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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