As co-founders and co-editors of NO NIIN, one of the things we–Elham Rahmati & Vidha Saumya–wish to be mindful of is to lay down sensible and considerate mechanism for dealing with conflicts and disputes that may arise between us and our collaborators at NO NIIN, e.g. editorial board members, content producers, service providers, etc. We believe, having clear conflict resolution mechanisms in place in any working environment allow parties to resolve their conflicts in a more friendly, respectful, flexible, and time and cost-efficient way.
The clarity we seek by having these guidelines and abiding by them is our way of preserving our friendships and professional relationships. We wish to do that in a manner that is pragmatic and meaningful, we are not interested in empty gestures as they are more harmful than they are effective. These are ideas in progress, nothing set in stone, we will update them as we learn and grow. We appreciate your input at any stage and we will make sure that you will be compensated for that.
Here are our thoughts and suggestions:
There are moments when ‘calling someone out’ publically is appropriate, to stop words or actions that are actively hurting someone. But often, it’s effective to instead ‘call someone in’ privately. When we call someone in, we help them discover why their behaviour is harmful, and how they can change it. Calling in provides us with an opportunity to explore deeper, make meaning together, and find a mutual sense of understanding across difference. Calling in gives us the chance to imagine different perspectives, possibilities, or outcomes. More importantly, it focuses on reflection, not reaction.Read more
Having said this, as a first step, we suggest asking for a private meeting in-person/online. In that meeting, the parties – Elham, Vidha and the NO NIIN collaborator/s – can bring up the matter of concern, share their points of view, and discuss them together in a compassionate and respectful way. If agreeable to all, this meeting can be minuted, the minutes will be reviewed and signed by all at the end of the meeting, this is to ensure that everyone has clearly heard and understood the points made in the meeting.
Here is an article by Maya Hu-Chan who has suggested a model called B.U.I.L.D. and it contains a 5-step communication approach that, although mentioned in a specific context in the article, we think it can be helpful in navigating through difficult conversations in a more general sense. We invite you to take a quick look at it before the meeting takes place. There are more resources on this topic linked at the end.
We would prefer to avoid talking through the conflict within emails or text messages, as they can be impersonal, and often fail to convey our tones correctly, therefore escalating the conflict to a place of no return.
What if the meeting/s does not result in concrete solutions agreeable to all? What if the matter of concern persists after the meeting? What if you feel your voice was not heard?
This is an unfortunate situation as we know how draining this experience can be. So we will do our best to avoid it but if worst comes to worst and the matter at hand is graver and therefore difficult to be handled by the parties alone, then this is the second step we suggest:
- At this stage, we – Elham & Vidha – will employ the services of a professional mediator. The mediator is a third, independent and impartial party. The process, and all discussions with the mediator, are strictly confidential. The role of the mediator is to listen and facilitate a communication process. The goal is to reach an agreement concerning the future. The goal and the outcome of the process will be defined by the parties. The agreement is formulated by the parties and their needs and wishes.
The mediation process begins with individual meetings between the parties and the mediator. The mediator will interview each one to enable going through the issues in a safe and confidential space and prepare for the common meeting. The meetings are strictly confidential. There will be a minimum of one meeting per person before bringing people together. The process will show how much time and how many preparatory meetings are needed before the dialogue together can take place.
The dialogue. One full day is reserved for the dialogue. The goal is to have a conversation that has not yet taken place, to hear every point of view and to look for solutions that are based on each one’s needs and interests and possibilities.
A follow-up to see how the transformation is taking place.
During the mediation process, the mediator remains available for phone calls if needed.
Mediation is a much-needed and helpful tool that aims to find the roots of the conflict and to lay them out clearly for the parties involved to understand why they are where they are and why they feel the way they feel about the issue at hand. If successful, it helps the parties find common grounds of an understanding and empathy that allows them to reach a solution together. The mediator is not there to judge or to give solutions, they are merely there to help the parties get to that stage themselves.
For the mediation process to work, timing is a crucial element. We believe reaching common grounds is only possible when the parties still respect each other and share a degree of affection and care for one another. The more the first stage of the conflict resolution drags out, the more room it gives to exchanges of words and sentiments that come from a place of misunderstanding, anger and other unaddressed and unresolved emotions. Here, we make a promise to not let this happen and to move to the second stage in a timely and careful manner.
What happens if there is no agreement?
What happens if the meetings with the mediator don’t result in an agreement between the parties? How do we guarantee accountability? This brings us to the third stage.Read more
- We will schedule a meeting in-person/online with members of NO NIIN ry’s association board (Saara Karhunen, Sini Mononen, Hanna Järvinen). The board is tasked with the job of evaluating our practices and questioning us – Elham & Vidha – around our ways of working and programming. They have been asked to hold us accountable for our ethical ways of working, mission and vision. So we think it is appropriate to involve them at this stage, have them hear the parties out in one or more joint meetings, and ask for their help in taking actions to resolve the matter.
What if this doesn’t work out either? We think calling out is the best solution at this stage. Sometimes accountability can only be reached in the presence of the public. If not that, then at least it provides a space for being heard and at times, unfortunately, that’s the best one can hope for. We truly wish that none of our collaborations ends up in such stark circumstances, but after all, we are only human and sometimes we don’t know better. All we can do is to be prepared, as much as one can be.