Discussion note on Conflict management
Conflict management framework for Wikimedia affiliates - a Reach out approach
“ When written in Chinese, the word 'crisis' is composed of two characters. One represents danger and the other represents opportunity.” - John F. Kennedy
Wikimedia foundation and chapter function by democratic processes. A social democracy means a way of life which recognizes liberty, equality and fraternity. But democracies surface rather than suppress conflict that is why democracies often seem so quarrelsome and turbulent when compared with more authoritarian societies. As the scope and structure of Wikimedia is growing we have seen some serious cases of Conflict in recent time. The conflict can be within the board or between affiliates also. The Chair persons meetings have become a platform where discussions about common issues regarding chapters and the international organization take place. It is a need of the time to think how affiliates can help each other during periods of (governance) crisis and conflicts. This paper deals with the role of affiliates during periods of crisis and conflicts.
Role of affiliates
In recent cases it has been observed that at present there is no framework available to handle conflict and crises situations of Wikimedia affiliates. On the other hand due to the conflict situation WMF reduces or stops funding to the affiliating body. This reflects in weakening the community and aggravates problem. To better manage such situations affiliates can also play an important role to help each other in situation of crises. To better handle the situation a framework for Wikimedia affiliates is been proposed. The goal cannot be to eliminate conflict. Conflict is an inevitable and useful part of communities. It often leads to change and generates insight. The challenge is not to eliminate conflict but to transform it.
A 5 point framework is proposed to manage the conflict.
- Set the space
- Information collection
- Locate point of issue
- Conceptualize solution
Step 1 Set the space
It is to change the way we deal with our differences from destructive, adversarial battling to hard-headed, side-by-side problem-solving. In the situation of crises one of the stake holders should approach to the affiliates with the request to intervene. Based on the request affiliates can decide how to help.
Step 2 Information collection
The next important thing is to collect as many as information in relation to problem from all stake holders. There may be difference of opinion among them. We have to understand the position and views of the related parties to get hold of the situation. A committee from the affiliates can be deputed to discuss and if needed visit to take the sock of the information related to crises.
Step 3 Locate point of issue (What needs to be resolved)
It has been seen that many time the problem persists somewhere else than it surfaces. So we have to come to exact problem definition i.e. the point of issue. This sounds like an obvious step, but different underlying needs, interests and goals can often cause people to perceive problems differently. With the help of experience affiliate members and the information gathered we need to agree the problem that we are trying to solve before we can find a mutually acceptable solution.
Step 4 Conceptualize solution
We should resolve conflicts by separating people and their emotions from the problem. If their approach focuses on building mutual respect and understanding, then it will encourage us to resolve conflict in a united, cooperative way. By brainstorming the situation the affiliates committee will conceptualize a solution to resolve the conflict.
Step 5 Negotiate
Now it is increasingly recognized that there are cooperative ways of negotiating our differences and that even if a “win-win” solution cannot be found, a wise agreement can still often be reached that is better for both sides than the alternative. Our priority is to help each side develop an understanding of the other's position, and to encourage both to reach a consensus even if that means agreeing to disagree.
It lies at the heart of the democratic process, where the best decisions result not from a superficial consensus but from exploring different points of view and searching for creative solutions. The proposed five point framework approach will help affiliates to find a solution for conflict to satisfy everyone.
Rahul Deshmukh (President Wikimedia India)