Why ACR Deserves a Second Look
Last week I attended the annual Association of Conflict Resolution conference in Philadelphia, PA. It was a stimulating experience for several reasons, but mainly because it was my first conference after assuming my role as Tri-Chair of the Workplace Section, the second largest section of ACR, along with Debra Dupree and Mike McDowell.
Now, I know ACR hasn't enjoyed the best reputation as a resource over the past few years. Like others, I wondered about the value of joining the national organization especially when I have such a tight and productive relationship with my local chapter, New England ACR. I gave ACR a second chance and I strongly urge you to do the same. Here's why.
This year's conference provided a wealth of professional development opportunities during and prior to the conference. The diversity of programming from new trainer tricks to conflict system design to use of online tools for disputes was amazing; and frankly, it's difficult to find elsewhere.
Visiting the conference bookstore flatten my wallet but allowed me to meet some very interesting authors like Blaine Donais, who penned Workplaces that Work and a blog of the same name, and Craig Runde, who authored Become a Competent Conflict Leader and has a great new conflict profile. Attending the conference enabled me to not only buy their books, but speak directly with the authors. (I'll confess that meeting Ken Cloke was a conference highlight for me.)
When was the last time you had more than two ADR professionals in the room together when it wasn't a mediation or training? We rarely have the chance to get to know each other. One of my greatest joys was meeting other professionals from different parts of the world (one attendee traveled 22 hours from South Africa!) as well as the ADR community. It was thrilling to chat with Cinnie Nobles and Jennifer Lynch about conflict coaching and integrated conflict system design, respectively. These women are mavericks and I hope to interview them as part of my Trailblazer series. Sure, we emailed prior to meeting but there's nothing like the energy that's created from meeting face to face. ACR is a great place to make friends in a profession that can sometimes be lonely.
By attending the conference I'm became more knowledgable about the concerns of our industry like credentialing and legislative efforts. Through dialogue and rigourous debate, together we can attain a higher level of thinking to reach solutions. According to Einstein," No problem can be solved with the same level of consciousness that created it." Don't let your voice go unheard. Together, we're much much smarter than any one of us.
If you haven't guessed by now I'm in favor of fun. In the work we do it's essential to keep a sense of humor to aid our clients and promote self-care. Conferences are fun. I had a conversation with Mike, Robyn, Ericka and others about vulnerability as it relates to the genders and the nature of marriage over a few beers that was rich, thought-provoking, funny and meaningful. I shared some wild cab adventures and truly fine caribbean food with Debra, Steve and Blaine. I truly liked all these folks and hope we'll be friends for a good long time.
What's all this mean to you? Consider joining ACR for one year. Be active in a section (I recommend the Workplace Section). Give of your time freely and see what returns to you.
Try. Fail. Learn. Grow!
PS A very big thank you to all the ACR staff I had the pleasure to meet like Andy Levin, Jennifer Druliner and Ashley Parker. And a very special thanks to Section Manager extraordinaire, Ann-Marie Burton. From what I experienced, these are the hardest working people in ADR.