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Who’s responsible?

Who’s responsible for the current situation in Australia? And let’s be clear on this, the question isn’t who is at fault, but rather who is prepared to be responsible?

In our “hand-up world” it seems to me that we all have very good reasons why nothing is our fault any more. Every day there is another current affairs story where somebody bemoans the fact that it is their teacher’s fault they didn’t finish school, their parents’ fault that they are socially maladjusted or the government’s fault that they can’t get a job. Unfortunately, when framed from that position of disempowerment, such problems look incredibly difficult to overcome if not insoluble don’t they? If fault lies in the past, with somebody else, then how can we possibly be expected to correct it?

But fault and responsibility are different things aren’t they? We all stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before us and on that basis we now enjoy all the benefits of a free, democratic society, for which we are openly proud and grateful. But on the flip side, are we also prepared to take responsibility for the mistakes our great-grandfathers made, and had to make, to learn the importance of those values and to achieve them for our benefit? It is a far less comfortable place isn’t it?

On an intellectual level we all know that every nation has had its dark hours. We have all been both the oppressed and the oppressors, with the only successful case of genocide in the world hiding in our own history books. Modern psychological research has also helped us to understand that every generation is a product of the fears and prejudices passed on to them from the suffering of their own parents, and on that basis those same experts suggest that if you or I were a child of those parents, we would probably also be prepared to take radical steps that are arguably wrong, to please our “God” and our families as retribution for the suffering our parents sustained.

If we continue to resist responsibility because we eschew the idea of fault – who are we expecting to address the problems of our current world? Our children are clearly going to inherit them – but what are we doing to make it more likely that they will be equipped to actually face them and not repeat our mistakes?

In October, MeWise will be trialling a peer mediation program for primary and junior high school students in Bhutan. In mediation, young people learn the importance of taking responsibility for their problems in order to solve them, and how to work with their peers to generate options for the future, without an authority figure telling them what to do.

This October visit to Bhutan is the first official pro bono venture for MeWise, and the peer mediation program and teaching resources have been designed at the request of these gentle, Buddhist people because they understand the importance of including compassion and collaborative problem solving skills in the formal education of their future generations.
What are we doing?

The Case for MeWise Peer Mediation Programs in our own Schools….

At the primary and junior high school levels, peer mediation is a process that can
leave participants feeling satisfied and respected whilst resolving conflicts. As they
develop the language and communication skills needed for successful mediation,
students learn to take responsibility for their problems, listen to each other and
consider other’s viewpoints and perspectives. They find themselves able to move
from anger to a search for solutions, and they develop a collaborative approach to
problem solving that they can take with them into higher education and the wider
Community. The facilitative mediation process (where the mediator doesn’t judge or
advise but rather helps the participants to come up with their own solutions) also
encourages students to appreciate the level of responsibility inherent in self
determination, autonomy and personal freedom.


For All Students:

  • Through mediation students learn communication skills they can use at school and at home. They learn to put feelings into words, to reflect on and summarise what they hear, and to develop empathy. Children must answer questions like: “What do you think you would feel like if you were him/her?”
  • Mediation encourages students to discuss solutions to their problems in a safe, supportive environment where they can be honest and where they can show why something hurts them instead of talking tough.
  • Children develop a range of choices for playground problem solving. Many children find it easier to talk to other children.
  • Peer mediation can assist with language barriers as bilingual mediators supply language skills that build on staff capabilities.

For Student Mediators:

  • Peer mediators learn what it means to act impartially, even when mediating for classmates they know very well.
  • Peer mediators learn about confidentiality, and take an oath to respect the privacy and confidence of their fellow students as they serve their school community.

For Schools:

  • Peer mediators in schools provide an additional level of support for teachers for the resolution of playground conflict.
  • Peer mediation programs assist schools to establish a unique culture and support students, parents, chaplains and new teachers to understand the school’s expectations regarding the resolution of inter-personal conflict.

I created the original version of this program for the state primary school my children were attending in the early 90’s and it has operated successfully in that context ever since. I am thinking that now is the time to promote it commercially. Please let me know if your school is interested – I have a long list of pro bono work I’d love to do but as my husband reminds me – I have to generate some income first!

What were you doing on 20th March 2013?

On the first ever International Happiness Day, MeWise was in the Kingdom of Bhutan – the land where Gross National Happiness (GNH) is valued above gross domestic product (GDP). In Bhutan the 20th March was declared a public holiday, and all planned commercial activities had to be cancelled or postponed so that all citizens could spend the day with their loved ones and be happy. Because according to His Majesty the Fifth King, in Bhutan, happiness is more important than profit!

MeWise was conducting a consultancy project for the Bhutan National Legal Institute during February and March 2013, and as a result had the opportunity to create a unique model of mediation to reflect Bhutan’s spiritual, cultural and GNH values, and a plan to institutionalise Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) throughout the country. In this picture I am with the lawyers and Judges I trained in both ADR and teaching skills, to ensure that the project would be sustainable into the future. We are all wearing Bhutanese National dress which is the Kira for women and the Gho for men. My height and the length of my arms were a definite challenge for the poor tailor, who was concerned that the roll of material would not be long enough.

Five reasons why MeWise is a smart CSR strategy for you…

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) also called corporate conscience, corporate citizenship, social performance, or sustainable responsible business is here to stay. CSR goes beyond compliance and focuses on ‘social good’ demonstrating a company’s willingness to not only take responsibility for its actions, but to make a positive impact on its consumers, employees, local community and other public stakeholders who may be affected by its activities.

A CSR strategy which focusses on empowering your own people as well as your community stakeholders, delivers results in five key ways:

1. Social License
Local conditions, needs, and customs vary considerably and are often opaque, but can have a significant impact on your success in building social capital and trust. Regional and cultural differences demand a flexible and responsive approach and must be understood early in order to enable the development and implementation of effective strategies to earn and maintain social license.

Strengthening your organization’s capacity for effective cross-cultural communication, engagement, and collaboration will not only enhance efficiency, it will enhance your relationships with local communities, your reputation within them, and your ability to operate successfully and sustainably in a global market. For large corporates, investing in the development of those same skills within your local communities as part of your CSR strategy will further enhance the prospects of effectively communicating with your local stakeholders and finding collaborative solutions to potential conflicts early.

2. Triple bottom line
A socially conscious consumer public is insisting that People Planet Profit (the triple bottom line) is observed in every aspect of the corporate world. As the People component requires fair and beneficial business practices towards labour and the communities within which a corporation conducts its business, empowering those communities to engage in collaborative, interest based dispute resolution processes to facilitate better communication makes sense.

MeWise not only delivers value for the organization (shareholders) and the local community (stakeholders), as a social enterprise business itself it also delivers the flow on benefit of simultaneously supporting other important peace building activities in the developing world.

3. Human resources
A CSR program in negotiation and mediation skills can be an aid to recruitment and retention, particularly within the competitive graduate student market. Potential recruits often ask about a firm’s CSR policy during interview, and having a program focused on collaborative problem solving both within the organization and for your stakeholders can give a distinct advantage both in the market and among your own staff. This positive CSR story also empowers your frontline employees in their customer engagement and marketing.

4. Risk management
Managing risk is a central part of most corporate strategies. Reputations that take decades and millions of marketing dollars to establish can be ruined in hours through the poor management of conflict. These can also draw unwanted attention from regulators, courts, governments and media. Building a genuine culture of effective communication and collaborative problem solving within a corporation can offset these risks.

5. Brand differentiation
In crowded marketplaces, companies strive for a unique selling proposition that can separate them from the competition in the minds of consumers. Your association with MeWise and its social enterprise activities will not only deliver business value through the personal development of your staff, it will give a strong message about your broader commitment to distinctive ethical values.