A One-Person Rumor-Control Team

Silke Hansen

CRS Mediator, Denver Office

[Full Interview]

This rough transcript provides a text alternative to audio. We apologize for occasional errors and unintelligible sections (which are marked with ???).

Sticking with this the desegregation case, I want to talk about the issue of trust. It seems like trust is very, very important in this particular case. How were you able to build it and sustain the trust of the parties that were involved?

I think part of it is that I tried to show some experience, some expertise that might be useful. I made it clear that it was their choice about whether or not to trust me, and at the same time I tried hard not to over-commit or over-promise what I could do. Over a period of time, we just got to know each other. With some of those white parents on the biracial council, it was just the fact that I was there every day. And they knew that they could call me at midnight if they needed to. That created a certain sense of trust . For many of them, I was practically the only "outside" contact they had -- "outside" in terms of being someone they knew who was intimately involved in the internal operation of the process. The other thing that I ended up finding was a key tool in generating trust with somebody like school officials, and even police, is that I tried to be at the court hearings and I took notes and made sure that I got copies of things like court orders , or anything that was issued in writing. I was amazed at how often that information or those documents never got to the local school building. So that in many cases, I was one of the primary sources of accurate information--I was sort of a one person rumor control system. I knew what the accurate information was, when no one else did. So that, I think, did a lot to help gain me some credibility and trust. But again, it's a gradual process. At first I was maybe tolerated at best. After a while I would try to find people to talk to and see whether I could have some input with, and then eventually people actually approached me for assistance, including the principal. It was a gradual process.