Learning the Community History

Renaldo Rivera

CRS Mediator, New York Office

[Full Interview]

People will tell you, once they've let you in and you talk about what you do. If you're willing to talk less and listen more, people who agree will begin to tell you what the history of that community is. There is very little probing that one actually has to do. People will tell you if you don't present yourself as being able to solve their problem, but instead as being able to facilitate and work along with them and for them to be able to work through their problems, and you're a resource for that to happen as opposed to the expert that's going to tell them how to do it. You're just getting them to make the better decisions and strategies and you're available to them, as well as to local officials. Then, people start telling you about their community. And that's pivotal because the understanding of previous events, racial incidents, or ethnic conflicts in that city and how they were responded to them, gives you a much better contextualization for the current conflict and maybe some of the reasons there is resistance to any progressive solutions.