking part.
The meetings will be part meet-and-greet between NCDDers and CRS staffers (including the Regional Directors), part discussions of promising practices for helping communities communicate more effectively, and part exploratory sessions about how we might align our efforts going forward.
We’re thrilled to say that our friends at CRS are open to your ideas about what you would like to see happen at these meetings. Use the comments here to share your thoughts on what you’d like to see on the agenda, and what would be most beneficial to you. CRS and NCDD will carefully consider your input when designing the meetings.
Graphic recording of Grande Lum’s speech by the amazing Stephanie Brown.