Crossing Boundaries

Coro exposes its training participants to multiple points of view and gives them skills for managing group processes so that they can be effective in working with diverse – even opposing – stakeholders. In a world that seems to be becoming more polarized, efforts to cross traditional boundaries stand out. Here are a few efforts related to major world issues. Whether they yet have the right answers or not, they may lead the way to finding common ground.

— Padraig O’Malley, a professor at the University of Massachusetts at Boston, has applied his mediation skills in divided societies. Using not only his experience negotiating in Northern Ireland and South Africa, but also engaging some of the actual mediators from those fractious communities, he is working to bring Kurds and Arabs together in Kirkuk in northern Iraq. He has managed to bring people from opposite sides to the table and to maintain ongoing discussions. He is realistic about the challenges of this type of work, and estimates that any progress will take five years of relationship-building and dialogue. His work was featured on the National Public Radio Program Here and Now on December 14. Also, his website describes his philosophy and activities.

— Four former U.S. Senate majority leaders, Howard Baker (R), Tom Daschle (D), Bob Dole (R) and George Mitchell (D), created The Bipartisan Policy Center in 2007, an organization that seeks to find and develop “solutions that can attract public support and political momentum.” Their initiatives include environmental policy, national security, energy, transportation and health care. Their health care proposal seemed to fall on deaf ears in June 2009, a signal of how hard it is to reframe our political debates in a less partisan manner.

— The U.S. Climate Action Partnership includes among its members Alcoa, BP America, Dow Chemical, General Motors, and the Environmental Defense Fund, Natural Resources Defense Council and the Pew Center on Global Climate Change. These organizations (and others), often thought of as adversaries, have found agreement on a set of principles and recommendations for a climate change policy framework.