Conflict on a workcamp

If the situation in a workcamp develops into conflict, the next chapter on conflict resolution skills will be helpful. Conflict could range from dealing with someone who refuses to take any domestic chores to sexual or racial harassment. The way conflicts develop in a camp and how they are dealt with and resolved depends on the motivation of the camp participants and the conduct of the camp leader.

The basis for the conflict solutions is to treat the views and feelings of the camp community with equal respect. During the programme the relationships between people concerned are generally at least as important as the issues at stake. That is why volunteers should always try to find a positive “win -win” solution, which is the basis of the non-violent approach to conflict resolution: without drawing lines and creating a “them and us” situation. Of course they should never resort to force, either in the sense of physical violence, verbal intimidation or any other kind of coercion.

In order to achieve a constructive solution to a work camp conflict, the following items need to be clarified:
– The issues at stake
– The “wants” of those involved
– The feelings which have arisen as a reult of the conflict

Often, conflicts can be heightened or even caused by differing perceptions as to what the issue is and by a lack of awareness of people’s feelings. Once these are acknowledged and expressed, then people, if willing to, are able to see more clearly the root of their problem. Cases of personal dislike, antipathy or cultural misunderstanding should be treated in a way that they do not affect the main common interests of other volunteers.

Some common sources of conflicts:
– Difference of opinions on work & leisure
– Leadership style (too much or not enough co-ordination)
– Work (too much or not enough)
–  Misunderstandings and rumours
– Lack of flexibility and adaptability
– Group interactions and outsiders
– Conflicts between the sexes
– Language problems

Some Solutions:
– Proper planning of the work camp
- Training for volunteers & camp leaders
- Orientation at the beginning of the camp
- Open discussions, meetings, mid-evaluations
- Individual responsibility, clearly defined goals
- Games and role plays
- Information about the local culture
- Motivating volunteers
- Constructive thinking
- Affirmation & positive approach
- Co-operation and understanding

Conflict Resolution Skills

Conflict is the Stuff of Life

This section will introduce you to some of the basic concepts of non-violent conflict resolution. Being aware of these possibilities will help you play your part in making your workcamp experience a path to peace.

Have you ever had a conflict and wished you could have handled it better?

We all have differences – in needs, values and motivations. Sometimes these differences will complement each other, but sometimes they will conflict. Conflict is not a problem in itself – it is what we do with it that counts. Taking positive action to resolve a conflict is important, because whether we like it or not, conflicts will demand our attention. In fact, an unresolved conflict can call on tremendous amounts of our attention. We all know how exhausting an ongoing conflict can be. It is not always easy to fix the problem but a great energy boost can come when we do. Being able to resolve conflict is not dependent on being a ‘nice’ person, rather it is a skill we can develop.

What are Conflict Resolution Skills?

Conflict resolution skills allow us to find ways of bypassing difficult personal differences so we can open up new possibilities of relating to others. Rather than polarising people, using the skills of conflict resolution can draw people closer together as they attempt to balance needs and search for fair solutions. This can create a beneficial shift in the way we interact – instead of seeing each other as adversaries, we can become co-operative partners.

Often we are quite unaware of the way we argue. We may most often use knee-jerk reactions to operates within difficult situations. When challenged, we experience separateness, disconnectedness from those around us – a feeling of “you versus me” – a sense that there isn’t enough for both of us and that if one person is right, then the other person must be wrong. Often we haven’t taken even a moment to consider what is the best approach in the circumstances. One of the first steps to reacting more positively to conflict is to understand that there are often many different levels to such situations.

In the following sections we will discuss the components of conflict, responses to conflict and some methods of conflict resolution.