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Common Ground: From Conflict to Shared Leadership

  • Date Wednesday, February 06, 2019 - Friday, February 08, 2019
  • Location Gestalt Institute of Cleveland
    1588 Hazel Drive Cleveland, OH 44106

Common Ground: From Conflict to Shared Leadership - February 6-8, 2019

PREREQUISITE: Leadership for a Culture of Radical Engagement

Date: February 6-8, 2019

Time: Wednesday, 2:00pm-5:00pm; Thursday, 9:00am-5:00pm; Friday, 9:00am-5:00pm

Tuition: $260.00

Early Bird (before 12/28/2018): $235.00 (promo code common)

Continuing Education (CE): 15 contact hours

Faculty: Mark Fairfield, LCSW, BCD, Jennifer Sconyers, MA


There is no human conquest more destructive than the overtaking of our social bonds. Once human beings are disabused of the need for each other—once we have bought into the idea that people become healthy and prosperous because they achieve a state of independence, sufficient unto themselves—then the human species is on the brink of annihilation. For the truth is that life only survives as an ecology of mutually interdependent conditions. Humans only exist because we figured out long ago how to depend on one another. History teaches us that the Story of Self Sufficiency is driving people to ignore this interconnection, and therefore ignore the toll it takes on the environment and one another when we strive to accumulate wealth and property to distance ourselves from our inevitable vulnerability and mortality.

We can ground ourselves in relational values and we can challenge the whole concept of self-sufficiency, attacking its core assumptions and assessing its corrosive impact all around us. But there are some situations in which the commitment to interdependence becomes enormously difficult. Conflict is at the top of the list. It is especially bad news right now, at a time in our history when it is never more urgent for us to transcend our interpersonal differences and come together around the struggle to defend our shared future. Yet our ability to face conflict in community is constrained by our pervasive separation from one another. This cannot be corrected through individual effort or skill. We share the responsibility. Everyone needs access to tools that can support them to come through struggle together. These tools democratize the practice of conflict resolution, rather than abdicate the responsibility to a few skilled facilitators.


Building on the basic Culture of Radical Engagement strategy, we can share responsibility for finding a way through conflict. We do this by first calling out the Story of Self-Sufficiency that undermines our capacity to distribute power and leadership. When we do not recognize how that narrative makes us afraid of being under the influence of others, we ultimately fail to build collective will. With no signals pointing to any common ground, our suspicion of one another deepens and we grow brittle and narrow-minded. We need to recognize that conflict is a gateway into expanded capacity because it forces us to lean on more people who resonate with each side of the conflict.


Just as we need to step into a struggle in order to discover what threatens the values most precious to us, we also need to engage in conflict with one another so that we can identify the conditions that interfere with our collective resonance and solidarity. To be sure, there are clear cases where enemies are among us. Then we need the tool of healthy suspicion for discerning when and where to mount a defense. But it is tempting—and quite common—to resort to suspicion preemptively, which can lead to the premature declaration of a potential ally as the enemy. This safeguards power, but it also hijacks the possibility of learning where our limitations are and then building the bonds that make us stronger by expanding influence beyond those edges.


This workshop advances the goals of the Culture of Radical Engagement series by confronting more deeply the Story of Self-Sufficiency—and especially that story’s power to keep us from distributing leadership in the face of conflict. Participants will first broaden their critique of the dominant culture framing narrative. They will then be introduced to a conflict resolution model that support groups (or circles) to share responsibility for struggles among them, democratizing the practices needed to ensure full listening, deep consideration and affirmation for each party to a conflict. The learning format will include elements of rapid storytelling, a new resonance practice, and group debriefing.

Common Ground: From Conflict to Shared Leadership

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