Mary Parker Follett Award

At this year’s Association for Conflict Resolution conference I was awarded the Mary Parker Follett Award for exhibiting “passion and willingness to take risks and use creativity and innovation to address the problems and opportunities in the field of dispute resolution.”

Here are the notes from my acceptance speech:

When getting an award of this nature it is de rigueur  to offer thank you’s.  There is a reason for that – no one does anything of significance alone.  So, let me start with a few thank you’s.  First, to my business partner, moral compass, center of my universe – and not coincidentally my wife – Julia Morelli.  You make me better in everything I do.  Next, thanks to Colin Rule and Ethan Katsh for being constant friends and colleagues for the past decade and a half.  In order to be creative it is necessary to have an environment in which innovation – and occasional failure – are not only accepted but encouraged.  The Board Members and my colleagues at the National Mediation Board, which I just left, gave me that for 20 years.  The Board Members are not here today, but Michael Wolf, who was a colleague at the NMB, is – so, thanks for your support, Michael.  Finally, thanks to Jeff Aresty who has been my partner in crime with PeaceTones and IBO for the past decade – he has so many good ideas I wish he would stop having them so we can work on some of the one’s he’s already had.

Allow me to take advantage of this platform for a moment to make a couple of comments about where we are in the field of dispute resolution, and to make a plea to all of you.

As most of you know, my “innovation” has been in the integration of information and communication technology into our various conflict engagement modes.  For many of those in this field, ICT has been seen as a barrier or a threat – something to be avoided.  The time that we can do that without doing harm is past.  ICT and social media are now just the electronic air we breathe.  The events of the so-called Arab Spring had many of us giddy with the possibilities for social media and technology to do good.  A wise colleague of ours, Sanjana Hottotuwa, cautioned at the time that “the bad guys can learn to use technology, too.”

I’m going to borrow a term from Skip Marley, Bob Marley’s grandson, and call those bad guys, who are all too evident now, the “Haters.”

The Haters have learned to use technology to divide.  They’ve learned to use technology to disrupt.  The Haters have learned to use technology to create conflict – we see it every day in Twitter bombs, Facebook postings, etc.  The Haters are out there – and again to borrow a term, we have to be the Lovers.

I implore you, my colleagues – learn to use technology to unite, not divide; to calm, not disrupt; to heal conflict not create conflict.  Lose your fear of technology, or your ambivalence to technology and let’s all as a group make sure the Lovers are meeting the Haters in cyberspace with as much passion and compassion as I know exist in this room.

I’m basically an optimist, so I’m going to end with another paraphrase from Skip – “the Haters been winning, but us Lovers ain’t done yet.”

Thank you.