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Conflict Resolution 
in ISKCON: ADR

From Braja Bihari dasa
Hare Krishna 
Hare Krishna 
Krishna Krishna 
Hare Hare 
Hare Rama 
Hare Rama 
Rama Rama 
Hare Hare

GBC Announces Innovative Program for Conflict Resolution

On March 14, 2002, the GBC unanimously approved the establishment of a voluntary system for resolving internal disputes within ISKCON. The system approved for development is a process known in the world of mediation as Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR).

For many years, governments, corporations, and organizations large and small have turned to ADR's two kinds of professionals to help resolve disputes: ombudsmen, who work in confidentiality; and mediators, who serve parties willing to discuss their disagreements openly with one another. According to the project's director, Prof. Arnold Zack, a world-renowned ADR expert, this is the first time that an international religious community has taken the initiative of implementing such a system internally.

The way people treat one another in a devotional community is a matter of community as well as personal concern. ISKCON devotees, like members of any large institution, have not been provided historically with either the opportunity or the tools to express their misgivings. This lack of a healthy environment in which to air grievances has led to members falling away and hampered ISKCON's growth. The ADR initiative is meant to correct this condition by offering a proven system of dispute resolution, guided by a leading expert in the field.

ISKCON's ADR initiative has five primary objectives:

· Demonstrate ISKCON's ability to recognize and serve the needs of its members.

· Empower devotees to articulate their concerns without fear of recrimination.

· Facilitate conflict resolution via trained third-party assistance.

· Create transparency between the GBC and devotee communities.

· Address concerns in a timely manner before they escalate.

ADR provides two mechanisms for resolving disputes: the ombudsman and mediation.

Ombudsman— The ombudsman is a trained expert in dispute resolution. He or she will provide confidential advice and help in resolving disputes among members of ISKCON on all levels. The ombudsman may offer guidance, information, practical recommendations, and even represent a party in a dispute. However, an ombudsman works in confidentiality and does not reveal the complainant's identity.

Mediation— Mediation is a voluntary settlement process, in which a person trained in dispute resolution meets openly with the parties concerned. The mediator conveys messages if either party is uncomfortable representing his or her own interests and encourages both parties to advance toward mutually acceptable positions. Any resolution must be agreed voluntarily: the mediator has no power to impose settlement.

Inside facilitators— The ADR program calls for training a number of experienced individuals from within ISKCON: practitioners who have a background that qualifies them as candidates for the role of ombudsman or mediator.

Outside facilitators— In some disputes, the parties concerned may prefer to rely on an ombudsman or mediator who is not a member of ISKCON. In such instances, the ADR Board would make arrangements for such external assistance.

Implementation— Many issues may be suitable for handling by email or telephone. Others will require the personal presence of the ombudsman or mediator. In addition, the ISKCON ADR initiative will manage an interactive website to provide basic tools and advice in a secure online environment.

Timetable— The development process is already underway with a start-up grant from the Krishna Foundation. Pending completion of the funding process, training is expected to begin by the fall of 2002 for North American and Western Europe. Other regions will be addressed in 2003.

Project Leader— Arnold M. Zack is a recognized international mediator and arbitrator of labor management disputes. He is former President of the National Academy of Arbitrators and holds degrees from Tufts College, Yale Law School, and Harvard School of Government. He taught dispute resolution at Yale Law School and currently teaches at the Harvard Trade Union Program. Mr. Zack is the author of twelve books on dispute resolution and international labor issues. He served as consultant to the International Labor Organization and to the governments of Israel, South Africa, Australia, and Greece. Most recently, he chaired an international panel charged with recommending changes in the dispute resolution systems of the International Monetary Fund.

GBC Resolution for 2002

302. Mediation and Ombuds Services in ISKCON

Whereas, The GBC Body seeks to demonstrate its interest in the concerns of ISKCON devotees, and seeks to encourage the timely voluntary resolution of disputes within ISKCON;

Whereas, international organizations almost universally provide a system for prompt resolution of internal disputes;

Whereas, ombudsmen provide an effective and confidential means of addressing individual concerns with an organization;

Whereas, voluntary mediation undertaken by two disputant parties with the help of a trained mediator is proven to resolve interpersonal disputes to the mutual satisfaction of the disputants;

[GUIDELINE] Resolved, That the GBC Body announces their strong support for establishment of a voluntary dispute resolution system to facilitate the resolution of ISKCON members' concerns.

To this end the GBC Body urges regions and local temples to establish regional based ombuds and mediation systems.

Members of the GBC Body pledge to support the development of these structures and to be responsive to the concerns of members brought to their attention through these processes.

[ACTION ORDER] It is further resolved, That a subcommittee of Braja Bihari dasa, Madhava Pandit dasa and Arnold M Zack shall coordinate these efforts in ISKCON on behalf of the GBC Body.

Readers are invited to provide feedback and suggestions. Please email your thoughts to:
mediate@pamho.net 

© CHAKRA 6 May 2002

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