University of Delaware

CRP anniversary

Conflict Resolution Program celebrates 20 years of peacemaking

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10:54 a.m., Oct. 9, 2014--Like many students on the University of Delaware campus, the Institute for Public Administration’s Conflict Resolution Program (CRP) turned 20 this year. 

That is 20 years of providing alternative dispute-resolution services to state and local governments, nonprofit organizations, and educational institutions — 20 years of peacemaking, a CRP representative said. 

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On Thursday, Oct. 16, the program will commemorate this milestone by hosting a luncheon in partnership with the Delaware Conflict Resolution Network. 

The celebration also coincides with Conflict Resolution Day, an international celebration to promote awareness of mediation, arbitration, conciliation, and other creative, peaceful means of resolving conflict.

The luncheon will take place at Buena Vista Conference Center in New Castle, Delaware, on the last day of a four-day mediation training hosted by the CRP. 

UD staff and students, along with members of the Delaware Conflict Resolution Network, practitioners, community members and government officials, will be in attendance.

In the beginning

At the start, the CRP was focused on conflict resolution in schools. The program flourished, teaching collaborative resolution skills to teachers, parents, and students throughout schools as an alternative to court proceedings.

Through its reputation of excellence in facilitation and mediation, the CRP developed Delaware’s first statewide special-education mediation program, the Special Education Partnership for Amicable Resolution of Conflict (SPARC). This partnership has led to 153 mediations, with 119 agreements reached since 1996. 

“Delaware was at the forefront; they had special mediation programs offered to students and parents before the federal government required them,” said Kathy Murphy, coordinator of the CRP.

The CRP also began facilitating Individualized Education Program (IEP) meetings. These meetings provide space for educators and parents to develop the best educational plans for their students with special needs. Since 2000, CRP has facilitated over 179 IEP meetings.

For 11 years, the CRP has been offering basic mediation training that teaches skills such as collaborative problem solving, meeting design, and facilitation. Now offered twice a year, basic mediation training boasts 187 graduates from nonprofit organizations, state agencies, and local and state government offices. 

Program expansion

Under the direction of Murphy and Fran Fletcher, the program has flourished, bringing facilitation and mediation skills to all sectors of Delaware’s workforce. With 33 years of experience with the CRP between them, Murphy and Fletcher bring unparalleled knowledge to their work. 

In 1997, the CRP became part of the Institute for Public Administration (IPA), a research center within the School of Public Policy and Administration in UD’s College of Arts and Sciences.

This allowed the program to expand into other sectors beyond education. Now, the CRP also provides nonprofit organizations and local and state government offices with services ranging from meeting design and facilitation to strategic planning and team building.

“It was an ideal fit between the CRP and IPA because the work that we do really focuses on key concepts around democratic practices such as debate, dialogue, consensus building and collaboration,” said Murphy. “As a member of the IPA team we’ve had an opportunity to work with other people in that team and move into areas that IPA has a long tradition of working in.”

The move to IPA also provided an opportunity for greater student involvement. Undergraduate and Graduate Public Administration Fellows contribute to the running and development of the CRP, through event planning and coordination and writing for the CRP newsletter, Synergy

“One of the most rewarding parts has been being able to learn from Kathy and Fran and soak in their knowledge,” said graduate student Katrina Cowart, now in her second year of working on CRP.

“Before I started working with the CRP I really didn’t know what conflict resolution was,” Cowart said, “but now I have a better idea of what conflict resolution is and how that is really applicable to many different settings rather than just that as a field in itself.” 

Exceptional Children Resources

Since 1994 the Delaware Department of Education’s Exceptional Children Resources (ECR) has been collaborating with the CRP to build a sustainable, systemic dispute resolution system that provides direct service to parents and educators while building their capacity to work collaboratively in the best interest of children. 

In recognition of this beneficial collaboration, the ECR will also be honored at the event on Oct. 16 for their leadership in special education dispute resolution. Delaware has been in the forefront of providing options for families and educators to address conflict early, respectfully, and collaboratively. The CRP plans to keep this tradition going, a representative said.

Article by Emily Floros

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