Conflict exists at every level of society. But Zinn Mediation Associates in Denver, Colorado, has been diligently working to raise awareness about the options available for mitigating conflict through its Talking It Out: Getting To Agreement exhibit. This exhibit seeks to decrease violence and increase creativity and productivity for problem solving in a wide variety of situations, including inter-personal relationships, communities, organizations, and businesses. Mary Zinn, President and founder of Zinn Mediation Associates, has commissioned a unique set of photos and stories that features Coloradans working together to solve problems such as these. The exhibit illustrates seven distinct stories of people and communities that have made a choice to solve their problems constructively.
One of the stories features a situation involving the planned closure of the College View Community Center, a part of the Denver Inner City Parish. Meanwhile, the Denver Inner City Parish worked together with the City of Denver “in a positive mindset” emphasizing “fairness and mutual gain” to empower the community center. After their collaboration, the College View Community Center began to have more activity sign-ups than all other Denver recreation centers combined and closure was not necessary.
The exhibit also notes that conflict is rarely solved in hours, or even a few days, with one featured story on the Fair Discipline in Schools Act. This bill reformed a controversial law of discipline among students in the wake of the 1999 Columbine High School shooting, but required over 18 months of facilitated dialogues among students, teachers, administrators, parents, and police to reach a conclusion on providing a safe learning environment with appropriate discipline.
From restorative justice in the aftermath of a fatal car accident, to bullying in schools, to neighborhood dispute resolution in Wheat Ridge, CO and cross-cultural communication involving the Somali community in Fort Morgan, CO, the story panels showcase the wide variety of conflict resolution techniques and processes that are used right here in Colorado every day.
CRI has worked closely with Mary Zinn to bring these inspiring stories to the University of Denver. For the month of May in 2014, the Talking It Out: Getting To Agreement exhibit was on display at the Driscoll Student Center and opened with a large reception involving some of the participants and practitioners featured in the exhibit to share their experiences to the overall DU community. Most powerfully, one of the families featured in the exhibit came to share their story of healing through restorative justice and mediation after a car accident ended in the tragic death of their teenage son, David Mueller. The young man driving the car was a friend of Mueller’s and was under the influence of alcohol at the time of the accident. Through mediation and restorative justice, both families of the young men were able to find healing and even become friends through the pain of this deadly accident.
This Fall, the Talking It Out: Getting To Agreement exhibit returned to DU and was displayed in Ben Cherrington Hall at the University of Denver’s Josef Korbel School of International Studies. Opening the exhibit on September 17th was a reception and a special panel discussion with Korbel’s Dean, Ambassador Christopher Hill and Mary Zinn, which asked students to engage in a more in-depth examination of the series and its importance for their context. This panel discussion compared conflict resolution techniques at the local, regional, and international levels and found that they are much more similar than often thought to be: parties want to be legitimately heard by their adversaries on their grievances, and mediation and negotiation techniques in local county courts are not too different from those used among competing Heads of States.
The Talking It Out: Getting To Agreement exhibit has traveled throughout the state of Colorado to provide inspiration and promote greater dialogue for resolving conflict. The exhibit has been prominently displayed at locations as varied as the Colorado State Capitol for its opening exhibit in 2012, the Denver Public Library, Ft. Morgan Museum, Alamosa Public Library, Penrose Library in Colorado Springs, and academic institutions from Arapahoe Community College, Adams State College, Colorado Mountain College in Breckenridge, University of Colorado-Anschutz, and University of Denver. In addition to the public viewing of these displays, Zinn Mediation Associates has organized many receptions and events alongside the exhibit to invite practitioners and communities to come together to raise awareness of the power of conflict resolution and “knowing how to work through our disagreements.”
With over twenty years’ experience working as a practitioner, trainer, administrator, and curriculum designer in the conflict resolution field, Mary Zinn serves as the president of Zinn Mediation Associates and continues to contract her services with Community Mediation Concepts and the Conflict Center in Denver. Additionally, she has played an integral role in promoting, planning, and collaborating for Colorado’s Conflict Resolution Month which takes place every October. Zinn’s deep commitment to creatively resolve conflicts has been the principle force behind the Talking It Out: Getting To Agreement exhibit and she continues to inspire people throughout Colorado through her passion for the field she says, “Conflicts present opportunities for courage, creativity and collaboration. Each of us is positioned to improve conditions and relationships in our community.”
The Talking It Out: Getting To Agreement exhibit continues to impact communities throughout Colorado. This opportunity is offered to interested parties at no charge to the venue and individuals can contact Mary Zinn at email@example.com to coordinate and host the exhibit at their institution.