(3) Wrapping Up

The more that I learn, the more I realize how little I know. I’ve felt this to be the case in life, and certainly in my work this summer. Working with Consensus, I very quickly found out the depth of knowledge involved in expertise in the field, and my own excitement to delve deeper.

Unsurprisingly, conflict resolution and peacekeeping is a vast field. I knew this going in. What I failed in some ways to grasp was the degree to which it is tied in with academia. There is a massive body of work dedicated to these topics, and leading experts whose studies are focused on these disciplines.

This is all to say that a person could devote a lifetime to the field. From the delicate intricacies of mastering one on one negotiation to the unbelievable complexities of resolving conflicts between millions of people, it’s a field that requires real expertise. For any good work, including social justice work, success is dependent on deep research and experience, and learning from others more knowledgable.

My own expertise is more limited, but I do have skills to bring to the table. I hope that what I have been working on will have some sort of impact at Consensus. I’ve worked hard to help develop their online presence, and I hope that they will continue to succeed in connecting and communicating with clients in some small part thanks to my work.

But I realize that I am working with a team of talented experts, people who happen to have studied communications extensively. These are people who I am lucky enough through this work to have had access to. Considering my desire to improve my own skills, I have tried my best to take the fullest advantage of this opportunity.

I think if I were to start over again, however, I would have worked harder to connect with and learn from the experts at Consensus Group. Working virtually makes forming professional connections more difficult, but that’s the reality of the world we are in today.

If I were to talk to someone just entering into the field like I did, I would give the same advice I wish I had: Do not shy away from talking with the people you work with, as it is all an opportunity to learn. The experience you have in work such as this is very much “what you make of it.” This is an opportunity to meet interesting people and learn more about a certain field, so use that chance to the fullest. While I was able to do this with some success, I wish I had done so more.

I have learned a lot from my work this summer, but I can see now how I have only scratched the surface. I hope to dig far deeper in the future, and to use this as a jumping off point for further work in the field of conflict resolution.

(2) Environmental Diplomacy Led Me to Think Bigger

In my junior year at Brandeis University, I took a class called Atmospheric Civics and Diplomacy with Professor Chester. In part, the class taught practical information about environmental pollutants and the players involved in solving international environmental disasters. We learned about different types of pollutants, and we became familiar with the relevant NGOs, international bodies, and governmental organizations that were and are involved in climate advocacy.

But we also learned about the difficulties and intricacies of international diplomacy and advocacy relating to environmental problems. This was the part of the class I was most fascinated by, and that felt most unique compared to other classes I have taken.

I specifically remember one important lesson that was taught in relation to climate advocacy and cooperation. It’s one of those issues that transcend borders entirely. That is to say, if one country is having a negative effect on the climate, it is rarely self-contained within that country. It will spill over into the rest of the world.

This creates a tricky diplomatic situation. While there is a principle of sovereignty within a country’s borders (that is to say, a country is mostly allowed to do what they want within their own country) there is also an idea that countries have an obligation to their neighbors and the international community to not cause a problem for them, either.

What this ends up meaning, however, is that any agreement about fixing the climate necessarily needs everyone to agree, since everyone on the planet is involved. Practically speaking, diplomacy will only succeed if there is a universally agreed-to set of environmental regulations. Because it is so hard to get every country in the world to agree to anything, oftentimes negotiations fall through and instead nothing is done. It’s sort of a reverse tragedy of the commons.

This informs my work and my thinking about Consensus because it demonstrates the importance of negotiation skills in the next twenty or so years, and into the future. Climate change is an existential threat, and we need to find a way to reach some global commitments. Isolating from the rest of the world simply is not an option.

I am learning more through my work in Consensus about conflict resolution and negotiation strategies. This is the bedrock that my knowledge base is building on. But also, with my role specifically, I am finding ways to communicate these sometimes complicated topics in a way that educates people while keeping them engaged. I think that this is a focus that can have great benefit on a smaller scale for individuals facing problems in their lives or businesses needing to resolve issues. Before the class with Professor Chester, I would have thought of these smaller-scale issues as being the area in which conflict resolution is most important and effective. I now am also looking and thinking bigger to the massive global implications of having leaders and experts in this field.

(1) Working with Consensus Group

Maybe it’s just a product of getting older and becoming more aware of what’s going on in the world, but it feels to me like we’re all becoming more stratified. I look at the communities I recognize myself as part of, and feel like we’re all crumbling apart.

My work with Consensus Group feels like I’m stepping in the right direction, for a change.

Consensus Group is a consulting firm with specific focuses on conflict resolution, communication and peace building. Their work includes giving classes on conflict resolution, negotiation and communication in the workplace and in everyday life, helping in specific conflict and negotiation situations, and working with the United Nations to facilitate long-lasting peace in conflict regions around the world. It sounds at first quite specific, but it touches on many things.

If you are trying to help people learn new skills—in this case, that includes how to communicate better, how to resolve conflicts effectively, and how to improve negotiation skills—the challenge is not just providing them with the information. You also need to find a way to present that information in an engaging and informative way. It’s just one small part of what happens at Consensus Group, but it’s needed. That’s been my focus in the past few weeks.

What that boils down to is wrapping up real, important lessons in a package that would catch a person’s interest and keep them engaged throughout the lesson. If done right, the person will leave with a genuine new tool in their toolbox, and a desire to learn more.

With this in mind, I work with Consensus Groups to write articles that present their lessons in an exciting and intriguing way. For me, as someone who of course is just starting on this work in the summer, it means I need to first learn about what they teach, and then find an inventive way to present it.

Fortunately, Consensus Group has been unbelievably supportive and helpful, and I’ve been learning from them those tenets of their teachings in depth. Therefore, I’ve been able to focus on learning how to write about something I care about in a way that makes other people care too. And I’ve learned more about conflict resolution, negotiation, communication and peacekeeping than I ever had before.

These are subjects that we all know about a bit. After all, we communicate and we deal with difficult problems needing resolution constantly. But this type of learning is a whole other beast altogether.

Hopefully my work with Consensus Group does something to help get others interested in the core focuses of the group, and to realize the importance of communication, and of finding better ways to resolve our problems than the less-than-ideal ones many of us tend to default to. It starts small, with people caring about communication, and learning ways to do so in a productive and peaceful way.