This is a wiki page for a mediation process to help address interpersonal conflicts in and relating to the Noisebridge community.
All relationships take work. This includes community. Community takes work. Occasionally there may be disagreements in any relationship.
The Noisebridge Conflict Resolution wiki page contains general guidance for people in the community who are experiencing problems. These suggestions might help someone who is trying to decide if they should seek mediation or not.
The first step when there is a disagreement is for the people involved to talk to each other, and, while following Noisebridge's one rule of being excellent to each other, work out the problem(s) together. This tends to clear up almost all disagreements.
If the disagreement can't be worked out together, all persons involved with the disagreement are encouraged to get together with a mediator.
Mediators are people who have volunteered their time to help people who have disagreements, to de-escalate conflict, to seek resolution, and to provide community support and protection for all involved. The ideal mediators should strive to make themselves readily accessible to both conflicting parties, and should also enjoy interacting with others without the need for imposing their own wills over those of the other people involved in the particular conflict.
The role of the mediator is to calmly talk with those involved to help clear up the disagreements they have with one another. If those involved agree, the mediator can help schedule an informal get-together with the parties involved (or act as go-between, if that is more appropriate). It is the mediators role to ensure that all involved feel safe, feel heard, and are able to say their peace. No one should feel attacked during the mediation get-together. More details on this are given below (please see Specific process for mediators).
In past years, disagreements between people have been resolved through mediation -- even when it appeared to all those involved that the situation was intractable.
The following people have at some time or another over the last several years volunteered to help mediate conflicts and provide a sounding board and guidance for people who are experiencing troublesome interpersonal interactions.
Feel free to contact any of the above people if you would like help in mediating any problems. Also, feel free to ask others to mediate for you, as the above volunteers are not an exclusive list.
Noisebridge operates by anarchic chaos, by do-ocracy, and, like all organizations, through a healthy serving of precedent. There are no rules for how this process should work, but we have some suggestions:
Mediators can actively mediate a discussion between the individuals having conflict, or talk to one individual as a proxy for the other.
Mindfulness towards Escalation:
If it seems appropriate, after talking with the original parties, the mediator (and indeed everyone involved) should start to tactfully ask around and find out if this is an isolated conflict or a more generalized problem in the community. Most personal problems at Noisebridge can be resolved through a series of calm one-on-one talks, and almost all of the rest can be solved by a series of mediated discussions. If mediation is unsuccessful, or if what is going on appears to be part of a larger pattern, the mediator may suggest calling a meeting of the Safe Space Working Group for discussion.
Before a problem with an individual is brought to a Safe Space Working Group, someone must step forward to act as an advocate for the individual, even if that individual happens to be widely disliked. It is all too easy for conflict to prod people into acting in ways that they later regret. There are sufficient people around the Space who are willing to act as advocates (see above list of mediator volunteers on this wiki page).
Discussing personal conflicts at the larger group level is not really considered all that excellent. On the other hand, a small supportive group environment more specifically committed to calm discussion and de-escalation can help defuse a problematic situation. Mediation and the Safe Space Working Group are resources available for use when needed.
If you try to follow these suggestions, that would be totally excellent.
Specific process for mediators
First, talk to the person(s) who asked you to mediate to find out more about the conflict.
Next step is to either calmly discuss the issue with the second party as a proxy or to enter a calm, mediated discussion between the two individuals in conflict.
Mediated discussion between individuals can be casual or very structured, depending on the tenor of the disagreement. One method that works in extreme cases is to sit down with both parties but ask them to only speak to you, not to each other, during the first part of the mediation. This helps each party to feel like their version of events is being heard. After you feel like you have both sides of the story, the conflicting parties should spend some time mirroring each other's feelings - in a structured way, taking turns restating the other person's concerns or position in their own words. Only after this point should the conflicting parties move towards actual dialogue.
At this point, also, it is important that mediators take some time outside of this process to tactfully ask around and find out if this is an isolated conflict or a more generalized problem in the community.
If this mediation is not successful, not embraced by one of the conflicting parties, or is partially successful but the mediator's research indicates that this may be part of a pattern of behavior, the mediator is encouraged to ensure there is an advocate for everyone involved, and to call for a Safe Space Working Group to discuss the issues.